Ramadan is over, for another year. I wrote yesterday that I think Ramadan hosts us more than we host it, but I was wrong. Ramadan is indeed our guest, to be honoured and cherished, and to be learned from while it’s here – because you will never learn all you want to, and you will never honour it enough, before, with the thinnest sliver of a white-silver moon, it is gone.
This year, I was aware of it leaving with a wistful sadness. For the first time in a long time, I had a heartfelt appreciation for what this month brings: opportunity. The opportunity to be restored to my true self – that is, the possibility that God created me to be; the opportunity to expand in ways that bring me closer to God; the opportunity to give thanks for all that I have been given; the opportunity to clean up habits and behaviours and reset myself for the year ahead. I don’t think I availed myself of this opportunity in previous years, and I fell short of what I wanted for myself this year, too – but at least I was reaching out for something, and that brought this month to life.
I did not do all I wanted to this Ramadan: I did not fulfil all my goals; I did not even start some of them; my behaviour has not always been model (see my recent post confessing my anger-fuelled road rage!). I have not been active every day. Some days have been really hard, and I have wanted nothing more than to lie stranded on any piece of reclining furniture that will accommodate me.
But I did fulfil on some of my goals, and the experience has been incredible. Not least because I have reaffirmed myself as somebody who does what they said they will do – I honoured my word – but also because of what I have learned about myself, about humanity, about being somebody who transcends the little voice inside you who tells you ‘I can’t’ or ‘nobody is going to care’ or ‘there’s no point’ or ‘you’ll get it wrong’.
Today is Eid – celebration! I think about Eid the way I think about most special days in my calendar: I craft a fantasy in my head of what the day will be like, how it will be different from other days, and am almost always disappointed when the fantasy doesn’t materialise. We’re a laid-back family, and I’m a militant day-dreamer. But somehow, today we managed to fulfil my dream, and maintain our typical relaxed family manner. It was a special normal family day, with delicious food, laughter, fellowship and love.
Today, life ‘as normal’ resumes, but it’s clearer and lighter. In the quiet moments of today, I got present to what I was saying goodbye to – and I don’t want to say goodbye to it. Learning to be of service, to open myself up to generosity, to honour my word daily, to get connected to what is important to me (including writing this blog), to have the Qur’an as a trusted companion in my life…I want to take this forward into my daily life. That is my challenge now. Ramadan is an invitation to throw out what doesn’t serve you spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, and develop ways of being which do; it invites you to be a more devoted servant of God by getting back to your true self. I am committed that my Ramadan blessings do not end here, but continue in my day to day life. And I will call myself to account here!
What I will miss about Ramadan is:
- That magical pocket of the night, after midnight until 2am, when I am alone and awake, and it is just me and my writing. And sometimes the TV as an almost-distraction.
- Going out to distribute food daily. I will continue to do it, or something to help others – I am looking into different options – but the daily commitment was just a wonderful experience for me
- This month which is a massive opening for you to stretch yourself and grow in any way which brings you into alignment with God’s purpose. This month is like the universe opening a door for you to walk through and be a refined, powerful, cleansed, light version of yourself. If you so choose.
- My midnight meals, where I ate with no regard for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – I was just grateful to eat, and especially fortunate to have access to whatever I wanted to.
- My daily routine, which involved worship, writing, and going out in the evening for the food round.
What I am happy to have back:
- The industrious hum of everyday life in our home. You ignore it when it’s there, because it’s quotidian background noise, but when it’s gone you notice it. The regular routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner, at all times of the day (we’re that kind of family); the pleasant sound of activity in the kitchen as a family member is cooking up a storm for themselves or somebody else at home; the sounds of energetic life in every corner of our home. I welcome it back with a refreshed gratitude for having it to miss in the first place.
- Getting to eat the crusts off the grilled cheese on toast when I’m making it for my Dad – I’ve been missing my commission.
- Food, drink, and the immense joy and energy I get from it – and I’m so much more aware of the amazing gift it is after this month of self-restraint.
- Energy for the whole day
- Brushing my teeth in daylight hours – it’s discouraged while you’re fasting just in case you swallow the toothpaste or water, but not having my morning brush was hard.
I’ll share a little secret…every day, I wake up, and before I take my first mouthful of sipful of something, I do a mental check: am I fasting today? No, I remind myself; I’m not. And I thank God; I am reminded that food and drink – synecdochal for all the pleasures we enjoy in this worldly life – are not a right, but a privilege. In that way, every day is Eid. And it is magical.
Note: As the Ramadan Reflections series come to a close, I will now be posting at least twice a week. Thank you to everybody who has been reading, and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts!