August 31, 2006

Am I Uppity?

I am wondering if I am suffering from a bit of snobbery. I think my mother believes I am. I commented that the people at the university seem to come in two types: students and college kids. Students are those who are their to learn and want to get the most benefit they can from their time there. Not only that, they fully intend to go on learning for their entire lives, outside and within the classroom. Then there are college kids, who are mostly there because it was expected of them and because they have the financial ability to go, usually because of their family. They go, they put in their four years, and then they leave for the ‘real world’ where their life can really begin. It’s just something they have to do on the way to something else.

It seems to me, most of these college kids can be found in the easier colleges, like the College of Business Administration, Arts & Sciences, or the Teachers College. I said that unless they were going for a professional degree, their classes probably weren’t too hard. Well, I guess I should have known better. After all, Mom did major in accounting (recently) and Dad in business administration (back when that actually meant something).

What I know is that I see these other kids in my electives who are majoring in business, or history, or teaching, and they just don’t seem to be working very hard. They go out a lot, spend time talking with friends and drinking, and complain over ‘cake’ assignments. Other students I know in architecture, law, engineering, etc. are studying endless days and nights. More than that, they actually discuss what they are working on, not just to complain about it, but because they love it and because it is interesting to them. They treat their education as a profession.

Am I looking down on these ‘college kids?’ Do I just misunderstand because I do not know enough about their majors? I have changed jobs and work with some other students now. I can’t help thinking of them as ‘kids.’ I have to stop myself from calling them ‘kids’ when I refer to them. They are only a few years younger than myself, yet their attitudes seem so vastly different. I don’t want to look down on them, but sometimes I disapprove. Am I judging too harshly? Am I so attached to my own way of behaving, of doing things, of treating things, that I look down on their way?

Am I being uppity?

August 26, 2006

Changing Habits

The weekend has finally come. The first week of classes is over and I already feel frazzled. It is amazing how quickly habits and patterns can be fallen into. I would have thought nothing of this in March. Summer has softened me. Now I must readjust. Thing have changed once again. The discomfort I feel now, the suffering however small, is not due to those changes themselves, but simply to the fact that they are changes.

In a few weeks all this will seem like nothing. I’ll be back in the rhythm. I am trying to establish new habits as this semester starts - being proactive, having more attention to detail, staying open minded and positive. Changes will come in the future. I have a hard time trying to stay open to the present moment and maintain my equanimity when I constantly have to be aware of what I need to have in the future – these chapters read, this model built, that email sent, this homework done. Contradictions are everywhere.

I saw a book today called The Law of Simplicity. It was a thin little book, which bodes well for its ability to stay on topic. It sounded good and I read some of it, but left it in the bookstore. That is one habit I’ve broken. I don’t have to possess something in order to appreciate it.

It odd that I’m lamenting the loss of old habits while at the same time trying to create new ones.

August 16, 2006


My mind was so fixated last night, I didn't get to sleep until after midnight and an extra glass of milk (which my cat appreciated). I get caught up in fantasy so easily. When I was a child, I would tell myself stories in my head until I fell asleep at night. It worked well, and I drifted off easily, kick starting my dream cycle. It was usually a continuation of some television show or book I had been reading, except now I was the hero. As I've grown older, these little stories have grown more and more vivid, and they don't always revolve around fictional characters.

Things I want to change, to succeed, and problems I need to solve fill my head. Sometimes this is a boon. I do much of my architectural design work while laying in bed at night. If I don't get to sleep right away, that's okay, because I know I'm sorting out a problem now that will be useful in the morning. When my mind fixates on some mythical future, some daydream which I can't control, I feel the noose of attachment drawing tight. My long standing habits have turned against me and my mind is definitely not my ally in that moment.

School is starting next week, which means the Shambhala Project will kick off. In another five weeks, I'll return to the mountain center, and all the people I left behind there. One person in particular has preoccupied my mind all summer. Or maybe I should say, my body.

Men who dislike girl talk – read no further.

In my Introduction post, I said I would explain why I used the analogy of meditation and sex. I had really bad periods when I was a teenager, so I started on Depo-Provera when I was 17, which is a birth control injection. It lasts for three months. It totally suppressed my cycle and all associated hormones, including my sex drive. I've had practically no hormones to speak of for seven years now. I've also had precious few dates and only one 'boyfriend.' I'm just not motivated. In April, my last shot ran up and I decided to give nature one more try. Nature was just waiting to be called on, it seemed.

Everything came back, for good and bad. The bad is very, very bad, and the good...well, it's very, very frustrating. I'm going to talk to my doctor about getting back on birth control, but I think I'll try something different, something which still allows for some natural rhythms. I need that swift kick in the pants my hormones provide, unless I plan to spend every Saturday night at home from now until eternity (an option I've seriously considered).

So, is it my head, my heart, or my body which has me fixated on feelings I haven't had in a very long time (if ever)? What does it mean that the thing I remember most is a smile? This fixation, this attachment, is setting my up for suffering, for disappointment. At the very least I'm certainly not being mindful of the present moment. Even if good things happen in the future, worrying about it now is doing no good.

I wrote a letter last night. I hoped that would lay it to rest. Now, it's just another thing to worry about, but at least I feel better for having done something. I took a chance, one I might not have taken otherwise. I worry about how it will be received. I worry what might happen in September.

Mostly, I worry that I answered the question wrong.

August 14, 2006


I was thinking, while I drove my newly fixed car back from the dealer, soon it will break down again. The warranty will run out and I won't be able to fix it, so I'll have to give up owning a car. That's okay. A few years ago it probably would have been unthinkable. I've given up a lot since I went back to college: my house, fancy morning coffee, the good frozen lunches, all the cable channels I love, and new books every week. I left my good paying job at the bank. I don't spend as much time with my friends or my family. I don't belong to any clubs or really have any regular hobbies. I left my dog with my parents in Omaha when I moved to Lincoln.

The largest thing I think I've given up is pride. First, I asked my parents if I could move back in with them. I broke down and cried. I did, then sold the house. When I found the condo in Lincoln, I asked them for help again in buying it. The house wasn't sold yet and my income wouldn't qualify me. So they bought it, and I pay for it. Last summer, when I couldn't afford to pay for classes, they came through again and helped me. Before going back to school I took great pride in my independence. I've had to ask for help much more in the last couple of years.

Pride is just another form of attachment.

August 11, 2006

Changing Standards

Little girls are so lucky. When you're three, hiking up your dress and stuffing it in your panties so you can wade in the fountain on a hot day is perfectly acceptable. When you're twenty-three, this results in a security officer addressing you as "Miss." (Much to the disappointment of the twenty-three year old boys.) When we're thirty-three, we're addressed as "Ma'am" while we're calmly taken by the elbow by a person in a blue uniform. When we're eight-three, the uniform is more likely to be white and come with sensible shoes, but even then the outcome is the same.

"A person's gotta have standards," as the saying goes. Why should things be 'standard,' when we are all individuals? Whose standards are they? Why couldn't it be "a person's gotta have joy," instead? That three year old in the fountain certainly had enough joy to spread around to everyone who was watching her.

When is it exactly that we decide what others think of us is more important than fully enjoying the present moment?

August 09, 2006

Dying Friends

Marilyn sent me an email today. I had asked her to keep me updated on her test results. It read simply:


The tumors have progreesed in my right lung and are pressing against my heart. Sorry for the bad news.

Marilyn "

That's the Marilyn I love so much.

August 07, 2006

Life Without Television

I often think I should give a serious try to live without television. Yesterday, my DVD player stopped working. I was in the middle of a movie, too. So what did I do instead of finding something productive? I watched bad television most of the day, then popped in some VHS tapes I've watched a half-dozen times before. (Although, I don't really consider Paint Your Wagon and True Grit to be bad television, but I've seen them both before as well.)

When I go up to the mountain center, I don't miss television. I do really look forward to movie nights. Part of that enjoyment is in the community aspect, but the other part is that I honestly enjoy movies. I enjoy stories. I also really love documentaries. I drove my roommates crazy (when I had roommates) with all the documentaries I would watch. I like to learn by seeing and hearing and I think I would seriously miss PBS. Many PBS shows are available on the internet, but I don't have internet at home.

Despite those positive aspects, television seems to suck out my soul. I'll spend hours watching things which I really don't care about and avoiding things I should be doing. Things I even tell myself I want to do. Yesterday afternoon I successfully avoided finishing the plans for Tony's house addition, going for a walk in the rain, reading my book, reading my new Architectural Record magazine, framing the new landscape photographs I just got, along with a number of household chores.

Despite all those things I procrastinated into oblivion in order to watch television, it was still a productive day. I got out in the morning, had coffee and read my book, called Marilyn to chat, went grocery shopping, folded and hung up all my clean laundry, sorted and moved my scarf collection, unbound the book of landscape photographs, and sketched out plans to remodel my apartment. For a Sunday, that is more than I usually get accomplished, and yet it is so little. This is what is so discouraging. More than average is so much less than what is possible.

Television is my greatest addiction.

August 02, 2006

Looking Forward

For perhaps the first time ever I am looking forward to the beginning of school. Mostly it is because of the Shambhala Mountain Project. (See my blog 'Architects Anonymous' for more details.) But it is also because the success of that project thus far has given me a greater amount of hope in my own educational prospects than I have ever had before. I am truly involved in something I care about and I have hope that it can evolve into a greater caring for all my work.

Even if all of my classes are abysmal, I have high points to look forward to. I will join in a site visit to Shambhala Mountain Center in September. Dickie, who I always look forward to seeing, will visit three times after that, once each in October, November, and December. Hopefully, he will be able to bring some other stakeholders with him so the students have someone else to pester.

This project has been a great lesson in letting go. All of my preconceived notions of how this idea would be received have been soundly refuted. My cynicism has been tossed out the window. My long held lack of faith in my educational institution in general and in my professors in particular is fading. In order to make this successful, I have had to exist in the present moment, because in the present moment, all futures are possible. If I dwell in past pessimism, nothing could move forward.

I can pay more than lip service to the cliché "Be Here Now" because for the first time I want to be here now.