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Mercury in Retrograde

The first three weeks of June are usually the most challenging time of year for me; perhaps unlike for most – after all, it is the start of summer, of warm weather and early sunlight in the morning. It is the promise of a long July 4th weekend, BBQ parties, pool days, and maybe, the beach. Many seem to feel how I feel in July rather at the end of the calendar year. But I love December (Christmas, family, snow, skiing) and the renewal that comes with January. Maybe I never got out of school calendar mode, and June is the hardest (hours of studying for exams I never felt ready for).

For me, June is three long weeks of hard work before I get to Greece, to the island of Tinos, for my 10 days of real vacation per year (real vacation being defined as involving sand, my husband as the only family, and very limited Wi-Fi or other forms of connectivity). The three first weeks of June are joyous because I have that Greek time to look forward to, but so very challenging because by then, I have not had a vacation in 11 months, and I feel like I am an iPhone on 2% red battery with 21 days to go.

Lucky for me, this is now happening for the 5th year in a row, and I have learned from the previous four years. I have listened to myself and I know June is hard for me. I know I am really tired, emotionally and physically. And so I have learned a few coping mechanisms.

Here are some strategies I have put in place to make sure that my level of exhaustion does not wreck havoc during June.

1. I avoid scheduling any super important strategy meetings between Memorial Day and when I come back from Greece in early July, if at all possible.

2. This is usually not possible. Which means I have at least three really, really important meetings in that five week period. In this case, I prepare for each with extra time, extra patience, and extra care.

3. In the preparation of these meetings, and in preparation of most of what happens during that time, I understand that given my level of tiredness, everything seems hard, and every task (in particular thinking) takes me longer than usual. And is harder than usual.

4. I allow myself extra time not just for professional tasks, but for everything. Case in point – I left some hanging clothes in a hotel room closet two weeks ago. I was rushing in the morning to pack and leave. Usually, I can rush to pack and leave no problem – it is the story of my traveling life. Anytime of the year except in June. No rushing. Of packing, or of anything.

5. Along those lines, I triple check everything. Do I have my keys before leaving my house? My clothes before leaving the hotel? My wallet before leaving to go grocery shop? My passport before leaving on an international flight. I am overly diligent. Because I need to be.

6. I turn my tongue in my mouth three times before I speak, in particular when I feel I am getting upset. I have realized that when overly tired, the things that would usually roll off of me, easily and without effort, instead, upset me. I try to recognize that fact – recognize the upset as something that is my reality, not THE reality.

7. In everything that I do, I try to be kinder. I actually need to be kinder in general, but in this case, being kinder is really just being kind. At least I am trying.

8. And lastly, while I have never needed much sleep, I try to sleep at least seven hours per night. Not that this enables me to feel rested. But it does enable me to get by. For just another month.

All in all, I have come to think of the month between Memorial Day and June 26 (or 25 or 27 as years go), as my own personal Mercury in Retrograde moment. As my BFF from business school would say it, “Small Arm Movements today please” – meaning don’t scare or surprise me, I am so emotionally exhausted I might bite your head off for no reason. They say the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing it. I recognize it, accept it, and learn every year how better to cope with it.

And by the time you read this, I will only have a couple days left of coping before I have 10 days of resting, relaxing, and recharging my very empty battery.