Is That Turtle Dead?

the tortoise and the hare

The turtle has always been my totem animal. Ever since the summer between third and fourth grade, when I got my stuffed turtle Checker Chow at the 25 cent lucky duck country fair stand. Checker Chow saw me through my childhood, sleeping with me through years of tears and joy, riding along side me on Amtrak and the plane. The truth is, I still have Checker Chow. He is wrapped in my childhood quilt safely tucked away in my grandmother’s bureau in my bedroom. I pull him out whenever I need him. He slept with me through most of 2014 and 2015.

The tortoise and the hare

It amuses me that I also married one. My husband, the turtle, can attest to the fact that he has made me wait for him for years. It takes him forever to get out of the car and gather all of his accouterments before heading into the grocery store, the movie theater, or a restaurant. He wants to make sure he has everything he needs. I used to tap my toe next to the car. Now, I just head into the building and wait for him. (I’m more like the rabbit. I got places to be and people to see.)

I recently teased him while we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with a friend. “This turtle is so slow, people poke him and ask, “Is that turtle dead?”

We can laugh now. Oh, but it used to drive me crazy! Okay. It still does. Seriously, can you speed up just a bit, please!

I recently looked up what the turtle animal totem represents.

“The turtle totem symbolizes our peaceful walk on this earth. It represents the path we take as we embark on our journey through life. In contrast to emotional or spiritual development occurring in bursts, the way of the turtle anchors our personal unfolding in a slow, more grounded series of steps and longer cycles of transformation.”

…unfolding in a slow, more grounded series of steps and longer cycles of transformation. Anyone that knows me knows that slow and grounded are words not normally associated with me. I tend to be the hare – fast and…and what? Oh, I don’t know. But, grounded? No. I realize now the turtles have been trying to speak to me. They have been telling me to slow down. Breathe. Take a nap. Relax under that tree. Think about things for a bit. The rabbit doesn’t always win the race.

This husband of mine has been trying to set an example for me too. LOL!

“The turtle totem symbolizes our peaceful walk on this earth. It represents the path we take as we embark on our journey through life.”

Until a few years ago, I was in a race for my life. I didn’t know who I was competing against, but I was going to win no matter what! I was going to climb the ladder at work. Until I got to the top of the ladder and realized I didn’t like the view, or all the responsibility and stress. I was going to get that Masters degree. Until, I realized I actually didn’t even like the major I was majoring in. I was going to learn to play that guitar. Until, I learned I didn’t like the pain in my finger tips. I was going to do a lot of things, because that is what I thought I should do to be a success in this world.

One of the ways I’m becoming “peaceful” and slowing down is saying NO, when I would normally say yes. I don’t mean I’m saying no to things that need to be done – to avoid my real responsibilities. I mean saying no to all the demands and the “shoulds’ of the world. I don’t want to do what I “should” do anymore. I want to do what I choose to do because it is what I WANT to do. I want to say YES to my life, not the life others want me to live, or the life society has deemed successful.

That’s my way of slowing down. When I say YES to my life, I’m able to reveal my true path and win MY personal race. And, no one is going to have to poke me and ask, “Is that turtle dead?”

Thanks for reading!

© Heather McBride-Anders, 2016


  1. Brigitte McBride

    I think all the turtles in Missouri were trying to teach you too! I have to say, I have always admired your hare-like abilities, but am so happy for you that you have gained the turtle power with the word “no”.

    1. (Post author)

      Thank you, Brigitte. My plan is teach my hare and turtle traits to cooperate and collaborate! 🙂


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