I fell in love with a turtle this week. That’s a strange sentence, and not one I ever thought I’d write. On Wednesday around noon I was coming home from working out and getting my hair highlighted (I know, my life is so hard, but before you throw tomatoes at me, it had been six months since I had the time to get my hair done. And I’m a marshmallow, so work out machines resemble torture devises to me.) when the corner of my eye caught on something moving in the grass by my shoe.
A baby turtle!
Without thinking, my husband and I gathered him up, and made a makeshift habitat out of tupperware and river rocks. We discovered the little guy is a red ear slider. Aquatic by nature. We live on a hill surrounded by woods. We have a mostly dry creek bed, because Texas has been in drought, but no real natural source of water anywhere close enough for this turtle to be coming from or trying to get to. There had been a storm, so our thinking is that the turtle was washed up into our yard and then got lost.
(OK, you don’t need to know all this. I do have a point. Bear with me.)
Needless to say, my husband, Sam and I have spent the last four days getting the turtle set up in wondrous aquatic habitat. Sam named the turtle Scout, which is his favorite name. We worry over the little thing like he’s, well, not a wild turtle I nearly stepped on, but a sudden, welcome member of our family.
We love him, for some reason, and we feel responsible for keeping him alive. He’s just a turtle, you say? He is, but that doesn’t change the fact that his tiny swimming self is worth loving.
Love is funny. It is quite possibly the most natural physiological and emotional reaction in life, and yet human beings are terrified of giving themselves over to it. No matter what kind of love it is. Love is dangerous and powerful because loving something or someone means they have some measure of control over you. They own a piece of you.
Even Scout, the turtle. Scout the turtle has the place in my heart reserved for amphibians. I didn’t know there was a place there for those, but unexpectedly there is. Scout has it.
We are so afraid of the pain of love, of the losing, or the hurt that can be caused by loving that it becomes very easy to shut off your aching heart from feeling it. Your mind from opening to the possibility of it. Your body from releasing the rush of adrenaline and oxytocin associated with the fierce instinct to protect. Rather, we numb ourselves. Or we lessen the validity of the emotion in order to protect ourselves from the possible, and often, eventual pain of losing something or someone we love.
As a mother, I gave up that right when my son was born. The daily anxiety I feel associated to Sam is tantamount to tiny panic attacks in my heart. As a wife, (7 years today!) I have no choice but to feel the fear and longing of being inextricably bound to another person. The last time I was free to wound myself without it affecting another person was…never…because before my husband and Sam, it was my mother and father.
Love is treacherous. Those you love take root in your soul. The power of love is supernatural, it binds and breaks and saves. It’s an incredible thing because it is the foundation that lives and worlds are built on. Pretending love has any less power than it does is sticking your head in the sand. Being capable of loving when you understand its power is superhero work.
So, I love a turtle. His little life has bearing, even if it’s small in comparison to my other loves, on mine. I accept that. When we love things — whether human, animal, aquatic, or other — we must acknowledge their power. Writing words is a love in my life. My nieces are loves in my life. God is a love in my life. My five brothers are loves, and those married have wives I love. Best friends, old and new…and so on, forever.
Loving gives them the right to need you, to want you, to take your time and energy, and very often, to cut you deeply. If you don’t love, and you don’t understand the potential in loving something or someone more than yourself, then you miss the fruit of having them love you back. Of having your son wake up in the morning, run upstairs and tell you you’re beautiful when you know —right then — you’re not. Of having your husband hold you when you’re crying because you just are and that’s enough of a reason. Of so much more that makes life, actually and only then, worth living.
That’s…the Power of Love. Happy Arrested Development Premier Day and my wedding anniversary. A special note to some other wonderful couples who got married today as well: Jennifer and Darren, Allen and Mindy, Violet and John —May 26th is Love day!