May always finds me restless. Unable to settle. Buoyed up by a surge of energy. Buffeted by conflicting emotions. One moment filled with a sense of anticipation, an odd longing. For something, I’m not sure what. Then plagued by a slight sense of dread, anxiety, a nagging feeling that something has been left undone.

When I was a kid, May meant playing outside after supper because the days were longer. It meant finally wearing spring dresses to school. Skipping at recess. Mum coming home with a pair of new white sneakers for me that I promptly ruined one year because I wore them one evening to help Frank, our neighbour, burn his grass. Each spring Frank would light the dry grass in his big field, and the neighbourhood kids would be stationed around the perimeter stamping out the fire if it spread too far. Gosh that was exciting. But not so good for my new white sneakers. May meant getting our bikes out and riding wildly about the neighbourhood. Then arguing with Mum that it was too early to go to bed when it wasn’t even dark yet.

COS striped shirt, Frame jeans, Brown’s sandals (similar).

When I was a teenager May meant the end of the school year was in sight. It meant that I chaffed at being home in the evenings. I longed to be out with my friends and not stuck in my room doing homework. I still remember vividly the year I got my driver’s licence. When you live in the country, and the only transportation to town is the school bus or your parents, a driver’s licence means freedom. That’s if one has a kindly step-father who lets you borrow the car. And I did, as you know.

I still remember the spring my friend and I “studied at the library” regularly on school nights. Oh, yes, we were dedicated library frequenters. Books tossed into the backseat, we sped off to the mall, windows down, volume on the car radio cranked up as high as it would go. I may have neglected my schoolwork, but those heady nights of freedom were a kind of education too. In what, I have no idea.

When I became a teacher, May still meant the end of the school year was in sight. But in order to take a long breath of relief in June, one first one had to survive May. For high school teachers, May survival was all about organization, counting the teaching days left until exams, making sure that the curriculum was covered, marking huge piles of final projects and essays. One soon learned that clearing the piles of term marking in May was essential, so that one had at least a week of breathing space before June exams. And I haven’t even mentioned coping with classes of restless teenagers who could not wait for summer.

May for department heads meant multiple drafts of department timetables for teachers, to be revised each time the staffing of our school changed due to board staffing changes, transfers, retirements, redundancies… whatever. May also meant the beginning of planning for the next year, submitting departmental budgets, and seemingly endless meetings. I loved the excitement of May, the feeling of impending change. But, wow, it was exhausting.

What I’ll be wearing to book club this Sunday.

Being retired means that May has changed for me. It’s a lot less exhausting, for one thing. With fewer commitments and no deadlines. No marking. Or timetables. No more neglected assignments or essays left to the last minute because I have been swanning around with my friends in my step-father’s car when I should have been at the library. No more having to go to bed before dark. Ha.

For almost half of my life, the thirty years I was a teacher, I was ultra organized and focused in May. I was diligent in my marking. I created action plans and to-do lists for myself so that I would get everything done that needed to be done in the time I had to do it. Then once retirement hit, I reverted back to being seventeen years old. Or even nine. How is that possible?

Nowadays in May I still feel restless. Emotional. Longing for something nameless, anxious about something equally nameless. I chafe at commitment. And I can’t finish anything that does not hold my attention utterly. I want to hop on my bike and run wild around the neighbourhood. Metaphorically, of course.

In May I flit from one activity to another. I’m not reading much this month except with my morning tea and toast. I’m working my way through and enjoying Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom. Hubby really liked it, but I’ve been struggling. Because it’s May.

I’ve been watching a series from Vogue France on YouTube that I am enjoying. It’s called “Street Style.” Rarely do I see someone wearing an outfit that I’d wear myself. But the videos are energetic and quirky. And I love the Paris street scenes. My favourite was this one on the rise of “upcycling” in Paris.

And I’ve been listening to one book after another on Audible. Lots of old Agatha Christie books read by Hugh Fraser who plays Hastings in the Poirot television series starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. Hubby and I love that series. We have watched all of the episodes multiple times. I have also been listening to the Kate Ellis “Wesley Peterson” mystery series. I recently found all her early books on Audible so I am starting at the beginning. Listening to audio books is such a good May activity. I can listen and flit at the same time.

For the past few days I have been devouring the series Ten Percent on Amazon Prime. I binge watched it in the evenings when Hubby was watching Stanley Cup hockey. And I am verklempt now that I’ve finished the last episode.

I loved this show. Right from the opening theme song… which is so good. The show is a British version of the popular French series “Call My Agent.” And the writing and acting in each episode is superb, in my opinion. Clever, funny, endearing, understated. I laughed out loud. Or welled up. I loved the characters. The dialogue. The plot lines. The fast pace so suited to my May restlessness. The famous guest stars in each episode. Like Helena Bonham Carter…. I love her. The whole darned thing is just so, so, so good.

And now that I’ve watched the trailer, I want to watch the whole series again. Maybe I will. Have a look.

You know it’s funny, the May restlessness thing has persisted my whole life. Even when I was super conscientious about getting done what needed to be done for my job, I battled the restlessness. I remember tricking myself with treats to stay planted in my chair in order to finish my marking in the evenings.

And it was a May evening when, after a full day of teaching and a frustrating three-hour head’s meeting, I came home for supper and was back at my desk by 8:00 pm marking my Writer’s Craft final projects. At ten o’clock I yelled to Hubby who was in bed reading… “I can’t do this anymore. I need to know when I can retire. I need to make the decision now.” Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t quit then and there. In fact I didn’t retire for another year and a half. But I needed to make the decision that night. So I did.

All this is just to say that I have not read the book that I was supposed to read for my book club meeting tomorrow. I have no defence. I’m retired. I have the time. I have few other commitments. And no excuse, really. Except, it’s May. And in May I can no longer be counted on to do anything I do not want to do.

I hope my friends will forgive me when I show up for lunch tomorrow. I feel slightly guilty at not reading the book. At giving up after the first chapter.

But not that guilty. Ha.

How do longer days and warm spring evenings affect you, my friends? Do you feel like abandoning all pretence of doing what you should be doing?

P.S. The links to clothing and books in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a small commission which helps to pay for the blog.

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From the archives

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Sometimes I Just Want Charming

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This week I’ve been learning about colour. Which colours I should wear and which ones I should avoid.

travel

Travelling and Unravelling

This week we’re travelling. Camping in the Ottawa Valley. And as we sit by the campfire we’ll be waxing nostalgic about other trips we’ve taken.

29 thoughts on “All About May”

  1. I know that feeling of restlessness too! It’s almost like there is a buzzing inside me and inside my brain that makes me feel wiggly when I need to be still; that makes me pick up and put down a half dozen projects without making any progress. And boy, do I remember that feeling from my teaching days too!

  2. Your May restlessness may be more deeply ingrained than you realise . The ancient Romans had a May festival called Floriana described as “ a celebration of nature in full blossom , a carnival of licentious fun & liberty & marked by the consumption of oceans of grog “ Our village still has a maypole on the village green & the local schoolchildren dress up to do the old fertility dance around it on the first of May . I haven’t noticed much licentious fun going on but there’s usually plenty of grog 😁
    Back to the present day , we loved the original French version of Ten Percent despite the frantic subtitles & will watch the British version too . I think Jim Broadbent is one of the guests & he is a favourite of ours . I’ve been a very restless reader lately too but am really enjoying my current read ‘ Nine Lives ‘ by Peter Swanson . I think you’ll like it .

    1. I read Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson a while ago and liked it. I’ve ordered Nine Lives from the library. Thanks. Now that’s what I need… a carnival of licentious fun and liberty. But not too much grog, or the next day is no fun at all. Ha.

  3. I love the book suggestions from your blog. I just finished Crow Lake and am on the waiting list for several others on the Libby app. I appreciate these suggestions greatly. We seem to have skipped spring and landed in high summer this week. My flower pots are calling me but I lack the motivation this year to respond just yet. I am not sure if it’s my retired state of mind, genuine fatigue or the my feeling off balance from the economy/inner city violence and my lack of confidence in our leaders. I miss those carefree days of childhood…catching fireflies and believing summer would never end and we would somehow not have to return to school. Of course two weeks after school let out we were playing it in our garage!

    1. Glad you liked Crow Lake, Kat. I loved it. I have such fond memories of “playing school.” We played it at recess when we were at school. And at home too. No wonder I became a teacher. It seems I couldn’t get enough school.

  4. I know the feeling well. When I was growing up in the midwest, sassafras tea was the antidote to whatever spring fever we exhibited. Now I believe it might be carcinogenic, like so many other things in those days.
    I have been soothing my restlessness and lethargy ( can they occur simultaneously?) by enjoying spring foraging, cooking with fresh herbs and watching the lovely Signora Volpe on Acorn TV. Such beautiful scenery, clothes and Italian men in this charming, gentle mystery series.

    1. That sounds like the perfect series for me, Cosette. I watched Murder in Provence with my mum and sister when I was in New Brunswick and loved it. Also gentle, with great scenery and gorgeous clothes.

  5. I enjoyed those Parisienne street fashions too. Always setting the trends! It makes people watching such a treat. I particularly liked that young man wearing a gorgeous scarf. Next weekend when we restart our annual family gathering, our group outfits will feature scarves. I’m now wondering if I can get the men to wear one too. Could be a challenge even if I do my pleading grandmother “thing”. What do think, Pearl?
    PS…Hugh Fraser has one of the best audiobook voices. He’s my bedtime lullaby.

    1. I have a hilarious (to us) picture of me and Hubby in our Paris flat in 2015, toasting the camera in our scarves tied Parisian style. We laugh every time we see it. We were in Paris for a week in a month long trip to France, and Hubby was amazed at all the scarf wearing.

  6. We’ve always called it “spring fever” and have no clue why it affects us but it sure does. Could it be the pollen in the air?!! We’re recovering from Covid and that has certainly put a damper on any ambitious undertaking. Even reading is tiring. I started Surviving Savannah and love it but can only read one or two chapters and I’m sleepy! As always, thank you for the TV and book recommendations. My hubby and I loved Hercule Poirot and have decided to watch the whole series again. Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. Margaretanne Clinton

    Sue.
    That shirt is so great.
    This was a fun post.
    May ,I’m always putting in roses.
    Every where I’ve ever lived I leave roses behind.
    I love them.
    Margaretanne

  8. Hi Sue, new subscriber here, also from Ontario. I stumbled upon your youTube channel and was hooked. Earlier this year, I told my husband it was time for me to retire. Working as a RN for the past two years has been all kinds of emotions and I am tired….it’s time to move on to something else. If all goes as planned, I will be retired in January. Looking forward to it. I am encouraged by how you have embraced this new stage in your life, living with flare, thoughtfulness and style.

    1. So glad you discovered my blog and YouTube videos, Terry. I am new to the YouTube thing. I started it as the occasional insert in a blog post and then during the Pandemic started doing monthly videos. I’ve had so much fun with it. Good luck with your retirement plans. I can highly recommend… especially if you look at it as a beginning. That’s what Hubby suggested to me when I was upset at the idea of no longer being a teacher. Not the end… but a beginning. And so I started doing my blog.

  9. Book clubs are so much fun, but they can be vicious 😳😝 ! There was a book, Defending Jacob, I could not bring myself to read. I found the topic very unsettling so I read the first chapter and the last five chapters. Things would not have gone south had I not revealed what I did. I have yet to live it down! May is quite the month…enjoy what you can!

  10. Leslie in Oregon

    Hello, Sue. Does your French allow you to understand what is being said during the episodes of Vogue France’s “Street Style”? I am adding that YouTube series to what I will watch when I have time to work on improving my French. Thank you! … May has not brought Spring fever to me, probably because the sustained warmer and drier weather of Spring has not come to the coastal Northwestern U.S. (yet) and because I am not retired in any sense of the word. I hope that next Spring will be different.

    1. I can’t understand much of the dialogue in the France videos. I just love to hear the sound and cadence of the language. I do occasionally break off watching them to speak to Hubby in a French accent, though. Ha.

  11. Thank you for putting words to the restlessness of May. I have been dragging around Agatha Christie books for weeks, finally finished one! No excuse. No sewing done, very little in the way of Spring cleaning done. What I really want/need is a new dress and a place to wear it. Until then, upwards and onwards.

  12. May,spring and summer,were my favourite time of the year. I was happy ,not restless,but with all the changes,climate and all….it is pretty unpredictable,I have two big project to do (well,it should be three,but I simply can’t), and,yes ,restlessness might be the right word to describe my feelings ( 29°C today are not helping either). Grog and Poirot could help….I’ve ordered P Swanson as well!
    You here and Frances’ blog are my favourite (and only!) book clubs
    Dottoressa

  13. I immediately opened my Audible account to search for Kate Ellis’s Wesley Peterson books and could only find 2 (book one in the series was not there). Did you find them in Audible under another listing?
    May makes me feel that I have too much that I want to do. I want to get the gardens under control, go for long walks, go to the beach, be outside. I have trouble sitting down to write blog posts (and read them), because it is such a busy time for outdoor activities. Perhaps that is restlessness. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I definitely want to be out late into the evening!
    I enjoyed Call My Agent, so I need to check out Ten Percent.
    I just finished HBO’s Julia series and loved it. Also watched The Gilded Age. The costumes and sets were fantastic. Now I’m on to Stanley Tucci’s second Searching for Italy season.
    Maybe all of your book club friends will have been busy doing other things as well and you will all be in the same boat (on a lake, in the sun, relaxing). 🙂
    Your outfit is wonderful!

    1. I just checked Audible.ca on my iPad and found only 7 books listed under Kate Ellis Wesley Peterson. Then I looked on my phone under Kate Ellis and found a ton of books including the first and second ones in her series which I have already listened to… The Merchant’s House and The Armada Boy. Weird that the lists differed so much. Perhaps try just using her name? Or perhaps Audible.com has fewer British books?

  14. Hi Sue, as a fairly recently retired principal I fully understand that feeling. The only difference for me is that December is the month (in Australia) that the school year finishes so the mad rush is then.
    I also feel like I may have reverted to my seventeen year old self!

    1. Ah yes… you guys have such different semesters than we do. And way harder that the mad rush for you is at the same time as the Christmas mad rush.

  15. its obviously may here in australia too but its autumn and we are settling in for our less dramatic winter, so i cant blame spring for that restless feeling but I have it… oh do i have it. i put it down to recent retirement, lack of travel, and waiting for a much anticipated change of government here (i hope). a friend said to me the other day that it means your sap is still rising.. an interesting description of the restless fidgets i am feeling but i will take it!

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