On the 57 bus one crowded Friday night an elderly woman shoves her way past the young people blocking the aisle at the front of the bus. Most of them wear headphones and look down at their phones. Aside from the tiny screen the world is off their radar.)
It is through this wall of jeans and back packs that the old woman comes bursting and sputtering. The rest of us look up. She is screaming and waving her cane. “What the hell’s wrong with you. Get out of the goddam way! People want to sit down. My leg is killing me!”
Someone gives up a seat so she can sit. The bus settles back down.
In a moment, though, she turns in her seat to yell at us again. “I USED TO BE NICE, BUT I’M TIRED OF CRAP!!!” We look up nervously. Some don’t look up at all. I’m sure some are thinking, “Poor lady. She’s lost her filters.” The woman then turns around, puts her cane to the side. She goes into her tote bag and comes out with a ziplock bag of peanuts. For the rest of the trip she smiles and eats peanuts one by one, chatting and offering some to her neighbor.
Since I am closer in age to this woman than the millenials, I am beginning to learn the truth: It’s less about losing your filters, and more about deciding to hell with filters. Filters are for the birds. And for unsure youngsters who care what everyone thinks.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a pull toward spiritual topics. I’ve always taken life with a
grain of salt. Felt as if at any moment I might blink and find myself in a parallel reality or on a different planet. This inkling made me doubt the relevance of settling into nine to five life in a good neighborhood.
Instead I studied the human condition. I read about religion and spirituality. Psychology. Health. Aliens and ancient cultures. To the exclusion of most things normal, I have wanted to find peace and acceptance. For myself as well as others. The people in charge of me at jobs had different goals. They placed great importance on tasks and details on which it felt like death to focus.
So I moved. I moved to live with people of sparse and humble means, to live with people diagnosed with mental illnesses, with people whose mother tongues were other than English.
Possibly the most outrageous thing I’ve done to develop my spiritual self, however, has been to enter my fifties. Other fuddy duddy middle aged people had tried to describe it to me before I got here. But it really must be experienced firsthand to understand. It’s a little shocking:
the pain in the joints that you wake with one random morning, full on, even though you eat right and get plenty of exercise and rest;
the feeling that you if you don’t buy expensive art or learn tango you will go to your grave defeated and alone;
the feeling of not giving any fucks, not one. tiny. fuck. (ok, sometimes I borrow speech patterns from the millennials. i find a lot to like in that generation :-) if you bash your way through a crowed of teenagers on a bus and wave your cane around till someone lets you sit your aching hips down.
Ironically, this losing your filters can be the road to peace. If you are angry there is anger. If there is not there is not. It’s much more simple. Things goes through you and then they’re gone. The lady on the bus was angry. Then she was not.
Some days I think I really blew it, having spent my youth trying to become an old soul. I could have screwed around all that time and still found peace when midlife struck! Why did I do all that meditation and yoga when all I had to do was wake up at 50. And figure out this shit is actually finite. And The Power of Now was a really good topic for that book.
Yesterday, though, someone told me a story that made me know my healing work has not been for nothing. The story was about about an aunt in her eighties. The aunt had inherited a house, along with her brother. The brother refused to help with the upkeep of the house. He wouldn’t mow the lawn or pay his half of the taxes. So the aunt refused to do her share in maintaining the house. The shrubs were monsters. The electricity buzzed on and off randomly in the various rooms. All the way into their eighties they couldn’t let go of hurts and power struggles that were probably as old as they were.
They will maybe be angry until they die. Maybe someone from the clergy will encourage forgiveness as they perform their last rites. Maybe they’ll let bygones be bygones in those final precious moments.
Then again, maybe they’ll use their last breaths for one last swear at their sibling.
I’m grateful that something made me learn young to enjoy the love that is everywhere in this life. Even while riding hot crowded buses full of arthritic ladies and belligerent teens. Even being the oldest lady in tango class at the BCAE.