Then and Now: Life in a Cocoon

 

When I was a pre-teen, I can still clearly remember being stretched out on my twin bed with its white quilt and blue flowers  that matched my sister’s. The sun streamed in, giving the room a gauzy, translucent lightness. I would prop my head up on one hand, my elbow bracing my body, and I would lay on my side reading a fairy tale book or an adventure story. In those moments I felt secure and at peace. I’d been raised by parents who grew up in insecurity and fear, so it’s no surprise that feeling safe, at least subconsciously, was important to and natural for me. I felt as if I were in a protective cocoon, where I could emerge anytime I felt like it. Quite honestly, though, I often felt as if I walked in the world with my cocoon secured around me.

I don’t remember ever feeling isolated back then. I had plenty, if somewhat limited, interaction with others. I loved going to school, and talked with the other students; those conversations were limited yet friendly. I got my share of attention because I was a good student. Until I entered my teen years, I don’t remember having any close friends. I did play with the neighborhood kids, but those were shaped by activities, not conversations. For a few years I would come home from school, and my poor mother would listen to me recount what we covered in class that day. Sharing those stories was a favorite part of my day and she listened with rapt attention. All these times of connection were enough for me.

My cocoon served me well. Or so I thought.

As I grew older, I sensed that something was missing from my life. In a nutshell, I think I realized that my isolation was limiting my ability to learn and grow. Since I was always passionate about learning, I became increasingly aware that the flexible and gentle boundaries of my cocoon were beginning to hold me back. I felt a tug-of-war between my desire for freedom and my need to feel safe. At some level I knew I would need to spend more time outside of my cocoon rather than rely so firmly on its protection.

Gradually I began to join groups that would make it easier to interact with others, especially other girls. I joined Brownies, Girl Scouts, and in high school I was selected to be part of a girls’ service organization; it was a thrilling accomplishment for me. I also made a couple of lovely friends, both named Sue, who showed me that relationships could be fun and nurturing. One of them even gave me my first nickname, Suky, since my last name began with a “K.” (I was called Sue in those days, so that didn’t count as a real nickname.) I had a group of friends, boys and girls, in high school, and it was so delightful to be part of a group that was smart and friendly, if not a bit dorky. And then when I lived in Israel for a year, I felt as if I’d launched into the real world.

*     *     *     *

But now I’m all grown up, and I feel much more comfortable in my own skin. I still have my insecurities and probably worry too much about what people think of me. But life has a soundness to it. I feel grounded in each day, and marvel at all the reasons I have to be grateful: a loving and supportive husband, a deep religious faith, a volunteer job to help others, dear friends, and of course Ricochet.

Have I left my cocoon behind? Not really. It is a place I can go when life becomes overwhelming. It is a retreat, a comfort zone where I can find solace and regain my balance and peace of mind. I can step into it anytime I need silence and a restorative place. But I no longer hide in my cocoon or enter it in fear.

It is liking resting in the spirit and goodness of G-d.

 

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There are 16 comments.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    A place of retreat seems to be fundamental to humans. Or at least to those of us who are predisposed to contemplation. Is that everyone? Is there anyone who cannot contemplate? If it is everyone, then it is a biological marker of individuality. We exist in tension between our need for society and our need for retreat.

    • #1
  2. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Lovely!

     

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    A place of retreat seems to be fundamental to humans. Or at least to those of us who are predisposed to contemplation. Is that everyone? Is there anyone who cannot contemplate? If it is everyone, then it is a biological marker of individuality. We exist in tension between our need for society and our need for retreat.

    I think for many people, “retreating” is anathema to their lives. People don’t like to be alone, or in silence, or in contemplation. We live in a culture that values “doing something,” which is also very important, but we also need time to take a break, to rest our minds, to experience peace. When I teach meditation to people, they say they can’t do it; they can’t shut off their minds. But that wasn’t the point. Especially beginners need to be patient with themselves. They don’t have to “blank their minds” or stop them from working. They just need to be able see the thoughts, let them go, and not get attached to them, at least in those moments. For many, the effort is either too difficult or too frightening. Thanks, Rodin.

    • #3
  4. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    I was an awkward nerd in school and tended to have few friends, so I became very adept at entertaining myself. I spent much of my childhood by myself, living in a fantasy world that manifested itself in endless drawings, stories, and nonsensical skits I recorded on a tape recorder. I was my own audience.

    In high school and college, and to some extent even in young adulthood, I became more socially confident. I formed friendships with a lot of different kinds of people and broadened my horizons a lot. But in retrospect I realize that I also had a tendency to adopt whatever persona would fit in, such that many of the people who knew me didn’t really know me. I still didn’t feel comfortable enough to drop my shields with many people. It broadened my horizons to socialize with a lot of different people, but in retrospect it seems like it took a lot of effort.

    As I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself retreating back into my own little world again. Now it’s not a fantasy world, but rather it’s my family and my house and my little piece of land here in rural North Carolina. I find that the more I think about the rest of the world, the more stressed I get. I’ve also gotten more opinionated (as we all do as we age, I think), and I have much less capacity to pretend to be someone I’m not. Even if I wanted to.

    • #4
  5. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Folks, we are going to take a quick 20 minute break now, and continue this discussion this afternoon.

    Meanwhile, Susan has asked me to fill in the time with some of my amusing wisecracking Replies, for those of you who don’t need to go potty at the moment.

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I think for many people, “retreating” is anathema to their lives.

    Amusing Reply:

    “I just love this woman.  “is anathema“.  Don’t you just love this woman?!”

    Explanation of Amusing Reply:

    Get it? She didn’t add “an” between “is” and “anathema”.  So she’s, like, a really good, careful writer.  

    Yes, you in the back…a little louder?

    No, it’s not funny that she is a good writer.  What is amusing, see, is that I am ignoring all the serious stuff she said, like an interviewer on Cable TV, and fixating on the fact that she avoided a common word usage error.  So it’s like, I am funny, for being one of those people who…

    Never mind. Here is another one that I think you will like. (Yikes. I am crashing and burning here.  Bill, how much time do we have?)

    Susan Quinn: But now I’m all grown up, and I feel much more comfortable in my own skin.

    Amusing Reply:

    Hey, I am jealous!  As soon as my skin starts to stretch a little and get more comfortable, my insides get bigger and it’s too tight again!  

    Ha-ha.  (Dave, could we have like a rimshot at the end of each of these, so people know  when to laugh?  Never mind, time’s up)

    Folks, I return you now to the serious discussion of Susan’s Post.

     

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    I was an awkward nerd in school and tended to have few friends, so I became very adept at entertaining myself. I spent much of my childhood by myself, living in a fantasy world that manifested itself in endless drawings, stories, and nonsensical skits I recorded on a tape recorder. I was my own audience.

    In high school and college, and to some extent even in young adulthood, I became more socially confident. I formed friendships with a lot of different kinds of people and broadened my horizons a lot. But in retrospect I realize that I also had a tendency to adopt whatever persona would fit in, such that many of the people who knew me didn’t really know me. I still didn’t feel comfortable enough to drop my shields with many people. It broadened my horizons to socialize with a lot of different people, but in retrospect it seems like it took a lot of effort.

    As I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself retreating back into my own little world again. Now it’s not a fantasy world, but rather it’s my family and my house and my little piece of land here in rural North Carolina. I find that the more I think about the rest of the world, the more stressed I get. I’ve also gotten more opinionated (as we all do as we age, I think), and I have much less capacity to pretend to be someone I’m not. Even if I wanted to.

    I love when you share your story, BXO. In some ways we are kindred spirits. I’m also intrigued by your comment “to adopt whatever persona would fit in;” I suspect I did the same when I was younger as another kind of self-protection. I also can appreciate the little world you live in now. Well done.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Folks, I return you now to the serious discussion of Susan’s Post.

    Mark, you absolutely crack me up!! Thank you for the moment of lightness and play. I just love it. And I’m so relieved that I used anathema correctly–phew!

    • #7
  8. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Folks, I return you now to the serious discussion of Susan’s Post.

    Mark, you absolutely crack me up!! Thank you for the moment of lightness and play. I just love it. And I’m so relieved that I used anathema correctly–phew!

    Wow! @markcamp ‘s approach opened up new vistas for me in commenting.

    • #8
  9. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Folks, I return you now to the serious discussion of Susan’s Post.

    Mark, you absolutely crack me up!! Thank you for the moment of lightness and play. I just love it. And I’m so relieved that I used anathema correctly–phew!

    Wow! @ markcamp ‘s approach opened up new vistas for me in commenting.

    My wife replied dryly, “I don’t know if they can take two of you.”

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Folks, I return you now to the serious discussion of Susan’s Post.

    Mark, you absolutely crack me up!! Thank you for the moment of lightness and play. I just love it. And I’m so relieved that I used anathema correctly–phew!

    Wow! @ markcamp ‘s approach opened up new vistas for me in commenting.

    My wife replied dryly, “I don’t know if they can take two of you.”

    Hey, I’m tough!

    • #10
  11. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    In 8th grade one female friend gave me the nickname “Marky Warky.” In 10th grade someone gave me the nickname “Chipmunk.” I never figured out why.

    Now people keep it simple and call me “Idiot.” I smile and think of Dostoyevski.

    • #11
  12. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Susan, I find your post so interesting! People are so different – I think I took an opposite path from yours.

    As I’ve mentioned before I grew up a Navy brat and attended many schools. You might think that I was a lonely child. But no, whenever we moved I made friends fairly quickly and always had a small group into which I was welcomed. I think it was partly due to the fact that when I started a new school I quickly became the smartest person in class. Rather than being shunned I was quickly accepted – maybe because I wasn’t obnoxious about it and I was a very shy.

    In my work environments I was also well liked and accepted, and always had a group to go to lunch with.

    But as I have left school and work I have gone the other way. I prefer my own company and don’t even want to make new friends. I want to do as I please and not have to accommodate others. I feel I have escaped the demanding outside world and I love being in my cocoon. 

    • #12
  13. ligneus Inactive
    ligneus
    @ligneus

    So now I guess you are ‘Suequi’. 

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    ligneus (View Comment):

    So now I guess you are ‘Suequi’.

    Some call me Suzie Q!

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    ligneus (View Comment):

    So now I guess you are ‘Suequi’.

    Some call me Suzie Q!

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    ligneus (View Comment):

    So now I guess you are ‘Suequi’.

    And don’t forget the Mighty Quinn!

    • #16
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