HAVING recently hit the age of 40, I promised myself I would do 40 things throughout the year to mark it.
I believe, as a parent especially, you always convince yourself you will do the things you want later: you will do it when he is in school, she is a bit older, when they are in college, when this is paid off, when the sun rises in the north and it snows in June...
We think of a thousand reasons as to why we need to delay things we would love to do, and are afraid of doing something that is a bit out of the norm for fear of what people will think.
I think it is quite sad that we all have a dream to fulfil, no matter how small, but very rarely do anything about it.
It is important to strip back the layers to the person we were before we were Mom or Dad, as this person matters too. So with that in mind, I got a tattoo, I took a flying lesson on my birthday back in December, which was very empowering as it was such a big fear of mine.
To actually fly a plane over Crosshaven is something that will always stay with me, the sense of accomplishment was particularly huge as I was nearly dry heaving in the car park before I got out of the car to do it.
As a family of children with special needs, you can’t just all go on holiday, but I came to the realisation that the guilt that goes hand in hand with being a mother is always going to be there, whether I go to the Bahamas or Penneys in Wilton. So I had a word with myself about the trip to Florida I always dreamt of doing in 2020 when I was 40 and my eldest was 18 that I’ve been saving for.
My three under the age of five would hate the plane and Ian and I wouldn’t be able to cope with three running riot up and down the seats, not to mind the aisle of Ryanair. They wouldn’t remember any trip but it would be embedded in our brains and their three older siblings, and probably not for the right reasons, and they certainly wouldn’t enjoy it.
The lack of routine, the weather, the strange place to sleep, new people, different language, the smells, the different foods, to name but a few reasons. I was making these expectations of what I was seeing on the ads on the telly as what I envisioned it to be, and I needed to come to the sharp realisation that this is not our reality, for now at least.
Something we dream for our kids, like a holiday, is not necessarily something that they want or will enjoy. In fact, it could be the stuff of nightmares. So do you push all your family to go to satisfy your ego at the price of their happiness, without their routine at home?
I needed to have the chat with my husband — do some of us go, or do we let the dream go? Unfortunately, as you can’t just get a sitter to watch your children when it comes to autism, and family have their own lives, the decision was made for us: no-one would mind the smallies. I would go with the older girls and Ian would stay home with the younger three.
I’m not going to lie, a trip of a lifetime you have been talking about for years is tainted a little bit with sadness when you are going without him getting to experience it, keeping in mind my eldest is off to college in September and this is her last family trip.
You hope you are doing the right thing and resentment doesn't kick in for the girls as to why he can’t go, as he is their dad too. So I booked the trip of a lifetime for February just for the older girls and I, and as you all know by now, took one of the biggest leap of faiths of my life to date and committed to climbing Kilimanjaro, booked for September, 2020.
Going through eight pregnancies, five in five years, all took its toll, from losing two babies in 2015 and comfort eating through the heartbreak, to not giving my body a chance to recover before the next. I am not the fittest person by any stretch of the imagination. So you could say, this commitment to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world is a little bit out of my comfort zone. However, I will be running on the fuel of who I am doing this for and for all those who think I won’t pull it off as I’m not a size six Olympian gymnast.
I am also doing it for my cousin, who passed at the age of 41 in 2018 and who never got to experience having her own family or going to the places she always wanted to go to.
Life is for living, I can either sit home and scroll my phone thinking about it or grab life by the kahunas and just do it.
Everywhere I go, I get asked “Have you started your training yet?” And I am not going to lie, I was focused on the fund-raising part as it was the bit that scared me the most, letting people down. We hit the €21,000 mark at Christmas time, all in ten short weeks, so now, in the words of Beetlejuice, “its show time”.
I am doing this slowly and realistically, I won’t be shoe-horning myself into the cycling shorts and neon head band, power walking around the Lough. I have started 3k a day and cut out Coca Cola, which was my vice, and have now successfully completed a week of training.
Week two is upping it to 6k a day, staying off the Coca Cola and introducing a healthy breakfast at the same time each day. Week three will be 6k a day, cutting the sugar and introducing some strengthening exercises. I am not a gym person, I would rather stick a fork in my right eye ball, but I do have a personal trainer from a gym giving me a list of things to do at home when the baby is asleep and the kids are at school. Each week I will add something small to my list so it doesn’t feel like I am depriving myself of everything I like, and I am dreading getting up and procrastinating what has to be done. I think this is achievable and certainly something anyone of any size can do.
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit so the walking will be a part of my ritual every day, just like making the beds. As soon as I am comfortable with the 10K uphill, have the strengthening exercises perfected, and am happy with the food choices, we will tackle the Galtees as opposed to Carrauntohill as it has a similar landscape to Kilimanjaro — it is not a steep incline, endurance, both physical and mental, is what we are going to need for this undertaking. You have to remember, we are going to be nine days on the mountain alone with no contact with our family and friends.
Picture yourself walking up Patrick’s Hill and halfway up you glance to the top to see how much further is left, you put the head down and push on and make it to the top. Now try doing that for nine days thinking, “... is there any end to it?”
We will have two porters each who will be guiding us and we may not necessarily be walking together with our friends as each individual needs to walk at a pace they are comfortable with. We all end up at the same camp site at the end of the day but with our porters who are monitoring our every move and when they say “POLE POLE” they mean slowly slowly.
The altitude will be the one thing that will be the clincher, the fittest of the fit have been turned back down the mountain as it was too dangerous for them to continue. A lot of people do the five day route as it is quicke,r but you only have a 50% chance of getting to the top. We are doing the nine day route which has a 95% chance of summiting as you are doing the climb at a much slower pace to try and give yourself the best chance.
The oxygen thins the further you climb and you may feel like you can run a marathon, but if you push your body even by walking faster than you should, you run the risk of not going any further. Our blood pressure, oxygen levels, lungs, etc, will be checked twice a day and we are travelling with a company who will wake us in the morning in the tent with coffee and biscuits, so we don’t move our heads too much and sit up slowly to acclimatise with the level we are at on the mountain.
These little things you wouldn’t even think of are going to be of huge importance.
You will have high highs, where you are laughing and feeling giddy like you have had a few glasses of wine, to low lows where you are exhausted, tired and missing family and crying because you feel you can’t go on. It is not going to be easy.
As a parent, I know it is much easier to throw yourself on the couch with a cuppa when the washing machine is on or scroll through your phone for an hour than get up and move. I was that person, I get it, you love the quietness of the house when they are in school and you can finally think. Being a mother of six children, four on the spectrum, my house is manic and there are some days I think “Christ, I will see if I can do Kilimanjaro tomorrow altogether”, just to get a break. I am the first person to want to pull the cover over me in the morning and tell them all to hump off.
Recently diagnosed with Aspergers, I now recognise that alone time is paramount to my mental health and wellbeing. I need people to give me space, not arrive in on top of me, calling unannounced as I am a walking PA and filofax for seven people in the house. My brain is never quiet and it can cause a lot of anxiety and lead to depression at certain stages of the year. The thought of a walk can feel like added pressure, but now we have Ebbi, our assistance dog with the IGD, and she requires a maintenance walk, it is a good match and even better timing. I was thinking of a walk as a chore as opposed to the alone time I need.
In a family of eight, life is always going to be time-consuming but it is up to me to decide what I want to spend that little window of ‘me’ time doing. I would like to think that my children will realise one day that autism is not something that will hold them back but can propel them forward. That their mother, also on the spectrum, walked the proverbial walk as well as talked the talk and tried to fly the flag for them and everyone else.
It doesn’t have to be January for you to do something, do it anytime. We all have a goal we want to achieve and overcome, regardless of if we are 18 or 80. When all is said and done, we aren’t going to remember the moments we stood at the sink washing that cup, but we will remember the adventures we went on and the feeling of achievement we had by doing something for other people and paying it forward so others could benefit. If that involves me building up to walking at least 10k a day right now so I can see the summit of Kilimanjaro in September, then let’s do the damn thing.
Follow ‘Out in the Sticks with Six’ on Facebook and Instagram to see Lenore’s journey.
Lenore is climbing Kilimanjaro next September, 2020, in aid of Sonas Junior School, Shine Centre for Autism and also Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. If you would like to make a donation, see https://www.ifundraise.ie/4888_20kforkilimanj.html to find out how your workplace or school can get involved.
You can catch up on Lenore’s other features on EchoLive.ie