My son took a photo of me during our summer vacation.

I am standing in the lake, feet buried in the soft brown sand, water circling just below my knees. I’m in my rolled up saggy-bottomed jean shorts, a coral T-shirt, hair pulled back in a clip. No make-up. No effort to impress anyone. My posture is straight. My arms are relaxed, bent slightly, hands clasped behind me, resting on the small of my back. It’s not an elegant pose; it’s a comfortable one. My lumps and bumps are evident. So be it. I earned them all.

I’m looking over my left shoulder at the neighbouring marina, remembering when my dad’s beautiful boat was docked there. The Sturgeon Strait of Bobcaygeon is my backdrop. Thin white clouds mirror in the reflection of the lake water. It’s overcast, but the blue sky holds the light as the sun awaits its turn. In a few minutes, the sun would find its place in the sky and alter the day with its warm rays. This is me. This is my metaphor.

Looking back on it now, this photo captures me in my truest form: happy and at peace with myself. If you only knew how rare that is for me. Peace of mind, body and soul. It’s possible, but I had forgotten. I forget often.

I get so overwhelmed with things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of “you’re going to die one day anyway” stuff. I take on too much and get buried by it. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I struggle with anxiety. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s not mine either. It just is what it is. Sometimes it’s a whisper, sometimes it’s a scream, but anxiety is always a trickster. It tells me I’m not enough. I’m lost. A failure. Never going to get ahead. Can’t handle the hard stuff. A lousy mother, wife, writer, employee, friend, etc.

I know none of this is true. Not even close. Anxiety is a liar and I prove it to myself every single day. So, I saved this photo of myself to remind me, because it tells a very different story: a true story of imperfectly perfect me. Content. Calm. Strong. I am capable of letting go of guilt trips and dramas that aren’t even mine to hold.

I am fully able to find joy in the simplest things: laughing with my kids in the kitchen, morning coffee all alone on the dock, car rides along twisting roads, the smell of the rain, the whirl and wisp sound as the casting of the fishing reel lets go the line and snaps the slack, the words pressed in the pages of a great book, and long walks with no destination.

These are the moments I want to remember. I need to remember, because September happens and it takes very little to forget the contentment of a vacation once you merge back into the mad rush of another school year, back-to-work schedules and every extracurricular event under that same sun. Busy. Everyone is so busy. Anxiety loves busy people.

But with just a thought, I can hear the water lap up against the shore. I can smell the water and sand. I can hear the boats in the distance. It’s not a whisper or a scream, it’s just the sound of a moment in time where anxiety had no voice. It’s possible.

She who makes time for everyone else heals when she makes time for herself. That’s my truth.


Kelly Waterhouse