Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Create a Cocoon: Recreating Your Soul After Heartbreak

So often, after betrayal, we rage against the unfairness of it all. It was HIS mistake, we wail, but I'M paying the price.
True that...and no amount of screaming at the universe is going to change it (though go ahead and scream. It can feel good in the short term). Sometimes horrible things happen to people who don't deserve it. Car accidents, disease, madmen with guns. It IS unfair...but it's also life.
What if, however, we completely altered the paradigm of our pain. What if, and I realize this is radical, we recognized this pain as the chance for growth. To re-create a self that's stronger, wiser, less eager to please others, more eager to please ourselves.
Sue Monk Kidd, bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees, writes often about spiritual transformation. I've written before about her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter here and here.
She says this in When the Heart Waits:
She didn't understand that there was a journey to be made here. A waiting, a gestating, a slow and uncertain birthing. That is where [grace] was to be found. Not in the erasing of the experience, but in the embracing of it.
A cocoon is no escape...It just takes time....
But we have to be patient. We have to let go and tap our creative stillness. Most of all, we have to trust that our scarred hearts really do have wings.
Perhaps it is just with hindsight that I can consider her suggestion that we look at pain not for what it has taken from us, but for what it can give us. Perhaps that would have seemed crazy when I was in the heart of my pain. But perhaps not. Perhaps it would have allowed the blackness of my days to crack open a tiny bit, to allow the tiniest bit of light in to illuminate the possibility that from pain comes growth. My daughter, after all, is experiencing growing pains as we moves toward her teens. We certainly experience pain when we're birthing a baby.
What Kidd suggests is that we create a cocoon, something I did almost instinctively after D-Day. I cut off the world and retreated into that which nourished and protected me. My kids, my mother, one special friend. And then...waiting. And that's where so many of us wonder if our pain will be interminable. We wait. And we wait. And we wait. And it seems as if nothing is happening.
Waiting, Kidd reminds us, isn't passive. Indeed the word "passive", she points out, comes from the same root as "passionate", meaning "to endure." Few of us would argue that we're not "enduring." That we can believe.
Waiting is thus both passive and passionate... It involves listening to disinherited voices within, facing the wounded holes of the soul, the denied and undiscovered, the places one lives falsely.
It can be there, in that cocoon, that we can metamorphose into something with wings.

13 comments:

  1. You have articulated what I have struggled to put into words. I feel fortunate that my discovery day was at the end of December. My clearest memories (most are foggy from trauma) of the months after discovery are those of withdrawal, questions, answers, processing, pain and waiting. We "cocooned"-no family, no friends, just the two of us healing together. The days were short, snowy, cold, darkness came early and in some ways that, in itself, was comforting. Thank you for your usual insight.

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    1. H'mmm...now that you mention it, my D-Day was mid-December and once I was through the chaos of Christmas, I, too, retreated fairly easily thanks to a snowy, dark world. Though I wasn't ready to emerge in the spring with "wings", I was somewhat restored. Only to be slammed again on D-Day 2 (Father's Day). Sigh...

      Elle

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  2. This is so right on. One of the first things I did after DDay was remodel my bedroom. I didn't want any part of it to remind me of how it was when he came home, crawled into bed and snuggled up next to me after being with her. I suppose I created a cocoon. I call it my safety zone. 5 mths later, as I'm still dealing with heightened anxiety and depression, this is still where I spend as much time as I can get away with. This is where I can feel comfortable. This is where I can break down if I need to, where I feel safe from the lying, cheating, hurtful world that's beyond those doors and windows.

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    1. I think it's important to have a sanctuary – a place where you can take the mask off and retreat to when the world beats you down. I'm glad you created that on your own. That's empowering in itself. But remember, a cocoon isn't a place to stay forever. It's a point on a continuum where you rest on the way toward greater growth. It can be tempting to stay there – I still sometimes have to push myself to leave. But we have to remember that we're not meant to "cocoon" forever.

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  3. Secret life of bees---one of my fav books!

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  4. Many years ago -- when I as newly married -- I read Joan Anderson's "A Year by the Sea." It is a perfect book to read after suffering a betrayal and trying to decide if you want to stay in your marriage so I read it again. Then I went on to read all of her other books including "An Unfinished Marriage." She writes very metaphorically and in "An Unfinished Marriage" she tells a story of working in a fish market where a customer asks if one of the lobsters in the tank is dead as it is not moving and huddled in a corner.

    The market owner explains to Joan and the customer how the lobster is in the process of molting. Joan takes the natural process of molting and writes a beautiful metaphor about her situation. I will not do it justice, I'm sure, but she points out that in nature when an animal is vulnerable -- if it is wounded, giving birth or molting -- the natural instinct is to find a hiding place, hunker down and wait until they are strong enough to go back out and face the world.

    We, as betrayed wives, are simply doing what our instincts are telling us to do in order to stay safe and protect ourselves. So, create your cocoon and do not second guess your primal need to stay there until you are ready to emerge.

    And, remember you are the author of YOUR life. You get to make the decisions about your life on your own time frame -- whatever anyone (husbands, I'm talking to you, here) thinks of you, your healing or perceived lack thereof does not matter.

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    1. I was at a used book sale last week and I kept picking up An Unfinished Marriage and putting it back down (I already had an armload of books), picking it up, putting it down... In the end I didn't buy it. Now I wish I had. When the universe speaks, we need to listen. :)
      Thanks for your comment. There aren't too many creatures that go out in the world when they're wounded and pretend they're fine. Except humans. Sometimes it's necessary but lots of times we need to acknowledge our woundedness and retreat to heal.
      I'm so, so glad to hear you're doing well. Yay for you!!

      Elle

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    2. I love that. And it's so relatable. I love reading relatable things.....good reminders that I'm not going crazy. Thank you. :)

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    3. We're not the crazy ones, everyone else is!! :)

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    4. We may have been driven to the brink of crazy by our spouse's selfishness but I doubt many of us would be standing on that precipice otherwise. ;-)

      Heart breaking today for Holly Patraeus and the OW's spouse. Interesting fact -- yesterday -- the day the story went public was the OW's 40th birthday. Especially poignant for me, Elle. At least it wasn't Holly's birthday.

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    5. When I heard of Petraeus I simply found myself muttering, "There goes another one..."
      I should know better. Of course, behind every scandal is a woman generally in shock. That's for reminding me that she's one of us...and one that will desperately need a cocoon from the public's prying eyes.

      Elle

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  5. How do you find a cocoon when the one space you had your husband brought the OW? Yes my CH screwed the OW in my bed. I desperately need a place to go hide and lick my wounds but with 6 children there isn't anywhere to go. I now call what used to be our bedroom or our nest THIER bedroom. CH gave her our room, our house along with my self worth, self confidence, my sanity. Where do I go?

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    1. Anonymous,
      I'm so sorry for where you are. It's enough to have a husband who cheated...it's worse still that he violated the privacy of your home.
      I know of one woman who burned the mattress! Not sure if that's the most practical (or safe!) way of dealing with it...but I do think it's important to restake your territory. Can you at least buy new sheets that you love (the hell with what he thinks), or a new cover? Anything that can allow you to feel as if that room is yours again? Perhaps your kids could help you choose something that makes you happy. They don't need to know why -- just that you deserve something special.
      My cocoon was my daily talks with my mother, to whom I could cry and rage. It was books, that offered at least a temporary escape. It was running, which I did at night so I could cry and no-one would see. I didn't see friends who didn't know. I didn't do things that made me feel remotely fragile (for instance, I cut off contact with my husband's family, a group that had always made me feel unsafe).
      Do you have friends or family to whom you can confide? That can provide at least a metaphorical sanctuary for you to heal?
      Your husband can't take your self-worth, confidence or sanity unless you're willing to give them up to him. Fight for yourself. And fight for that place in the world (with your kids?) that makes you feel safe.

      Elle

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