I first came across this essay last year in a book titled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. It resonated so much with what I was feeling at the time (and still feel) that I have pondered over the words many times. Emily Kingsley wrote this in 1987 about her experience as a mom of a child with down syndrome, but it can apply in so many cases (in the book a woman who had terminal cancer identified with the passage). For me, it caused a complete mind-shift. I could either sit and bemoan the fact I was no longer going to Italy or I could embrace our new life in Holland. Yesterday's visit to Texas Tulips was a tangible reminder that our family now resides in Holland, and while it's not Italy, it is beautiful in its own right. I'm sharing it here because maybe it will help someone else like it's helped me.
Welcome to Holland
by Emily Kingsley
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.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.