The Road Less Traveled: Welcome to Holland (or not)

April 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm (The Road Less Traveled)

Miss Raleigh USA, Miss Teen Raleigh, and my daughter.

Miss Raleigh USA, Miss Teen Raleigh, and my daughter.

So most of the “Road Less Traveled” posts on this blog have to do with places I have traveled that have inspired me. Since February, though, I have been on a more emotional journey, one that has been compared to a trip to Holland and has made for some unexpected bedfellows.

Two months ago, my ten year old daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Soon after, many of my friends, as well as The Autism Society of North Carolina, shared with me Emily Perl Kingsley’s 1987 essay “Welcome to Holland”. While the Welcome to Holland essay’s sentiment is one I hope to embrace someday, I would liken these last two months since my daughter’s diagnosis to a different kind of tour. The catalyst for this “tour” analogy came after a therapist asked me if I was comfortable with my daughter’s diagnosis.

“I am riding a donkey down the Grand Canyon, slowly, poking my way down one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Some days something sets me off and steers me off course and my donkey goes plunging off the edge with me still on top. Some days your well meaning questions and comments compel me to grip the reigns tighter and dig my heels in deeper. So, am I comfortable the diagnosis? No. I am holding on for dear life so I don’t fall of the edge.” [From my own journal post, March 2013]

April is Autism Awareness Month and coincidentally enough, it is now that I finally feel that I, along with my family, have turned a corner.

At a friend’s suggestion, my daughter decided to turn her fear, anxiety, and sadness over her diagnosis into a project. She put together a team to walk for the Inaugural Triangle Walk Now for Autism Speaks next week. She also coordinated a spirit night/fundraiser to support Autism Speaks at Tijuana Flats, for which I ended up on the evening news to promote the event. Watching myself on NBC 17 that night made me realize how far we had come. Back in February, I couldn’t utter the word “autism” without crying. Last week, I was on the evening news promoting Autism Awareness Month.

I also have seen many of my friends, as well as some unlikely allies, step forward to show their support. Last week, Miss Raleigh USA 2014, Marcie Trivette, joined my daughter and I at Tijuana Flats to show her support and solidarity. Marcie’s passion/platform is raising autism awareness in honor of her 15 year old brother. Check out Marcie’s Blog Post on meeting my daughter and Miss Raleigh Teen USA, Lexie Qualle at Tijuana Flats.

Last Friday night, I was able to pay it forward, finally being on the giving end of “it’s better to give than to receive” spectrum. Studio 109A hosted an old fashioned bake sale to raise funds to send two deserving kids to Camp Royall, a camp for autistic children run by The Autism Society.

This summer, I will move out of my beloved Artspace and Studio 109A to spend more time at home with my family. Of course, I will always be an artist and perhaps someday I will return to Artspace. For now though, this Road Less Traveled is taking me in a different direction.

“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… 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.” [From Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley’s, 1987]

 

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