Turtles wear shells. Beneath those shells they are soft, and probably not very safe.
Once, I was walking with my sister and our partners and children. We went beneath an overpass, toward Little Peoples Park, which sits near a restored wetlands area. Turtles and ducks live there.
I saw a turtle that had tried to cross the street, and had been hit by a car. Its shell was cracked. There was blood. There would be no more days for that turtle.
That visual stuck with me. We could make up some stories about what that means about me, but really, I believe it speaks to the gravity of a broken shell.
Shells are there for protection. They aren’t supposed to break. That moment is deeply reminiscent of this other moment in my life, when my son and I saw a deer’s antler broken, lying in the road after he’d been hit by a car.
Animals, including we humans, are strong, resilient, and really good at protecting ourselves. We are also entirely fallible. Like that turtle, and that deer, we are destructible.
Recently, I’ve been rethinking my language about trauma. I’m moving away from psychiatry, in favor of other tools. Specifically, I’m studying the work of David Berceli, and certifying to teach TRE. Part of certifying in TRE is doing a lot of your own TRE.
We get to complete 40 sessions of our own TRE process, journal about it, and benefit from it. It’s been the best tool, at the just right time. Everything is closer to the ground–my communication, my parenting, my management of emotions and stressors, and my ability to allow myself to be who I am, no filter, with the full range of human emotions, and less self-judgment.
After TRE, I feel soft, like a turtle without its shell. Because I’m experiencing this more often, I’m learning how to handle being soft, which is like understanding how strong you really are, and where you don’t any longer have to compensate for the irrelevant judgments of others. I’m getting to know myself.
And I’m really observing how we use armor, as a trauma-steeped culture. We rarely take it off, and we have gotten really good at covering our entire being.
And just maybe, we can notice that, and do something differently about it. We can soften our front bodies a little, and we can trust that we are plenty strong. We can start to do the work of understanding that being encased in armor, and unreachable, doesn’t stop us from dying when a car hits us.
And that it does keep us from living as completely as possible while we’re still alive.