I’ve been highlighting like mad, as I am known to do with my books because I think writing in them gives them my own personal touch. I have fought every single impulse to “nest” or “build a cocoon.” I’ve always wanted to feel at home everywhere I go, and wanted to have the freedom to come and go as I please. And then I moved back to New York six months ago, and have a hard time imagining I will ever leave. On page 45 of the book, I read 4 words that helped me realize I must find a way to love this city without needing it. “Cocoons can be paralyzing.” And this isn’t just true for a physical cocoon – an apartment or home – it’s a cocoon we build through relationships, friendships, our family, our job, and our hobbies. The conundrum becomes: “how can I feel safe and secure and confident without feeling stuck in a rut?”
I am not saying that anyone should run out and quit their job, dump their significant other, and move half way around the world to a country whose language they don’t speak. That’s anti-cocooning to the extreme and may land someone is quite a mess of unhappiness. There are ways to keep our outlook fresh while not turning our world upside down, though an occasional shake-up may be needed! Below are a few of my favorites:
1.) Take a vacation to some place new – and I don’t mean to some beach that looks like every other beach you’ve ever been to and lay around in the sun until you are a prime candidate for skin cancer while reading those horrible “beach reads”. I mean get out and meet new people on your vacation. Take a new class. Take a group tour. Learn a foreign language and try to order in a restaurant. Try a new sport. Bringing newness into your life in a foreign place will unlock parts of your personality you may have never known you had.
2.) Make it a point to get out into the world, alone. Some people feel fearful to go anywhere on their own. With kids and a spouse, this can be an especially challenging experience to create. It’s worth the effort. There is something to be said for taking a walk, going for a run, even going shopping, and allowing yourself time to be with yourself. Liking the company you keep in the empty moments is critical to break-through thinking.
3.) Try something you think you will love that is entirely useless. Feeling increasingly crunched for time, we place a premium on activities that are “useful.” I am the queen of utility. I don’t want to buy or receive a single product or experience that isn’t going to “pay off” in some way. This is a dangerous way to think and I know that. It is worthwhile to occasionally do something or buy something for the sheer joy of it. For example, a friend of mine learned Italian despite the fact that the language is not widely spoken outside of Italy. Spanish or French would have been more practical because so many more people in the world speak those languages. Still, he really wanted to learn Italian because he loved the sound of it more than any other language. At the time he saw no utility to learning the language – he did it for the fun of it. Now he’s getting his masters in ESL. Learning Italian gave him an appreciation for how difficult it must be for foreigners who come to the U.S.
4.) If pressed to name my favorite book of all time, I must say Alice in Wonderland. And if pressed for my favorite quote from the book it is "Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Imagine what the world could be like if we followed the Queen's advice. The impossible can become possible.
5.) And my favorite remedy to staying in a cocoon for too long – question everything. Steve Martin recently wrote a memoir of his life, Born Standing Up. In it, he says the way he created his break- thru comedy act was to question every assumption he or anyone else for that matter made about comedy and performing. I don’t think we should all start playing our favorite childhood game of asking “why?” every time we speak. However, there is value is taking a long hard look at what’s confusing us, troubling us, frustrating us, and re-evaluating possible courses of action. Can we re-imagine our situation, and what it would look like if anything were possible?
While cocoons are sometimes necessary, decidedly remaining in them until the cows come home will not helps us to live originally, and living originally may be the most worthwhile task we can ever take on.