Welcome To “Holland”

My daughter loves doing connect-the-dots activities. She loves going from number to number and watching as a picture eventually comes to life. I’ve enjoyed my own connect-the-dots activity this week as well. I was searching for a new book to read and Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb, caught my eye. I think it was the bright orange tissue box on the front cover that made me wonder, what’s this about?! Lori is a gifted writer and therapist and the book is about her experiences both giving and getting therapy.

The first “dot” for me came when she mentioned Candy Chang and the “Before I die…” wall. In 2009, Candy Chang turned the side of an abandoned house into a giant chalkboard and stenciled it with a fill-in-the-blank sentence: “Before I die, I want to…” Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their life, and share their personal aspirations in a public space. The next day the wall was entirely filled out. People wrote things like “Before I die, I want to live.” Before I die, I want to be me.” “Before I die, I want to adopt a child.” This neglected space in New Orleans became a respected one. People could stop and read and realize they were not alone. Their words became part of a community. They had a voice and could share it with one another. I was reminded that two of the most precious things we have are time and relationships. Are we making choices that value both? What would we do differently if we knew one was going to end soon? Click here to learn more about Chang’s project.

The next “dot” came when Lori made a reference to the essay by Emily Perl Kingsley, Welcome to Holland. I was not familiar with the essay. If you’d like to read it, click here. Emily wrote the essay after her son was born with autism. The essay uses a metaphor of the excitement of a vacation in Italy that becomes a disappointment when the plane lands in Holland. “I didn’t want Holland! I wanted Italy! I wanted Michelangelo’s David, I wanted the Coliseum and the gondolas in Venice.” But she was in Holland. She had to get out and buy new guide books and learn a new language. What she realized was Holland had tulips, Holland had Rembrandts and Holland had windmills.

How many of you feel like you’re in Holland right now? “This isn’t what I signed up for! I never wanted it to be like this! This is not part of my plan!” What can we do right now to stop and pause and look for what might be in front of us that makes where we are and who we have become, “Holland”?

I’m still working my way through the book and look forward to connecting more dots. If you look back on the past few weeks and months, can you connect the dots to something interesting or meaningful or good in your life now? I’d love to hear from you. Feel welcome to reach out anytime.

Here’s to a weekend of meaningful connections,


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