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  • Lijing Cobb

Mule therapy

I just finished a book called Love Does by Bob Goff. In this book, Bob tells 31 short stories of ordinary people in his life, including him, doing extraordinary things, and offers his reflections on how these actions relate to Jesus and God's love for humanity. His theory is that no theory is enough if we only speak about it and not engage in it. His proposal is that we all live whimsically, guided only by the torch of love so that we could dance at the edge of heaven in this life.


I'm an ordinary person. I used to be easily frazzled by the "spontaneity" (if we put it poetically) or "chaos" (that's how we usually feel it in the moment) of life. And I would like to do something to make a difference in people's life. Love does, that's a pretty straightforward theory that I can agree with, Bob. What can I do?


Nietzsche said that whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. He didn't say that whatever that nearly killed us, makes a pretty messy human being out of us. What should fill in an environment of nurture (love, support, care, patience, hugs), replace them with instruments of cruelty (neglect, insults, physical abuse), and we are certain to come out of our childhood burying huge skeletons in our closets.


Every time I had a fight with my husband over the last 15 plus years we've been together, I'd close up tight like a clam. My heart would bleed and sink. I would stop all rational thoughts, put my heart in the freezer, and prepare for the worst: being alone again. I would tell myself that I'd be ok. What's the difference? I've always done it by myself.


But my husband could be stubborn as a mule (very annoying), and sometimes he would ignore all signs I put up that I was no longer in the fight, and he would charge right on, fighting me as if I was his equal, as if I was capable of loving him the way he loves me, without reservation, with full devotion, risking everything he has. He would beat on my door until I opened up to push him away, to tell him that what he was looking for was not behind the door he was beating on.


One day when he was doing that, a different I opened up and walked out. Words came out of a secret cave inside that new me without the usual me's permission or knowledge. I discovered for the first time that the girl who locked up during a fight was not the me that walked out. The girl that locked up still had nightmares about living under the same roof as her father again. The girl that locked up had learned that locking up and tuning out was her only chance of survival when she was little. The girl that locked up was afraid, not of being alone, but of being with people in her heart space. She was trying with all her might to protect her heart space.


Have you ever been in a moment of despair when you see yourself, a tiny silhouette, standing by yourself in an endless, colorless space called your future, and you take a deep breath, steel your heart, and dry your tears?


I have a lot today, and I count myself as fortunate. But if you tell me that in order to live the life I have today, I'd have to relive what I went through as a child again, I'd probably have to say no. No thank you. I trust that my husband, my kids, and all the people I love and care about would find me in another way.


I imagine that in my life, maybe even really close to me, in my neighborhood, in my community, there are others like me who were dealt a heavy and harsh hand when they were growing up. I imagine that some are not as lucky as me who has a mule of a husband to ram their doors down so that the other girl/boy could walk out. I think there might not be too many of such mules available on the market these days and we might not be able to buy them with money. But I think that the girl who walked out of my door, who's sitting here in front of this computer typing away with truth and love in her heart today, could invite those who still need a mule in their life to come talk to her.


We can call it Mule Therapy. We will insist on beating the door down until the other self can walk out. The frightened child has been behind that closed door for far too long.


I have no agenda, no plan. I'm being whimsical, following Bob's call. Let me know if you want to go on an adventure with me. We might just discover something truly worth knowing.


Bring as little luggage with you as possible, preferably without your heavy armor or shell. It could be a long journey. You could be hiding behind a super heavy door.


My kids. I'll try to raise you so that one day, you could be mules for others.


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