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  • Lijing Cobb

A hundred pieces of me

At 4pm yesterday when I sank into a twisted kneeling lunge on my mat, my mom came to visit me in my memory. She appeared on a wide gray road, with nothing around her, and I saw only the back of her. It was the most ordinary thing one could picture in their mind, yet tears starting pouring out of my eyes onto the mat, and I had no desire to stop it. My kids were downstairs chatting with each other, doing their homework, and I could hear them bustling with life and energy. On my mat, in my mind, I stayed with my gray mom, visited with tears and the pain of never again.


It felt like home.

Before I went on my mat to wash myself with tears and cleanse my soul, I had a few particularly unfocused, and therefore challenging, hours working out a schedule, and here is how my hours unfolded from 12:14pm to 4pm.

At 12 noon I arrived at my desk. It was lunch time, and I decided to eat. So I ate, and I can’t even tell you what I ate for lunch because I was not paying attention to it. I had my planner open, my daily schedule book next to it, and my phone. I thought I was going to be doing something good and productive. I did not know that I was going to crack my world open and allow myself to leak all over the place.


At 12:14 I texted client No. 1, at 12:21 client No. 2, at 12:22 client No. 3. At 12:24 I replied to a text message from my husband. At 12:26 client No. 4, at 12:27 client No. 5. Stared at the dots and chatted with No. 5 at 12:36, 12:39, and 12:51. Meanwhile chatted with No. 1 at 12:43 and 12:48.

At 12:55 I walked over to my studio to meet a new client. By the time we finished and I walked back to my planning table again, it was 2:20. I convinced myself that I needed to eat an ice cream bar. I wrote down a few things on my planner. At 2:39 I replied to a text from client No. 6, which showed up when I was meeting the new client.


At 2:40 I decided to drive down my long driveway to pick up my 10yo. It was 18 degrees out and her book bag is heavier than her. While waiting for the bus to show up I replied to No. 5 at 2:47. At 2:48 I texted client No. 7, and decided to call her too because this client doesn’t read her texts that often. When my daughter’s bus came and she joined me in the warm car and started to chat with me happily, I raised a finger to silence her so that I could hear what my client was saying on the phone. I did not hear a word of what my daughter said to me.


When we came into the house, I suggested to my daughter that we should eat some of the chocolate cake she had made for my son’s birthday. We shared a slice, and I ate two more bites after I finished my half.

At 2:53 I started chatting with my Chinese sister. Back and forth we went, and I sent her altogether 15 texts by the time we finished at 4pm. One of the first messages I sent to her said, “I’m about to die from exhaustion today.”

At 3:08 I replied to a text from No. 4. At 3:14 I checked my email, and a school message needed prompt attention, so I texted a friend for help. Let’s call her friend A. At 3:19 I remembered that I promised the new client I met to reach out to a friend of mine in hopes of finding some help, so I texted the said friend. Let’s call her friend B.


We are wrapping up, people. Stay with me. I know you are confused. Me too. That’s exactly the point.


I texted No. 7 at 3:27 with a confirmation. At 3:30 I put a tray of Mac & cheese in the oven to cook. The kids gotta eat, and I had two more clients to take care of at 4:45 and 5:45. At 3:40 I drove down our long driveway again to wait for my other two kids’ bus. While waiting for the bus I replied to friend A at 3:41 and followed up with No. 6 at 3:44. When the kids arrived, I drove one of their friends home before coming back to our house. At 3:54 I replied to No. 5. At 3:57 I replied to a text from my husband. At 3:58 I texted client No. 8.

At 4pm I could not take it anymore. I’d been dismembered into a hundred of pieces. I’d shared myself with way too many people over those 4 hours. I’d been wanting to read and get onto my mat to find solace and wholeness, and I did not want to postpone that fulfillment anymore.


When the vision of my mom came to me in all its simplicity, I was moved to the core. She stayed with me as I moved slowly, releasing all the disjointedness of the afternoon, letting the body rediscover the interconnectedness between all its parts, finding harmony. Without a word she offered me company and calm. As I found space for my body, I regained space for myself in the mind as well. I inhaled deeply and exhaled luxuriously. I found focus.


Days like these, when they are filled with too many times and numbers, destroy me. I get cut without seeing the knife. I feel adrift without realizing I have no anchor. I give up because I have too many things to hold onto.


I wonder what it takes to protect ourselves from being dismembered like this on a daily basis. I don’t have an answer, but I don’t like the feeling of not being in my day as a whole, and having to collect little pieces of me that are scattered everywhere. What if I lost a piece one day? What if I kept losing pieces of myself over time What happens to me when I can no longer recognize myself in these little pieces?


Days like these are here to teach us that we are cutting the cake in too many little pieces to share, so many that we are left wanting, disappointed with the measly amount we are given. My kids certainly did not get their fair share of me yesterday. I shushed my 10yo, did not remember a thing of what she said to me in the car, did not even look at her when we shared our slice of cake. I left my other two kids to fend for themselves by the time they got home, because I’d already been destroyed to the point where I could no longer spare any more parts of me. I certainly did not have any meaningful exchange or interaction with my husband. By the time I picked up my kids from their activity and got home at 8pm, I announced to all of them literally in these words: I’m dead. I gotta go to sleep now.

Days like these are like decorating our house with all the things we love. When the bare walls and empty rooms fill with this and that we cannot do without, we start to unsee all the things on the wall because the eyes can get no rest, and bump into the sharp corner of this table and smash that beautiful glass vase because there is no space to turn around.


I can do better. I’ll serve my cake in the right portions. I’ll decorate my house with things I love, but leave plenty of space to swirl around, and admire each decoration. I’ll keep a lookout for the knife. I’ll hold onto my anchor.


I’ll let my soul be washed with tears of recognition. I’ll visit with my mom on her gray road of simplicity and solace.


I’ll be me, whole, not in a hundred pieces.


My potted begonia tells me: Hold yourself together, LJ. Be simple and beautiful.


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