NY Times: What happens when our ASD kids grow up?

Soon after Ryan was diagnosed Mike and I watched the film Adam, a Hollywood tale about a young man with Asperger’s trying to find a life for himself after his father dies.

This was the first time we were confronted with the question of what Ryan’s life might look like after we were gone. Would he be able to take care of himself? Who would watch out for him? I’m all too aware of the many allowances made for Ryan right now because he’s a young boy – sweet, eccentric, fun – and still maturing. But what happens when he gets older?

These are among the questions posted in a great New York Times feature called “Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World.” I haven’t had a chance to read the entire thing yet, but I’m intrigued by the comment early on about austism being the ‘next civil rights movement.’ I also bemoan the lack of services for young autistic adults here in Nova Scotia – and particularly good job placement services.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the article – and what programs, services or practices are helping you prepare your kids for adulthood.

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Got a problem? Get a gizmo

Today’s post is from Ryan’s Dad…

Ryan achieved an important milestone last week: he rode his bike without training wheels for the first time.

On the road again, this time without training wheels

For our family, it was a huge accomplishment. Ryan, now 8, had long resisted the idea of riding without extra wheels. He was anxious about crashing. “I’ll be killed,” he’d yell.

Getting Ryan to ride with training wheels had been a struggle in itself. At first, he would travel only short distances, complaining loudly about how hard it was. He’d hit the brakes as he approached even the slightest downhill grade. He wouldn’t ride uphill at all.

He was worried about getting hurt, anxious about learning a new skill.

But we kept at it. We made frequent trips to the path around the nearby duck pond. In time, he complained less and rode farther. At one point, he surprised us by pedalling around the pond on his own.

It’s not unusual for kids on the spectrum to shun bike riding, mainly because of a lack of co-ordination, poor balance and anxiety. On one discussion board I found, some parents argued that trying to teach their Aspie kids how to cycle just wasn’t worth the heartache. They said it was a mistake to think that cycling was a necessary rite of passage. They said it was better to focus on more important skills rather than cause familial strife over a recreational sideshow.

More importantly, they stressed that it was wrong to push kids to do something they simply did’t want to do.

Fair enough, I thought. You have to pick your battles. I was prepared to give up on teaching Ryan how to ride if it only made us all miserable.

However, it was clear that Ryan enjoyed the sensation of riding once his anxiety had subsided. So we kept at it.

Still, I figured that teaching Ryan how to ride on two wheels was going to be challenging. He needed extra security and stability. Crashing wasn’t an option.

Like most guys, I figured I needed a gizmo. So I turned to the Internet. That’s where I found the E-Z Bar.

It’s a long, metal pole with two handles and a wobble-joint at the other end. It attaches to the bike’s seat post, which allows the trainer to maintain control of the bike, virtually eliminating crashes. More importantly, you don’t have to stoop over the bike, and the rider gains confidence without really seeing the trainer.

At the beginning of the summer, we practised riding in a straight line. Then we focused on stopping and starting. Finally, we tried turning in circles and figure-eights.

There were many times when Ryan grew frustrated with his slow progress. He’d often get off the bike and sit in the grass, his arms folded, his mood foul.

I would simply wait while offering gentle encouragement. I knew that getting angry wouldn’t help.

And I remembered the words of the parents who advised against pushing too hard.

But Ryan was motivated to learn, even though he made it clear he found it hard.

After a few minutes of pouting, he would inevitably rise to his feet and get back on the bike.

I knew his determination made it likely he would succeed.

As well, Ryan has a good sense of balance and his gross motor skills are, well, getting there. It was really only his anxiety and lack of confidence that were getting in the way.

After about a dozen practice sessions — some of them lasting up to an hour — the anxiety was gone, his confidence bloomed. He was ready.

During our final session, I was exhausted. He was often travelling at top speed down a small hit in a nearby church parking lot. I could barely keep up.

I told him I had to take a break to catch my breath. I sat down and wiped the sweat off my brow. I told him we would return to the next day with his mother because I wanted her to witness the progress he had made.

But instead of waiting for me to re-attach the bar for the ride home, he simply pedalled away — on two wheels — travelling about 10 metres.

“Did you see that, Daddy?” he asked, a big smile on his face, the sun glinting off his red helmet.

“I did,” I said. “That was awesome.”

Then he rode off as if he hadn’t used training wheels in years. He hooted and hollered, and he sang. He was elated.

The next day, my wife Anne-Marie was ready with the video camera as Ryan climbed aboard his red, BMX bike, suitably called “No Rules.”

We hadn’t told her about Ryan’s accomplishment the day before.

I pretended to attach the bar to his bike, but Ryan knew what to do. He rode off, smiling and singing.

Anne-Marie gasped and immediately started to cry — all of her raw emotion captured on the video soundtrack as Ryan merrily rides through the frame.

Afterwards he asked me: “Are you proud of me, Daddy?”

That’s when the tears started the well up in my eyes.

“Tears of joy, Daddy?” he asked, still smiling.

You bet.

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Being apart can equal staying together…

Getting away can be good for the soul

Here is a great interview that appeared in my favourite blog – BLOOM – all about respite care and the importance of taking breaks from our daily lives, including our wonderful families, to rest and revitalize. I was fascinated by the 10-day retreat mentioned in the interview. It’s a great read. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Reflections on 10 years of marriage

Credit: digitalart

We’re celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary this week. It’s a funny kind of milestone, since we’ve actually been together for 16 years (and have known each other for more than 20), but I’m a sentimental sucker so we went out for a nice meal and had a great evening. As we shared a few glasses of champagne I reflected on what particular brand of magic (or prayer!) helped us make it through the past decade which included: one move, two babies, one crib (unused), two diagnoses, five nannies, and the same old double bed.

My best friend often talks about 90% of parenthood being about ‘showing up’ and I believe her. Parenthood isn’t just about the big moments, like Ryan learning to ride a two-wheeler, it’s about all the little insignificant moments in between – the teeth brushing, story reading, bum wiping, sock sorting, lego picking upping, lunch packing, and sunscreen applying. In short, the stuff of daily life.

As I enjoyed a second, much deserved glass of champagne last night I realized the same held true for marriage – 90% of it is showing up. We just need to show up for slightly different things – like listening to each other’s work stories, or remembering to compliment, or to apologize, or to ask for something. And it’s not just about ‘being there,’ it’s about actually being present.

Here’s a few things that have helped with that:

  • Date night. Yes, it’s trite, but we have a weekly date night. I’d be embarrassed about it, but it really works! It’s the one night where we go out and talk, laugh, and leave our ‘business meetings’ about life and scheduling behind. Some of our friends book a night at home so there’s no sitter cost and that’s great too. I work from home, so I need to get out. We have a standing order with a babysitter and that’s worked for us.
  • Shared interests. We are nerds who love a lot of the same things in life: politics, newspapers, camping, birds, stars… it’s made a big difference in our ability to enjoy each other’s company and connect during good times and bad.
  • Anything said in the dark doesn’t count. This started when the boys were babies and in our bed and NOT sleeping. If the light is out there’s an amnesty on any cussing or complaining that takes place. Next morning is a new day.
  • Friends. Hanging out with friends really takes the pressure off your primary relationship. It also puts life back into perspective.
  • Self-care. When I started exercising again my outlook on life improved dramatically. When I started meditating the same thing happened.

I’m sure my friends are laughing as they read this post, since I’m certainly not a poster child for the ideal marriage, but I’m ‘dancing with the one who brung me’ and feeling really good about that. We’re laughing together. Crying together. Sometimes yelling together (or at each other). In short, we’re showing up – each and every day.

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Asperger’s and expectations: a summer of surprises

I’ve learned a lot about expectations this summer. We’ve spent most of our time travelling to visit family or holidaying with close friends. Every second week we’ve been off to a new destination – one trip involved a five-hour flight and seven-hour drive that took us right across the country, another included living with a dog the size of a small horse.

We did a social story about Buddy the dog and then we just crossed our fingers!

Given Ryan’s fear of dogs and his love of routine, I expected some serious bumps along our holiday highway. I was cursing myself for failing to see the big picture as I booked these various trips at different times of the year.

 But Ryan surprised us at every step of the way. The five-hour flight was breeze (Thank you Teletoon!), the seven-hour drive included only one major meltdown and détente was declared with the dog on day one.

As we watched Ryan adapt to new surroundings and new people every week, I was reminded of some wisdom shared with us during our quest for a diagnosis: a health care professional urged us to beware one of the pitfalls of diagnosis: lowering our expectations. I understood what he meant: we would ask less of Ryan, go ‘easier’ on him because he had a specific challenge.

Of course we have made allowances such as:

  • Using visual aids rather than relying on verbal instruction
  • Helping him choose appropriate extracurricular activities
  • Acting as bridge in building friendships
  • Being more understanding about his social faux pas
  • Respecting his sensitivity to smells/sounds

But our psychologist was equally clear with us early on: don’t let Ryan disappear down his rabbit hole of special interests or stay in his small comfort zone. Keep him engaged in our daily lives. Expect him to join in, to be a part of things. And for the most part it’s worked.

Our parents’ group recently had the honour of meeting a high school student with ASD who candidly shared his experiences of growing up with Asperger’s. He shared so many valuable insights:

  • How swimming provided him with an outlet for his anger/energy
  • How his Asperger’s led him to argue endlessly with his parents because his way just seemed better or smarter
  • How theatre became a passion for him and helped him learn how to interact more successfully with others

 But the biggest lesson I learned from this remarkable young man had to do with expectations. His parents had high expectations for him. They expected him to succeed. They pushed him to do his best. And even though he found it challenging, in retrospect he appreciated it.

His words underscored a key part of bringing up any child, but particularly a child with additional challenges: we need to help them push their limits – to stretch themselves – so they can feel the exhilaration of unexpected success.

An unforgettable day: swimming back from the raft

If you’d asked me in June if Ryan would a) go ‘tubing’ attached to  power boat b) jump off a six-foot dock or c) swim out to a raft in the middle of a lake, I would have answered ‘none of the above.’ But there you go, it’s been a summer full of surprises.

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Introducing your new neighbours to Asperger’s: a letter for families

The families in our Asperger’s Parents’ network have often wondered ‘What do the neighbours think?” when our kids are in the middle of a meltdown, emitting ear-piercing screams or shouting for help.

One family just moved into a new home and decided to be pro-active. Their idea? A letter addressed to their new neighbours, introducing them and their daughter and explaining a little bit about Asperger’s.

"Everybody that I met when delivering the letter where very appreciative of the gesture."

“I distributed my letter to my neighbours,” writes Sonia, “And invited all the kids for cake for Marsye’s birthday…it was awesome! The response was overwhelming! Everybody that I met when delivering the letter was very appreciative of the gesture. A few of them with no kids came also! What a great day it was!”

Sonia passed the letter on so we could share it with our Circle of Friends. Her daughter Maryse also helped deliver the last few letters herself. “We worked on what she had to say and all,” says Sonia. “It was good for her.”

Sonia and Steve’s letter is attached below. In Sonia’s words: “I hope it will give the courage to other families to embrace the beauty of our AS kids and celebrate it!”

I loved the wonderful tone of this letter. Thanks so much to Steve and Sonia for sharing it.

My name is Sonia and I want to introduce my family to you!

As you all know we have just moved in Monday and we are very proud to tell you that we LOVE our new house!

In a nutshell: I grew up in Caraquet N.-B. and Steve, my husband, is fromYarmouth. We’ve both been very implicated in the French community for the last 16 years!

My two beautiful kids are Maxime, soon to be 12 years old and our very bubbly daughter Maryse who just turned 10 Tuesday. Maryse is in grade 4 and Maxime is moving up in grade seven. (Yes…time flies by!!)

 A little note about our daughter Maryse…for the longest time we knew that our very imaginative daughter was different from other kids: in the way she communicated, her attention to details, her intense interests in certain movie characters…we finaly found out 18 months ago that she has Aspergers Syndrome (AS). What a relief for us to finally know that the thing that made our daughter special had a name!

A few examples that you will notice: If you go by and say “Hi!”, she might not reply because she didn’t “get” that it was intended for her, because she’s in her bubble. Or since we live so close, you will probably hear one of her fits! Usually it’s because she gets “stuck” in what she’s doing and doesn’t want to stop it in order to do something else (like bathing, getting ready,…) and our patience gets tested!

Both Maxime and Maryse love their Wii! The “game of the day” these days is Mario Galaxy 2,BlueOcean(Maryse)! Although Maryse’s interests change once in a while, she knows all Sponge Bob’s adventures and her AS makes her quote various episodes that usually confuses the person who is talking to her since it is usually said out of context. We are showing her how to prepare the context when she wants to talk about her characters.

Maxime plays soccer and Maryse dances Hip Hop and jazz with a dance school stationed at the school. We love the beach and to travel! Steve and Maxime are cat people and Maryse and me are dog people!!

We look forward to meeting you as we settle in our new neighbourhood!

Please note that we will have cake for your children to celebrate Maryse’s birthday Saturday! We look forward to introduce our family to yours!

Sincerely,

Sonia and Steve

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A tour of the Aspergian mind with John Elder Robison

I had the honour of hearing Naomi Tutu speak at a conference I attended recently inVancouver. Her message was powerful on several fronts: first, she called on each of us to be a ‘voice of courage’ in the face of injustice.  She also urged us to celebrate – not hide – our differences.

I was thinking of her words as I finished reading John Elder Robison’s latest book, Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian¸ on the plane on the way home.

Robison’s memoir, Look Me in the Eye, was one of the first books I read about Asperger’s after Ryan’s diagnosis, so I had high expectations for his second effort. I wasn’t disappointed.

LikeTemple Grandin, Robison has mined his own experience to help fellow Aspies, parents, and teachers better understand life on the Autism Spectrum. Today Robison is a successful author and businessman whose passion for electronics has helped him build a fulfilling life for himself and his family.

His approach won me over at first glance – here is a man who is celebrating the gifts that come with Asperger’s and sharing ideas for leveraging those gifts.  “Asperger’s was a disability – that’s what the books said. I’m still not sure I believe that,” he writes early on.

He then goes on to catalogue his first-hand experience of the brain differences that come with ASD and their benefits: his incredibly visual mind, his ability to remain calm and unemotional in taxing situations, his intense focus, concentration, and ability to learn quickly in areas of interest, his use of logic to solve social problems and his attention to detail.

But make no mistake, the knowledge Robison shares with us is hard-won. Before his Asperger’s diagnosis in his 40s, he spent at least some of his youth knowing he was very different from his peers (but not the reason why) and wondering if he was going to grow up to be a serial killer. “Learning I was a perfectly normal Aspergian male (and not a freak) was a revelation that changed my life,” he says.

Robison gives us a great guided tour of the Aspergian mind, reminding me of the wiring differences that explain some challenging Aspie behaviours:

  • Not responding when called: hyper-focus on internal thoughts, special interests, or sensory sensitivities
  • Negativity/pessimism: smaller range of emotions in a short time period, difficulty with perspective, planning for the worst to reduce anxiety, getting stuck on thoughts
  • Inappropriate responses to difficult situations: hyper-focus on internal thoughts, inability to read others

He wraps up his book with a theme that I’ve read about before – Aspergians identifying and using their special interests to find meaningful work after school. But Robison adds two other, equally important elements, to the equation – focus and hard work and resolve. And as a parent, that’s the challenge that lies ahead.

I hope Robison keeps on writing and I’ve got my fingers crossed that he will one day visitHalifaxfor a lecture or book tour. Maybe I’ll invite him myself. I’m sure we could fill a hall at SMU or Dal with parents and kids who would be eager to hear his story and his ideas firsthand.

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Growing up with Asperger’s: A Sibling’s Perspective

 As parents we wonder what the impact of Asperger’s Syndrome will on the siblings of our Aspie children. Are we giving them enough of our attention? Are we asking too much? Do their needs take a back seat to the more urgent (or vocal) needs of their sib?

I had an opportunity to ask these questions when I was virtually introduced to Elizabeth Granby, an exceptional young woman who is pursuing a career in developmental disabilities as a result of her deep love for her brother, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was a teenager.

Elizabeth Granby on her brother: "I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who can make me laugh like he can."

Elizabeth recently completed an internship at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab inToronto and sat down to speak on the phone with me one evening after work.

 Tell me a bit about yourself.

I started off studying media studies and worked in the field for a few years, but it wasn’t where my heart was. 

My brother’s experience made me want to learn more. I feel like Autism Spectrum Disorders are a bit overlooked because they don’t necessarily fit into development disabilities and therefore they don’t really get the support that they need – or the right kind of support.

I’m really passionate about my work now and I want to eventually focus on how to expand services available for people with AS. 

Tell me a bit about your brother and your relationship with him?

 He is 22-years-old and even though he is my half-brother, and there is 10 years between us, we couldn’t be closer. He’s one of my best friends.

He lives on his own now in an apartment that’s close to my parents and he has a support worker who checks in with him once a week.

Right now he’s working on trying to find a job. That’s been a challenge and he tried using different agencies to help. With one agency, his co-workers knew it was a so-called ‘special job’ and they teased him. Now his support worker is focusing on his gifts – like music and wrestling – to try to find a more suitable job. It’s really important to him that he finds real work.

 How would you describe growing up with a sibling with Asperger’s?

It was always interesting. There was never a dull moment. My brother and I are really close and always have been.

It took a long time for the doctors to find his real diagnosis. When he was really young said it was ADHD, then they changed it to Tourette’s Syndrome, but my mom never felt that was quite right. He 14 or 15 when they finally said Asperger’s Syndrome. We started reading more about it then and said ‘Yes, this is exactly what it is.’ It was a relief to finally have a name for it.

I’ve always been a nurturer and that’s what I did with him. When he was young, he got anxious very easily and things could really set him off and start him pacing. I would instinctively grab him in a hug and hold him until I could physically feel him calm down.

What did you learn from the experience?

It really taught me to be flexible. It made me learn early on to be adaptable and go with the flow.

As I teenager I think I felt it more because I required more of my parent’s attention. I got good grades and didn’t cause too many problems. At that time being so flexible became a bit of a challenge.

I spent some time with my grandparents off an on, getting one-on-one support from them and that helped. They always talk about respite support for the family, but it’s sometimes siblings who need it too.

What was the most difficult about the situation?

Sometimes having a brother with AS can make our relationship a little one-sided. We talk on the phone every day. I spend lots of listening to him and supporting him, but I don’t always get the typical support back and that can be a challenge.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized he does support me and love me. But he shows it in different ways that other brothers and sisters might. Sometimes I have to look for it.

He knows this is something he needs to work on. When he calls me on the phone now he knows he can’t just launch into his stuff…he asks me how I am. We’ve been working on that for a year. He’s really trying to work on the one-sidedness.

What was the best part?

The laughter. I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who can make me laugh like he can. We both enjoy the same things like live music or funny movie. Just having a good time.

How is your brother doing now?

After he left high school it was hard. He went to community college but nothing seemed to be sticking for him. He would stay up half the night playing video games. He wanted to move on to the next phase of his life but had no idea how to go about that.

When he started looking at his special interests things started to change. He loves wrestling and he started taking lessons and making friends there. On New Year’s Eve my Mom and I were on the phone crying because for the first time he was out with his friends.

What advice would you have for parents who are struggling to parent two different kids in as consistent and fair a way as possible?

Communication is really important. You’ve got to open up those channels and keep talking with them. My parents actually got some great insights into my brother from me because siblings know their sibs in a different way. 

We also had a ‘no lie’ rule after my parents tried to protect me from some difficult information about my brother. I felt really excluded and we all realized that covering things up only made them worse.

 It was also okay to have different rules for different kids in our house – we tried not to keep score! We appreciated being treated like individuals.

My parents would also do special things just with me from time to time to give me a little one-on-one attention. They knew us well enough to see the signs and know what we needed.

Are there any resources you would recommend?

The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood because he actually talks to people with AS and provide good insight into how to work through conversations with people with Aspergers: tips about redirecting and how not to escalate situations.

 I also like watching Temple Grandin’s talks and presentations online.

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When learning new things is hard

If learning a new skill or trying something for the first time can evoke anxiety in an adult imagine what it can be like for an Aspergian kid who relies on routines and predictability to keep their world feeling safe and secure.

Before we knew Ryan had Asperger’s he used to scream when it was time to do his homework. He was five at the time and the ‘homework’ was cutting and pasting. The mere thought of picking up scissors, which challenged his fine motor skills, was enough to create a meltdown. Now, thanks to Jed Baker, I understand why.

Slow and steady really does win the race

I recently attended a conference, organized by the Autism Awareness Centre, that featured Dr. Baker. His advice was incredibly practical and we’re now planning to use some of his tips in our upcoming plan to teach Ryan to ride his bike without training wheels.

By the way, if you have kids who haven’t started riding a bike yet, I recommend starting with those bikes with no peddles since balance is the hardest part of riding a bike. That way you can skip the training wheels altogether! 

Here are a few of the tips we picked up from Jed and will be sharing with Ryan’s swimming and skating coaches as well.

  • Start with what’s easy, not hard. This is so basic, yet I often find myself jumping into the hard work right away, which triggers stress and anxiety. Now I will try to start with a task that Ryan is really good at, so he feels confident, and then work up to something more difficult.
  • Break it down into small pieces. For our bicycle plan, the first (and maybe the only) thing Ryan is going to start with is sitting on the seat. Then we’re going to ask him to go from point A to point B just using his feet.

I read about this approach in a wonderful memoir called Finding Benabout a mother and son struggling to make sense of their world long before the Asperger’s diagnosis was available to them. I think it took them months for Ben to start riding his bike, but he did it, in his own time and at his own pace.

  • Give choice of work & use special interests. If we have three activities on our list maybe Ryan can choose the two he wants to do and in what order. Options increase comfort levels and special interests (Super Mario!) can be a big help.
  • Use visual supports. White boards, diagrams, labels are all great for our visual learners. We use them to break down our activity into steps and show what the reward is at the end.

 A few weeks ago Ryan’s skating instructor showed up with his lesson plan written on a white board. I could have kissed her right then and there!

  • Reduce length. ‘Let’s try this for one minute and then we’ll do X.’ Keep the trying short and then move on to a preferred activity. Or take a break and then try again.
  • Reward trying. I loved this part of Jed’s presentation. He talked about how compliance isn’t a skill but trying something is a skill that we need to teach our kids. So he rewards trying, not just succeeding. He even suggested a reward system based on trying rather than achieving.

Let me know what techniques you use to teach ‘trying.’ I’d love to hear from you. 

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Welcome to Holland: a parent’s perspective on disability

We’ve met some fantastic new friends through our Asperger’s parents network – if you don’t have a network in your area, I really encourage you to start one of your own. Our psychologist helped get us started by asking parents if they’d like to participate and another Mom and I just took it from there!

I love these parents so much – their humour, their ideas, the stories they tell about their kids and themselves – they really energize me. I have learned so much from each of them. Recently, a mom in the group sent me Emily Perl Kingsley’s well-known explanation of what it’s like to give birth to a child with a disability and asked me to share it on my blog, since it really spoke to her. I’m reprinting it here and wanted to share an interview with Kingsley that appears on a blog called Love that Max. Kingsley, a multiple Emmy-award winning writer for Sesame Street, has a son with Down Syndrome, who is now 36-years-old.

I’d love to hear your comments on this piece…and I should say right away that tulips are my favourite flower.

Welcome to Holland: by Emily Perl Kingsley

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 guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, Michelangelo’s 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 flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland, and there you must stay.

The most 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 guidebooks. 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 awhile and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland 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.”

The pain of that will never, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a 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.

 

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