Sometimes I don't think I like living in Holland. I'd like to visit Italy, just for a day. I feel guilty even saying that but I would be lying if I said I never felt it. I'm sure many of you already know what I am talking about, for those of you who are thinking I'm nuts read on . . . My own thoughts will follow.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
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.
That brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. I have always thought it was one of the most wonderful analogies. It's Ironic . . . The first time I read it I was 'planning my trip' to Italy.
Holland is beautiful and I am thankful to live amongst the tulips, but every now and then I wonder what it would have been like if I had just made it to Italy. I planned my trip more than once and each time, I arrived in Holland.
If I had to choose, I would choose Holland. I know that without a doubt in my heart. It's just not always an easy place to live. It's like people from other places come here to vacation and they make you feel like you aren't good enough because you've never been to Italy or to Paris. They never stay for long though.
I'm just sad today I guess. I watch my boys try so hard and when they get knocked down it hurts. I know I can't keep it from happening, they need to fall if they are to learn how to stand, but sometimes I swear if I could carry them I would.
I just posted a journal with my son's thank you's to everyone who responded to a letter he wrote, and it was all I could do to see the keyboard through my tears. He felt so ... accepted when he read the things that everyone wrote. It was almost as if he got to see Italy, at least from the window.
I don't think sad is the right word. I'm not sad, I'm not angry and I'm certainly not mourning. I don't think there is an actual word that can accurately describe what happens in my heart sometimes. I am so proud of my boys. They face trials and hurdles every day, more than some people face in a lifetime and sometimes I look at them and it just doesn't seem fair. They shouldn't have to work so hard while others sit on the sidelines, not even cheering them on.
The world doesn't see them the way I do. The world averts their eyes or stares accusingly at them, at me. Maybe if everyone could just visit Holland and give it a chance . . . Today is one of those days I just have to get down on my knees and ask God to renew my strength.
Everyone always tells me how strong I am and how much they admire me and I just want to tell them that I am not that strong person that can handle everything all the time. That I get tired and I cry and I feel weak. No one helps me because they think I can do it on my own. This feeling is fleeting. God always answers my prayers and my greatest strength is given to me by my children.
How can something as fragile as they be so strong? I wish I had the fortitude that they posses. Sometimes I envy them their innocence. It shields them from much of the pain the world tries to inflict on them. I know the day will come that it won't provide the protection it does now, I just hope and I pray that I am able to help them learn the skills they will need to protect themselves from it all. That I will be able to instill in them such a strong foundation that nothing will be able to uproot them from where they stand.
I have faith and I believe with all my heart that they will be okay, God would not have given them to me if he didn't think me worthy of the job. Maybe it's the other way around. Maybe they where sent here simply to teach me. I have already learned more from those boys than I could teach them in a lifetime.
I suppose I'll tuck away my old itinerary again and go out to play beneath the windmills. Holland truly is a beautiful place. I wouldn't wish to be anywhere else . . .