Please mind the gap.

Autism / General

I love London. My mum was born in London, I met my husband in London and I have a major obsession with musical theatre so really it’s no great surprise it’s my favourite place to visit.

As I write this, while on another trip to London, I am reminded how blessed I am to have family here so I can visit often.

I have visited London at least twice a year since I was 5. I remember my first trip, the excitement of a flight on a BA plane. My mum and I traveled with my great uncle and back then we always dressed smart for a flight – I still don’t really know why. I remember the excitement, the joy at visiting Hamleys and the Disney Store,  going to Buckingham Palace and hoping to see the Queen or St James Park and believing that Peter Pan had been there and maybe Tinkerbell was nearby.

One thing I hated and still do is the underground. The escalators terrified me and once I froze after mum had stepped on and a stranger had to lift me and carry me. I also hated the announcement as you tried to get on the train saying ‘please mind the gap’. When I was 5 that gap seemed huge! I was lifted onto the train more times than I can count, it seemed such a far way to jump and I was so afraid of falling in and nobody noticing. Obviously as an adult I realise that could never have happened and these days it’s what’s on the other side of the gap that makes me anxious. The stepping over the gap into a jam packed crowded stuffy train where I can’t move and can barely think just fills me with dread. The thing is I now understand if I want to go and see all those exciting things – still mainly the Disney store, I have to take that step. The journey is unfamiliar, uncomfortable and sometimes difficult but it’s necessary to get to where I need to be.

How often in life does the gap steal our joy? Does the darkness stop us from looking up to see there are options ahead or because the options are unfamiliar do we just choose not to take the risk and stand still? Sometimes in life we need to be still but more often we need to jump or if needed have a little lift or push to encourage us to keep moving. Once we make that jump it’s not always plain sailing, life gets messy or obstacles delay us. Once we make it onto the train it might not be the journey we expected and actually we are part of someone else’s journey, there to direct someone else. Sometimes, while we are half way along, someone gets on at another stop fresh faced while we are weary and burnt out. The people coming behind us are always more energised than we are and sometimes we have to hand them our ticket and change our destination.

I always wanted to be a teacher when I was at school. When I did work experience at 17 I worked with a little boy with ADHD, the teacher I worked with wrote to my school to say she thought I would be great working with children with additional needs as I had an ability to encourage this little boy – I didn’t become a teacher, my train took a route I didn’t expect and to be fair I derailed it a few times. Little did I know that my path was headed in a different way and I now have a son with ASD, a husband with ASD and ADHD and a journey I never planned to travel. If I had concentrated on the unknown or got overwhelmed by the gap – between the way I think and the way they do, the way my life would actually go to the way I had planned. If I had refused to hand over my ticket and accept my new direction I would have missed the most awesome journey of my life. I love my boys and their amazing journey, I love my daughter and our amazing path but mostly I love when we stick together we just jump straight over that gap barely noticing it’s there, laughing as we go.

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