Okay, I have a confession to make. I rarely have a good Ramadan. What is supposed to be a month of spirituality, sacrifice, contemplation, and joy has usually been for me well, kinda like every other month of the year. My husband, bless his heart, is not an organizer and not the kind of person who himself will “upsell” the season or try to ramp us up. I am the one who says “Let’s get off caffeine and fast on Monday and Thursday to start preparing for Ramadan”. He happily goes along, but he doesn’t usually initiate changes. I miss this because I am NOT a natural leader. I’ll be happy to follow along and if someone tells me there’s something to do and when to be there, I’ll be there early and eagerly. Sadly, this is not my life.
It seems like every Ramadan sneaks up on me unawares. First of all, I’ve been pregnant or nursing for about the last six years or so. I have had pregnancies where I am “high risk” so it was inadvisable for me to fast. I tried a couple of times and ended up alarming my doctor, so I said “Alhamdulillah ala kulli hal” and figured I’d make it up later. Well, now it’s later. My youngest is a vibrant busy one year old who eats table food and nurses as much for comfort as nutrition. I am, as far as I know (ya Rabb) not pregnant. Don’t ask me about the cat, though… Anyway, this year I can fast, so I’m hoping that will help me to participate more. Fasting in summer is not going to be easy but that’s kinda the point.
Spiritually I’ve not been plugged in to the Muslim community for a long, long time. I’m Facebook and Twitter; most of the ladies, lovely though they are, are not plugged in that way. I tried handing out business cards when I first moved here. I tried to get a sisters’ halaqah started. I’ve called, cajoled, had my husband talk to their husbands. Eventually I just didn’t try much anymore. And it’s a shame, because the sisters in my town are nice. Just insular, I guess. There are a few ladies who are pretty much on the same wavelength as I am and we keep in touch, but with five kids it’s very challenging for me to get out and about. So I’m isolated from the community, and that’s never a good thing.
It also seems that somehow the Shaitan gets super-busy in the runup to Ramadan and he gets in between my husband and me. We always have some sort of a dustup around this time of year. Eventually it gets sorted out but it certainly puts us in a bad mood and then we’re both ticked off and ignoring each other so no one orders dates or calls to see if there’s a lecturer coming to the masjid that night.
It’s hard trying to make Ramadan meaningful in the U.S. I don’t have the vast Muslim populace around me to bolster my mood or help me get into a routine. For most everyone, it’s just summer. Hot, muggy, summer. People are talking swimming, pool parties, beerfests, and barbecues. I’m thinking fasting, iftar, tarawih (which I haven’t gone to in years), and how in the heck am I going to get up for suhoor when the baby still isn’t sleeping through the night.
So, there it is. That’s my confession. Ramadan has been a time of stress and isolation instead of a time of piety and community. A lot of it is my fault; a lot of it is situational. I couldn’t get out when I had a passel of little kids. I couldn’t spend a lot of money on clothing or extra food or decorations. I couldn’t do a lot, so I didn’t do much of anything. Sad, huh?
Well, this year I will try to be different. I plan to push myself to get it together, prepare, get out of the house, go to the masjid for tarawih and iftaar at least a few times, host a couple of iftaars, and work with the kids to give them a sense of what we are doing and why. Alhamdulillah, this year I am fasting. Alhamdulillah, they recently started a sisters’ halaqah at the masjid and I’m set to attend on Thursday, inshaAllah. Alhamdulillah, we already earmarked money to have an Eid party for the kids at home, which we decided to do as an alternative to birthday parties. Alhamdulillah, I am starting, fitfully, to work with the kids, taking them aside for a few minutes a day to tell them what Ramadan is and to teach the boys the 99 Names of Allah. Alhamdullillah, I am planning on getting a sitter for the kids so hubby and I can go up to the main Muslim center of the area to stock up before the fasting begins, and I am already thinking about outfits for the kids. I plan inshaAllah to get a nice abaya for myself, too, inshaAllah. Mentally, I think I am better prepared and even though I am still struggling with low moods I am getting better at bulling my way through it and not letting it stop me in my tracks. And I’m really, really going to bite my tongue and not say anything that might conceivably be taken the wrong way by my husband so we don’t have a spat.
There’s no telling if these good intentions will survive the month, but at least I’m aware of the challenges and I think I have the tools to make this Ramadan a much better one than previously. Now, if I can make it through Ramadan and to the Eid, maybe, just maybe I’ll figure out a way to make everyone be quiet so I can actually hear the Eid khutbah. Hmmm….that might be asking for too much….