Ramadan Day 13

Invictus

 

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

 

– by William Ernest Henley

 

Ramadan Day 13

 

Today, I stop fasting for at least the next few days, possibly the next two weeks.  The Qur’an provides that we do not need to fast when we travel.  We can make it up.

I am traveling to Barcelona with two friends.  I am so fortunate to be able to go because I have generous friends.  I find myself deeply concerned with stopping my fast.

This year my fasting has been more intentionally militant because of what happened shortly after my unsuccessful fast last year.  I was moving to the East Coast, and I was not taking care of my body, so I became sick twice in the beginning of the fast and had to stop, and then I started driving across the country and had to stop.  I was mean and irritable and all around a terrible person during that journey.

When I lost my sense of safety and place and home to Hurricane Sandy, a part of me believed God was punishing me for the ways in which I failed to complete the fast.  Wrong thinking, I know.  Yet it was one of the many ways in which I internalized the storm and the subsequent devastation of my life.

I can choose not to internalize the storm.

Nearly two weeks ago somebody said to me that I should not think that by stopping my fast, I failed.  Did I not learn something from it?  Did I not arrive at Ramadan this year with new purpose?  In Kazim Ali’s Fasting for Ramadan, he mentioned that Ramadan was like a yardstick by which he could measure each year.  (paraphrase).  There is a familiarity to Ramadan that comforts me.  A repetition.

My friend shared with me today about her grandmother, a Sufi Muslim from Iran.  It is a story that brings to mind the true faith.  Her grandmother was deeply religious, a spiritual woman.  She continued to fast even when her body could not accommodate it, modifying, drinking water, etc.  She fasted by being mindful of Ramadan.  She was mindful of what she ate and drank.  She gave to others.  She was present.  She prayed.

Today I am especially mindful of my weaknesses because I had a very rough day.  I performed the ritual of self-loathing.  This feels hard to say, but I say it because I am not alone in this practice.

Here is how one version can look:  I do the work, but I realize that nobody can see it.  I tell myself that I know what love is, but I am treated poorly by someone who loves me.  I try to be amazing, and I try to be perfect because I think that is the only way anyone will ever love me completely, mind, body, and soul.  I think love is something that can be won.  I am ashamed that I am not good enough.  I want to give up my life because I was doing a wretched job with it.  I sink to the floor.  My tears say out loud what I am too alone and afraid to tell anyone – I don’t deserve my own life.

I am not alone.  I am like everybody else.  It is a sign of my humanity that I have had this experience.

I was asked once:  what does it mean to be a queer woman of color?  Part of what it means is that you may suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  We carry with us not only our own suffering, but also the suffering of people before us.  It seems strange that our bodies, hearts, and minds can remember a pain that was not visited upon us directly.  It seems strange to be born carrying a burden etched into our bodies, inscribed into our future.

We can heal from this memory pain by finding the source of the pain and addressing it.

Forgiveness and love are abilities.

This is the alchemy of the forgiver.  A great doctor once framed it like this:  if you can learn, even once, to forgive yourself for something you have done, then you will never forget how to do it.  You will be able to forgive yourself, again, and again.  You will never stop forgiving.

We are not inherently one way.  We don’t have to be weak people, or bad people, or fearful people.  We can change.  When we do bad things.  When we think dark thoughts.  It does not mean that we are bad people.

I will wake up tomorrow morning, and I will no longer be giving up food and water.  So it is even more important that I continue to fast.  I can fast by loving and forgiving everyone in my life who has done me wrong.  I can start with myself.  I can fast by being mindful of everything I put in my body.  I can fast by performing acts of service to the poor, or giving money to those who need it more.  I can fast by meditating.  I can fast by giving attention to my thoughts.  I can fast by breathing in the morning, by moving slowly, by not reacting.  I am present.  I can fast.

What will it mean for me to continue to fast in these ways?

Fasting for Ramadan is the prayer I make by living.

 

There is more than one way to starve.

– Sherman Alexie, Indian Education

 

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty

and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study

and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

 

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

– Rumi, trans. by Coleman Barks

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