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Turtle Slow

This is Mom's thread painting of me.

This is Mom’s thread painting of me.

I am like a turtle; I move very slowly through life. At my current pace, I may be able to meet the expected life goals of a young adult by the time I’m sixty.

Grumpy turtle (not my picture)

Grumpy turtle (not my picture)

Butterfly, my Lhasa Apso, is stubbornly slow too. We go slowly because we do each task comprehensively. It takes me weeks to write each post for this blog because I go through so many drafts, trying to capture exactly what I mean to say. Butterfly is the same way about eating. She likes to sit down, or even lay down, in front of her bowl so that she can savor each kibble individually. Her sister, Cricket, is more of a speed eater; she’s always in a rush, to pee, to poop, to run, and to greet; everything has to be fast.

Speedy Cricket!

Speedy Cricket!

Butterfly, the fluffy turtle

Butterfly, the fluffy turtle

Back in the Fall I bought Butterfly a set of steps up to my bed and proceeded to try to teach her how to use them. Cricket can jump on and off the bed herself, but Butterfly’s legs are too short. For myself, and for Butterfly, I believe in Anne Lamott’s method, from bird by bird: the best way to manage an overwhelming task is to break it down into a thousand small pieces, and take each one, one at a time, without looking so far ahead that you become overwhelmed.

I worked with Butterfly every day, one step at a time. I put her paws on the first step and gave her a treat. I led her up to the second step and gave her two treats. Day after day, I did everything I could think of, but I couldn’t find a way to break the task down small enough to make it manageable for her. Even when she could finally climb up all three steps, to reach her treats, she still thought going back down to the floor was impossible. But then she got thirsty in the middle of the night. This may have been the onset of the diabetes, without my realizing it, but at the time, I assumed it was about the unreasonable heat in the apartment complex at night. All of a sudden, Butterfly could walk down the steps and run straight to the water bowl.

Up! Up! Up!

Up! Up! Up!

"I made it!"

“I made it!”

"Please don't make me go back down."

“Please don’t make me go back down.”

"What's the big deal?"

“What’s the big deal?”

My therapist has a theory about this. She says that when you’re not ready to do something, it’s like climbing up a mountain, but when you are ready, it becomes easy. I don’t know that I’ve ever reached the easy stage, but I do know that after years and years of effort, for no obvious reason, sometimes things just start to click.

"It's so easy!" (not my picture)

“It’s so easy!” (not my picture)

I assumed that Butterfly would come right back after her miraculous escape to the water bowl, and climb up the stairs to the bed. But she didn’t come back. And I felt rejected. Here I’d worked so hard to give her the freedom to come and go, and she chose to just go.

I’ve heard that if you love someone you’re supposed to let them go, and if they were meant to be with you, they will return. Sayings like that make me want to hit people.

A few nights later, after a number of these heartbreaking episodes, I woke up at three o’clock in the morning to a scratching and tapping sound. Butterfly was scratching at the bottom step, as if it were an escalator that needed to be turned on, and she was looking for the switch. I got up and put her front paws on the steps, and she galloped up onto the bed, curled up by her pillow and went to sleep.

I worry, a lot, that my slow pace in life will mean that I’ll never move forward as much as I need to in the time allotted, but watching Butterfly makes me think that how we use our time should fit us, rather than fit some preset convention. I would never look at her and think she should be more like Cricket. She is Butterfly and that’s a wonderful thing to be.

I’d like to think that the same is true for me. I am a turtle. Is a turtle, by definition, a failed something else?

 

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

118 responses »

  1. Rachel–this post was wonderful! I so had to laugh at the picture of Butterfly, the fluffy turtle. so cute. And your comment about wanting to hit people….uh, yeah. I think, in their own way, everyone has turtle tendencies. Who else is going to make the speed demons slow down and smell the roses if not the turtles. I love your posts.

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  2. Everything in its own time, at its own pace…I relate to the Turtle totem, too!

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  3. You do worry too much. There is no race. There is no destination. There is just the moment and the next moment. Your dogs know this very well. Keep up your fine thoughtful writing 🙂

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  4. Wonderful post Rachel! Beautifully written, too. 🙂

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  5. You are probably going at a normal speed. Everything else seems to be hyper-excelerated in this society.

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  6. great post! I like the line about how we use our time should fit us.

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  7. Your not alone. I have been a slow paced person my whole life. I am terrible at timed games. when doing something and someone tells me to hurry up I get anxiety. My house needs painting this year and I have plans to do it myself.It is not big. (I used to paint houses for a living) but… my sister wants me to have a cook out and a bunch of people come out paint and eat she says it will get done in one day. I don’t want to do that and she just doesn’t understand.I don’t want to cook for a bunch of people. I really don’t do well with a lot of people around me and It is not important to me if it gets done in 1 day. My sister just doesn’t get it. Besides my neighbors son said he would help me.Yes I am pokey slow but that’s ok if it bothers other people that is their problem. I also walk slow and enjoy the walk because it is a walk not a race!
    Oh and I do the same as you in taking a big project or job and breaking it down and as Butterfly does 1 step at a time.

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    • I would be overwhelmed with such a big crowd and everyone painting at the same time, too. I just wish people would stop making me feel wrong for being this way. Especially since I can’t change it.

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      • that is when you realize it is their problem not yours. I never let anyone make me feel wrong for who I am.I like who I am and do not need the validation from anyone else. It took me a long time to reach this point but I feel better about myself sense I did realize it’s not me it’s them. I am the one you see not following the herd. I am the one off to the side or walking away from the herd . lol

  8. Not all turtles are slow. There are water turtles who are very quick. You have to be in the right situation. Even the slow land turtles have other qualities that let them survive for millions of years and some of their individuals to live longer than any human, so take that, humans. Whoops, I just realized I was barking at a human.

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  9. As long as you’re happy, speed doesn’t matter. I didn’t think steps like this actually existed but I’m glad to know they do- my dog has strange paws. That’s the only way I can think to describe. He’s likely to get arthritis when he’s older, but he’s loves going on the bed.

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    • Butterfly is an expert at going down the stairs now, but her sister refuses to even try. I put Cricket on the steps once and she jumped off sideways and shook herself as if I’d poisoned her feet.

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  10. A turtle is a wonderful thing to be! Just ask a turtle. I’ve always thought of myself as a turtle. I end up doing the right thing for me, but usually way later than when others would do it, like start college at age 53. Slow and steady wins the race.

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  11. You are exactly who you’re supposed to be. With time can you learn to do things faster? I doubt it. My husband is a turtle, too. And I love him just the way he is. Embrace your style, make it work FOR YOU, that’s what makes you YOU. Butterfly is cute as a button, trying to conquer those stairs 🙂

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    • Thank you so much! I would love to believe that I am just the way I am supposed to be. Butterfly thinks I should be a bit more generous with the chicken treats, but other than that she seems to like me. Cricket, eh, not so much.

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  12. Beautifully written.

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  13. The question of turtle-like speed is not one I’m comfortable to discuss since my name is the old woman Slow. Frankly, I find it annoying that so much of life moves, to me, at breakneck speed. Out of control. Frankly, freaky. So let’s just say I embrace the ponderous.

    P.S. I also embrace Anne Lamott. She is a writer I would like to be when I grow up.

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  14. I loved your descriptions AND your photos!

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  15. I don’t think anything you did or didn’t do caused the diabetes. I also do not like when people say”God needed them in Heaven”. That makes me want to hit people. Maybe He did but it does not make their loss any easier! I think if you are a turtle you have not failed. I think that you are just as you ought to be. At least this is what I tell myself in moments like that. I love your little dogs. My Murphy had a stair step too. He went down better than he went up.

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  16. What a wonderful post, Rachel. We are what we are and we should never let anyone make us feel ashamed or less. I don’t know you personally, but your writing tells me you are a beautiful person. My little Maltese, Emmy, will often do the same thing with her stairs. I know she can now climb up and down but at times she would rather stand at the first step and paw until she’s picked up! 🙂

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  17. Loved your post. Turtles may be slow, but they are graceful in the water.
    We like to plod on our walks. We get to see (and enjoy) more. Maggie is content to plod too. She’ll see the squirrel/rabbit, follow it’s path with her eyes but not give chase now. ‘Been there, done that’ attitude. She’ll still sniff in the grass along the hedgerow and lift a pheasant or partridge though!

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  18. I always enjoy your posts… your efforts pay off in a very enjoyable reading experience. 🙂

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  19. I look forward to your “slow” posts (like slow food?). It always makes my day to read your thoughts and look at the lovely Cricket and Butterfly 🙂

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  20. Rachel, what a great post! It really spoke to me because I often beat myself up about not doing things the way ‘they are supposed to be done’ and ‘like everybody else’ but you’re so, so right! It doesn’t make us failures just because we are different. Who makes these rules anyway?
    I love how you compare the traits of Butterfly and Cricket and that to you it makes no difference at all! You love them the same and so would any of us. But when it comes to ourselves, we can be so mean can’t we? I’ve heard it’s helpful (I’m rubbish at it though) to try and look at yourself from the outside, from somebody elses point of view if you’re beating yourself up for something… or imagine somebody else doing things the way you are. Would you chastise them or think badly of them? Probably not, so why don’t we afford ourselves the same kindness?
    Hugs, Carrie (Myfie, Ellie and Millie) x

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  21. One of our daughters is a slow mover. We don’t know what happened – my wife and I are Energizer bunnies on Red Bull.

    By luck she married a guy who is even slower moving. They have a couple of kids who inherited their parents slowness. My wife calls them the SOX family. That stands for Sloths On Xanax. Max would fit right in with them.

    Different folks; different speeds. It’s all good.

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  22. I love turtles, I saved one from the middle of the road once and it was a snapping turtle to boot. 😀 Slow and steady wins the race!

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  23. There’s nothing wrong in being a turtle. 🙂 As the above person , Laurie Nichols, commented: Slow and steady wins he race. 🙂

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  24. Butterfly is the prettiest fluffy turtle I’ve ever seen! I love your perspective, Rachel. I am guilty of rushing through things too often. I forget to appreciate the journey, as I am too focused on the destination. My favorite line from this post is “…how we use our time should fit us…”–what a fantastic way of putting it. Also, certain quotes and sayings also make me want to hit people. Teehee. 😉

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  25. Noooooooo…. a turtle is a successful turtle. It would be a rubbish rabbit or squirrel or cat (to name but 3 of my favourite furry-animals-designed-to-be chased). If you’re a turtle, being the best turtle you can be is better than being a failed rabbit. Imagine how depressing that would be.

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  26. Lovely post Rachel the way you trained her to go down and up those steps, so clever.
    I agree being a turtle and approach things slowly, I am like that well most of the time. I hate to rush around , some people just can’t stop themselves.
    The Butterfly is beautiful and Cricket is just like my neighbour, always going back and forth out and about.
    Enjoy your little beauties. x

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  27. I see Nietzsche, Kant, and Simone de Beauvoir on your nightstand and I’m wondering which one makes for better bedtime reading to Butterfly?

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  28. I am loving Cricket and Butterfly. I can’t wait to read more. I love finding someone that loves their pups like they are “real family” because they are.

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  29. rI really enjoy your posts. This post Reminds me of what someone said about some dancer (Fred Astair?) — that making it look natural takes a lot of work.

    I don’t know if you follow Kimberly Harding? In a recent post she referenced the meanings of totems. Here’s the one for turtles.
    http://native-american-totems.com/animal-totem-medicines/turtle/
    It seems to fit.

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    • Thank you! I keep turtles all around the apartment to remind me I’m not the slowest one around, and I’m not alone. Though it would be nice to dance like Ginger Rogers once in my life.

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  30. Step by step. Bird by bird. 😀

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  31. Slow and steady wins the race, or so was the moral of the story of the most famous race of all where the tortoise beats the hare.

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  32. I can totally relate…I used to be a perfectionist…Disabilities teach you how perfect you truly used to be…You are perfect just as you are!!!! ((hugs)) That pic of her not wanting to go back down the steps…hilarious!!!!!

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  33. greyzoned/angelsbark

    I love this post! You’re so right: we are all individuals and should only strive to be ourselves, no one else…

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  34. This is such a cute story. I live in Florida on the Atlantic and each May 1sr we begin to look for the sea turtles that come at night to the sand to lay their eggs. In the morning before sunrise they head back to the ocean. They have been doing this for thousands of years. Slowly but surely.

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  35. Don’t know – I never quite thought of you as a turtle. I always enjoy your posts, and the dogs, but, on the other hand,. I think turtles can be quite swift in their own element.

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  36. Great post! Btw, it means so much to me that you are taking the time to LIKE some of my older photos…greatly appreciated…..

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  37. Hi Rachel, Lovely post. Butterfly and Cricket are so sweet. I think most people would like to be turtles if they are absolutely honest with themselves. Even those who live life at a hundred miles an hour must want to have odd turtleish moments. Turtles know how to pace themselves. The story of the tortoise and the hare just about sums it up. Plus, of course, we turtle people will enjoy life far more than those who just want to rush around because we have time to smell the flowers!
    Bright blessings

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  38. Just what I needed today. Wonderful metaphor. Now I wish I had the patience of a turtle…

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    • When we need Cricket to slow down, we have to give her medication. And even then, it’s just not in her nature. Cricket’s answer to my slowness is to run circles around me, or zig zag from side to side to cover more surface area so she can keep moving and still stay close to me. Patience looks difference on everyone.

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  39. Thank you for that last line. Just what I needed to hear.
    Lesley

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  40. Thanks so much for coming back!…and liking my post ‘a lesson in patience’. Funny thing is, I’m not even really that annoyed that it happens.

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  41. I loved reading this! Your writing flows in a way that is very appealing to me. Very thoughtful, too.

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  42. Rachel, I just read this and I want to say thank you. So many times I’ve caught myself comparing msyelf to where others are in life, wondering why I’m not there yet. But the truth is, I’m just a turtle, and although I may not have experienced as much in life, my experiences have been richer and more fulfilling because I’ve taken time to savor them. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about where other’s are, and what they’ve accomplished, and be grateful for where I am, and what I’ve accomplished. Chances are, I’ve gained a lot more from my experiences than some because I’m taking the time to do so. Thanks again, from a newly self-discovered turtle.

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  43. And again:) Hope you get some more visitors to your blog 🙂

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  44. I have just now tweeted this one and another, too. 🙂

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  45. Again I’ve tweeted this and another. Good luck for more visitors!

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  46. Very interesting and funny.

    Reply

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