• Lijing Cobb

At peace

Love is a skill. The more we practice it, the better we are at it. Just like skiing. Just like volleyball. Just like singing. Just like writing. Just like thinking.

Just like everything in life. Just like cursing. Just like being mean. Just like drinking. Just like lying. Just like cheating.

But unlike skiing and volleyball, whose availability is limited to most of us, love is universal and everywhere. To get good at skiing and volleyball we need to hire coaches to teach us, whereas in love, everything and everyone can be our teacher, as long as we pay our mind to it. We are born with the magical ability to love, just like we are born to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. It is a muscle whose memory has been etched in our souls for eons, and no matter how out of practice we are, call on that memory, and wahoo, we are riding that bike again, going somewhere exciting, faster.

Yesterday my family went back to the ski slopes again. Now a weekly ritual, we are getting more efficient at preparing for departure and arrival, and we maximize the time on the slopes like experts. But my first run was, I’m loathe to say, terrible. My shins burned the entire way down. Oh the misery.

I find myself next to my husband on the lift back up, and I tell him that I might have to take the majority of the time there sitting this one out, because I’m miserable with this shin pain.

“Let’s figure it out. It’s probably just a matter of adjusting your boots and socks.” Our family expert offers his assessment.

“It’s probably not that. It’s so icy today. And I worked my legs too hard yesterday. I don’t think it can be fixed. But it’s ok, I’d be happy to read and wait for you guys.” I think I’m being pretty objective about my situation, and I fully expect his agreement.

But he insists on his analysis, and upon my further protestation, he starts saying things like, if you are stuck in a miserable relationship, and all you say is that you are just gonna give up and not do anything about it because there’s nothing you can do… “Figure it out. Suck it up. Tough it out.” He concludes.

“Ok, whatever you say.” I do not want an argument, but secretly I agree with myself more, and am determined to stop if this pain persists so that I can prove him wrong.

We get to a spot where I can sit down and adjust my boots. After I do my best and put my feet back into the foot prisons again, I get back on the snow to test it out. Oh shucks, the pain is gone! I’m stuck skiing now! And I’m happy to be wrong.

So down and up we go. I get more and more comfortable, and try to self-teach skills I think I should be practicing. At one point I hear my husband say, if you are not falling down, you are not challenging yourself enough. Well, I stay on my feet all day. I proceed at a speed and comfort I deem appropriate for my level. I see my kids taking bumps and enjoying the features in the terrain park, but I stay with what I know and try to improve on that with caution. I’m not going to the Olympics. I’m also not going to the hospital.

My two older kids are happy in each other’s company. My little one is stuck to the sides of my husband. So they go in pairs, and I go solo. Completely fine with that. I sit in the lift car and contemplate life instead. The ride back up to the top takes at least 4 times as long compared to the down, so there’s a lot of time to think.

As a recovering rageholic, I keep an eye out for my temper to make its return. I feel it lurking somewhere, and biding its time to strike. I’ve been thinking about strategies to preempt and circumvent its outbreak. In the last few days I’ve been having some issues finding nice words to say to my children when they give me a hard time. And it seems natural that the hard times pile on when I am having difficulty dealing with each one quickly enough.

My brains are pretty cooperative despite the cold. As my fingers go numb and I cover my nose with my neck warmer to prevent it from icing over, a thought crystalizes in my head, and before it can evaporate like my breath, I recite it softly to myself:

The moment I hold myself as superior to anyone, that’s the moment the world stops working in my favor, because the world works only in everyone’s favor.

The moment I think of myself as inferior to anyone, that’s the moment the world stops working in my favor, because the world works only in everyone’s favor.

The moment I act like I’m the equal of everyone, no more and no less, that’s the moment the world works in my favor, because I am everyone, and everyone is me.

Mother is not superior or inferior to child. We are equal.

Employer is not superior or inferior to employee. We are equal.

Expert is not superior or inferior to novice. We are equal.

Woman is not superior or inferior to man. We are equal.

Shall I go on?

We get back from the mountains in time for me to meet with a client, but my client cancels at the last minute. Great, perfect time for me to get on the mat and enjoy some yoga. I turn on my Glo app, and discover that one of my favorite teachers is offering a live session right at that moment. Great. I settle in to practice with him. His soothing voice gets stuck: technology issues. So I fill the time following my body’s cue and continue the session. He comes back after a while, only to be stuck again. Ok, no worries. Take your time to come back to me. When he appears for the third time, he stays, and we finish the 45 minute practice together, content and happy. I draw a bath for myself and tell my son that it is my weekly quiet time, and he agrees. The hot water receives me with warmth and love. I read my book and breathe in a lovely scent from my lit candle. Everything as it should be.

On the way to picking up my girls from the gym, I talk to my son about how good things can become bad easily if in excess, in dearth, or in poor timing. Eating can be very good for us, but not if we eat too much, too little, or choose our foods poorly. Exercise can be super beneficial to us, but not if we do it too much, too little, or recklessly, without consideration for the limitations of our body. You see, my son loves reading, but his reading habits are such that they constantly get in the way of him being able to focus on other things like eating, doing homework, practicing his instrument, leaving for school on time, etc.. I observe my tone as I talk, and as soon as I start to sound like an authority, I back off and invite him to join in the discussion. He agrees with me.

When we get home I set timers to help my kids get ready for bed. They have to eat, take a shower, fold their laundry, and get in bed in a matter of 45 minutes. Doable, with a little prompt. The timers help me to be on target as well, and at 8:30, aside from an unreasonable crying fit my little one tries to upstage the peace of the night routine, everyone is in bed ready for some sweet dreams.

I read just till the point my eyes are closing on their own, then turn off the light, snuggle close to my husband’s spot, ready to greet him in my sleep when he comes back from his weekly volleyball outing.

Love is a skill. And we are all equals. As the day’s messages put me to sleep in peace, I can’t help but think that I’ve finally gotten a good handle on this thing called self awareness. I find myself constantly stepping outside of this shell of me to observe how I talk and interact with the world around me, and I’m able to take my shell out of situations where things start to develop beyond her control. The different me persists in staying, and she’s doing it with grace.

Towards the end of our conversation about good things becoming bad with poor choices, my son stops me and says, “Mommy, please don’t talk anymore. I’m gonna cry.”

I encourage him to. No matter the reason, crying heals us. Tears are peace offerings of our soul that say, it’s gonna be ok. It’s an invitation to be better than we were yesterday. It’s a mantra that whispers the message, stay in it and never stop trying.

Let truths come in all forms of disguise. Let the tears be sweet and joy be deep. Let our hearts swell with love and good intentions, and drown out all voices of discordance.

Look ma, I'm an angel sent from heaven, and I can fly.

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