The other day, while riding the C-train home from downtown, a woman was upset at having to move all the way down the aisle to the open area by the doors to let another passenger get through the aisle. It didn’t seem to connect for her that the reason she had to move was because her backpack was blocking the way of the woman getting off the train.
When the woman with the backpack moved out of the way, she ended up standing in front of me. I smiled at her and made eye contact. She looked at me and complained. “This is awful,” she said. “I hate the C-train.”
“It’s better than driving,” I replied.
“Well, I don’t have that option,” she said. “I don’t have a car.”
“Then it’s a good thing there’s public transit,” I said.
“Harrumph,” she replied. “I’m just glad I don’t have to do this everyday. I’m just trying to get to the mall. If I had to do this everyday I’m sure I’d end up killing someone.”
“Do you really mean that?” I asked.
She looked surprised at my question. “Of course not. But this is awful. I hate people.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied and smiled again. “There’s a lot of us in the world.”
She paused. Looked down and then looked back at me. I was intentionally keeping my eyes soft, my heart open, my presence accepting of where she was at.
“I don’t hate all people,” she said. “It’s just crowds like this scare me.”
“I’m not fond of crowds either,” I told her. “But, there’s always someone to talk to in a crowd.”
She harrumphed again and we came to her stop. She departed without saying good-bye. Off to complete her mission of getting to the mall.
I’ve thought about that woman a lot since our encounter.
She is me. I am her. We are all eachother.
I thought about her discomfort at being asked to move so another passenger could get past and her lack of awareness that the cause of the other passenger asking her to move was the backpack on her back blocking the path.
And I wondered about her comment of ‘killing someone’ if she had to ride the C-train everyday.
I wondered about what she was carrying around in her backpack to cause such a visceral reaction to the human condition. What thoughts and ideas and limiting beliefs did she pack with her where ever she went to keep her safe, not realizing that it was what she was carrying that was creating her discomfort?
We all have backpacks we carry around. They’re not always visible but they’re always there. Thoughts and ideas that keep us from seeing, if we were to let go of thinking we are locked in by our thoughts or trapped by the crowds around us, we could be free to simply be present in our world without fear of the people around us, or without telling a stranger on a C-train that if you had to ride public transit everyday, you’d kill someone.
I’m sure she didn’t mean it, yet I wonder where else in her life she goes around feeling uncomfortable and wishing she could just get rid of all the people around her so she doesn’t have to feel so uncomfortable.
And I wonder, if her discomfort is caused by never having been told she is valued. She is loved. She is wanted in this world. Of always feeling like she doesn’t belong, or that there is no safe place for her to be in the world.
She sits with me this woman. She is a mirror. An image of what is true for each of us when we carry around our backpacks of woes and silent limitations, never looking to see if there’s something in there we should be unpacking if only to create space for us to be at peace with the world around us.