The season of June
My Why audio version of this blog available here.
So what do we know about the month of June? Well, there’s one terrifying statement that will be found on everyone’s lips at some point in the next 30 days - ‘we’re halfway through the year?’
But what else do we know about this month?
Its birthstone is the pearl, the Moonstone and the Alexandrite (which I’ve never heard of), the birth flower is the Rose and the Honeysuckle. It’s a girl’s name, which incidentally, my husband pointed out, it only seems to be spring months that have been turned into common girl’s names. April, May, June. I’m sure there is a September out there, but I’ve yet to meet him or her. In the Northern Hemisphere June has the longest daylight hours of the year as summer ushers in, and shortest in the Southern Hemisphere as winter arrives. And according to the Met Office June is the last month of spring in the Astronomical seasons and the first month of summer in the Meteorological seasons. So it gets its little foot into both of the best camps of the year - spring AND summer.
June is the gateway to summer. Jean Hersey
Yet as I write this it’s chucking it down with very heavy rain, or as Chris and I call it - ‘butt weather’ (you know, because it fills the water butts).
In the UK this week June is kicking off with a long Bank Holiday weekend. The Spring Bank holiday, which normally means we get the last Monday of May off work, was moved to Thursday 2 June and then followed by an extra bank holiday on Friday 3 June for a very special unique occasion, part of which is the reason if I look out of my window into the cul-de-sac right now I can see Union Jack bunting strung between the houses.
On the 6th February 2022, Her Majesty The Queen became our first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. This marked 70 years of service to her people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth. As this is unprecedented, the anniversary events and celebrations culminate in a very long bank holiday to celebrate. Meaning there will be a lot of very British street parties going on and a lot of frustrated people in local council offices fielding requests for street closures.
Chris and I happened to be in London last week, and the area surrounding Buckingham Palace has been closed off for preparations for about a month. We stood in the middle of the quiet, still, Horse Guards Parade and knew in a week’s time it would be full of soldiers, horses, flags, drums, music, busby’s (those giant furry black hats the regiment guards wear) and celebrations. It was the quiet before the Jubilee storm.
We also had a ride on the Elizabeth Line on the underground which newly opened last week (and was very impressive, very clean, and very quiet).
However, with my focus on loss and grief for our podcast, I couldn’t help but wonder as I looked down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, how the Queen felt looking out on it all. Getting to such a milestone only a year after losing her beloved husband, Philip. Without him by her side, going out to face the crowds as one half of a couple can't be easy. I mean even attending something like that at the age of 96 years old is something most of us would call to cancel, let alone when the eyes of the whole world are on you. What is she thinking as she looks out the window at the roundabout outside being turned into a giant stadium area? I guess it’s one head we will never hear the thoughts of, and probably rightly so, but that must feel lonely too. Can any of us even imagine such a career or calling on 70 years of our life?
Anyway, that’s how we’re starting June over here, with celebration, and also reflection on the life of a monarch, who underneath that stylish hat, is no doubt still grieving the loss of her husband.
So while June is often a halfway marker and time for reflection for some, that was actually the focus of my thoughts last month in May, so for me it feels more like a month of focusing on movement. I’ve noticed I tend to do my reflections as the seasons change, at the beginning of spring, again in Autumn and maybe at the beginning of a year, and after reflection I find myself wondering where and how I move next.
June moves us into the second half of the year, and away from the previous half. It tags itself on the backend of spring, but then as we move into summer it comes with us as the beginning of that too. It doesn't feel like a passive month to me. It's when folk start planning for summer activities, it tempts us outside into long sunny evenings (well, we live in hope of that at some point), it brings the start of Wimbledon (and that’s definitely all about movement, as well as strawberries), it makes people think about exercise (because the outdoors looks bearable to be in), it encourages scores of loud children to play noisily outside, and it raises pasty large topless men out of their chairs and into the garden for the only reason they’ll move to cook something - barbecue season!
And I definitely feel the pull, as if a window’s opening up, to be more active, productive, and social, but it also comes with the added pressure that you only have a few months before it shuts again and winter takes over, forcing you quickly back inside.
The slight problem I have this year is that even if I was ready for the movement, I personally right now have no idea which direction to move in and I’m lacking energy. After a particularly tough couple of weeks with health again (some HRT is out of stock here in the UK and I’ve been switched to another one which has flung me back into a dazed, confused, lethargic brain fog) I find myself with all the will to move towards some sort of goal, but not the ability. I keep thinking back to a gif on my phone that makes me smile, I’ve used it before:
This has illustrated the path of my journey over the last few years wonderfully at times. I want to move forwards, I know I should, I have so many dreams and ideas about what it could look like, but the day-to-day of my reality is that every time I start to run towards something I’m left puffing on the side of the road acknowledging I don’t have the stamina yet and I sink back into dark disappointment and despondency floating on a blown-up flamingo to try and look like I'm having a good time to onlookers in the process.
So this week I’ve been wrestling with how I can find momentum to move forwards, even when I have no idea where to go, or I lack the energy to do it?
Now, if you're someone that never struggles with this and can just get out of bed, be productive, do stuff, doesn't see what the fuss is about, feels good about life and can do anything they put their mind to - well, good for you. But seriously, you need to cherish that, because it's not a given and not everyone can do that - and before I had issues with my hormones that affected my brain and mood I wouldn't have understood this either. So know that you are blessed and how many people would give anything for what you're experiencing right now.
For those of us that aren’t in that place, I think I’ve got three key areas to help us move a bit and I’m taking my cue from nature again because I’m loving watching my garden blossom even further this month.
1. Take your time.
There is literally no reason for me to hurry. Sure I’m not getting any younger, and I’m missing what some might say are the ‘best years of my life’, but the reality is that things take time and trying to rush doesn’t help anyone and only ends in frustration. So I’m attempting to start with one day, or even one hour, or minute at a time. I have big dreams for my life, my job, my podcast, my writing, my family setup, my mental health, my physical health, but I’m being forced to realise those end goals aren’t achievable today. I’m living too far ahead. I can’t compare myself to those people with bags of energy and giant white smiles - you know, the ones that run marathons, always have a clear head, know how to enjoy hobbies in their free time instead of collapsing in a heap, survive on little sleep, have families, aren’t facing HRT shortages, start companies in their spare time and worst of all - never have to think about buying the own brand yoghurt. So I need to just do what I can today. Yes it feels a bit unexciting and pathetic at times, yes I’m disappointed I’ve become this person some days, but sometimes we just have to accept who we are and let go of who we wanted to be or who we thought we’d be. And it’s super hard, I’m only newly trying to start this process myself. As I’ve watched the leaves unfurling lately in the garden, and the flowers slowly blooming, and the grass growing, I realise that day-to-day I don’t always notice much growth, but when I go away for a few days and then look again I’m astonished by what they’ve achieved. But they didn’t do it all in one go. They took their sweet time. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve over a week or a month when you do a little each day, it’s far more productive than planning and throwing your own pity-party for a week and then complaining you haven’t got anywhere. So join me in taking your time. Move forwards slowly, no one’s asking you to run, sometimes it takes more guts to shuffle than it does to keep trying to stride and then fall flat on your sad face. And like I said, it’s super hard, especially if you’re an organised, motivated person like I am. Sometimes, for whatever reason, life just takes the reins away from us, or we find our wheels are moving through treacle. It's not your fault, it’s not what you want, it’s not even fair, but it’s far better to work with the situation we’re in, rather than fighting against it. I have this quote on my wall:
By perseverance the snail reached the ark. Charles Spurgeon
So take your time.
2. Take care of yourself
There are vital things we need to survive, and therefore need before we can move forwards.
Human beings have certain basic needs. We must have food, water, air, and shelter to survive. If any one of these basic needs is not met, then humans cannot survive. Before past explorers set off to find new lands and conquer new worlds, they had to make sure that their basic needs were met. Nasa.gov
Your body needs these things to help it get from where it is now, to where you want it to be, so no matter what your responsibilities for others, it’s important to take care of yourself first. It’s the old analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before you help others.
Physically: make sure you’re drinking enough water to hydrate your body and brain. Not sure this is that important? Well, put it this way, if you stopped drinking water or having fluids now, you would still have shuffled forwards but you’d officially have shuffled off this mortal coil and be no longer with us by next week. Same goes for food. Eat healthily, stop with the takeaways and easy options, put something in your body that will help it feel better and not bogged down processing things it was never meant to process. It’s not tricky, pick up a banana or an apple from time to time. Exercise, just a few minutes outside will help anything you’ve got going on, or at the very least stand outside your door on a sunny day and feel the sun on you (although this does vary from country to country, currently if I stood outside I’d get drenched and I imagine in some countries it’s far too hot, so - play it by ear). Sleep, find ways to help your body find it’s peace for sleep, whether that’s less doom scrolling, buying a better mattress, stopping the caffeine, or seeing a doctor, your body needs rest. Hopefully air and shelter aren’t something you struggle to find, because they’re important too.
Mentally, spiritually & emotionally: take care of this side of your life. This varies massively from person to person and there’s loads of help on the internet in this area, but find what brings you alive, what makes you feel seen, heard, loved, at peace. You probably already know, it’s most likely nagging at you now, asking you why you don’t have time for it any more when you know it’s what you need.
Over the last few years I’ve learnt the importance of rest. Resing the body, the mind, the soul and the self. It’s not been an easy lesson, it was forced upon me by ill health, but if I don’t heed it again even now I get thrown back into places I don’t want to be, mentally, physically and emotionally. I’ve learnt coping mechanisms for when my head goes to a bad place, I’ve learnt when I can handle other people and when it’s too much, I’ve learnt patience with my situation and allowing the tears to flow when it’s not what I wanted for life, I’ve learnt to let go of things I wanted, and situations I’ll never be a part of, I’m learning I can’t control relationships with others, when things are a two way street I can only do my part and I have to release any guilt or pressure to be responsible for the other side (no matter what others may want from me). And even through all this I’m STILL learning, I’m not who I was, I’m not what others want, I don’t fit in to any easy category in life, hard work doesn’t always equal results, life isn’t as simple as others would like it to be, and forging my own path often feels lonely and misunderstood. And none of this is a pity party, it’s just a healthy acknowledgment of life that will help me get up and move forwards. Because knowing what you are dealing with is half the battle, pretending it’s all good, stiff upper lip, it could be worse, as a strategy has got me into some real messes that I’m only now trying to find my way out of.
Every plant and tree in my garden has ideal conditions that will help it thrive and conditions that can lead it to death. When put in the right place, and given the right amount of sun, water and food that it needs, a plant thrives. If I force it to try and thrive in an area that it was never made to handle, it might be ok for a while, and it’ll definitely try its best to thrive, it’s built that way, but ultimately the conditions will be stronger and it won’t survive.
So assess your environment, physically, mentally, emotionally, and if it’s not what you need to thrive, move yourself, position yourself in a better way to give yourself a chance.
Bloom where you are planted. Unknown
Although now I’m thinking about it, if you’re planted in the wrong place you can’t bloom, so that quote might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
So take your time, take care of yourself and…
3. Take your marzipan.
Or your equivalent. Take things along the journey with you that bring you joy. I might have more shuffling than striding days right now, but as I’m shuffling forward I’m definitely munching on marzipan. Obviously bear in mind the previous point, I’m not advising you to go and get yourself a heart problem, I’m just saying find small ways to have things around you that you enjoy, within reason. It might be a small snack in your day you enjoy, a hobby you do for five minutes every day, a person you message who likes to check in with you, a soft toy you place on your desk for a smiling encouragement, a song you play when you need a boost, a poem or book you read, an image of someone you look up to. Whatever it is, having something nearby that reminds you of all this, will help you keep shuffling forward.
For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together. Vincent Van Gogh
4. Take it in
When looking for quotes about June I found many people spoke about it with a fondness, with an air of possibilities for love, for long evenings, for sun, for flowers, for nature (admittedly they might all have lived in the Northern Hemisphere). And I think that still stands even if you’re feeling a bit stuck right now. Being stuck in June is definitely better than being stuck in November, so don’t forget to look around and enjoy this time of year while it’s here, however you’re feeling, it doesn’t last long and who knows how many more June’s any of us will get to see. Take in what's around you, lift your head, even if you're just on the floor.
If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance. Bernard Williams
You always feel like your 18-year-old self in some sense. And that's what walking through New York on a June evening feels like - you feel like it's Friday, and you're 17 years old. John Darnielle
I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June. L. M. Montgomery
What would it be like? I can’t help but think that living on the edge of summer might be pretty amazing, but if it’s anything like romance it has the potential to fill you with warm squishy love or break your heart in a million pieces.
Who knows what this June will bring for any of us? But whether we fly or fall, run or stall, take your time, take care of yourself, take your marzipan, and take it all in.
Too young for love? Ah, say not so, While daisies bloom and tulips glow! June soon will come with lengthened day To practise all love learned in May. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Too Young for Love