Ramadan Day 2 – I’m Too Hungry to Feed the Pain

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“The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.” – marie condo, the life-changing magic of tidying up


Today, like so many, I have a fasting headache. It started at around 4:30 or so in the morning right after I prayed and made some (half-ass…) dua. My sister texted me and asked me for a conversation. It was way too early for her to be texting me. I’m the only one in my family who observes Ramzan.
I’m praying, I texted. Are you okay?
Yes, she replied. How long are you going to pray?
When we finally spoke, she felt that I’d been rude to her. It was causing her some anxiety, she said, to have to address this with me.
Within minutes what started as a desire to get clarity and to ask to be treated in a way she felt she deserved — became an all-out telephone war, loud and brutal, with various accusations around how much we care for each other. By the time we hung up, nothing was resolved, and everything felt difficult and angry. Things were definitely somebody’s fault, but between my thirst and the anvil getting smacked on in my head, I wasn’t sure who was up and who was down.
I can’t deal with this right now, I said, as we ended the call.


I know it’s twisted, but there’s something really wonderful about fighting during Ramadan if you accept the premise that the fighting happened. Yeah, you could have saved the fight for another day. Or, you could just bite your tongue out of respect for the fast. But, hey a fight’s a fight.
Usually I feel so terrible after a fight that I can’t function because my emotions are at high tide. However, after this fight, I promptly went to sleep, and when I woke up, I knew that I didn’t have the energy to continue the fight. I knew that the fight would be waiting for me to deal with it later. I knew that the fight didn’t matter as much as keeping my fas. Plus, that pounding headache that required my attention.
I asked myself what the most important thing was for me to do, and the answer came at me with a chime: go to IKEA with my brother and get a desk.
So that’s what I did.
Fasting requires you to conserve energy and to do only what is truly important to you. This argument was a test. I wanted a wonderful, peaceful Ramadan without any difficulty. Instead, I made it through one day and then ended up in an argument.


There’s nothing quite so terrible as conflict with your family. It’s like the yardstick by which you can measure every other conflict. I know homies that are chill as all get out, but the second their mother asks them to do something or criticizes their appearance or tells them to change something up, it’s like nuclear meltdown rage. Or if their brother or sister makes some rude comment, the response is nothing less than a summit about whether or not you ever truly respected one another. Zero to 100 – family fights are like the porsche roadsters of the road.


Zero to 100 – family fights are like the porsche roadsters of the road.


Family trouble is ubiquitous. Nobody is immune. Least of all me.
The closer I get to a friend or lover, the more aware I am of how the ways in which they fight (or don’t fight) with their family influences how they deal with difficulty toward me. This doesn’t mean that everybody closely follows the pattern of their parent(s) conflict orientation style. It only means that people sometimes bring their whole history into any fight they have with you, and sometimes they’re trying to correct for that history. Sometimes they’re over-correcting for that history. So they’re like standing up to you in a way that isn’t actually about the fight that you’re having. If you call them out on it, then usually you’re screwed. Nobody likes to be patronized.


During my MFA program, I was angry at this white guy in my program who was, at the time, a dear friend. Marky Mark was the kind of person for whom the word ally was a label or a reward, but when it came to actually standing up to racism, he didn’t have the backbone. He had his reasons, but he wasn’t really the kind of guy who liked to fight.
I was hurt for a while when some racist shit happened in one of my workshops, and he wasn’t able to provide support. We tried but couldn’t move through our differences.

I remember Amadeus, a freakin amazing poet, taking me aside and saying why are you taking his failure so personally? It got a bit heated because I thought Amadeus was full of shit. I said, I’m taking it so personally because if he really loved me, then he wouldn’t constantly be fronting that he was some kind of conscious activist type and then hanging me out to dry when people are like writing that Asian women are delicate lotus flowers they’d like to fuck.
It’s kind of selfish, Amadeus said, to take people’s failings personally. It’s not about you. It’s definitely not about whether or not they care about you. You could make an argument that people never do anything except to meet their own needs and that nobody’s behavior is ever about you.
And as we ventured back and forth into our philosophies of behavior, I caught onto the simple truth about why, so often, I fight with people in my life. Because I’m not sure they really love me.


Because I’m not sure they really love me. 


Fighting during Ramadan strips away so much of my pretense — and leaves me feeling vulnerable. I don’t have the energy to throw up all the defensiveness that is usually there for me. Mind you – my sister and I fought right after Suhoor, when I’d just begun the fast.
Ramadan leaves me present with my pain, but it also makes the pain more manageable because I have a distance from it.

As my brother and I walked up and down the aisles searching for a desk, I could barely concentrate on walking or what had just been said to me. I definitely didn’t have the energy to revisit my fight with my sister.

Pain, I realized, has an energy of its own, and it requires food and water in a way that I don’t. That seems like a funny thing to say, but that’s what I learned today as I was fighting with my sister — that my anger and feelings aren’t necessarily the things that should govern me. That I need a space to move through them that doesn’t feed them. That when I fast I’m not only abstaining from water and food, I’m abstaining from delivering my limited energy to my conflicts.


Faith
Tim Seibles

Picture a city
and the survivors: from their
windows, some scream. Others
walk the aftermath: blood
and still more blood coming
from the mouth of a girl.

This is the same movie
playing all over
the world: starring everybody
who ends up where the action
is: lights, cameras, close-ups—that
used to be somebody’s leg.

Let’s stop talking
about God. Try to shut-up
about heaven: some of our friends
who should be alive are no longer alive.
Moment by moment death moves
and memory doesn’t remember,

not for long: even today—even
having said
this, even knowing that
someone is stealing
our lives—I still
had lunch.

Tell the truth. If you can.
Does it matter who they were,
the bodies in the rubble: could it matter

that the girl was conceived by two people
buried in each other’s arms, believing
completely in the world between them?

The commanders are ready. The gunners
go everywhere. Almost all of them
believe in God. But somebody should

hold a note for the Earth,
a few words for whatever being

human could mean
beneath the forgotten sky:

some day one night,
when the city lights go out for good,

you won’t believe how many stars

 

 

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