Wednesday 15 May 2013

You Keep Doing Your Thing, We'll Keep Doing Ours

Question: what's the worst part about going for a run in the pouring rain?

Answer: the first five minutes. Then the next five, then the next ...

The streets are deserted, the sky prematurely black. The water slashes through the air and arrows into the ground at my feet. Orange pools of precipitation are illuminated at regular intervals by the streetlamps that line the avenue down which I am running. It feels more like November than May. 

I am moving fast, pumping my arms and driving my toes down, sprinting. My heart is thumping. My breath sounds in hard, deliberate pants as I work to keep everything in rhythm and maintain this speed. I have turned my music up so loud that I can practically hear it in the fillings of my back teeth.

I am here again, running on rage and desperation and because at times like this it's the thing that I do.

This time, this run, the picture in my head is again Grace's face.

This time it's her big eyes seeking mine in my bedroom mirror as I stand behind her and brush out her beautiful hair after her bath. The air is warm from the hairdryer and scented with her shampoo.

"Mummy," she says. "Some people in my class used my name like a dirty word today."

Goddamn it, I think. Are we still not past this? Does it still, always and despite the rest, have to come back to this?

Grace is having a great week. This is a surprise, frankly, because she is sitting her SATS tests this week. Every day she goes in and sits with her teaching assistant in a quiet room and works her way through the examination papers. Some are straightforward for her, and it's simply a question of keeping her attention focused. Some, like the maths papers she is sitting today, might as well be in Japanese. But she is going in every day smiling and holding herself together and ready to do her best.

Evenings too, when I had been expecting her to burst out of her tight wrapping, have been lovely. Last night Grace and her sister giggled their way through a Wallace and Gromit film - Grace reading every plasticine expression accurately and turning laughing eyes to me to share the moment while Betty guffawed into a biscuit at the other end of the sofa. 

Grace is doing so well. I had been thinking about a happy blog!

Instead I am running and the details of the latest niggling nastiness go around my head as I run. I hear again the snide tones she mimicked in recounting what was said. It is so little and yet so much to hear your own name turned into a thing of contempt. I fume to think of the small-hearted people using so ill the beautiful name that I gave my daughter.

I turn off the avenue and turn down a hill, through a park and onto a footpath into the woods. The trees curl over me, the mulchy turf springs underfoot. Everything is everywhere shades of green. This is how I imagine it must be to surf right through the barrel of a wave, with the outside light turning everything to shades of jade and emerald. I am soaking wet and yet entirely calm: I feel as though I am encased in a glass bottle. The music in my ears has receded to background noise.

The peace washes over me and I think: it's ok, we know what to do and we'll just keep on doing it. Grace has talked things through with me and tomorrow she will go forward again with courage and calm determination. Tomorrow I will keep running and I will raise money and raise awareness and write and talk and shout when I must.

So we'll all go on. Grace and I and our family are pretty happy, actually. As for those people who still seem incapable of summoning any sensitivity or acceptance, we will accept them instead.

As I run around the final corner and arrive once again at the gate of my house, looking forward to going inside and drying off and seeing Grace, I speak to those people in my head.

You go on doing what you do, I tell them. We'll keep on doing what we do. The thing that we do makes life better for everyone. What about yours?

I will be running the Royal Parks half-marathon again in October to raise money for the National Autistic Society. If you would like to know more, please click here


  1. Brilliant. A moving and inspiring read. You're right to leave them to it - you definitely have the upper hand and the better life because of that. x

  2. You're so totally right. You're making the world a better place. Think about all the OTHER kids in Grace's class and school. The ones who aren't being nasty to her. Those kids are learning from Grace what Asperger's Syndrome is and how it's nothing to be afraid of, just a different way of thinking and perceiving the world.

    She's also showing those children how to face and overcome challenges and do things that are difficult for her. What a fantastic example for her classmates. Who knows what they will do out there in the wide world as adults thanks to having known your beautiful girl?

    So yes: yah boo sucks and what-ev-ah to the stinky people. They are not adding to the world anything apart from another hurdle for Grace to take in her stride and demonstrate the truth of her name.
    Hugs to you and Grace. x

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