-written by Jonelle Gunderson
I wrote this story a few years ago. It’s a true story, based on a particularly strange Victoria Day. Life has continued to be generous with me every since… so I think it bears as an important reminder to listen to the signs life offers up, and trust.
Lately I’ve been struggling. I say lately— but really it’s been ongoing for a few years now, with alternating periods of uncertainty and assuredness, despair and hope. And guilt. Guilt because there’s really so much to be grateful for, I lead a charmed life with many incredible opportunities and people in it… I feel there’s no right to complain of this first-world-self-manifested-crisis.
But yet— it’s all relative, right? And being an artist is hard.
Anyway, I digress. Lately it’s come to a bit of a head, which prompted some tough self-reflection and questions like “why did I move out here? Do I still want to be an actor, anyway? Do I need to make a serious change? What if I don’t meet a partner to share this life with- am I ok with being alone?” So I got down and dirty with the universe a few nights ago and did something that I admittedly haven’t for years… I prayed. Which made it difficult to start… how do you form a prayer, when you’re feeling spiritually confused? I didn’t want to light candles, so opted to lie in bed and speak to the ceiling. Seemed acceptable for the time being.
And it went a little something like this:
“Ok… universe. I’m struggling right now. Big time. I know you probably get a lot of this—people only talking to you when they need something— but I feel like I’ve tried to begin this year with gratitude, and I’m still having a hard time. So I want to ask a favor. And I’m not asking for blessings, I’m not. But I’m confused, and beginning to feel very, very lost. What I would like— is a sign. A sign for love, and a sign for my career. Do I change? Come up with a different game plan? Do I continue along the path I’m on, or should I make a drastic shift? I’m lonely and tired… and feel I could use a tiny bit of encouragement in the right direction. I’m equally as open to either path right now, so any signal would just be swell. Cool. Thanks.”
And you know? I woke up the next morning feeling a little lighter, so went ahead and did it again the next night, and the night after that. And this is where things get interesting. On the third night I had a dream that someone gave me a tiny baby turtle as a gift… a little toonie-sized reptile in my upturned palm. But I dream a lot, so didn’t think anything of it and went about my business the following day. Later I went to the gym, and on my ride home… I FOUND A TURTLE ON THE STREET. Yes. Just goin’ out for a Monday stroll was a pet-store turtle (specifically a red-eared slider, the same as my dream) moseying across the road. I nearly hit it with my bike! It seemed like everyone on the street had flung open their front doors to let the sun in that day, so I asked around to see if anyone had, erm, misplaced him—which was met with a few (understandable) chuckles of incredulity… I mean who ever hears of a turtle running away from home?
So I took him home with me. You think the story’s over, right?
My home is in full-on construction mode right now. Our bathroom has been torn apart, and walls are getting patched and re-molded, we have spices and bathroom supplies scattered willy-nilly all over the place. This leads to a lot of strangers passing through, most of which have been pretty rad. Anyway, while I was getting Turtle settled in some water—one of the contractors came through the kitchen and I called him over to check out the new little buddy. To which he says “Wow- cool. (Pause) Hey… are you religious?” After a certain amount of uncomfortable bumbling and sweating he politely interrupted and said, “that’s ok… well I am. Or, spiritual at least. And, well— I don’t know— I was just wondering if maybe there’s something you might be trying to rush right now?”
“What?” I asked. Not without a certain degree of WTF.
“Well, it’s just that turtles are symbols of patience, right? Slow and steady wins the race. So I’m just thinking that if there is something you’re trying to rush, maybe the world is trying to tell you to take it slow, and be patient. You know? Good things come, and need time to grow. And you found that turtle. I think someone’s trying to talk to you.”
By this point I was crying into my coffee, and Daryl (the contractor) was making a slow backwards dance-steps towards the doorway, like you do with large animals you’re trying not to startle. But after I took the time to pick my jaw up off the floor and settle Turtle in his Tupperware bowl, I found Darryl again to thank him. Does he know what a gift he gave me that day? As if #1 the dream, and #2 finding the thing wasn’t enough…. But the universe then gave a resounding *forehead slap*, shook it’s head and said “oh for god’s sa…. She still isn’t getting it. Ok well hit her with a messenger then.” Enter Daryl.
I know you can probably see signs in anything if you’re looking to find them… and landmarks are everywhere if you just pay attention. But if it comes down to me being the kind of person that sees a turtle for what it is (merely a turtle) or a person who can take a lesson of patience from it all… I choose the latter. So, ok universe. I’ll bite. I’ll keep on keepin’ on, with gratitude and hopefulness, and as much joy as I can…with patience. Maybe stick my head out of the ol’ shell every once and a while, and hope that whatever you have in store for me, is exactly where I need to be.
Jonelle continues to live in Toronto as an actor; as well as a writer and producer. She found love, found calm, and even found the turtle a new home.