Monday, August 5, 2013

Welcome to Holland

A friend of mine posted this on a forum that I am a member of...

Welcome To Holland
Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!  I'm supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan.  They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place.  It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned." 

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever  go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.
 Since I don't have children, I can't speak to whether this is true of having a child with disabilities. However, I often feel the same way about being where I am in my life: divorced and childless (unless you count my animals--they are spoiled like children at times!).  I remember dreaming about having a large family in high school, and then feeling the pressure to "find the right one" while in college. I remember the moment in my marriage when I realized that having children was unlikely, and then the moment when my ex's behavior removed all doubt.  I remember the point when I realized that I had married the wrong person, and then the moment when I no longer had the ability to fight for my marriage by myself.

As you can see, the animals really rule the house...This is what it often looks like when we are watching TV.

Now that almost a year has passed since my ex moved out, I find myself (finally) getting used to Holland, and I like it here.  Unlike the above author, I didn't start out in Holland.  I got on a plane expecting Italy, and ended up landing in Somalia on the battlefield--I fought with everything I had for the duration, thinking that, if I fought hard enough, Somalia would become Italy.  I lost  my ammunition, my weapons one by one, and finally, the will to fight over the space of 11 years (I'm not a quick study when it comes to my personal life!).  When that happened, I walked off the field, got on a plane, and landed in Holland.  It still isn't Italy, but Italy, even if I get there, will never be the same because of the scars from Somalia.  Even so, I'm beginning to love Holland.  The tulips and windmills are peaceful, and there is a joy in finally living without bullets whizzing by my ears.  Sometimes, I still duck at loud noises, but that is happening less and less.  I have hope that there will come a day when I can look back and be thankful for Somalia and the lessons I learned there.

A picture from my most recent hike.  This was the sunrise as we began our hike over the Ron Coleman trail.  Isn't Holland Beautiful? (This is actually a picture of El Paso from McKelligan Canyon, but I'm trying to stick with the metaphor)

Right now, while the scars are still tender (but healing), I'm not always very thankful for the pain....I spend more of my time with God being a big fat whiner than I'd like to admit to!  When I am at my worst, I tend to hear the voice in my head saying, "Suck it up!" If I listen to that voice, I find that my being quiet allows me to hear what the Lord has to say to me.  And that is the best part of being in Holland....I'm finally at a place where I can really listen to the Lord instead of just reacting to the chaos around me.
Another picture from my Hike yesterday.  Living in Holland is like this flower--you bloom where you are, even if you have less soil than you would like. 

It may not be Italy, but Holland is a pretty good place to be!