Early last Monday morning, as I was getting in the car to head to work, my three favourite neighbours, the cutest kids in town, yelled across the street in unison, “Happy birthday, Kelly!” Adorable.

But my birthday was Thursday. Wait, how did they even know it was my birthday?

I was puzzled, until I backed out of the driveway. Then I saw it: a large blue banner featuring a polar bear (my favourite animal) wearing a birthday hat, surrounded by balloons and 50 little polar bears with the words “Happy 50th birthday, Kelly” in large font.

The banner was tacked to the front of my house, draped over the carport, flapping in the morning breeze for all to see. The Carpenter put it up before he left town for the week. Jerk.

I love birthdays, but this year, I wasn’t feeling the excitement. There has been much too much negative noise consuming my life (thanks COVID, you joy sucker, you). Maybe it was subconscious reasoning. If I didn’t make turning 50 a big deal, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Fool.

I have a friend 10 years my senior and whenever I lean on her for advice or vent about a challenge I’m facing, she replies, “Are you 50 yet?” It’s not really a question. It’s her way of reassuring me this worry, this challenge, this anxiety won’t matter soon. The calendar will turn. The time will come. Life’s mini-dramas will lose their power. Poof. Gone. Moving on.

So be it. On the morning of July 9, right around the time I first entered the world, I woke up and, no word a lie, I felt different. I felt a profound sense of gratitude. Genuine joy. Fifty, I thought to myself. I’ve arrived. And I’m ready. I felt I had stepped through a threshold into a new phase of personal power that may have been all in my head, but I feel it in my heart, in my gut, in my skin. I was different somehow.

I’ve carried anxieties far enough. I’ve pleased enough people. I’ve dimmed my light so others could shine. I’ve put up with enough nonsense to earn a real sense of what I will and will not take. I’ve picked up the pieces for others and left myself in pieces doing it. A keeper of secrets. A guardian of truths. I’ve said yes to things when I meant no. I know better now. I know who I am. She’s alright.

I took a long look at the woman in the mirror. Laugh lines. Thickening in places that I never appreciated when they were thin. Clearly puberty had officially decided not to come for me. So be it. This was a time to honour my survival.

My body is decorated with scars, proof that the two greatest humans I know are forever linked to me. Proof that I survived the trauma of weeks in a coma, a ventilator doing the hard work and medicine helping do battle to hold on to life. I beat the odds more than a decade ago. I am so much tougher than I look. I am so much stronger than you know. Sometimes I get lost in the shadows, but this little light of mine is still shining.

My skin tells the stories that only I can write the ending for, and at 50, my stories are just beginning to take shape. That’s my truth.

Fifty is my miracle.

Gratitude, always.

WriteOut of Her Mind