When Your Spirit Guide Is A Turtle

This is....awkward.
This is….awkward.

It always seems to come back to turtles.

I am not sure why, but when I close my eyes, breathe deeply, crank up the burnt sage and seek communion with Upper Management, I see turtles (sea turtles?)  I wish I didn’t.  But there they are, crinkled pointed beaks, sun soaked tails, glinted and tinted eyes, unfiled nails.  A dodgy skin care program wrapped in iridescent plate armor and highlighted by a gait that is the laughing stock of the aquarium set.  Oh Great Creator, why are there no noble timberland wolves, majestic bald eagles or tony stallions in my spiritual collage?  I would even take a rat – it at least has the pedigree of having a whole Chinese New Year enshrined to it, and rats are venerated in some temples.  Even a Vietnamese Potbelly Pig has its own innate charm and joie de vivre.

But a turtle?

I will stay open minded then.  I will invite, seek and harbor ‘turtle-ness’ into my life.  I will embrace the turtle – wrinkly, ragged body and all.  The thing about the turtle is that for this alcoholic, it’s an apt zoological entity and representation for me thus far.  The correct anthropomorphic avatar…a fit for my journey so far.  Not exactly sexy, but I’ll take the George Burns of the not-so-wild kingdom over whatever the equivalents of Pauly Shore or Donald Trump are.  I’ll split even on a Paul Lynde, though.

Not Paul Lynde
Not Paul Lynde, but still groovy funky, baby.

For years and years, before, during and after my active alcoholic days, I had very limited ability to feel my emotions and needs.  Not to say I didn’t feel – of course I felt.  Too much at times.  Not at all other times.  That is one of the reasons I drank – emotional stability, if you can call that. (More like sustained emotional insanity).  This manifested in many ways, one of which is that I had very slow access to how and what was going on internally.  Even a simple “What do you think of this color?” or “How do you feel about this movie?” question was painful to answer.  I needed time to think these things through.  I needed lots of time to process things.  I didn’t have an answer.  It was somewhere in me, but I was covered up and trampled on by my fears, anxieties and anger.  I just didn’t know how I was supposed to feel.  Sometimes it would literally take me days honestly to come up with an answer to those kinds of simple questions.  Hare speed  – this we are not talking about.

This sort of tortoise like tempo was torture to most people in my life, especially my wife.  It’s difficult to engage someone when there isn’t anything to meet up against.  I stood there most times, seized up, as someone would be trying anything and everything to illicit an response from me.  I just didn’t know what to do or say.  My inner life was so stitched up and sewn shut that a SWAT team of snails was about the only thing that could get there and do anything about it.  I didn’t know what it was they wanted to hear, and I didn’t know what it was I wanted to say.  It was in that middle ground where I got all muddled up.  Safer to put my head in the shell and hope for the storm to pass over…let me get washed up on whatever shore was closest.  And most often, shores had huts with booze.  Giddy up, partner.

Now think December.  That's me.
Now think December. That’s me in an oozy doozy nutshell.

And retreat – well, that was (and still can be) classic me.  Hide in the protective covering.  Don’t let them see you vulnerable.  Don’t let the see you…period.  Sneaking away into myself was a defense mechanism, much like my emotional turtle-like prosopopoeia . It was my way out, via way in.  Waaaaay in.  But there was no real sanctuary in the hub of denial and distraction.  There was no proper way of interacting when the currency of truth was forsaken and abandoned.  Honest engagement is forfeited when one of the parties has put themself down for the count before even entering into the arena of discussion.  And that was my modus operandi.  Cover up and wait it out.  Camouflage as a rock and let them bash upon you until they can’t stem their own bleeding any more.  Crisis diverted.  At least until the next time.  And there was always a next time.

The problem with a shell of course is it’s weakness – the underbelly.  Soft-ish.  Permeable. You can crack that baby open like a pinata on Cinco De Mayo.  And cracked open I got…often.  It was usually of my own doing, actually.  Drinking was a way of removing that shell, of cleaving my way out.  It was only through the drink was I able to feel less vulnerable, less targeted, less fearful of my surroundings.  I was able to feel things.  I was able to engage in those kinds of conversations that allowed me to know what it was that was going on.  But the window on that was short.  Very short.  But at least for a tiny amount of time, I actually had some opinions.  And boy did I have opinions.  And they were often the wrong type stated to the wrong people.  I couldn’t find that happy medium of finding me and losing me.  In and out of the shell.   Chafing that already sandpaper like skin.

You're thinking of someone else.  I don't speak "Ariba Ariba Andele!"
You’re thinking of someone else, dude. I don’t speak “Ariba Ariba Andele!” Just not my style.

Another manifestation of my chelonian self is my still current way of getting to things.  I don’t do change well.  Or with fleet of foot.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy change – I do, and I know it’s imperative that I continue to change, to well….change.  I don’t want the old me showing up.  I’ve had it with that clown. But I get to things when I get to them…and I find that it happens at a pace that is much more laggardly than I would want it.  But there it is – what I “want”.  What I “want” got me in lots of trouble.  So, I have to think of what I need and how that will come about.  I must allow things to unfold at the pace they need to.  Not to say that I procrastinate and just hope that the world gets to me in due time.  I have actions I need to maintain and affix myself to so that I have a clear program of movement (albeit slow) in place.  I need to do things outside my comfort level, think and behave in ways somewhat foreign to me.  And so I do them.  But slowly.  With measure.  With full attachment to my core values and beliefs.  With the Power of the Creator gently guiding me.

I understand that I am far from alone in the slow-to-change category.  It’s perhaps part of the growth that we alcoholics (and addicts) need to break through to gain more freedom from self and to see things in a greater light.  I certainly wasn’t quick to change when I was drinking – I had my rituals, my go-to bottles, my superstitions, my emotional benders, my grudge list, my stubborn and willful approach to life.  I liked that set up and lined them up like shot glasses on a rail. So it’s old self that sometimes slows me down in the growth department.  Fears tend to be the greatest thumbtacks-on-the-road-to-slow-the-tires-down offenders.  Fear of change, or ironically enough, fear of not changing, gets me to an almost backwards crawl at times.  But I persevere, I march on, I continue even when the pace is glacial. What I have to remember is that being unhurried or measured doesn’t mean listless or lazy.  I have to make that delineation clear to myself.

Wondertwin powers activate! Form of a glacier! Shape of a Red-Eared Slider!
Wonder Twin powers activate! Form of a glacier! Shape of a Red-Eared Slider!

I have accepted my turtle spiritual guide.  I am not exactly snuggling with it, but it works for me right now.  It reminds me that I no longer need to hide when I sense trouble.  Trouble usually arises from within in so many forms, so I am able to approach things with a steady, purposeful stride.  I have learned that my shell is now a fortification of my beliefs and my boundaries and my faith.  I need not recede within the casing, but I also don’t give ground to the things that plan to sink me.  And those things as well often come from my inner world.  I have a shell that grows with me, that builds around my core, that helps shape and keep my form solid.  I am no longer waiting to be seized upon. I do the seizing now.

In my just over two years of recovery I have realized that it’s not a race of sorts, this new life.  I am where I need to be.  I will come to things when the Creator deems me ready to come to them.  Sometimes I need to hear something from somebody to snap me out of my old place or thinking.  Sometimes it’s just about  facing something head on and waking up to it.  Sometimes I will have a thought just dawn on me, and I will slap myself up the head and say “Why did that take me so long to figure out, genius?”  It’s just what it is.  It’s where I am at – either in the sparkling water or muddy shoreline.  It’s my milieu and I need to be defined and afforded internal malleability there.

It’s my inner turtle at work.  Going with the tides, stomping in the sun, just being a turtle.

Slow down there, chief - what's the rush??
Slow down there, chief – what’s the rush??

25 Comments Add yours

  1. jrstover says:

    “Sustained emotional insanity” ….brilliant.

    1. Thank you, kind sir – and congrats again on your one year!


  2. warmginger says:

    I lived inside a bubble that sounds pretty similar to your shell. Thank heavens a lovely man came along ten years ago and pricked it!

    And I am jealous of your turtle. I always see a doe and it’s just so clichéd and lame – you know, hiding in the forest, wary, ready to run away, Bambi and a very annoying song from the Sound of Music. But I guess, as lovely man so eloquently and frequently puts it: “You can only piss with the c**k you’ve got.”

    1. Thank that man of yours for doing what he did! I am sure he is still a lovely man, with such eloquence…lol.

      I also wanted to distance myself from the turtledove, which only seems to make an appearance once a year, ensconced in a little Christmas ditty which requires some sort of counting or such. Poor Bambi!

      Thanks for the comments!


  3. Belle says:

    i love this bit: “I continue even when the pace is glacial.” 🙂 so long as we’re moving forward, then we’ll get there. just slowly. so much better than starting over …

    1. You’re right on there, Belle…we just keep moving forward no matter what. Sometimes it’s by leaps and bounds, sometimes it’s barely an inch…but we go forward. As they say, if we’re not moving away from the bottle, we are moving back to it 🙂

      Love and light, my friend.


  4. losedabooze says:

    Turtles are majestic creatures when you see them in their environment moving with ease… so I think it’s a great spirit guide. I went swimming with the sea turtles in Barbabdos in February and it was an amazing experience! I think your analogy says why the turtle is your spirit guide and that you are right where you need to be.

    1. Too bad the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard can’t be a spirit guide…how cool would that be?

      Anyway, I am not a swimmer or lover of water, so it’s doubly strange that such a beautiful creature that is mostly sea bound would present itself to me. Or maybe I just watched too many docs on the Galapagos. Who knows. But I’ll take it. I can only imagine what it’s like to be swimming with them in the warm waters of Barbados…wow.

      Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment.


      1. losedabooze says:

        I’ll have to post some pics for you to see… we got some great underwater shots!

  5. furtheron says:

    Have you ever read / heard of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett?

    If not to summarise – the fantasy planet setting is a flat disc planet that is supported on the backs of four giant elephants who in turn are on the back of a huge turtle – the Great A’Tuin – just wondered if there some subliminal connection there?

    1. I have certainly heard of Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series, but never read any of those books. It sounds like something to delve into. Hmmm….perhaps my next fiction read? Thank you for the connection, Graham!


  6. sherryd32148 says:

    Turtles are wise and they are always smiling (have you noticed that)…I think it fits.

    Great post.


  7. Never noticed the smiling thing before, Sherry. And I’ll stick with the baby turtles in terms of wisdom…just my level. That, and learn from the other sage bloggers out there like you 🙂


  8. Alright, so first… it may not be Paul Lynde, but, if I’m not mistaken, it IS Charles Nelson Reilly, remember the guy that sat top right in Match Game? If not, it really, really looks like him! Second, on a more serious note, I have never had anyone describe so perfectly how I felt about myself feeling… that sort of “all or nothing” idea, but with respect to feelings. Either I was crying my eyes out over a laundry detergent commercial, or I have found out about the death of a loved one, and was unsure how to react. I could certainly fake it on the outside, but inside I really did wonder if something was wrong with me, because I couldn’t seem to process my emotions in a “normal” way. So thank you, Paul, for once again reaffirming that I am not alone in this world, and that I am right where I need to be. Finally, I am jealous of you, and everyone else, who sees any kind of animal. now today I will obsess that I am praying or meditating right because I have never seen an animal 🙂

    1. bingo! That certainly is the one and only CNR. Paul is more my man, but Charles rocks it too. I can only imagine him with a handlebar ‘stache. Coolio!

      Thank YOU for being the one to affirm what goes on in this damaged noggin of mine. It’s when I get wonderful comments like yours that I see that ok, I am not insane. There *are* other crazies out there..lol. But yeah, it’s something about the all or nothing too. Dog food commercials would get me, for sure.

      As for the animal “sighting” – it really didn’t come up out of nowhere, which is what often happens. But I just sort of kept seeing them in my mind or in meditation, or running into pictures of them, or it came up in conversations (what kind of conversations am I having anyway for turtles to crop up?), and when I was thinking of this post, the title came to me like a sheet of lightening. So I didn’t argue it – it is what it is. It was a gradual thing, and now I quite comfortable with it. doesn’t mean that if I see a T-Rex come up in future, I won’t try to forcibly adopt it. ha ha.

      thanks for stopping by – always love when you drop by 🙂


  9. destamae says:

    The book I JUST finished reading talks much about this- all in due time- ‘TrueFaced’- SUCH a GREAT book!!!!! I would HIGHLY recommend it if you haven’t already read it! It was my assignment the last two weeks from my therapist 🙂 AWESOME post. Just LOVE all the analogies you come up with. I don’t know how you do it- but they are always spot on.

    1. Is that the book that was across your lap in the pics of your latest blog?

      I will check it out – not sure what it’s about, but if you see value in it, then I’m pretty much sold. I love assignments 🙂

      Thanks for the props on the post…that’s very kind of you.


      1. destamae says:

        Yup-that’s the book! It’s been eye opening and life changing for me. It’s a req’d book in the rehab I was in… But I never got to it b/c others trumped even that while I was there and there were so many 😉

  10. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Gosh I love your writing – and your sense of humour. I reckon your sense of humour saves you, much.

    And reading comments, I add, is interesting. You evoke great thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Noeleen! I am not sure if my sense of humour saves me, or gets me into more trouble…ha ha. But thanks for noticing and for the very kind words (coming from a real author!)

      Checked out your blog and loved it – will be watching 🙂


  11. REDdog says:

    I’m thinkin’ that turtles are under-appreciated in our dog-eat-dog world with that whole irresistible force/immovable object thing going on (depending on whether they’re gettin’ busy or parked up, right?). Enjoyed your take on things, seems familiar to me, I like that even though we’ve not come across each other in the aquarium yet. Respect for the journey you’re on, God’s luck, man.REDdog

    1. I like the “immovable object” phrase there…awesome. Thanks for the drive by here…really appreciate it. If I run into you in the aquarium, how shall I know you as? lol. It’s pretty cool how we get into each other’s path at just the right time. And it ain’t my timing, either. Checked out your corner of the world, and I dig it – thanks for being here and there.


      1. REDdog says:

        You’ll know me the first time you think to yourself “Haven’t I seen that shell before? And…wasn’t it around near the treasure chest last time, how’d it get next to the big plastic rock??” Hermit crabs…tricky buggers. Mate, you’re spot on, it’s not our timing. I reckon all miracles are about timing. I mean, parting the Red Sea’s the easy bit, gettin’ a million whinging Jews across in time would be the hard part. Look forward to finding out what He has for us. Cheers Rd

  12. I adore turtles. They have been a part of my life for the better part of my life. As an adult, I set up a 15 gal aquarium, filtered, aqua-scaped with ‘landmass’, aqua plants and water. A domestic turtle paradise. They have an incredible personality. What an honor to have a turtle as a spirit guide. I’m jelly. 😀

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