We had a leisurely start to the morning, the sun was out again and none of us felt in any hurry to leave the field that’d been our home for the past few days. Slowly but surely we did eventually begin to pack up and say our goodbyes.
Today the Tourettes Family Festival drew to a close. It was the end of a remarkable weekend and its success was a testament to the hard work, thought and love of the key organisers. The event happened only because of the vision and dedication of a small group of people. I imagine they were motivated to work so tirelessly because they understand the positive and restorative effect that time in a safe and accepting space can have.
I’ve written before about the importance to me of events like this and I’ve described the sense of freedom and community they promote. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to convey fully the strength of the connection I feel with others who live with Tourettes, or the significance of unspoken understanding.
I was reflecting on this earlier and realised that most of the time Tourettes means I have a load of additional things to think about at any given moment when I’m out and about:
Am I likely to hurt myself?
Am I likely to hurt someone else?
Have I explained my tics to this person?
Am I about to be insulted/arrested/laughed at or ignored?
Is this likely to make me overreact?
What if I have a ‘ticcing fit’ here?
What’s happening next and who’s going to help me with that?
This weekend the list was dramatically shorter. It was partly because of the physical setting, with the soft, dry, enclosed field meaning I was much less likely to hurt myself walking about. But perhaps more important than physical safety was my feeling of emotional safety. I could concentrate on having a good time and leave the usual list of considerations at the gate.
But as we headed back this morning into the bustle of the real world, rather than feeling sad I felt shored up by the weekend and ready to face any challenges ahead.
One such challenge came sooner than expected – at the very end of our journey home.
I was tired after a weekend camping and a day of travelling and I was trying to do too many things at once in the taxi. As a result I started to get snappy and I overreacted just as we arrived home – the outcome was that I left my wallet in the cab. I didn’t realise for a while and I didn’t have a contact number for the cab company or for the driver. It seemed like a sad ending to a very happy weekend.
Much later an act of kindness by the cab driver meant that the weekend did finally have a happy ending. Just when I’d given up hope of getting my wallet back, I got a call from a Taxicard operator saying they’d been contacted by a driver who was coming to return my wallet. The cab we’d taken didn’t use Taxicard but the driver had gone through my wallet looking for a way to get in touch with me and had found the card. Shortly before midnight he arrived back at the castle with my wallet in his hand. It’s not the first time a taxi driver has taken my by surprise with an act of generosity.
This weekend I’ve experienced many acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and fellowship from people I know very well, from people I didn’t know but who understand what it’s like to live with Tourettes, and from complete strangers.
To everybody I shared this with, to those who made it possible, and to the cab driver who saved the day – my heartfelt thanks.