Ramadan Log T-1: Bismillah

I feel like I’m looking outwards at several video projections of all of the different scenes of myself during past Ramadans. All of the tears. All of the “ah-ha” moments. The serenity. The fatigue. The longing for entertainment. The constant question of “who am I doing this for?”

Is it possible to simultaneously feel both overwhelmed at completely at peace?

I’ve spent weeks talking to friends, supervisors, and family members about how nervous I felt about Ramadan starting. I spent three years experiencing Ramadan without any school or  work responsibilities. Then I had a Ramadan while I was working part-time. Now for the first time, I will be experiencing both grad school as well as working while fasting. All with no coffee. No water. No food. And very disrupted sleep.

And yet, I feel at peace.

It’s so hard to explain, but I guess this is what happens when super stressed meets super excited.

I also believe that this is the power of Ramadan being upon us. I have spent the last several months so busy with school and things happening in my personal life; I haven’t taken any time to actively reflect and work on myself as a Muslim. My life felt like it was moving in fast-forward all year. So much has changed in my life, and within myself.

Now with the return of Ramadan, one of the few constants in my life, I feel centered. I feel back at home. Sure, I’m getting closer and closer to that formidable territory of adulthood, but I’m still me. I’m still a Muslim. I have given up a lot of my old self since entering the grad school arena, but I still have Ramadan. And that is such a calming feeling.

If I learned one thing last Ramadan, it was to stop comparing my current self to my self of the past. It doesn’t matter that I blogged every day of Ramadan for three years in a row.  It doesn’t matter that I was inconsistent with it last year. It doesn’t matter that I read the entire Qur’an during past Ramadans. Right now, all that matters is that I am here, alhamdulillah, and I am going to do the best that I can each moment to make the most out of this month.

Bismillah.

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Ramadan Log Day 8: Surprising Ease

(It’s actually the middle of Day 9 for me, but I passed out after isha last night. Just pretend you’re reading this twelve hours earlier.)

First day of the new work week, and things were actually not that bad. I think my difficulties last week were twofold: Not enough sleep and not enough suhoor. Last week I was doing English muffins topped with goat cheese and fruit preserve with a bottle of water for suhoor. On Friday, I switched to extra fiber English muffins, spread my cheese layer a little thicker, and added some crackers with colby cheese. Since then, the fasting has gotten a lot easier. Still difficult, as it is supposed to be, but I have more energy in the mornings now.

Speaking of energy, I finally had some coffee today after iftar and wow I am such an addict. I just smelled the coffee grounds and was filled with so much love. Today was definitely the day of cravings. Along with coffee, I was also craving caramel-filled chocolates, deep dish pizza, Krispie Kreme donuts, and ice water with a straw. Not just water. Water with a straw. Fasting does things to you.

One goal of mine that I haven’t really touched on here yet is fasting from TV and videos. Just like music, entertainment media is something that usually takes up so much of my time, and it is something I try to stay away from during Ramadan so that I can fully focus on bettering myself as a Muslim. So far the entertainment fast is surprisingly not bad. On the first day, I was really missing my music, but I’ve gotten used to simply rolling down my windows and listening to the sounds of the outdoors. As for watching my K-pop shows and videos, it’s hard to miss them when I keep myself so busy during the week. It was much more difficult last year when I would spend all day on my laptop NOT watching things. Although today I was missing it a little bit. I saw a screencap on instagram of one of my favorite shows, one that I had actually completely forgotten about since the start of Ramadan, and was reminded of how much I loved it and missed it. Then a movie that I had been waiting for months to be subbed was finally released with English subtitles, but I’m saving that for after Ramadan. Maybe watching it will be my Eid present. Along with Finding Dory and the new Tarzan movie.

As far as my Qur’an goal goes, I’ve decided not to stress so much over the number of pages. Reading Qur’an is great, but maybe focusing on the number and trying to read fast to finish a certain number of pages in a time limit is actually taking away from the value of reading. I’ll still aim to do 7-8 pages after every prayer, but if I can’t or I’m so tired that I’ll be pronouncing things wrong anyway, I won’t sweat it. Last year I finished early and then didn’t know what to do wth myself. Maybe I can take it slower this year.

Ramadan Log Day 1: Feeling Oddly Unproductive

Naps! Naps are what will make this world go round.

At least that’s what I think will keep me going this month. Fatigue was my biggest concern going into today, and I was definitely feeling it. I went to bed later than planned last night – but that’s normal – and I unexpectedly felt a little sick after suhoor and had a hard time going back to sleep, resulting in me feeling like a zombie as I got ready for work in the morning. (I’m not sick, alhamdulillah. It was just because of something I ate.)

What made it all better was my naps. I have a couple of hours off throughout the day, and during that time I come back home. While I usually spend the breaks on my laptop, checking social media and whatnot, today I spent it sleeping. And it felt so good. I think I found a potential pattern for my Mondays and Wednesdays. When I’m not at work, I sleep.

I still had the music-free car rides to deal with. My commute home ranges from an hour to an hour and a half, and that is usually my me time in which I plug in my phone and listen to my songs. I considered going strictly instrumental today and pulling up some Lindsey Sterling, but I decided to wait until I was really desperate for that. So I simply rode in silence.

And you know what? Driving for an hour in total silence really forces your mind to think. Here is a little snippet of what my stream of consciousness came up with:

Today is such a beautiful day. If I wasn’t so terrified of bugs and animals I would have spent my off-time lying outside in the sun. Speaking of the sun, I hope I tan soon. Not because I’m unsatisfied with my skin color, but having a tanned face at least gives me the illusion of still being that sporty girl I was as a kid. Plus my sandals give my feet these cool tattoo-like tan lines. Sidenote: A green tea latte would be lovely right about now. Oh look, a Starbucks…wait I’m fasting…Oh no, watch out. That’s a biker. Why did my country have to make bike-riding so damn dangerous? You’re not allowed to bike on the sidewalk if there’s a bike lane, but the bike lane disappears and reappears randomly and is basically in the middle of the moving cars anyway. I hate driving around bikes.

There was more, but I’ll save those thoughts for another day. 🙂

Despite the fast going pretty normally, alhamdulillah, I still have this unsettling feeling.

I felt so useless being at work – which may seem a little paradoxical. I’m so used to being at home and taking care of things at home. Spending all day at work felt like I was wasting my whole day. I’m sure that’s not something you hear everyday. I don’t know. I’m weird.

My mind was just filled with all of these possibilities of things I could be doing without my entertainment to distract me. Organizing my room. Spring cleaning. Writing those novels I’ll probably never publish. Getting this whole grad school thing sorted out. I thrive off of creating, but for the past few months I’ve just been consuming. By cutting off my consumption this month, I am now remembering all of the creative things I used to do and how I long to start those projects again. But I wasn’t able to do any of that in between working and sleeping.

I also really missed reading Qur’an today. During my off-time I managed to read a couple of pages, and I read a bunch when I came home at the end of the day, but it wasn’t the same. I’m used to spending nearly 20 minutes after every prayer reading Qur’an, and it felt like I was just barely squeezing in ten minutes throughout the whole day. I didn’t even read hardly at all after Fajr because I was feeling so sick.

I’m not used to being so unproductive.

Today was just the first day. Mondays are always hard, even when I’m not fasting. I know today was an adjusting day, so I won’t let it change my attitude for the entire month. There was a moment earlier today where I felt this burst of energy and excitement at what I will experience this month, and that is the feeling of the day that I’m holding on to.

Ramadan Log: Two More Weeks!

A couple days ago was Nisf-Shabaan, which means we are exactly half a month away from the start of Ramadan.

I was seriously considering skipping my Ramadan Logs this year. Last year was especially difficult for me for a variety of reasons, but the main one being that I wasn’t proud of the posts I ended up writing every night. They seemed dry and boring to me, and all you writers know that when you can’t find pride in your writing capabilities, the motivation to continue writing basically disappears.

Recently however, a few people have expressed interest in reading my Ramadan Log for this year. My daily blogging this past April also improved my morale, so I think I’m going to give the Ramadan Log another try this year.

This Ramadan is going to be unlike any other I have experienced so far. For the first time ever, I will be working during Ramadan. Way back in elementary school and middle school, I did fast while at school, but since I started working, Ramadan was always during the summer when I had the days off. Now that I have a “real” job, requiring me to be up and paying attention four days a week, my Ramadan schedule is going to be vastly different than it has been the past couple of years.

I’ve gotten so spoiled by having Ramadan during my summer breaks. I could stay up until Fajr, thriving off of the energy from iftar for blogging, praying, and reading Qur’an. I was able to sleep the next day until noon, and sometimes even as late as 3pm, without consequence. I could afford the time of reading Qur’an for ten minutes following each prayer. If something was bothering me and my patience was dwindling, I could just go to my room and be alone until iftar.

Not this year. I’m going to be working, in an environment that is already testing. My schedule is so packed on Mondays and Wednesdays, I don’t know how I’ll be able to keep up with my Qur’an. I’m going to have to be functional and friendly without any caffeine, and lately I’ve turned into a two cups of coffee a day kind of gal.

And then there are the iftars. Remember how I used to go to Tuesday and Sunday lectures? I don’t know how I’ll be able to make it to those and still be able to enjoy iftar while keeping in mind how early I have to be up for work the next day.

My job also requires a lot of driving during the day, because I work at multiple facilities, and you all know me; I’m blasting that K-pop for the whole car ride. The thought of spending all of that time in the car during Ramadan without my music – because I choose to also fast from music during Ramadan – initially seemed daunting, but I thought of a nice alternative. I always have the afterthought goal of revising my recitation of the 30th juz of the Qur’an, so maybe I could replace my music-driving time with listening to the 30th juz every day and reciting along with it. Maybe I’ll finally be able to get my memorization of those surahs back! Maybe. InshaAllah.

So, my goals for these next two weeks: Try to ween myself off of the caffeine. Finalize which English book I will read (my mom gave me the idea of looking into the 99 names of Allah as my supplementary reading). Re-calculate how much Qur’an I will have to read each day keeping my variant work schedule in mind. Start planning now how my mom and I will balance out iftar duty. Figure out a means of listening to the 30th juz in the car.

At the back of my mind, I can already hear the haunting echo of “I hate being an adult,” but I can’t think that way. As difficult as adulting is, Ramadan was not meant to be more or less difficult depending on what age you are. Ramadan is as much of a test for adults as it is for adolescents. My teenager self got Ramadan down. Now it’s time for my adult self to learn a new kind of Ramadan. And I guess that will be the overall test for this month. Learning how to Ramadan while learning how to adult.

Pre-Ramadan Jitters

It’s almost here. ^_^

On one of my very first post on this blog, I said that one thing I love about being Muslim is how, no matter who we are or where we’re from, we all come together in unity this one month…to join, as I put it, the Worldwide Secret Fasting Club.

I need to feel part of that club again. In the past year, it feels like we as Muslims have become so disunited, choosing sides in political debates that have no winner, judging each other in our “Muslimness,” and sometimes just being plain rude to each other. I need to feel that we are connected again.

I also need to reconnect back to myself and to this way of life that I pledged to lead. In some ways, I feel like I’ve lost myself in the past year, yet in other ways, I feel as though I am more religious than ever. In reality, I think I may have just lost sight of my priorities in life. I am really counting on Ramadan as an opportunity for me to fix that.

In thinking about this coming month, I got a bit antsy about all of the challenges that come with it. I put so much effort into Ramadan last year, and part of me wanted to take it easy this year. Maybe I won’t try to read the entire Qur’an. Maybe I don’t need to take on a whole new book in addition to the Qur’an.

But then I was talking to a relative the other day and coincidentally, we got on the topic of reading Qur’an during Ramadan. In explaining why I pushed myself to read so much Qur’an last year, I realized that I do want to do it again this year.

Ramadan isn’t about taking it easy. Ramadan is about pushing myself to see what I am really capable of. I felt so accomplished last year when I finished reading the entire Qur’an. And I did it. Even if it was hard in the beginning, I actually did it. So what is stopping me from doing it again this year?

Less than 24 hours ago, I was so incredibly nervous about Ramadan. Yet today, I find myself excited. Sure, there will be struggles with self-discipline and perseverance, but there is also the joy in being with family, celebrating with fellow Muslims, and learning things about myself on a day to day basis. Islam puts such an emphasis on Jihad, #TheStruggle, so I shouldn’t be shying away from the possible challenges. I should be embracing it.

#BringItOn

For those of you who joined me during the April challenge, know that this isn’t going to be like Blogging from A to Z. I have no idea what is going to come out this month. These will just be my raw, unplanned, day to day thoughts as I go on this 30-day journey.

Those of you who were with me last year: I finally did it. I finished Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources by Martin Lings. I’m ashamed to say that it took an entire year to finish those last 20 pages, but at least I finished before this coming Ramadan. I don’t really have an explanation for why it took me so long besides the fact that I just got distracted and kept forgetting. In the end, I still think this is an amazing book. I have mentioned this before on this blog and it is still true: I really developed a love and connection to our Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings be upon him, because I read this book. Reading his story in the format of a novel was exactly what I needed to feel that connection. Thank you, Mr. Lings, for writing so eloquently and giving me the opportunity to know my Prophet (S). If you want to know who Muhammad (S) was, and want to read his story and develop that “love” that we’re all told we are supposed to feel, READ THIS BOOK.

They’re saying tonight is going to be the new moon, so inshaAllah (God-willing) I may see you all tomorrow!

IT’S HERE!

I’m back!

Happy Ramadan everyone! It’s that time of year again! That blessed month of fasting, prayer, and spiritual renewal.

I am incredibly excited for this Ramadan. Well…okay, I’m not jumping for joy at the fact that I have to wake up in a couple of hours to eat in preparation of our 15+ hours of fasting, but I’m excited about the rest of the month. Amazingly, Ramadan has become about more than just fasting for me.

And that is mostly because of how I spent Ramadan last year. Reading Qur’an every day, in both English and Arabic, coming up with things to blog about every day…it all forced me to really take advantage of each day and get more out of my days. That is what I look forward to this year.

It seems like just a few days ago I was writing my 2013 Ramadan Log, but it’s been a whole year. I’m a year older. I’ve matured, even if not by much. My life is different. All of the important things have remained the same – my family, my friends, my school – but mentally, I’m in a different place. I have different priorities. Different goals. I’m in a different place emotionally than I was last year. I think my writing style may have changed as well, but you would probably notice that better than I.

So come along with me on my journey! If you were reading my blog last year, welcome back! If you’re new to this blog, welcome to my world! I sincerely hope that each and every one of you reading this get as much out of my daily posts as I do writing them.