• Lijing Cobb

The different me

I’ve been “super nice” to my family for a month now, and I’m wondering if, as the dreaded saying goes, “this too shall pass.”

Last time I was consistently “super nice” to my family was in September 2020, during the height of Covid and in the thick of my intense Yoga Teacher Training. It felt sincere and life-altering when it lasted, and I thought I’d finally found a different me. Two weeks later, my journal recorded that I was “having temper flareups lately. Loud voices coming out of nowhere.” I tried to hold onto that gentler, kinder, opener, sincerer person, but my efforts ran into walls, in front of which I raised clenched fists and unleashed shrill, helpless cries. I watched the different me drift away slowly but surely, until I settled back into the old me again, wondering if indeed I dreamed of the butterfly, or the butterfly dreamed of me.

Hello. My name is Lijing Cobb. I’m a Recovering Rageholic. And I’ve been calm for a month.

Let me share a story with you that made a difference to me. I heard it in a yoga training from a master trainer for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. She used this story to conclude our 4 day zoom training where I cried more tears each day, and I recorded it in my journal entry on 9/15/2020.

“A mother and her two children, ages 3 and 5, are vacationing at the beach. While the mother sits, the children play in the water. Suddenly the riptide pulls the children away from the shore.

“The parents and onlookers jump in, trying in vain to swim out to the struggling children. When all efforts fail and the children drift further away, suddenly the mother gains a tunnel vision. As if someone had placed a pair of binoculars in her hands, she can see her children clearly, and sees that the 3yo is, in his desperate struggle to stay afloat, pulling the 5yo under water. It would be a matter of moments before something catastrophic happens.

“The mother gathers her breath and starts to murmur these words to her child: relax, calm down, relax, calm down…, over and over again, until the children drift completely out of sight.

“A while later, the despairing parents receive the good news from rescue that their children have been washed ashore some distance down from where they are. When they get reunited with their children, the 3yo runs to the mother. Hugging her, he tells her how nice it was for him to hear her telling him to calm down and relax while he was struggling. Despite the distance and roar of the ocean, the mother’s murmur had reached the ears of her child.”

After I had finished recounting the story, I wrote down these words:

“Never underestimate the power of what’s inside us. If only we just focus and pour all our energy into a single goal. Miracles do happen!”

I had been jolted awake by the electricity of the mother’s love for her children, and the miraculous survival of the kids because of that love. I wanted to be such a mother to my children. I wanted to be such a person whose love can save lives.

But how? As the days went on, the surge of emotions died down. As the weeks wore on, everything resumed their mundane appearance. As the months trudge forth, the old way became the only way again. I lost my tunnel vision. I could no longer hear the voice calling to me, relax, calm down.

How come this time it feels different? Where did all this patience come from that I did not have before? How am I able to not say a single “bad” word about my children over the entire period of this past month? Where did my shouting voice go?

I have no clear answers for such miraculous changes that have found home in me. I just know that I’ve completely lost the desire to disrespect others. Instead, I want to be a creator of harmony. I want to love and be loved.

Yesterday, on my way to my second indoor volleyball game in years, I found myself stuck behind a jeep that was going 30 miles an hour on a road where the speed limit was 45. I was annoyed and refused to slow down, and my car got close to the jeep, as if to warn it to go faster, or else. I caught myself in this old trap, and told myself to get out immediately. First, I released the word “stuck.” I chose to slow down instead. Then I started thinking about possible reasons for the jeep to be going this slow on an empty road. Maybe the person has terrible vision and just wants to be safe. Maybe it’s a new driver and they are terrified of the road and the dark. Maybe the driver just had a fight with someone and they are distraught. There could be a million other reasons! Maybe going this slow is just what I needed to avoid a potential accident. Maybe this is just another test to see if I can indeed exercise non-violence towards everyone, loved ones and strangers alike.

So I followed the jeep for about 10 minutes down the dark and windy road with not a trace of annoyance in my heart. In fact I smiled, and breathed really easily. When the jeep window opened and someone flicked a burning cigarette end out of the car onto the road, I didn’t throw up my hands and exclaim, “Bastard! A loser after all!” Although I did lose a bit of respect for the person. But hey, no need to be dramatic about it. Not at all.

I was running really low on time yesterday morning, trying to wrap up my blog while my kids’ bus schedule kept inching closer. I’m being a bad mom neglecting my kids right now! I thought to myself. Then I realized that my son was already up and finished his breakfast on his own, and was then just reading a book. So I called down to him, and he answered readily, “Yes mom?”

“Could you please get yourself and your sister a snack, and get some water for school too?” I asked in a cheery voice.

“Ok mom!” He agreed without any protests.

“Thank you so much! It is really helpful!” I went back to finishing my blog with lightness in my heart. I heard them cutting apples downstairs, the big brother helping the little sister.

After a while my son came upstairs, “Mom, I’m brushing my teeth.”

“Great! You are taking such good care of your teeth these days. I’m so happy that you are doing that. When you are done, can you please remember to bring a mask down for you and your sister.”

“I will mom.” Again he agreed.

His help allowed me the 15 extra minutes I needed to finish my blog. When I went downstairs, I checked on their snack and mask. Snacks were prepared but still not in their bags. Water was not yet ready. Masks were secured. I put the snacks in their bags, got water for them, and we were all ready for the bus. When we got to the bus stop, we had plenty of time to spare, and the kids competed for snuggle time, much like an idyllic scene you would see in a moving film about family and love.

Let’s call the orderly and loving morning scene 1.

A month ago, the conversation and the sequence of events would have transpired like this instead:

“Kids, get your own snacks and water today. I don’t have the time. If you don’t get it, you don’t get to eat snack at snack time.”

Kids would grumble and do it. They’d fight. There would be screaming and yelling, and most likely tears from the little one. I’d be screaming and yelling from upstairs, threatening consequences to no avail.

I would shout from upstairs a reminder for the kids to brush their teeth in a tone that lets them know they were wrong for not remembering to do it already. They would either go about their own business and ignore me completely, or come up and be lost to a distraction two seconds later.

When we fly through the motions of rushing out the door to catch the bus, I would check their bags for snack, water, and mask. Most likely I would find items missing. Angrily I would shout at them for not doing what they were supposed to do, and curse my life when I zip about to finish the preparation, slamming a door or two too hard for sure. When we barely make it to the bus stop as the bus slows down to park, all of us would be in a foul mood. My son would leave without saying goodbye or hugging me. My little one would still request a hug and a kiss, which I would dismiss angrily, “you are late! Go! GOOOO!”

Let’s label the chaotic and angry morning scene 2.

I can tell you honestly that in the back of my mind when I was playing the part in scene 2, I yearned for my part in scene 1. I would visualize myself in scene 1 while facing the onslaught of scene 2. Every time I reacted in an angry outburst to my children’s actions or words, I would regret it instantly. A different me would fly out of my shouting body and tell me cooly what I could have been doing instead of unleashing such violence on my own kids. The anger won every time. Tirelessly, the different me emerged to speak reason and compassion to the me seized by rage, only to be rejected time and again.

One day, I heard someone very wise say, “if you can dream it, it already exists.”

The different me exists. I’d dreamed it for so long. It came out every time anger threatened to get out of control. I had hoped that the different me would somehow take possession of the whole me and squash anger, take control, and release me from the angry outbursts, which only made me despise and hate myself further. But it didn’t happen that way. The different me doesn’t dominate. It doesn’t take control. It still hurts. It still gets annoyed. But the different me understands that my existence, as singular and unique as it is, is one of countless such existences, each of which is singular and unique on their own. The different me has a lot of respect for that. The different me thinks the world of me, and thinks the world of everyone else. The different me is ready and able to channel these different worlds of energies together, and let the miracles of every day life unfold right before her eyes.

I think the different me is even ready to forgive my father. For all his crimes against my mom, my sister, and me, I don’t think he lived a day without wanting to taste happiness. He was a devoted son who prioritized his mother’s needs over everything else, a mother who outlived him for a good 7 years, to the ripe old age of 98. The happiness that flicked all too rarely across the screen of my father’s 61 years was not able to chase all his demons away. In the end, all that consumed his mind and soul through his violent years hollowed out his body in the form of lung cancer. He died in excruciating pain, perhaps just as he had lived.

The different me will persist, as it has always persisted. The peace I’d been looking for all my life was inside me all along.

Make a wish, dear precious me.

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