This Ramadan is hard. Right smack in the middle of summer, these are the longest fasts of my Muslim life, it’s hot, and the kids are home all day. Well, my kids are always home all day, but I’m sure that’s an extra challenge for most Ramadaners.
I have six children and they are currently kind of a mess. My eldest two want to just stay up all night so as to not miss suhoor and indeed they are very hard to wake for suhoor, so I suck this up. But, they also keep me awake, sometimes, and keep some of my other kids awake, sometimes. So our sleep schedules are all just a mess unlike any other Ramadan I have done. But, I love this about Islam.
See, I thrive on different. I like newness, not in the shiny package kind of way, but in the explorative “seek knowledge” kind of way. I like vastness, not just in the unlimited possibilities kind of way, but also in the internal ways- sleep deprivation can be ugly and trying in this “month of patience”, but it can also poke holes into unused places in the brain that need some stirring. I like flexibility, even though I sometimes lack it, but living the holidays by the moon calendar forces flexibility.
I grew up celebrating regularly scheduled hegemonic US holidays: birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and all that/those. These holidays always came with the same expectations, same traditions, same fall outs, and so on. Great for many, but after about 20 cycles I let go of these traditions that frankly interrupted my schedule (I was a broke and very busy student), so I quit them. Let me do gifts and appreciations on my own time, I thought.
Then I became Muslim, which some folks claim appeals to “wild western girls” like me “who need structure and rules”. Yep, sure Islam has plenty of rules to live by, but praying by the course of the sun ensures that I am never doing those rigidly required five prayers at exactly the same time for more than three days in a row. Never under estimate the little things, like those one minute changes. Those long stretches between Thuhr, Asr and Mahgrib can provide feelings of freedom during the summers, but the shorter intervals in winter can also be a welcome relief to refocus inward.
My new holidays inch forward through the seasons, slowly bringing me out of the musalla onto the grass and then back inside again years later. The holidays may be similar in function, but that calendar is always going to tweak the form just a little, forcing me to adapt year after year and thereby, insha Allah, grow with a variety of experiences.
I hope this Ramadan will get easier, but either way we are already half way through and then it will be a few more years of seasonally hard Ramadans, then some breezier spring ones, then some cakewalk winter fasts, then my favorite pumpkin treat-filled fall Ramadans, and then insha Allah I will be dead! Or maybe my circumstances will somehow change entirely, and I will be elsewhere on the globe or otherwise within my own body – either way, should I live, it will likely be something new.