Before the pandemic, I had a love–hate relationship with the month of May. Filled with activities, work, and travel—all of them fun traditions, none of them seeming “optional”—it was a constant buzz of excitement. For years we delighted in the chaos of May Mayhem, but I started getting sick every June. My body was so overwhelmed the last couple of years that I needed antibiotics, yikes. We’d planned a minor change to lighten the load in 2020, but I was dreading the month and found relief in the covid cancellations. This year, my days full of freedom, I noticed a gut-level rejection of booking anything in May, a visceral fear. I took a deep breath and asked myself: What would I like May to be like? Isn’t mayhem fun? (and in a little voice, What am I so scared of?)
I’ll Start With the Past
When I started listing what used to put the mayhem into May, I got embarrassed as I realized that—of course—most of the events were “optional” even though they didn’t feel that way at the time. Gulp, here goes:
Mother’s Day (the Chocolate Race 5K, a couple of hours away with an overnight hotel stay to enjoy a visit to Niagara Falls), my daughter’s birthday (including a long weekend trip to my mother’s cottage, 5 hours away), a three-day conference in Toronto (with a catch-up with friends from when I lived there, and/or a romantic tryst, and a hangover in either case), a full-day research symposium we hosted here, and two kids’ end-of-year school events. Instead of alternating weekends at their dad’s, the kids were with me three weekends out of four for all the festivities, and my full-time job was well beyond full-time because of the extra work to prepare for the symposium and to make up for the days I was away at the conference.
But running around Niagara Falls and running for chocolate are some of my happiest memories with the kids. The “cottage birthday party” had been my son’s privilege since his birth in August and my heart broke when my toddler daughter asked why she didn’t get one too. With a long weekend right there (her birthday’s near that of Queen Victoria, whose celebration still gets us a Monday off work for reasons unknown), we started a new tradition, complete with making extravagant cakes and swimming in an icy lake. My Toronto fun was unforgettable, and the symposium here had magical energy. I did take the train to Toronto to give my car a rest, but still, I’m getting overwhelmed just listing all this.
I was trying to be SuperMom and SuperDirector and SuperKaren, only to end up SuperSick. No wonder that even two years later, the word “May” on the calendar is still a gut punch. It’s enough to make me consider sitting home for thirty-one days. (I mean, we’re careful about covid still, so I’d hardly be planning many indoor adventures.) It’s springtime though! We’ve been cooped up all winter! Time for all the celebrations! Can May possibly be mellow?
I’ve spent my first few months of semi-retirement revelling in a slow life. We’ve had a few adventures and have more planned, but the not-burning-myself-out adventure is my favourite so far. I’m still in recovery mode from all the years of doing too much, and if I can find a way to look forward to May without fear of getting overwhelmed, I’ll know I’m healing.
Not usually one to dwell on the past, I find myself stuck on, and struck by, how much pressure I put on myself to live that way, believing it was the way to live life to its fullest. I’d never turn down opportunities, I said an enthusiastic yes to ALL THE FUN, but maybe I was afraid to pause and simply be. I don’t regret a minute of it. I may have been exhausted, but what great times I had! If I hadn’t done all of it, maybe I’d feel regret, but I can’t ever know that.
My days now are delightful, and they are filled with emotions. Whatever I buried each May (and all the months in between) is finding its way back up now. There’s a deep satisfaction to it, to having the time to notice feelings and sit with them. I used to book time away, just so I’d have time and space to cry, though of course the tears didn’t work on my carefully planned schedule.
I feel more fragile, but less afraid. What scared me about May? It was the worry that I’d collapse, that all the feels would take over, my walls would crumble, and I wouldn’t be able to do the next fun thing, or anything. The fear was I couldn’t cope. My strength now comes from the fragility. When a big emotion swells, it does take over. I do cry. I breathe, I talk about it, and it floats away. There’s no pressure building up inside me, so no worry about it exploding. I do cope.
What do I want this May? Time outdoors, closer to home (no weekend traffic, thanks), with my kids and friends. Nice meals, ordered in? Maybe a drink or two on a patio. Lots of hikes. Chocolate. My daughter suggested we camp in the backyard—YES!—and I have a surprise planned for her birthday that will be fun even without extravagant cake or icy swims.
A Middle Path
I definitely don’t want a SuperMay, nor will I hide from life. There’s a Middle Path in Buddhism and I may just spend time exploring that. What do you think?
Unrelated Side Note
Because many of you follow and interact with me on twitter: I don’t know (or care, to be honest) what will change on twitter with Musk’s takeover. I do know that many people I respect say they will close their accounts. I won’t miss the random men who think that Being a Woman Online means I owe them my time or attention, but I made soul-warming connections on twitter, laughed at many cats and dogs, and learned fascinating things. I will be sad if those end. I’m not on any other social media, so I guess I’ll have to keep this blog updated to stay in touch. I’ll plan a post filled with cat pictures soon. If you’re a twitter friend and we lose touch, take care and know I’ll be remembering your witty/warm/insightful 280 characters with fondness.