A Ramadan at the Crossroads of Life’s Choices

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This is Day 17 of the 2018 #30Days30Writers Ramadan series.

This Ramadan has been rough, nearly my roughest one. Not so much the fasting part but the introspection part. My thirties are in their sunsetting phase, and I am thinking a lot about the second half of my life and where things are headed. As a single (divorced twice) woman, a Muslim (hijab-wearing) woman and a community activist (the kind that makes people uncomfortable), I have found myself in the very daunting predicament of a crossroads.

But not the actual place where the roads cross.

I am at that part of the crossroad where I have already seemingly chosen the direction to go in, but now I am panicking and wondering if I made the right choice.

Ramadan has thrown that anxiety-filled wonderment of my crossroad’s journey into stark relief. There are no delightful snacks to keep me occupied and reading Quran seems to have the opposite effect of soothing my nerves. Activist rallies and events induce panic-attacks and the silence of my apartment somehow manages to sound like a suffocating box of judgment rather than the peaceful retreat I used to associate it with.

I really want to share all the miraculous connections and Ramadan gems I am collecting while we are in the month of leveling-up. I wish I could tell you how my mind has transcended into a strong spiritual state that it is able to move past the lack of serenity, off-putting smells and unattended children at the masjid to enjoy the congregational evening prayers. But I can’t.

The other day someone asked me how my Ramadan was going and what I was focusing on this year. I said this year I am just trying to keep my fast and improve my prayers. That’s it. Back to the basics for me, and I have to be ok with it lest I fall into despair.

The good part is that it is not 2017 anymore, because last Ramadan I was dealing with saying goodbye to my favorite job in the world. Last Ramadan I was coping with the reckoning of abusive religious leaders and what to do about it. The tears, sleepless nights and panic attacks last year make this year look like child’s play.

Last Ramadan was the beginning of the crossroads, the part where you stare at the choices and nervously weigh the pros and cons, the part where every path looks like the path into the Forbidden Forest with the mist creeping across the ground, and if I am not careful I will saunter right into an Acromantula’s den.

Yes I am nearing 40 and using Harry Potter references … astaghfirullah, I know.

Well, fast forward to Ramadan 2018 and I did indeed seem to wind up in the Forbidden Forest, and it’s still scary, and I am still somewhat freaking out. But, the good part is that as I write this, a hopeful thought pops into my head. I am both halfway through Ramadan, and there is also half a month left to still benefit from.

There are still the last ten nights and Laylatul Qadr. If you are having a tough month, know that you aren’t alone in the human sense, and you aren’t alone in the spiritual sense because the One who is “closer to you than your jugular vein” is ready to receive you in all your states. Hang on, do the best you can and be merciful in the month of Mercy, especially to yourself.

My beautiful mother is coming for a visit, and for this first time my nieces will be here the last couple of days. Our family will be reunited for Eid inshallah for the first time in more than 20 years. You see, my two beautiful sisters chose separate religious paths than my mother and I, and the fact that, despite our differing spiritual journeys, we will get to spend Eid together is a really big deal.

Maybe that is what I should have written about. Perhaps I’ll save that story for next year and tell you how it goes.

About Alia Salem
Alia Salem is the president and co-Founder for Facing Abuse in Community Environments (FACE) a new non-profit that addresses abuse at the hands of religious and community leaders. She is also a social justice activist and is based in Irving, Texas. You can read more about the author here.
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