When the going gets tough, the tough gets…turtling?
Yeah, that’s not how that quote goes, but that is, nonetheless, what I have been doing.
When things got tough this year, I hauled my arms and legs into my shell and tried my best to blend in with the scenery. I battened down the hatches and vowed to wait out the worst of the storm. I pushed friends, family and strangers away with equal ferocity. That’s the essence of turtling – wait it out, whatever it is and whatever it costs, by yourself. It’s the ultimate war of attrition.
Turtling feels safe and comforting at first. Even the darkness of the hard shell isn’t particularly scary because it hides you from The Threat. I imagine it’s very much like a dark coat closet when you are trying to escape a murderous intruder. The shell keeps all of those soft, vulnerable parts alive and unharmed.
But it grows solitary after awhile and you start to wonder if actually being murdered would be worse than all of this waiting around to be murdered business. Maybe the killer isn’t even in the house anymore. And what if the killer was just the shadow of the hat rack at the end of the stairs in the first place? Who knows? No growth, no movement happens while you’re hunkered down in that shell. And once you’ve pushed everyone else away, well, you’re basically stuck.
Getting unstuck requires making the transition from turtling into tortoising (ever so slowly putting one foot in front of the other). How did I do that exactly? I prayed. A bunch. And because writing is praying to me, I also wrote a lot in my journal. I didn’t feel that I could explain what was happening to me or how I was dealing with it (too much backstory), so I asked my friends to pray for me too. And when they asked why I needed prayer, I stuck my head out of my shell and I asked for help. That’s not something I would have likely done a year ago, but I’m one of those people now.
So, if you find yourself turtling, might I suggest asking someone for help. You might be surprised by who comes to the rescue.
Difficult circumstances are often an invitation to a deeper spiritual life or even a reordering of your priorities. Maybe even a wholesale restructuring of a life. And while none of that sounds like something I’d be the first to say “sign me up!” for, I think I will look back on this struggling time as something that changed the course of my life.
** An interesting aside about my own experience turtling is that in the midst of the hurricane that is my life, one of my best friends got stationed on my ship. Best friend like I am the Godmother of her child best friend. Best friend as in she lived in my house best friend. For the better part of all of the craziness, I had a built-in support system to turn to for help, friendship, and prayer. Do you think I used it? Uh….no. That would violate the first law of turtling: thought shalt keep everyone at arms distance. She was doing her own turtling during that time and we managed to do little else than bump shell