I have been blogging a bit about a fabulous book called “Voyage of the Turtle” by Carl Safina.
At some point, this book has become less about gaining a simple “tortoise education” and more about learning how to simply live life.
In one of my favorite quotes, the author writes (this about watching a single baby sea turtle enter the surf for the first time, encouraged in its first steps by a group of witnessing conservationists):
I wonder if this is the end of something ancient or the start of a future regained. I’m not certain what it is, but I know what it means: it means there truly is hope. Other peoples, other species, even other kinds of sea turtles – in situations as bad, sometimes worse – have recovered. Turtles have taught me this: Do all you can and don’t worry about the odds against you. Wield the miracle of life’s energy, never worrying whether we may fail, concerned only that whether we fail or succeed we do so with all our might. That’s all we need to know to feel certain that all our force of diligent effort is worth our while on Earth. (emphasis added)
And in fact, I told myself this very thing (although not so eloquently) when I first began my mighty struggle to recover from anorexia and bulimia.
The odds seemed powerfully stacked against me – leaning over me like a slobbering muscular bully, in fact.
My “support team” was minimal – one mentor, and me.
I had no money for therapy – inpatient, outpatient, or any other kind.
No one – least of all me – really understood what was wrong with me or how to fix it.
And I wasn’t yet fully convinced that what was wrong was a “something” – that it wasn’t just me, consummate failure at life and all things.
Yet I had nothing but time at that point, and I wanted to try.
I was determined to die a hero’s death if necessary – as Safina writes, being concerned only that whether we fail or succeed we do so with all our might.
I was going to try with all my variable daily might. Success – well, that remained to be seen.
In the same way that turtles don’t perceive themselves to be “endangered,” and thus continue doing the next right thing, day in and day out, so too I began waking up each morning, noting down and celebrating every little point I scored against the eating disorder (half-points and quarter-points were equally worthy of noting down and celebrating).
Like an Indian “counting coup” over an enemy (this being when the Indian sneaks up on the enemy without that enemy knowing, then sneaks away, stealing a bit more of the enemy’s power with each departure), so too I continually sought ways to sneak up on the eating disorder, scoring little victories wherever I could and not sweating points lost overly much.
I discovered during this time in my life that I’m just not good at “failing.”
Case in point – so many times I would lie down on my bed and declare, “That’s IT. I’m DONE. You win. Go ahead and gloat. Take me now. I’m done fighting you.”
I would lie there and lie there. Then I would have to pee. Or my favorite TV program would come on. Or I would get a phone call. Life would go on, and I would get up to play my part in it once more.
In this I learned that while I might think failure was a genuine option I had, in practice I kept not (um) exercising that option.
I kept choosing self-effort – the possibility of eventual victory – instead.
In related news – no wonder I have wanted a tortoise companion so badly for so many years!
Every time I look at little Malti, chowing down on her breakfast, snoozing in her moss, or out exploring the wonders of the front lawn, my heart fills with wonder and gratitude.
I am grateful to feel such a bond with this tiny creature – such common ground and shared life experience – such humility as I witness both her humility and her courage.
Malti and I – we are learning the same lessons. Each day, we do all we can and don’t worry about the odds against us.
So far, so good.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever find yourself worrying over the plight of our planet’s endangered creatures – or your potential role in that? What does their courage – their daily steadfastness to get up and try again to survive and thrive – teach you about what it means to recover, to survive, to thrive, to truly live?