Every summer, I wear a heart monitor for one week. Every summer, I become a cyborg. It's almost always during a heatwave, and it's always an irritating and itchy week that reminds me of the fragility of life and the delicate balance we need to walk to maintain health. My mom has a severe heart condition (Non-Compaction Cardiomyopathy) and has a pacemaker and defibrillator. It might be genetic. My mom and I both have a gene mutation (a variable of unknown certainty). They don't know enough about it, and their information is always evolving. I'm in the gray zone, the in-between spot, with a slightly abnormal heart without a super definitive diagnosis, so they have been monitoring me since 2013 when I had some symptoms. My right ventricle is not as strong. It is possibly from my ASD repair (open heart surgery) from when I was 13, and my left ventricle is just shy of normal. My mom and I are connected by this thing that scares us but also makes us more resilient and more appreciative of the time we do have--always defying the odds.

You need tools to face ambiguity of any kind but especially uncertainty of one's health. COCOON is a reminder to self-soothe, especially when life becomes unmanageable. It is an attempt to feel comforted and safe in hopes of transformation and healing to rejuvenate and restore mind, body, and soul. And after a year of cocooning because of the pandemic, it's important to find the courage to re-emerge from that comfortable hidden place with the right kind of support and with the right speed.

COCOON is a couple of months in the making. It deals with themes of wellness, transformation, aging, acceptance, vulnerability, intuition, and women's health while exploring the life cycle of a Painted Lady Butterfly. During the spring, I conceived of the idea and then went through some health and life changes over the summer that made the themes even more meaningful and vital. I had an electrophysiological study to check for dangerous arrhythmias, and I had an Implantable Loop Recorder placed for more comprehensive monitoring.

I didn't realize it was butterfly season when I bought some caterpillars on a whim for inspiration. I soon learned about the Monarch Migration that happens in the fall in Cape May County as they make their way to Mexico in time for the Dia De Los Muertos celebration. Nature and my faith have always helped me through life's uncertainties.

Mental and physical health are so interconnected, almost inseparable. There are many different schools of thought about wellness. I especially like Judith Herman's views. She was interested in how we re-establish wellness after a trauma. She believes we re-establish wellness by allowing ourselves to feel a range of human experiences (rather than just the polarities of either numb or overwhelmedness that trauma often imposes on us). She believes that processing trauma without basing our entire recovery on achieving perfect forgiveness, revenge, or restitution requires us to be flexible and tolerant of limitations in ourselves and the environment. Part of dealing with trauma is the formation of a coherent narrative. Jean Baker Miller, founder of Relational Cultural Theory (formerly Feminist Relational Theory), noted five indicators of relational wellness: a sense of zest, clarity, self-worth, productivity, and a desire for more connection. I particularly like the "sense of zest."

I've been working on making my body my friend. The body goes through cycles. We are always in transition. We are always in flux. It is important to love and accept each stage.

This piece features costumes and magic inspired by Bjork, Isabella Rossellini, and Janine Antoni. It is also inspired by Michel Gondry's film "Mood Indigo." I dedicate COCOON to some resilient women in my life (my mom & my friend Renée) who have battled chronic illness and health issues, something I've struggled with myself. This is also for anyone who has faced their mortality earlier than they would have liked to. It is important to remember: You are unique, and it is your greatest strength.

Woven into this piece are snippets of archival footage: an old cassette tape from '71 and a voice recording and Meditation CD from 2010.

Check out my latest short film: COCOON!
View the COCOON photo series here:

  • Joy Waldinger
  • Joy Waldinger
  • Joy Waldinger
  • Joy Waldinger
    Key Cast
  • Joy Waldinger
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short
  • Runtime:
    11 minutes 28 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    November 5, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Joy Waldinger

I am an artist, writer, filmmaker and educator from Philadelphia. I write, produce, direct, film and edit my short films. Ever since I was about 10 years old, I’ve been filming with whatever junky camera I could get my hands on and instructing those closest to me to breathe life into one of my scripts. I have been published in: PhillyVoice, CRED Philly Magazine, The Sun Magazine and Evening Street Review. I was the Lloyd E. Penland Scholarship recipient (2012), received honorable mention for my short story “Cicada Crescendo” in the 2020 CRAFT Elements Contest (2020), placed third in The Bucks County Short Story Fiction Contest (2017) and The Bucks County Community College Haiku Contest (2012). I am a volunteer curator for Button Poetry and I recently self-published my children’s book Like The Sun Holds The Moon: A Children’s Book on Amazon.

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Director Statement

Film Festival Selections & Awards:
HEY, IT’S MOM: selected for the Ridgway Independent Film Fest (2020)
THANKS, DAD: selected for the (2020) Short to the Point ISFF AWARDS and
Semi-Finalist for the October-November bimonthly for DFF (Dumbo Film Festival)
Official Selection for the Creators Film Festival (2021)
Official Selection for Flickfair Film Festival (2021)
Official Selection for Motion Pictures International Film Festival (2021)
DESIGNED TO FAIL: winner for WRPN Women’s International Film Festival (2021)
SACRED: Won Indie Super Short Documentary for the Best Indie Film Award (January 2021) AND
Official selection for the Global Indie Film Fest
Official selection for the Beyond Film Festival 2021
JURASSIC AGGRESSIVE: Semi-Finalist for Iconic Images Film Festival (2021)
POCKET: honorable mention for the Athens International Monthly Art Film Festival
Finalist for the International Short Film Awards
Winner for the Hong Kong Indie Film Festival April 2021
NOURISHMENT: finalist for the Paris International Short Festival (2021)
TAPE: finalist for the Toronto Independent Film Festival of Cift (2021)
SAHARA FONZIE: semi-finalist for the Niagara Falls International Short Film Festival (Summer 2021)