“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.”
-Emily Perl Kingsley
Early this morning, I received a surprise text message from a dear old friend, which included a beautiful photograph of a newly inked woman. A simple tulip representing a metaphor fitting a unique experience in her life. While the moment that inspired the tattoo may be fleeting, it’s symbolism is forever etched, not only on her skin, but in her mind and soul.
Tattoos provide glimpses of one’s soul. Our personalities, philosophies, loves, losses, painted on our most precious canvases. On the surface, it may appear to be the image of a delicate tulip. What lies beneath is a great story waiting to be told.
Only a few months ago, I decided to FINALLY get my first tattoo. Ever since I filed for divorce, getting a tattoo was on my Life Bucket List. What is it about overcoming painful life events, inspires a person to permanently brand themselves? It wasn’t that long ago, when I was having the word “Love” tattooed on my inner wrist. A permanent reminder of how I wanted to live a life full of love.
What Story Does Your Tattoo Tell?
Her act of boldness and bravery had me intrigued. Immediately, I posed the question, “Why?” One being a play on her name. Clever as hell. If you are reading this, my beautiful girl, you are definitely, “quite contrary”. Secondly, over the years, life took some unexpected detours for my dear sweet friend. Her tattoo is a beautiful reminder, that detours just might be the blessings in our destinies.
Not too long ago, she had shared with me, an article about a mother of a child with special needs. Emily Perl Kingsley, author of “Welcome to Holland”, eloquently described the experience of a parent raising a child with special needs, in order to help others understand it and how it would feel.
“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.”
Holland’s Beautiful Tulips
Although, this article was written about the unique experience of raising a son/daughter with special needs, I can see how this metaphor can apply to my life in terms of my marriage and divorce. It can also apply to any of the detours in all of our lives.
Marriage was my dream trip to Italy. I was excited to visit the Vatican, eat Italian meals, drink vino in Tuscany and do as the Romans do. We had it all planned out. As newlyweds, we envisioned our marriage to be everlasting. Our high school sweet heart story would beat the odds. We would travel the world with the military, with our family of a boy and a girl, in tow. I would be a stay at home mom. Lives perfectly planned out. My bags were packed and was ready for Italy.
When the plane landed, I found myself in Holland. Almost five years ago, I was greeted with my own “Welcome to Holland” in the form of divorce.
As Kingsley had said, “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.”
The flight plan for my life changed. I was now a single mom. What do you mean, divorce? I didn’t sign up for this when I got married? What happened to all my great plans? Why did this happen to me? What now?
The loss of a dream is painful and very real. I had a choice. Either I was going to waste my days crying over my missed trip to Italy or I was going to put on my wooden clogs and fully embrace my new life in Holland as a single divorced mom.
Fabulous Wooden Clogs
During my adventures in Holland, I discovered a whole new world and a whole new me. Turns out, Holland is pretty fucking fabulous after all! It is just that amazing, I don’t even miss Italy. While it is beautiful, it was not where I was meant to be.I have met so many amazing people during my stay in “Holland” (a.k.a Divorce Land), traveled extensively, started a second career, returned to graduate school, became a runner, gained my independence, found my strength, etc. The list of wonderful goes on and on. Life is what you make of it.
Just a few things I discovered in my new found “Holland”
CrossFit LOVE & a Stronger Cicily
My Soul Sister
Discovering the Love of My Life
Life may have not turned out as you expected. Are you going to waste your precious energy and time, crying over the past? If you do, you just might miss out on the beauty and blessings found in your new land. Why not make the rest of your life, the best of your life! How have you overcome sudden flight plan changes in life?