Do Turtles Get Bruises?
I bruise easily. I have often said that if you look at me wrong I’ll end up with a bruise. Typically my bruises happen when I’m hurrying from here to there. I have a nasty bruise on my shin that I got when I ran full steam into a footstool. It was the “full steam” principle that got me to thinking this morning. I began to wonder: If I wasn’t in such a rush would my bruising be so bad? If I chose to go through life at a slower pace would I have less need for shin guards to protect me from life’s bumps and bruises? And that led me to ponder whether turtles get bruises.
Now the jump from bruises to turtles isn’t too far-fetched, in my brain, when you know that many years ago I served as a chaplain at a facility that worked with kids in out of home placement. During our summer program the activity therapist led a study that focused on Native American things. One of the components of the unit taught the kids about the ways animals influenced the identity of the Native Americans. I joined in the study and found the impact of spirit guides or totems to be very interesting. It was then that turtles entered my life.
During this time, I was pastoring, counseling, being a mom and a foster mom, being a wife, and trying to take care of my home. I knew I needed to slow down, but didn’t know how. And even though I was totally exhausted, I wasn’t sure I would know me if I slowed down. I was the proverbial human doing.
Then, ten years ago when my life took a horrendous downward spiral because of some stupid choices I made, I went back and did some more reading and got reacquainted with my friend the turtle. I realized how terribly out of balance I was. I’m not sure where I was going, but I seemed convinced that the only way to get there was to be racing and overwhelmed. I was so dedicated to this twisted way that I was attempting to function on less than two hours of sleep a night.
To say that I experienced a messy crash and burn, would be a major understatement. I lost a lot in those days, but the hardest thing for me to deal with was the loss of my work because it left me feeling like I had no identity. It was like learning to walk all over again. I worked several part time jobs and then ended up in a factory. I worked hard and found my worth in the approval of my supervisors. When that job came to an end four and a half years ago, I was fortunate to connect with a family that needed help caring for their mother when their father died. So I began providing daily care for an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease.
At first I went nearly crazy with the lack of things to do, but over the years I have come to treasure the slower pace and opportunity to be involved with making someone else’s life as pleasant as possible. My job is about being there, not about the things that I necessarily do. When I finally surrendered to that I began to truly enjoy my job.
This morning when I bumped that bruise on my shin again, the surge of pain resulted in my grousing about all the bruises I get and my question about turtles and bruises. So I went on line and asked google to enlighten me on the subject. There were only 8,610,000 hits. Most of the articles had to do with the health and well-being of turtles. “Ask Dr. Science” had some interesting things to say about the metabolism of turtles, but he also mentioned that turtles don’t have to move fast because they don’t have to chase their food and their shell protects them so they don’t have to run away from their enemies.
Now even with all my google reading, I’m still not sure whether a turtle’s longevity is due to his slower pace, but we know that his deliberate plodding along enabled him to win the race. Could it be that what we learned so simply as children might have value for our spiritual lives as adults?
Selah….pause…take a breath…slow down
I have sat with this piece and been frustrated that I couldn’t turn the corner to some amazing “Aha!”
While I was vacuuming the other afternoon, it dawned on me: not every piece has a resolution. This was reinforced during choir practice, of all places. We were working on a new piece for the Easter season. I’m a soprano, and I often tease that I’m a soprano because I like always having the melody. It’s a cruel thing when the composer gives the sopranos the harmony. It’s also not right the way the composer ended the piece we were sight reading. The ending was quite big and high, and then it does the unusual: instead of resolving pleasantly up to wonderful, powerful chord, the sopranos modulate down an awkward half step. Some things just don’t resolve the way think they should, or even want to.
I’ve know this at some level for a very long time. One Easter morning while sitting in church a phrase began rumbling around my mind. I was thinking about jelly beans and Jelly Bean Christians was born. I just haven’t known what to do with. Another one of those intriguing but unused phrases is Hushpuppy Christians. I keep thinking I’m going to come up with some witty writing about those things, but maybe their value is not in the writing but in what they cause me to think, to feel.
I don’t know if turtles get bruises, but since I started thinking about it, I’ve found myself slowing down, being more purposeful in my movements. And surprise: no more bruises from running into things.
And maybe, this wasn’t for you, but for me. But maybe you can relate, so I’ll just leave it here in case you can….