As I ran through the grounds of the majestic Chateau deVersailles early this morning I was filled with a sense of calm and reflection. Pausing at the end of the lake after about 12km's, a thin fog hovering over the water I could only smile and try to digest the emotions, tribulations and the blessings that carried me through the year. It was tough but I wouldn't have changed a thing....
Autism obviously was at the forefront of everything I did over the past twelve months, I can't even begin to summarise here the impact this handicap has had on my life. And that's just my life. My perspective is exactly that, mine. There are hundreds of thousands of parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and so on affected by Autism all over the world and through the site and this blog they came out of the woodwork to contact me and share their stories. From Australia to America, Poland to Scotland (and most places in between) it was evident that many had, just like us, to overcome the grief that is part of discovering your child may never be the same as others. And even once you have reached acceptance you have to then knuckle down and do the work, the long road of finding professionals to advise you and treat your child, the endless paperwork for financial assistance, the tensions in the family unit when all you want to do is have a break from it all. But sometimes you just don't get to have that break. Pearl is lucky to have her team and they must be named and thanked, so to Gregory, Virginie and Celine I am beyond grateful for your smiling faces and enthusiastic demeanor, without fail you guys put your all into helping my little P. You are more than hired help, you are like family.
Some of Pearls milestones have included her continued developments in language, she may not be able to string a sentence together but her repetition and counting abilities are a world apart from the beginning of the year. She has adapted to school with neurotypical kids of her own age and even though her assistant decided to quit three days before the Christmas holidays (thanks lady for leaving us in the lurch) I know that its only a stumbling block that has a solution waiting to be found. She has also become more cuddly and will respond better to commands (when it suits her I must add) when it comes to crossing the road and little things that I took for granted with Dylan. I love my daughter dearly and even though sometimes it can feel like one step forward and two back I spare a thought for others who are far, far worse off than us. For me, dealing with Autism is all about perspective and patience. Sometimes I have both of those attributes in spades, other times I feel like I am backpedalling. But I know that all I can do is my best and once the fire to continue to help Pearl and as many families as I can along the way is still burning, then I know I can always go further than I imagine.
The same can also be said of my great passion for Running as this past year I found myself in the deep end, reaching for goals I thought were not within my grasp, mixing it with some amazing athletes being the great honour of each competition. I have made so many friends both through racing and the Internet and the camaraderie is just astonishing. The one thing that struck me the more I became immersed in this running world was the openness. Regardless of ones ability, age, creed, origins etc everyone is welcome to the party. That may not seem like that big a deal to some but to me, looking at a world that can at times be quite intolerant, it is everything. We have been runners since the beginning of time so getting back to that primal feeling exhilarates me beyond words. I managed to finish my first 100km race in May and as the last 15 km's approached I wanted to pack it in. The emotional journey of those last 15km's will never leave me because I had to draw on all I had mentally to make it to the finish. I had great results (for me that is) in some other tough races ranging from 30-50km's and tackled my debut 24hr race also. It's been said (by whom I don't know;) that when you are facing down a challenge like this its just you and yourself out there. The battle for me is never against anyone but myself. I have to prove nothing to no one, I am my own pilot. It's not about how long it takes me to get across the line, its about the preparation it took to get to the start line in the first place. It's about getting up at four a.m. on a winters morning and putting in the distance, or heading out late at night with a head torch as the sofa whipers "Mally, come over here, sit down and watch some TV". Its doing it out of love for the outdoors and not taking the easy option. Its about doing something with passion and never quitting.
I will leave you with some photo highlights of the year gone by and I wish you all a truly safe and fulfilling 2011. I know that the word "limits" will not be part of my vocabulary next year or any other year.
See you round the bend.