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Words of Wisdom on the Crosstown Bus

A conversation rich in wisdom with a surprise ending.

Words of Wisdom

Living in New York has its pros and cons. The apartments are small, the streets are dirty, the noise is everywhere and you’re never alone. On the other hand, there’s Central Park, the museums, the energy and the incredible diversity of people who call this place home. I’m a sucker for the latter.

A few years ago I found myself asking strangers what their best life tip was. I kept an eye out for people who looked interesting, different (than me) and, of course, safe. That’s how I found myself talking to Lili Lublinski on the 86th Street crosstown bus, an octogenarian who could easily pass for Jane Fonda in her beauty and vitality. This was someone I wanted to hear from. We chatted a bit and I asked her for her tips on life. She had them at the ready (I guess I’m not the only New Yorker who does this).

Here they are:

  1. Take care of yourself. Eat well and exercise often.
  2. Make your husband feel good. If he’s not into love talks just whisper things in his ear very early in the morning: you are good, you are smart, I appreciate you, I love you.
  3. Sit with yourself. When we grew up we were taught – once a month you sit down with yourself and take account of all your actions – good and bad. People today they don’t want to be with reality. They sit in the waiting room, they grab a magazine – they sit on the bus, they grab the phone. They need to learn how to sit with themselves. How to be with themselves.

This last one struck me the most. Not because I didn’t know the value of sitting with one’s self, but because of where it sat in my priority list. It was something to do when everything else was handled: kids, clients, housework, phone calls…a stolen moment, a luxury, a little me time. But when my bus companion brought it up, she referred to it as a necessity, like working out and eating well. It was a skill she had been taught because it was deemed worthy of teaching. It wasn’t presented as a stolen moment but a necessary tool for life.

I thought about it.

Unlike meditating or praying, sitting with yourself isn’t about connecting to something greater than you, it’s about connecting to your own truth. The truth of how you are feeling, of what is going on within you. An opportunity to observe where you’re at, what you’ve been up to, what you are yearning for, suffering from, thrilled about. It is the genuine response to the question, “how are you?”.

But now that sitting is the new smoking and texting is the new calling and ASAP is the new I’ll-have-it-next-week, there isn’t much time to sit with ourselves and see how we’re doing (though we seem to find plenty of time to judge ourselves on how poorly we’re doing, on all the ways in which we aren’t good enough). This wasn’t about permission to carve time out of my day to take care of myself, this was a matter-of-fact approach to something she felt we should all be doing.

As we crossed through Central Park and neared her stop, my thoughts raced, searching for one last question to ask someone who was clearly free of guilt, shame and concern about what anyone thought about her.

I had it.

     One last question?

Sure.

     What are your best tips for raising kids?

Kids? She laughed. Don’t have them. They’re selfish little creatures who take from you when they’re little and then grow up and come back to take some more. Eh, who needs it?

She waved goodbye, got off the bus and the doors closed behind her.

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