Ramadan Day 4

BURGLARS HEAR WATCHDOGS

If one

Is afraid of losing anything

They have not looked into the Friend’s eyes;

They have forgotten God’s

Promise.

The jewels you get when you meet the Beloved

Go on multiplying themselves;

They take root

Everywhere.

They keep mating all the time

Like spring-warmed

Creatures.

Burglars

Hear watchdogs inside of His

Gifts

And run.

-Hafiz, trans. by Daniel Ladinsky

Sometimes it is hard to stay present during Ramadan.  I am not much by way of the praying part of things.  This is the first year I’ve really done a prayer-like attempt in the morning.  What I do resembles somebody’s upside down strawberry shortcake, without even the strawberries.  It’s ugly and crude.  So’s the fact that I watched Masterchef as soon as I could manage, after Iftar.  Cooking shows are particularly tricky during Ramadan.

A dear friend told me a couple weeks ago that she found my life, through Facebook, endlessly fascinating because she thinks I have achieved dramatic high’s and lows, and that so many unusual and interesting things happen to me.  Stuff just happens to you; you can’t get one thing without the other.  I can’t remember how exactly she phrased it.  The other thing she said, the penny in my hand that I can’t put down, is that she has always thought I was a person of faith.  There were three of us talking about the difficulties she was having moving forward in life – whether or not to try being a writer.  (She’s already a writer, so I think the delusional quality of the conversation inspired a lot of advice-giving on my part.  “Yeah, Yeah, you should definitely do it.”  Sometimes, the mental commitment is harder than anything else.)

I gave her a short pep talk about how fear of change is actually the thing that challenges our faith, precisely because we do not know what will happen.  She said she wasn’t surprised to hear me say this.  “You post poems, and I always think there is something about the way you post them; they are prayers.”  If she sees my faith, she sees her own.

Today, kneeling with my head to the ground, my stomach so distended and uncomfortable from eating at odd hours, too much, too little, too spicy, too sweet, too everything – I thought about panicking.  Fasting for Ramadan didn’t used to be like this.

The first couple times I did it, I was younger by at least five years.  My whole body was so resilient.  I could stuff myself or starve myself, and I was tired, but not so tired that I felt I couldn’t move.  I once fasted steadily while I was a Public Defender, moving and talking and gesturing like a whirlwind through a courtroom.  But here I am about to cry at the thought of teenagers looking at me in a classroom or sitting on a train ride for 4 hours a day.  I am a passenger in both situations.

What a strange gift my physical frailty has become.  I am now dependent on prayer and faith to move me through what seems uncertain:  my health, my own abilities, my discipline.  As I prayed this morning, I thought about endurance.  Just because you’re fasting doesn’t mean that you don’t have feelings.  It just means that you are further away from them so what you actually experience is only the most necessary.  Hunger, thirst.  Hunger, thirst.  A dull ache that often I don’t recognize as pain until I’ve actually broken my fast.

Yesterday, I met with some friends who are writers in my program.  It challenged me because it was the first time that I was literally seeing the people around me in a different way – their faces took on their emotions.  I didn’t have to think, because I could perceive.  I had so many insights and reactions to things that would have completely slipped by me if I weren’t in a fasting state.  This awareness made me deeply uncomfortable.  I wanted the masks back.

For example, I noticed eye contact, who made it and when.  I noticed dissatisfaction, sometimes with me, sometimes with one another.  I noticed my own frustration, how it controlled me.  We’ve all had those casual social interactions that leave us more drained and anxious than supported.  We feel insecure.  Our brains buzz.  We are bugged, but we don’t know why because we can’t pinpoint who or what.  We’re in a bad mood afterward.  Usually, this would be true for me.  I would fully interact with the problems that are beyond my understanding at this time.  I process, often prematurely.  Right now, I know that the problems I have with many people (my conflicts) are not mine to solve, even though they exist in my life.  Either they will solve themselves, or they will not.  I don’t have to do anything.

What is it that I am afraid of losing?  My Friendships?  Love?  If interactions with some people are so fraught, were they ever really mine to keep?  The ones that are the jewels Hafiz references will find a way to stay in my life.  One of these friends who I react to with some anxiety once said to me:  nothing that is yours will pass you by.  I have loved this statement, and them for saying it in the perfect moment, ever since.

What if jewels come with an affixation mechanism?  What if you are the textured, fuzzy half of the velcro strap?

What if every time it rained it was falling up on you, a part of God reaching toward you?

What if you don’t trust your own ability to feel the sadness that you know is waiting, even now?  I know you brush this child aside.  You are just like me.  You tell yourself useless platitudes about remaining calm.  It doesn’t matter, though.  Sooner or later you must feel everything.  None of the guests will be denied.

I love Hafiz because he makes fun of me when I am in my most contemplative and somber mood:

WHAT THE HELL

The

Real love

I always keep a secret.

 

All my words

Are sung outside Her window,

 

For when She lets me in

I take a thousand oaths of silence.

But,

Then She says,

O, then God says,

“What the hell, Hafiz,

Why not give the whole world

My

Address.”

-trans. by Daniel Ladinsky

 

*all poems formatted without human intent by the blog machine.

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