Ramadan Day 23 – Blessings to the Day Sleeper

Snippets from last night:

“Every Ramadan is different. This one is unusual because it’s been hard to be truly present.” – The Imam

“I’m going to come look for you. Would you like some frittata? Some water?” – Alexandra

“I have things I need to do in the morning. Let’s sing.” – Ra’D

“I think you need to stop worrying about the future and live in the present.” – Penny

“What kind of star would you be?” – me

“I would be the Milky Way.” – Heart

*

What is the purpose of trust?

In law school, a comrade once told me:  the difference is that you don’t trust anybody until they give you a reason, and i trust everybody until they give me a reason not to.

In the name of distrust, I’ve laid waste to entire relationships.  I’ve picked fights about baked goods.  I’ve hidden behind the tire well of an ex-lover’s car (there’s no proof that this happened).  I’ve questioned innocent bystanders about their whereabouts.  I’ve lied.  I’ve smothered and clung worse than cow clop.  Oh yes, I’ve done things.

The other choice was to trust.  But I’m only human, I like to say, along with a billion others.

Not trusting people in my life has caused me to drive them away.  At a bare minimum, I’ve come to believe people are doing their best.  Still, I sometimes think I’d rather drive people away rather than trust them?

To trust, one way forward is to change the narrative.

Many who fail to trust are those who view themselves as having been victimized or are victimized by others.  We feel disempowered, so it’s hard to perceive the degree to which others are capable of greatness.

One of the fundamental traits that mistrust breeds is a controlling nature – the attempt, however weak, to protect oneself from hurt.

I’d tell you now, the Doctor said, that everything is a test.  Read the Qu’ran:  Allah showed the prophet heaven and then asked the prophet what it was was, and he answered it was a place that anybody would want to be, and then Allah showed the prophet hell, and the prophet said that it was a place where people wouldn’t want to be. Then Allah went about decorating the path to Hell with beauty and glitter and pain, and he set on the path Heaven nothing but obstacles and difficulty.

Allah, the Doctor said, is always testing us, both the good and the bad fortunes of life.

Doc, I said, this perspective on life is stress-inducing.

But you should know, the Doctor said, how many people who’ve been tested through blessings, through generous gifts, a good life, and yet they have done nothing to change this world or to have more compassion. They’ve failed the test.

So Allah has a purpose for everything, even privilege?

I’ve felt lately, a lack of trust toward Allah because fasting for Ramadan this year has been so difficult. I wake up exhausted and suspicious. I wonder if I will make it through the day. Will I become too dehydrated? Will I get a headache? Will I implode out of irritation and frustration because people around me are using words?

But, this Ramadan has demanded trust. I wonder if I’ve failed this Ramadan. But then I remember, I’m still fasting. I’m still trying to connect.  Some part of me must believe or I wouldn’t be reaching toward Allah.  Isn’t that what we do when we fast?

A faster walks the thin line between failure and success with their eyes open. At every point in life, I cannot know if I’m about to fail or succeed. However, during Ramadan, I am aware of this line. I see it marking each day with danger.

The oddest thing: the effort of fasting this year has made me vulnerable.  This is new.  I don’t feel strong and recharged by Ramadan.  I feel I need help to get through things.  I’m no longer connected to God through ease and spirituality.  I’m connected to God through difficulty.

I spoke to one of my dearest friends and teachers, T, today. T is a beautiful person. Of late, she’s really suffered because she tore her rotator cuff. She’s had to have major surgery and can’t lift her writing hand to even flip the bird. T was writing a letter to her mother. I told her – I feel like all your suffering this year is kind of like your own personal Ramadan – it’s like a mini-fast, at least.

What have you learned? I asked T.

One of the benefits of the incredible pain I’m in, T said, is that I’m entirely present. I’m so in my own body. I breathe and hurt and breathe and hurt. It’s usually helpful to know that whatever you’re worried about is not the center of the world. But when you’re in this much pain, you’re like – the center of the world is MY ARM.

I do these supine exercises, and I’m totally present. You know how when you meditate, you’re trying to be present, but you end up thinking about meditating and other things. Well, I’m completely focused on what I’m feeling during my physical therapy. I actually feel kind of relaxed when I’m done.

I’m aware this year, but not merely of the sweetness of my friends. But also their sweet aches.

I remember her voice:  Tell me, why is sadness sweet?

My friends tell me that they aren’t writing. Or, they tell me of their parents who’ve passed or are sick. They tell me of their shame, whether it’s for loving the wrong person, or the wrong gender. They tell me of their anger, their rage against the world, its racists and the many people who cannot accept the things they’ve done wrong. They talk of pain, of violations and intrusions. So many stories of hardship that I taste the bitter on my tongue.

This year’s Ramadan possesses gifts we are all trying to unlock. I’m comforted that my fellow fasters are struggling too.

At times, I cannot think because I’m too tired, and I’m focused solely on waking up. At times, I can only think of water. Two hours ago, I wanted to eat a peach. I imagined my hand, snaking out, snapping up that juicy fruit. And now, so close to Iftar, I’m filled with all the difficult encounters of the day.

My body feels tight and heavy and weak.

Soon I won’t be able to write.

I’ll only be able to breathe.

I feel tested this Ramadan, and perhaps later,

I’ll forget how all the easy months easy weeks

days that came before I was no more generous,

I’ll forget them entirely, altogether, one long sentence,

even then, the bright eyes of Allah were upon my deeds.

Let this Ramadan be known as the hard one, the one during which we fought, so hard. not to fall asleep, but we did, anyway, at our jobs, on the train, in crowded rooms, in our homes alone, napping, dozing, struggling to keep our eyes open.  Fajr and Maghrib slipping so close together that we didn’t have enough space to recognize our own two selves.  So we’ll remember 2015 as the glorious struggling, the humbling fall.  When the night came, and we were awake, and we saw not sun nor light, but difficulty, and through the grace of pain, that is how we were tested, and that is why we fasted, for it too brought us close to Allah.

For this is what we’ve become.

Day Sleeper.

***

Just Sit There

Just sit there right now.

Don’t do a thing.

Just rest.

For your separation from God

Is the hardest work in this world.

Let me bring you trays of food

And something

That you like to drink.

You can use my soft words

As a cushion

For your

Head.

– Hafiz, trans. by Daniel Ladinsky

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