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  • Writer's pictureJeanine Bruen

The Cocoon

“What was scattered

gathers.

What was gathered

blows away.”

Heraclitus


I’m a recovering perfectionist.


I’ve wanted to start this blog for a long time, but being in recovery as I am, kept waiting for the right time, for the perfect thing to write about, in exactly the correct way. Of course, there is no right time. “Perfect” is insufferable and doesn’t actually exist. And there’s never a guarantee of more time in general, so I’m doing it today. I may be great at this. I also might forget I started a blog by next week. Bear with me.


If you were directed here from my poetry account: hi, friend. If you don’t know me, allow me to give you the rundown: I’m Jeanine (aka Poet in Progress). The first thing you need to know is that I’m a giant nerd and a little bit of a weirdo but also cute and nice. Based in NYC, I’m a singer, actor, writer, teacher, etc, etc etc…I’m spinning lots of plates these days. In fact, lately, when people ask me what I do for a living, I’m not really sure what to say. I used to lead with “I’m an actor” or “I’m a singer”. But as I get older, I’m becoming resistant to defining myself first by what I do. For the last fifteen years or so, my misinformed idea of success and my obsession with my career consumed most of my life. Sometimes, my very desire to live depended solely on how well I perceived it to be going. And what happens when your identity and career are inextricably linked like that is when you lose a life-changing job because your industry is shutting down due to something like, oh, a pandemic…so do you. And you spend a few weeks in bed. And you find yourself staring in the mirror more than usual, examining the new lines on your face and your seven new gray hairs and wondering how you’re supposed to get through tomorrow.


Some cocooning has been necessary over the last few years as I’m figuring out how to heal from severe burnout and rewire my anxious brain. My creative energy is shifting lately in different ways as a result, more and more to my pen. I’ve dreamt up so many different versions of my life in various universes. An eternal student, I love so many things. I want to live for a hundred more years so I can try them all. But that’s not how this works. When it comes to time, we get what we get. So I’m just trying to remain curiously open to where I’m meant to be rather than desperately micromanage my destiny. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last decade: We are not in control. There’s a Jeff Buckley quote I love that essentially says to truly live, you have to plant seeds in the soil, not plow it. No matter how much you try to plan, plans go awry. Stuff happens-traumatic, awful stuff that changes us on a cellular level. We are the children of a pandemic now. Nothing is as it was before. I’m learning not to fight that. The sooner you can learn to swim with the tide and not against it, the happier you become. I think. Something like that. In summary, I am learning to put my humanity above all now, so:


I’m just a person! Like you! I think being human is scary but cool. I love cooking for people. And eating. If I don’t have a piece of chocolate every day, I cry. Museums are my happy place and I’ve spent countless hours daydreaming up and down the halls of the Met. I worship Mary Oliver. A slow walk through the park, observing all the colors on a crisp autumn morning is my church. I’m pretty funny (depending on who you ask). I’m, above all, a vessel for useless information. Did you know Paul Revere was a dentist? Now you do. I can also give you a full history of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s entire relationship. I started a movement a few years back: #checkonbenaffleckscolon2021. (He drinks a lot of Dunkin and we should all be concerned about the state of his insides. If anyone has access to his recent colonoscopy results plz airdrop them to me.)


The main thing to know is I spent a lot of years running as far away as I could from any chance of failure, which I now know is not only necessary, but a gift. Though I’ve earned and enjoyed so many happy moments and successes, I never had the spare bandwidth to realize my body was in fight or flight all the time. As you can imagine, running on empty like that doesn’t end well. It led me to all kinds of chronic pain and other health issues, physically and mentally. I say I burnt out but “burnt down” is more what it felt like-a house on fire, the integrity of the structure unable to withstand it any longer. So I’m trying something different now. I’m starting therapy. I’m learning to live softly and focus on how my life feels on a cellular level. What does it look like in the small moments, in the in-between? When I wake up, splash some water on my face and shuffle to the kitchen to make a coffee, what does that smell like, taste like? I want it to feel well with my soul, peaceful. I want to, as my dad says, “throw out the anchor” and make a conscious effort to feel every moment as it’s happening.


To the person staring back at me in the mirror, I now say: Grant yourself permission and space to be a work in progress. Do the reflection necessary to figure out what your values and beliefs are, not what someone else told you they’re supposed to be, and go from there. Make those plans, but whatever happens, be compassionate with yourself. Try to be malleable enough to leave room for the unexpected. You will change (there will be grief involved in that). You won’t ever be the same person you were ten years ago again and that’s okay.


The life you never planned for yourself is way more interesting than the one you came up with when you were eighteen.


Join me on this journey as I keep discovering mine.


“Life has its own rhythm and you cannot impose your own structure upon it, you have to listen to what it tells you… It’s not earth that you move with a tractor…life is not like that. Life is more like earth that you learn about and plant seeds in… It’s something you have to have a relationship with in order to experience…you can’t mold it, you can’t control it.”

-Jeff Buckley

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