If you’re really going to know me, I suppose I must confess my strange fascination. I love being honest with you because what else do I have to offer?
I can prove the strange fascination’s significance in my life: When I first went to therapy because of a kind of depression that left me lost inside–like a wandering in the dark everyday, a pointless despair where death seemed pleasurable–the psychologist, as a way of discovering me, asked me to share a single good memory.
I think he wanted to get serotonin moving in my brain. You know, think good thoughts and your brain chemistry changes kind of therapy. What could I say? Asking a depressed woman to offer something good from the shadowy depths of her mind is like asking a paralyzed man to walk. What could my mind offer up? What would yours?
It wasn’t inaugural balls, a wedding day, having children, having tea at the White House, dances, vacations, letters of acceptance to prestigious schools. No. Nothing like this.
It was turtles. I told the doctor stories of finding turtles. That’s what my depths offered up like sunken treasure full of gold and pearls.
So for years, I’ve thought about this. I love turtles. I’ve written many times about the resonance my whole self somehow feels with a turtle’s suspicious, pokey, ancient self, their home they keep with them no matter where they are (instant refuge and protection), but it doesn’t ever offer a satisfying why. I noticed, over the years, that a caged turtle offers no joy. No, I have to find it.
This morning, I think I discovered the why. I walked on the lake with my daughter in search of turtles, and our hearts sang together as we discovered a turtle. He was eating a minnow. Nothing special, really, if you think about it. I’ll do it again tomorrow and the next day.
Ah, but we discovered
it. The wonder! We were so happy that we were silenced into joy. You can’t think about yourself and your problems and the turtle at the same time. The turtle discovery takes up all the room and frees you from yourself. It’s so freeing, that this morning I wondered if part of those years of depression were when I somehow stopped discovering
. Something shut down in me–the wonder, the curiosity, the seeking. So when the doctor asked for a single memory, I went straight to the one where I walked in the mud only to have it shatter beneath my seven-year-old bare feet into a nest of a dozen tiny turtle hatchlings. This single memory sends a cascade of neurotransmitter joy all across the landscape of my brain.
The turtle brings me back to what I’m made for: discovery. The whole ripe earth is waiting for me to discover its secrets, and each person I meet is a hidden thing I might discover. Discovery! Finding the rare thing–the thing that’s there, waiting for me to find! You know how everyone talks about gratitude as the key to happiness? Well, what about discovery? That’s my joy.
I take the turtle joy and let it poke its way into my whole life:
My marriage is a daily kind of discovery because I met someone who says things like, “Tell me what you’re thinking about today,” or “Can I show you what I’m discovering?” Friendship? Lessons in discovery. Parenting? Discovery every day. Live with Flair? It’s all daily discovery, my own serotonin boost. Even depression? A journey of discovering the darkest, most remote, dangerous, and unruly places of me. I’m an explorer here, not a victim. I’m a pirate stealing booty from my own stash of forbidden treasure.
Discovery! I tell my husband that there’s nothing like discovery, and we talk about this discovery for a minute. We talk about being made in the image of God, but I say, “God really doesn’t get to discover because He knows everything.”
He says, “Yeah, but there’s something one step up from discovery, something better, that God does.”
“What? What is it?” I have to know. I have to discover it. And I’m seriously about to burst with the idea that there’s something even better, even more satisfying than discovery.
“It’s invention. He invents.”
This, then, is why I discover and then write about it, inventing it all over again in words. Discovery blooms, if you let it, into a creative act.
This is how to live a life. This is how to love. This is how to heal. This is how to worship.