Y’all I have been feeding a tortoise with a syringe. Perhaps I should rephrase that to say, y’all, I have been squirting special tortoise baby food in a tortoise’s mouth to have her spit it out and squirt it out her nose. Force feeding a tortoise whose been on a hunger strike is an interesting experience. Imagine a feeding a toddler peas knowing said toddler doesn’t like peas. Baby girl has her jaws locked and your pediatrician has told you to hold her neck behind the skull with one hand, reach around the head with that same hand and wedge open her mouth with your thumb (all the while not getting bitten) and with the other hand, shove the feeding implement in her now wedged open mouth and gently squirt in a perfect sized bite of peas which allegedly she will eat several cups of twice a day. (This little move the vet suggested is 100% physically impossible and I’m pretty sure that’s why HE didn’t demonstrate the actual feeding in his office.) Now imagine the toddler has the ability to retract her head into her shoulder blades and then could completely hide her face behind her forearms. It’s maddening right up until I consider the idea that she might die if we don’t get this force feeding routine figured out. You see our sweet Serenity, for reasons we don’t know or understand went from being a big healthy girl to one who can barely walk and pretty much slept all day. She lost almost all the strength in her limbs while we tried every remedy we could find on the internet to encourage her to try food again. In complete terror, I took her to the vet on Valentine’s Day only to find out what the problem isn’t instead of what the problem is. That was actually pretty good news I guess.
So I’ve been giving this girl 2ccs of vitamin B compound with some calcium and E thrown in for good measure and some special nutritional green goo. I’m just kind of hoping that some of this stuff is going down her throat, but honestly I have no idea. I do know she’s getting stronger and feistier which is good news except for the fact that it makes the already tedious task of feeding her more tedious.
The process is pretty scientific. I set her up with her front arms hooked over the side of a cardboard box and I press on the side of her jaw with the syringe. This does not cause her to open her mouth–oh no, that would be way too easy. What I am trying to do is piss her off. For the first few bites (and I use that term very loosely) all I’m trying to do is annoy her enough that she’ll try to bite at something (which they really don’t do often–our tortoises are lovers not fighters) however if the stars align and my cat-like reflexes are in play I shove the syringe in her mouth and try to squirt the food at the right angle in the hopes that a little bit of it winds up down her gullet. There’s no rushing her through this process. You just squirt, swab and wait. Over and over and over until she wins the battle of the hard heads. Each day I get a little more food squirted in her mouth and each day I wonder how much longer I’m going to be able to do this before I have a meltdown. I am being taught patience, humility, and service with each painfully slow bite.
While I am feeding Serenity, I say the Serenity Prayer only I usually don’t get past the first few words: God, grant me the serenity…and then I think well there she is. This what you’re praying for. In a way, it kind of is. I’m praying to accept the things I can’t change which is the fact that she’s not eating on her own right now. I’m also asking for the courage to change the things I can which for me is the selfishness and impatience that tempt me to try to force something that I just need to wait for. And I suppose somewhere in all of this is the wisdom to recognize what I can accept and what I must change.
For some reason this personal lesson feels like it’s coming at just the right time. I believe that there are things that must be accepted, such as the fact that we as a people are not all going to agree on what can and should be done in our country and that at times that will lead to anger and frustration. I also believe it is a time for the courage to change–not just one change, not just one decision, not just one policy, (and let’s stop letting people over-simplify or over-state creating some ridiculous debate over theories about what the “other side” thinks or believes that aren’t even true!) but a series of new ideas and policies that work together to keep our people healthier and safer. Maybe if we can learn a little patience and humility, we can find a way to regain our unity and our strength. It’s something I’m praying for every day.