I could not get out of bed. I wasn’t sick, or excessively tired, or even particularly sad. I hadn’t experienced a bad argument or encountered an unexpected disappointment. On the outside there was absolutely nothing wrong. But on the inside, something was not right.
Were robbers attacking me? Were those gremlins under the bed finally coming out to get me? Was there a meteorite heading to NYC? No, no, and, not that I was aware of. It was a perfectly beautiful Tuesday afternoon and while the excitement of a brand new chapter in my life awaited me, a chapter I had eagerly and so happily finally brought to life, there I was lying in bed in my Brooklyn apartment. Curtains closed, lights off and shaking with fear.
My mind went through all the worst outcome scenarios that could transpire over the next couple of months and each of them came to the same heart-stopping conclusion – failure, miserable, humiliating, flat on my face failure, ending up penniless, homeless, my ravaged corpse found under the Brooklyn Bridge, my tombstone encryption reading: ‘Here lies a woman who foolishly dared to tempt stability, who wandered off the normal path to success and who, as nature would have it, got caught in the mighty grips of failure. May she rest in peace.’
I tried to distract my mind from, well, my mind, by reading, desperately latching onto words to save me from drowning. But I could still feel the fear churning in my abdomen, knocking on my heart, weighing down on my shoulders and neck with so much intensity that I found myself inadvertently holding my breath and had to coax myself into breathing.
Eventually I drifted into a sweaty, predictably restless sleep. Then the dreams began. Oh boy, those dreams. Drowning in tsunamis, running away from dinosaurs and giant two headed snakes, trying to save my family in a civil war that included zombie soldiers and robot monsters. After each mini-horror episode I would wake up with a gasp, remind myself that it was all, thankfully, just a dream, and then cautiously drift back to sleep.
But there was one dream that stood out from the chaotic subconscious representations of anxiety. In it I was running through a market, a large bazaar of sorts. Naturally, I was scared, I believe of being caught by the authorities, so I was darting behind carts and rows of fruit trying to abscond as fast as possible. Then suddenly, a gypsy woman confronted me. She was draped in beads and the suffocating smell of incense surrounded her stall. She gently took me by the arm and as I resisted and told her I had to go she said “Don’t worry, you’re safe, come, I will heal you.” I wouldn’t have followed her had her touch not been so electric, as if her entire body was a surge of electricity.
She sat me down on a chair, her fiery gaze never leaving my eyes. “You will be healed,” she kept saying. Looking into her eyes I could swear I saw flames. I began to doubt my decision, how was she going to ‘heal’ me? Douse me with changaa and set me ablaze? She put her hands on my shoulders, I closed my eyes, said a prayer, waiting to hear the strike of a match. And then she whispered…
“Embrace the turtle…. let go and embrace the turtle. Embrace the turtle, embrace the turtle…”
A barely audible chant repeated over and over and over again. I then woke up, or so I thought. I looked beside me in bed and who was lying next to me? Me! Only Me was in distress, my eyes were bloodshot, my face was crimped in pain, tears streaming down and, most shockingly, my hands tied behind my head. I looked at Me, confused, wondering what to do, how to help Me. Then, with an excruciating wail Me starting crying, then screaming and flailing around. I was helpless; all I could do was cry with her. All while the gypsy woman’s chant continued to echo in my ears “embrace the turtle…embrace the turtle…embrace the turtle.”
I woke up, for real this time, gasping for air. There are weird dreams and then there are dreams.
Fast forward a few days later. By then I had found the courage to leave my bed and take the first few steps into this new chapter. I was still feeling the fear, but I was doing it anyway, one small action at a time. With my confidence growing I began to understand my fear better, along with the underlying feelings depicted in my dreams.
Drowning in the waves of a tsunami represented my overwhelming anxiety, facing what appear to be completely uncontrollable elements. All those monstrous attackers were the soldiers of failure, criticism, shame, and humiliation, all waiting to eat me alive. And me facing the tied up, tortured ME? Easily explained by the unhappiness I felt towards the end of my previous chapter. My sub-conscious mind is simply, and explicitly, making sure I am aware of my, potentially crippling, fear of uncertainty. And who hasn’t faced the crushing fear of uncertainty?
Bearing in mind that uncertainty is different from anxiety; being uncertain about a decision, the future or any particular situation implies an element of risk, and reward. The reality that a lot can be gained, but A LOT could very well be lost. As I’ve often stated, human beings are risk adverse. We’re driven towards stability, what is known and ideally, proven, the safest most-trustworthy option, all things considered. Uncertainty is painful, and this pain is only heightened when judgment comes into play especially in the form of exposure to criticism. There’s a reason why few of us venture off the beaten path; it’s hard and scary.
But, to achieve great things uncertainty must be endured. If you’re not truly scared you’re not pushing yourself far enough. If you’d don’t have something to loose you don’t have enough skin in the game. That’s what they say right? That’s what all the great leaders, achievers, creators and makers adhere by, right?
So my days continued, each one better than the last, a steady march of confidence and newfound courage enriching each tiny action. Yet there was still one thing I couldn’t get off my mind: “Embrace the turtle…embrace the turtle….embrace the turtle.” What on earth was this gypsy woman about and how did she end up in my dreams?
In the simplest terms, our dreams are our subconscious mind clearing itself out, emptying the trash. But there’s still so much unknown about dreaming, and even about sleep itself, that at best one can merely attempt to theorize why we dream what we dream. Nevertheless I racked my rational brain to understand where this turtle reference could have come from. Had I seen a turtle on TV, or even a picture of one recently? Did I hear someone mentioning turtles? Am I secretly yearning to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle? No, no and certainly no. Then what is this turtle supposed to represent????? What am I meant to be embracing??????
Frustrated and unable to let it go I finally fired up Google and searched for ‘turtles in dreams.’ Sifting through page after page I found myself flabbergasted. Shocked. Amazed. Stunned. Completely and utterly speechless. So much so that rather than try to explain my findings I’ll have to paste excerpts below.
All I can say is that whoever the gypsy woman is and however she appeared in my dream during my desperate time of need…thank you, and I promise to heed your words and embrace the turtle.
Dreaming of Turtles – Ancient Origins of Turtle Energy
The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity. Slow moving on earth, yet also incredibly fast and agile in water, those who have the turtle as totem or spirit animal may be encouraged to take a break in their busy lives and look around or within themselves for more grounded, long-lasting solutions.
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.
The wisdom of the turtle totem teaches us about determination and staying strong despite obstacles or distractions. This animal encourages those who have it as totem to listen deeply to their guidance and trust their path no matter what.
When turtle energy comes to you in dreams, it does so to remind you to seek the depths of the creative ocean. You are not meant to remain on the surface, getting battered by waves of worry and grappling endlessly with the drama of survival. You have gifts beneath the hard shell of protection that encases your heart. Release your heart by listening to the ocean that turtle swims in.
Listen and receive…
You have been like turtle that has been on its back, unable to free yourself from a self-created prison of limiting beliefs and narrow assumptions about unfortunate “circumstances.” And you even feared the tidal waves fast approaching that you believed would dash you on the hard rocks of a world that seems so harsh…and yet the waves come as a way to free you from the stranglehold of thoughts, to awaken you to the depths of the Creative Ocean where you belong…
The Ocean is rising not to destroy, but to remind…
Published in October 2014