It's noisy in (my part of) London. I hear sirens day and night, going right by my flat about every 10-15 minutes. I am told that the next neighborhood (Peckham) has the highest gun crime rate in England. We (four blocks away) are close behind.
It's noisy too in my flat. The walls are thin. I can hear/take part in conversations in the next room over or the hallway, or with the people a floor below me. What's worse is that my room is next to the kitchen. I'm growing to associate food with noise. I know exactly when half of my flatmates eat. I'm growing to dislike people who eat late.
Our sink clogged this week. My flatmates wait for it to fix itself (like it did before). And it will, again, after I scoop out the water, plunge it a bit with my hands, and eventually buy drain cleaner to pour down two or three times. (this time even that isn't working)
A couple times this week I've made precious progress on my ph.d. thesis and upcoming (March) panel presentation. But at this rate neither will be ready in time.
And, worst of all, Kelly and I are quarreling. Some of it is small stuff like dessert selections for our wedding. Sometimes it's bigger though, like how we handle and what we need under stress. We have only known each other for seven months, so these changes can be frightening. When we first met she was, to use a label commonly placed on her, a superwoman. She had grace and confidence and inquisitiveness that I found… intoxicating. I couldn’t wait each day just to see her again (thinking about it reminds me of how much I love her and how grateful I am to call her my fiancée). I was apparently not so bad off myself: meditating, living close to nature, grounded.
Today, however, we are far apart from one another. Both of us are in spiritually toxic environments, her in DC and me in S.E. London. The other night I was disturbed around 2am by some young students returning to a neighboring flat when one of them screamed at our security guard, “Wake up! I’ll git you sacked! I’ll git you sacked!" and to his friends, "Eeeez sleeeepin’!” All of that (and things not appropriate to post here) was repeated several times as his friends apparently corralled the young man into this flat.
Deep down I know this is all a lesson. And that life is flux, and that we mustn’t cling.
But I still get frustrated. I didn’t come here for lessons. I didn’t come to learn about contemporary issues in British immigration and gun crime. I didn’t come to learn about navigating relationships in difficult times. I came to get a (bloody!) university education. I came, and paid – oh so much money – to be free to be immersed in the ambrosia-like waters of Buddhist Ethics; to eat, sleep, and breath Buddhism and philosophy.
Gosh oh golly, I guess life had its own plans for me.
The important thing, according to my Kantian-Buddhism, is not how well I do here or the particulars of my relationship with Kelly at any given time. The important thing is staying connected with my core - grounded, acting instead of reacting, observing and smiling. It is when we are connected that we succeed. It was being grounded that (I believe) helped me get here in the first place, and made me so handsome and irresistible to Kelly not so long ago.
Breathing, listening... at about 2:30 each night the sounds of the city are replaced by song-birds outside my window. They make me laugh. They remind me of home. At the same time they bring me here, they teach me to let go of how I want it to be and to love how it is.