On the morning of my 40th birthday, I woke up before the dawn to the sound of rain.

It was the steady downpour of water running off the siding on the house, dripping down the windows, pattering at the street. The air smelled fresh. The birds were quiet. The world was still. Heaven. The rain broke the streak of hot, humid weather that gripped our region long enough to make me almost miss the snow. Almost.

On this particular morning, as I opened my 40-year-old eyes, I was very aware that this rain was a metaphor of so much more than weather patterns. It was a sign.

In the music of that rain, I lay awake, reflecting on what I knew to be true in my life so far and what I knew I had the power to change in the next 40 years of being Me.

Every year has its ups and downs, but this past year seemed to be an indication of where I am, where I’m going and why it matters at all. Perhaps this was the life epiphany people had told me would come. Maybe it was the parting gift of leaving one decade for another, to have a moment of clarity. Or maybe I was just being a philosophical smartie pants. I’ll take option D: all of the above.

This past year has been a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. Some have been so beautiful that I have been moved to tears and others, so terrifying that I had no choice but to face my fears head on. I have been pushed to the edge of life and pulled back again, just to make sure I was paying attention. Old patterns resurfaced. I have learned to trust my gut. I had career highs, financial lows and had to dig deep to dig myself out. I earned new friendships, held tight to old ones and had the honour of helping a few friends through dark days.

Trust is an honour to behold. I helped save a life and then a week later stood overlooking a lake waiting for the body of a dear friend to return home, to surface somewhere out there in the waves, knowing he will not, and had to watch as his family lived out my greatest fear. I felt the sting of betrayal, learning that sometimes your heart needs a shield from the back of your body as much as it does from the front.

I learned to keep my cards close to my chest. I’ve accepted that my head is a noisy place, but to befriend those voices. I have slowed down enough to see my children as individuals.  But perhaps the most valuable lesson in all of these twists and turns is this: compassion and forgiveness do not have to come at a cost to your Self. There is dignity in having compassion for your Self first. It does not make you less of a friend, less of a mother, or a disloyal spouse. In fact, it does the quite the opposite.

For me, that early morning rain was a cleanser washing away the past to make a clean slate for the future. If that is what 40 brings me, I am grateful. I have everything I could want and I know it. I am loved and I love back.

I think I have evolved into who I want to be, instead of who others expect me to be. I have found some peace in this skin.

You know what this means, right? Chip dip and the birthday cake are mine. All mine.


Kelly Waterhouse