Years ago I read a short but moving essay, “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley (you can read it here). The author describes what it’s like to raise a child with special needs by comparing the experience to planning a trip to Italy but finding out that your plane has landed in 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….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… 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.
-Emily Perl Kingsley
The analogy of Italy being where you always planned to go and Holland being where life actually takes you has always stayed with me. I don’t have a child with special needs, but recently events in my life have taken a turn in an unexpected direction that caused the analogy to resonate with me in a different way. Now that you have the context, I’ll share the adjustment I added to this essay that describes my situation:
Imagine that you plan a trip to Italy. You prepare, anticipate, and buy your plane ticket. You’re full of hope and excitement about embarking on this adventure. You get to the airport and patiently stand in line, eager to get on the plane. Just before you board, a flight attendant stops you and says, “Sorry, your flight’s been delayed,” and you have to go back and sit down in the airport and wait for a month. The month slowly rolls by and you get your hopes up that surely, this time you will board the plane. You wait in line again, but the same thing happens. Your flight’s been delayed, even though everyone else in line was able to board, and you have to go back and wait in the airport. But you want so badly to go to Italy, and you don’t have another way to travel there, so you wait in the airport and do your best to be patient. Every month you get your hopes up and every month you are unable to board the plane. After this has been going on for several months, you tell yourself not to get your hopes up, but somehow you still do each month, and you have a monthly cry when, as before, you are not allowed to board the plane. You sit in the airport and watch all your friends easily board their flights, and their faces glow from the joy it brings them. Some people seem so nonchalant about boarding their flights that it drives you crazy. Do they really walk past you multiple times in the airport without realizing you’d give anything to be in their shoes? Yet they don’t seem to appreciate their ability to hop on a flight whenever they feel like it.
In time you feel that you don’t care where you fly—Italy, Holland, or somewhere else—you just want so badly to get out of the airport and on a plane! And at some point, you promise yourself that if you ever do get on a flight, you won’t complain about any part of it. You are just so sick of sitting in the stupid airport, waiting, waiting, waiting, looking at the same boring view out the airport windows.
Infertility. That’s the situation I just described and it’s the situation my husband and I are dealing with right now. The reason my analogy doesn’t have seem to have a positive conclusion or lesson learned is because I’m not there yet. Right now I’m sitting in the airport looking out the window. I know that God has a plan for me and that someday I’ll be able to be a mother, but that part of my life isn’t happening the way I expected.
One thing I have learned is that I’m not alone in the airport. Whether we are young or old, married or single, parents or childless, all of us have times in life when we feel like we’re stuck in the airport in one way or another, waiting for a righteous longing to be filled, and not understanding why it hasn’t happened yet. Fortunately, there isn’t a single one of us who is truly alone in our airport, because whether or not we realize it, Jesus Christ is sitting next to us. I know that our Savior stands by us in good times and hard times and waiting times, and I know for myself that He will not leave us comfortless.
During my time in the airport so far, I’ve found that the more I talk about my experience, the less I feel alone. I’ve also noticed that it helps when I focus on the things I’m grateful for, pray to my Heavenly Father with real intent, keep myself busy, study the scriptures, and write my feelings in a journal.
Are you waiting in one of life’s airports? What do you do to help pass the time or ease the pain? I’d love to hear your story.