Welcome To… The Unexpected

When life goes a different direction to what we were expecting, it can be mighty hard to accept and adjust. Not only are you dealing with a new situation but also grieving the loss of an idea, dream, or plan. We wanted to do things and then suddenly it was all put on hold or not possible anymore. We feel lost, we lose the framework for our lives, we had markers on the horizon to look forward to that have now disappeared. We have a new view in front of us that may be different, beautiful and full, but we don’t want to look at it or consider its possibilities because we wanted something else. 

A lot of the world has been feeling the deep loss of normal everyday life once COVID-19 got rolling and it is very similar to when your life starts to be impacted by a medical condition. 

A few years ago I came across the essay “Welcome to Holland“, written by 1987 American author and social activist Emily Perl Kingsley. You can read it here.

The brilliance of ‘Welcome To Holland’ is that it can help us explain to the people around us what our unique experience is like. More importantly, it reminds us of the process we must go through to get to the point of accepting the new circumstances.

It gives a perfect explanation of how difficult it is to accept a new situation you were not anticipating or prepared for, while grieving the loss of what you expected. It reminds us that there is nothing wrong with the new situation, it may even be better, it is just that we were planning and dreaming of something different to what we got. 

Turning up unexpectedly in a new country is so similar to being thrown into the medical world with almost no knowledge, except the few science and health classes from high school. Overwhelmed with new information and language, while trying to find a place that feels grounded and familiar is a challenge, but a challenge that is overcome with time and persistence.

We might feel frustrated and upset because we are constantly seeing and hearing about the experiences other people are having that we wished we could have too. It feels like we are watching from the slow lane while everyone else is going along at full speed, collecting life milestones while we are so glad to have just made it through the day. We eventually realise that we might always feel that pang of sadness when someone announces that they have the thing that we wanted. It can be even harder to watch someone have something we wanted and see that they do not appreciate or honour it. We lost a significant dream and it might always hurt our hearts. 

The essay reminds us that once we get past the shock and go through all the stages of grieving – the denial, the bargaining, the anger, the depression – and catch our breath, we might look around and become curious about our circumstances. 

We are in Holland seeing and hearing all about Italy, until we happen to come across someone else who is in Holland. We cling to them, realizing that we haven’t been on a desert island all alone, but in a country full of people working through the process too.

It brings us back to hope. 

The sort of hope that we get when we start from scratch and create new dreams in a new place.

The hope that we are not alone in this new place and have found people to lean on who understand the language and show us around. 

We will never forget our dreams for Italy, and eventually Holland will start to feel like home. 

Take heart Readers, I’ll keep the light on.

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