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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tips on Tuesday: The Road Less Traveled

I know I'm late posting today's Tips on Tuesday column. I try to have them done well in advance, but sometimes life interferes and it's hard to find exactly what I want to post. Today was one of those days. Then I ran across a book about Autism that I've added to my purchase list (I'm sure I'll post more about it when I read it) and found the following essay as part of the introduction to the book.

I don't do as much blogging over here about our life and autism, but Nathan is on the Autism Spectrum. He's gifted and autistic which makes him Twice Exceptional. (You can go to my blog for more information on Twice Exceptional children.)

We often feel like we're navigating through a foreign country with him. It's also difficult to put into words what our life is like. We often don't know what to say because many people pity us, but we don't want pity. We would prefer understanding and patience. Many people expect us to get him 'fixed' but what's hard to explain is that his isn't 'broken', he's 'different'. If we took all autism out of Nathan, than he'd cease to be the Nathan we know and love. So while we wouldn't have chosen this path for ourselves, we don't regret the path we're on.

When I read through this essay, it hit me like a ton of bricks. She explains my thoughts and feelings with accuracy and insight. I cried when I read this and am crying again now thinking about it. I may not have arrived in Italy, but Holland is nice this time of year, too.

Welcome To Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with 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.
©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley.

I know everyone has at least one Holland in their life. It's just part of living. I hope you find the encouragement that I found in this essay. Whenever you find yourself on the road less traveled, take time to look around and find the windmills and tulips.

Enjoy Holland!

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