This is part one of three catch-up posts. What I wrote here took place three weeks ago, picking up after my post written on May 12th.
So much about this Ramadan has been a blessing. I look back on the month and I can’t help but feel so grateful for the circumstances that were in place to allow me to make what I did out of this month.
Seven years ago, I started challenging myself to read the entire Qur’an from beginning to end during the month of Ramadan. Seven years ago, I was a student and Ramadan was during summer vacation, so this goal was not actually that difficult to achieve. I literally had nothing better to do during the day. Alhamdulillah, I was able to complete the entire Qur’an that year, and the two following years. That final year was 2015, and since then, since I started having jobs that don’t pause during the summer months, I haven’t been able to complete the goal.
This time, I did it again, and I owe it to Allah who gave me this opportunity to work from home for the entire month. I felt more comfortable being able to recite Arabic in my “work” space without worrying about anyone overhearing me and judging. If I didn’t have wudu I could easily walk a few feet to my bathroom and put my foot in the sink without fear of an intruder. I could spend extra time at night reciting since I was getting an extra hour to sleep and not needing to commute in the morning. I also found myself being able to put my mind in a more introspective, quiet, calm space – perfect for sitting down and reciting Qur’an – because I didn’t have to interact in person with almost anyone during the day.
The fasting was so much easier as well compared to the last two years. The days are a few minutes shorter, I suppose, but I mostly attribute the ease to getting better sleep. No need to wake up super early, which leads to less stress at night while trying to fall asleep, and no social events pressuring me to sacrifice sleep for fun. High stress and high fatigue always makes fasting more painful, and there has been so much going in my favor to avoid all of that. I didn’t nap as much as I was anticipating, and I think this is because I just slept better at night when I had expected.
Because of all of this ease, I had the mental energy to push myself to do more during those odd nights. Reading even more Qur’an, praying extra, donating. Coronavirus has put so much financial hardship on the world that finding a place and a need to donate quick, easy, and convenient. While I have also been placed in some financial hardship due to the pandemic, I really had to push myself to see “any amount” as meaningful donation. These organizations deserved way more than what I could give, but I could not let that stop myself from giving anything at all. So whatever small amount I felt comfortable giving in the moment, I gave.
In addition to all of these spiritual blessings, we continued to find new ways to spend our time in our new normal pandemic lives. As I was driving around one day, just to get out of the house, I saw a grassy area near the highway ramp that I had never noticed before. It was pretty close to our home, so on one of my walks with my husband we decided to investigate. Blindly walking in the direction I saw the nature area, we ended up stumbling upon an entire park with a giant field nestled right in between the highway and a strip of random company buildings. I came to a weird realization that it’s been a loooong time since I sat down on a field, so we sat together there for a good half hour, reminiscing about childhood and gym classes and sports we each used to enjoy.
Later in the week we went back to the park and found an maze of trails along a pond near there, a completely unexpected adventure for the day.
After that, I got curious about other parks in the area and found via Google Maps that there is another park close to where we live so we checked that out as well. I don’t think there is a way to accurately describe how much of a gem this park was. Rather than a playground, it is another nature area with trails winding in and out of all of the tees and tall grass. It felt like an endless mess of trails leading deeper and deeper into nature I didn’t even know existed. We kept walking deeper into this forest, and I kept expecting to eventually hit Home Depot or something because we were literally in the middle of the city. There was nothing fancy or specially constructed to make this park impressive; it was the fact that this huge amount of virtually untouched nature simply existed right in the middle of our normal life of commuting and grocery shopping and finding mailboxes. It was like going on vacation without traveling any farther than I would on an average Wednesday.
If it weren’t for this pandemic, and the country shutting down, I would never have discovered these places. I would never have taken so much time to be with nature. To sit in silence. To watch the grass sway in the breeze. To reminisce about my childhood and learn about a part of my husband’s that was new to me. When we started this quarantine, we had all of these ideas of how we were going to make it great, but the fear and stress at the time prevented us from really diving into all of those goals. Now that this way of life has really become “normal,” we can finally sit back and enjoy the time.
Another blessing: things really do feel normal for me. As I’ve said in multiple posts recently, I keep forgetting about blogging because the time no longer feels special or unique. We’re six months into the year. This is our normal for now.
Before I end, I do want to acknowledge that for those of you who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, this kind of thinking may be so far from where you are right now. In no way am I trying to minimize the losses that we have experienced, as a community and in individual families. The nature of a pandemic is that we are experiencing incredible loss, and my heart aches for those who had to have remote funerals for their parents and siblings and friends. I see you, I think about you all the time, and I pray that you too are able to find some peace and blessing during this time.
Somewhere in the the nature walks and preparation for the end of Ramadan, I ended up making the somewhat snap decision to travel to see my family and have Eid with them. A lot of thought went into making that a smart and safe trip, all of which I will get into in my next post!