When You’re Trapped

by Sherry Riter in Family,Turtle

Turtle, up close and personal

Being trapped physically, emotionally or mentally is a nightmare which if you haven’t experienced it, I’m sure you’ve known other people who have lived in this very unhappy state. So before you tell me, “There is always the option to get out,” I want you to think long and hard about what you’re saying.

How To Clean Turtle’s Tank

Today I cleaned Turtle’s large fifty-five gallon tank. It was the usual nightmare. The process is arduous…

  • lay a large old blanket/comforter in front of the tank
  • cover the bathroom floor with a few towels
  • unplug and remove the lights on top of the tank
  • turn off the pump by unplugging it
  • remove Turtle and put him in a large plastic container with holes poked in the top with a little water
  • hook the special hose thing to the sink
  • turn the water on in the sink and build a suction in the tubing (that now runs from the tank to the sink ) so that it will drain the tank
  • remove the large landing rocks and put them in a bucket with all the pump tubing
  • once the tank is drained, remove all the small rocks and put them in a bag to throw away (twice a year I change out the rocks too)
  • use a glass scraper to remove all the hard guck (yes, that is a word) on all the glass surfaces
  • soak up any excess water with paper towels
  • scrub the inside of the tank with just water because the soap residue would kill Turtle
  • take the pump, heater, pump tubing and landing rocks to the tub
  • scrub all the above, but remember not to use soap
  • use a metal coat hanger wire to clean inside the tubing
  • put a new sponge, filter and charcoal bag in the pump
  • fill pump with water and take back to the tank
  • also take the cleaned landing rocks back to the tank
  • put two bags of new pebbles in the bottom of the tank
  • start filling tank back up with water while arranging the landing rocks in such a way that Turtle can swim up to the top rock and climb on to sunbathe – arranging the rock has taken me up to thirty minutes before
  • add de-chlorinator to the water
  • stop filling when tank is half full of water which is at the top of the red fish decal affixed to the outside of the tank
  • arrange all the pump tubing in the correct position – outgoing water on the left and intake tubing on the right
  • affix the heater in the water
  • pull the handle up on the pump
  • fill intake pump tube with water and screw cap on tight
  • push pump handle down
  • wait about a minute
  • pull the handle up on the pump again
  • fill intake pump tube with water again and screw cap on tight
  • push pump handle down again
  • wait about a minute and plug the pump back into the electrical socket
  • remove very excited Turtle from the plastic container and put him back into the tank
  • lay the wire mesh cover on the top of the tank
  • put the lights (one is a basking light and the other is a special sun light) on top of the wire mesh cover and plug them into the timer which turns them on in the morning and flips off all by itself at night
  • scrub tub and sink several times to ensure that none of Turtle’s crud is left on anything
  • take all towels and the huge old blanket/comforter and put them in the washing machine

I’m sweating, my back is breaking and I’m covered with Turtle nastiness all because I was shanghied many years ago!

Turtle is happy…as happy as a turtle can be, but still trapped in a large tank. He does the same thing every day – swim, eat, poop, bask under the sunlamp, play with me when I get home and swim some more. He never leaves the tank except when I am cleaning it. Turtle relies on me to cover him at night, uncover him in the morning, feed him daily and keep his tank clean. There is no way for him to get out of the tank, so he is trapped.

Are There More Choices or Am I Trapped?

Sometimes we make choices that cause us to feel trapped in the situation. For instance, I do not like cleaning Turtle’s tank at all. Nothing about it makes me have goose bumps, but I do have a choice in the matter. I could:

  • never clean the tank and Turtle would die
  • give Turtle away
  • throw Turtle out the back door
  • return Turtle to the wild
  • stop feeding Turtle and he would die
  • deprive Turtle of light and he would die
  • pay someone else to clean Turtle and hope they do it right (by the way, it is a very expensive service)

All of those things are choices that would make it so that I never had to worry about cleaning Turtle’s tank again. So I’m not trapped, right?



I love Turtle, so how could I do any of those things listed above? Loving Turtle is a factor of utmost importance in this discussion. Because I love the tiny creature, I am trapped into cleaning the tank because I want him to live. I also feel responsible and obligated to keep him clean, healthy and alive. I would feel so guilty if I killed him and I don’t live with guilt very well.

Love changes everything.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Like my friend who has been in and out of a very unhappy, abusive relationship, we are often trapped in our lives because we “love” someone. But do we love that person or are we in love with the idea of loving that person? Or maybe we love the person they used to be and the current person is a mere shadow of him or her? No matter what the case may be, loving someone opens you up and makes you vulnerable to a world of hurt and pain.

Being trapped doesn’t have to always be a permanent condition like Turtle and his tank. Instead, it can be an education and/or preparation period. Did you ever see the movie with Julia Roberts called “Sleeping With The Enemy” about an abusive husband who kept his wife trapped in a life of miserable unhappiness? The wife couldn’t just walk out the door, drive away and get a divorce because her husband would kill her…literally. It took her a long time of living with him and faking happiness, in order to have everything prepared for a secret exit by faking her drowning in the ocean. I won’t tell you the rest of the movie, but my point is that she had to wait until the time was right to leave.

There are times and situations that cause us to live in an unhappy existence while we prepare for the escape so that we are no longer trapped. Looking at someone else’s life and telling them to immediately leave or change is not good advice unless they are in definite peril. You may rationalize and think that you know best, but you don’t know all the pieces of the puzzle unless they have told you everything…and I mean everything. My advice to you is rather than give advice, ask what you can do to help and then do it without throwing your assistance in the person’s face.

If you are trapped now, I’m telling you that it doesn’t have to be permanent. You can have happiness if you are willing to do the things necessary to break free of the binds that now hold you. Plan and prepare for your release. If no one is there to help you, just keep saying, “I can do this…I can do this,” over and over again until you are convinced it is the truth.

On the flip side, if you are trapped, but unwilling to do anything that will change the situation…stop complaining. Live in your unhappy state and give everyone’s ears a rest from your constant turmoil. Living in the fifty-five gallon tank isn’t that bad and apparently your life isn’t either. It takes a whole lot of fortitude and effort to change the direction of your life. You can do it. It is easier to find success with a bunch of people that are supporting and encouraging your efforts, but you can also do it alone.

Turtle may be physically trapped in his tank, but he is quite contented with having me at his beck and call. Obviously, I get a whole lot more enjoyment from the relationship with Turtle than the unhappiness cleaning his tank causes me to feel. After three hours of “turtle tanking,” I feel rather trapped, but in the back of my mind I know that I have options. Besides, I left one thing off the list of how I wouldn’t ever have to clean the tank again….I could make turtle soup! Right?

No! Totally wrong!

I mean totally, totally wrong!

I couldn’t eat Turtle!!!

How could that thought ever cross your mind?!!!

The Redhead Riter

This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joan May 16, 2011 at 11:42 am

I understand why you clean Turtle's tank even though you do not like to do so. You made it abundantly clear that you love Turtle. Whenever we love someone there is always compromise involved.

I felt trapped in an unhappy marriage but I did not know how to get out. And I did not plan my escape, because I did not think that I could survive on my own.

But one unsuspecting day, I found out that my husband was having an affair. It was then that I had to face the truth — my marriage was a lie. And I had to ask myself this question: Do I want to live in a marriage that was a lie? The answer was clear to me. It was time that I moved on with my life.

That was eleven years ago — and I did move on to a life full of freedom and choice that I never could have imagined possible when I felt trapped in my unhappy marriage. And I more than survived — I thrived!

It was not simple in the beginning. Change is never simple — but change is exactly what it takes to turn one's life around if one feels trapped in an unhappy relationship or situation.

But you are completely right — no one can tell another person when it is time to leave an unhappy relationship and move on. Only the person who feels trapped and unhappy knows in their heart when they are ready to make that change.


2 Nancy May 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm

This was so great. I now think of being trapped in a whole new way! Boy, am I trapped.


3 Amy May 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Very interesting.. My Mom has a turtle pond outside and just loves it..


4 Terri May 17, 2011 at 12:38 am

It is apparent that you love your pet. It was a great message in being trapped too. I'm lucky not to have ever been in a situation like that although I know some who have been. So turtle is 8 years old now? If he gets any bigger you can do what my sister did, she bought a little kiddie pool and her turtle loved all of the room. Not everyone wants or has room for a pool in their house ha.


5 mannoy @webnatin May 17, 2011 at 2:49 am

We get trapped to something in one way or another but we can choose which one we like to get trapped.


6 Janet May 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Thank you so much for such beautiful intrinsic writing,
Straight, clear, insightful, humorous,
I face it alone, In fact I always have, I have got to this
Point all by myself, I can go further and achieve more
Thank you for inspiring me even more

Another aging redhead xxx


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