Ramadan Reflections (day 15): Homesick

Today might feel like a mountain.

That’s how my mother described today’s fast after iftar when we spoke on the phone.

Coming down from my visits home feels like slipping down a slope,
clumsy and unsure footing.
My heart racing at the anticipation of footing the path wrong
and slipping faster than feels comfortable.

When I leave my parents home on a Sunday,
I leave in a huff because it’s the most frustrating moments of the entire weekend.
My mom stuffing my bags full of miscellaneous things:

garbage bags, toilet paper, tomato sauce, tuna, fashion magazines, coffee packets, creamer, honey packets, those ice packets that drip weird chemicals but are somehow safe to keep your food cold?

And in this process, I always leave something behind because my dad is always huffing about how I should get on the road if I’m leaving and in his own way, he defends me from my mother’s frantic hoarding.

In the distance is always a sibling or two, waiting at the door or by the car, loading bags of things into the car to make the bus back to NYC.

Things that frustrate us are never about the things or the bags of stuff filled with love or the bus or about things.
It’s about being sad that we will not be together or whole again for another couple of weeks until the next visit.

The frustration is about homesickness and the things we do leading up to saying good-bye are simply the things we do to distract ourselves. All of us. We have perfected the roles and I hate mine.

I absolutely hate my role in this all. I want to be an understudy to my life sometimes and watch the good-bye in rehearsals.

Especially on days like today when it feels like a mountain and I am homesick or like I’m coming off some drug.

Today might feel like a mountain because it’s the 15th day of Ramadan. A half-way point. 
So if this is the hardest day, the hump, then maybe it gets easier after today, right?

I don’t really know what part of missing them I want to get easier. I want it to hurt less, to worry less…

… I don’t ever want to feel like I’ll never see them again. I know I will, but I’ll never have that moment with them again. 

Over the weekend, we watched home videos from 20 years ago.
My sisters were itty bitty – in one, Sangi wasn’t even born! I can’t imagine a time without her and to watch moments captured without her existence was surreal.

I sort of half-argued (to myself) and whoever was around me that we shouldn’t watch the videos.
They make me so sad… and I think they make everyone else sad too… reminding us/them of our former lives, selves, shapes and bodies. The lives we led, the little we had and how much we made that little bit stretch and go to feel like an enormous amount of wealth: we were genuinely connected to one another.

In these videos, there’s little gaggles of us – cousins. Brown and giggly with teeth missing and some funky (not good funky) outfits with (my) belly showing at 8, 9, 10… It’s hard to watch us/me again. Not because I am embarrassed, but sad for what who we were and

where is she now?

Most of all, I get sad because looking back,
in memories,
so many things are wonderful seeming.
I know they weren’t
but nostalgia can make the past so beautiful.

And so, I look back at these memories
and then I feel where I am in the present:

it feels heavy and hard
and the present has frustrations and huff & puffs

and in the present, we want it to be different
to be better.

but the present will be in the past one day
and we will look back and think
wow, those days were just the best, weren’t they? I miss…

and I just want to somehow to know that the present is a wonderful memory,
even in it’s hardest moments… even when it feels like a mountain.

So, I assert: today is a wonderful.

your waz.

(to be added to a piece I’m working on)

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 14): Purge

Lightning flashes in the dark sky from time to time tonight, and the thunder sounds not long after. I am in the quiet of my home office. The fan whirs. It’s been a day of internally preparing to let go of a lot of material stuff–clothes, shoes, papers. I have clothes and shoes I haven’t worn in years and yet when I moved to Philly, I brought them. They only took up space as I continued not to wear them into the present moment. For me, Ramadan can be a time of shedding–shedding habits and ways of being that no longer serve. Ramadan invites me to be aware of my physical consumption of food and drink, but also my consumption of media, of conversation and interactions that are not nourishing. Recently, I find myself listening to music less. As an avid music fan from the time I was a kid, I rocked Lite FM  whenever I could (Mom knew that was the station we would be listening to on any car ride) until I was old enough to order my first cd’s through the “99 cents for the first 12” deals that were so popular when I was a teenager. I listened to live radio shows to discover artists new to me. Indigo Girls, Pearl Jam, Billie Holiday, Joan Osborne, Dave Matthews Band, David Gray, Zap Mama, Ani DiFranco, Blues Traveler, Sweet Honey in the Rock, were prevailing sounds of my high school years. I was a fiend for cd’s. I grew a hearty collection. I never liked music with lyrics that insulted or demeaned. I found such works hard to ignore for the sake of a beat. Now, I have a subscription to a music service and for some years, every Tuesday I was looked to see what new releases were available. I listened to a lot of music across all kinds of genres, read music blogs, listen to music podcasts. Now, sometimes I don’t check for weeks. You can imagine, no one could have told me there would come a day when my hunger for music was anything other than ravenous. But here it is. I find that sometimes I need a lot of silence in order to expand my inner landscape. Sometimes music, in the ways I  listen, support that expansion or water my inner gardens and sometimes it doesn’t. There is much that is musical in Sufi tradition. By no means do I mean to suggest, as some do, that all music is bad, forbidden, etc. No, for me I am noticing that the sounds that nourish me are shifting. I’m not eagerly rushing to the Blues Traveler album I used to wear out, for example. That being said, throw me in an African wedding any day and it’s on and popping, as they say. I will dance joyfully til I’m wore out.

What sounds/music nourishes you? Inshallah may today be full of nourishment at every level! Amin.

Well I didn’t mean this to be about my evolving relationship with music exactly. All this to say that it’s time to let go of items that served years ago. I am so grateful for the shirts my mom gave me when I interned at the UN. I needed good tops for that purpose. I don’t think I’ve worn them since 2005 or 2006. Why am I still holding on to them? Why am I still holding on to shoes I wore once or twice? Why am I holding on to papers I haven’t looked at in years? Would I miss them if they go? Some of the holding has been in the vein of “this is a nice blank. I can wear it [at some other time that’s not now].” And then I don’t. The possibility is the thing has had me hold on. Here’s the thing: I live now. I am only sure of now. Holding on for a possibility that’s not assured, and which will offer its own potential, doesn’t make as much sense to me as it once did. I view this purging of items as an opportunity to also clear some internal space, as fasting does.

When I’m tempted to hold on to something I haven’t actually used, remind me I said this: )

Is there anything in the material world you’re holding on to that you no longer need?

 

With love,

ttg

 

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 13): humanity

Hello hello all,

The weekend has come and gone and it feels a lot like how I’ve been feeling the last couple of days: present to the speed of human emotions and my humanity.

Even though I haven’t been fasting the last couple of days, I am present to:
– to my hunger and the nourishment of delicious prepared foods
– to my anger at crappy drivers and the frustration of a car tailgating behind me
– my sobriety and the buzz of debauchery
– the empty feeling of missing loved ones and the bursting fullness of my heart
– the sweltering heat of airless subway car and the goosebumps when it’s too cold

This ebb and flow – this give and take is what we are meant to understand during this time, no? And even if understanding is hard to come by, we feel the push and pull.

What I love most about Terna in every moment is that she is able to remind me that there is a purpose to everything. Something to learn, something to be reminded of (even though I may and always resist it)… that Allah has something I need to listen for.

I get scared of where I go internally sometimes – the far edge of self-hate, -doubt, -deprecation and overall sadness and even anger. I try my best to tap into joy, without it being connected to anything other than a pure and genuine place… but I think I will try my best to feel my beingness as Terna has challenged and to see what opens up.

 

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 12): Peace

Greetings beloveds,

Peace to your hearts! What an amazing experience I’ve been having at the Jin Shin Jyutsu workshop here in PA. JSJ is kind of like acupuncture without needles, but beyond technique it is a beautiful physio-philosophy which only deepens my appreciation for/of Allah’s creation. What creatures we are, human beings. We are not human doings, human strivings, human tryings, we are human BEINGS. Have you taken time to connect with/remember your BEINGNESS today? What have you discovered in the center of your being, in your heart?

I invite you to be inwardly still for a few minutes today and really notice what is inside you. There is hadith which says “to know yourself is to know your Lord”. May you remember this anew today.

I’ve been feeling a deep sense of peace for some months now, and each day I find it still present calls up some tears. It feels like a tremendous gift. I am clear that it is Allah’s grace and generosity, not my own acts, present in my heart, inshallah. I’ve noticed that it seems very much intertwined with resting in a sense of clarity about my purpose. What brings you a deep sense of peace?

ps. I went to the local masjid in the town I’m in for Taraweeh prayers tonight. The beautiful energy in this Ramadan pulled me from my hotel room. Whatever trepidation I feel about unknown masjids, once I get there and we are standing in prayer, all that falls away for a while and it is simply beautiful to be in praise with other beings. Alhamdulillah. #grateful (my first hashtag ever!!! are they supposed to lead somewhere on twitter? I have no idea…)

Try this at home!

Curious about JSJ? Give this a try to experience it for yourself: simply hold your fingers for a couple of minutes each. No need to squeeze tightly, just gently hold them when your hands are free–on public transit, watching something, or as a complement/aid to the stillness you’ll rest in a few minutes today: )

With love.

ttg

 

Ramadan Reflections (day 9): Infinite: Waz (7.17)

There is a lot that I’ve been thinking about, jotting down, wanting to elaborate on: updates since The Out List came out and the amazing supportive acknowledgments and kind words; reflections on the Bay Area; personal growth… so so much. And inshallah, I will be given the opportunity to emotionally unpack them and have space/time for myself to sit down.

Sometimes time feels so finite.

Sometimes I feel so finite and I give myself so little space to feel what feels infinitely pressing.

Coming upon another Ramadan this year feels very different. I feel so present to having been allowed to be here at this moment, today. I feel present to being shepherded through another year – particularly a time when Ramadan comes at a heavy time.

But I’ve been allowed to be here not by sheer will, luck, happenstance or coincidence. I’m taken into each new day and moment because of fate and because of God. I am supposed to be here and now, with weight on my shoulders and infinite thoughts and feelings racing through my head and heart – during my 30th year alive.

Generally, I am not a fan of celebrating my birthday but this last December, I was willing to acknowledge it more readily – especially as it represented entry into a marked and inarguable adult status. Into a new place and status with a set of experiences that would carry me into the next number of years intended for me. And as I turned 30, I wondered to myself what it would mean for me – what I would accomplish this year? And more than everything else, I wondered what it would mean for me and my parents.

Since then, I’ve been waiting for it to settle in. When would I feel (more) adult? How would I rise to the occasion of being a wiser, in action adult? How would it set me apart from 29 or 25? It wasn’t until the end of June when I came to feel the 30th Ramadan that I would be alive for.

Birthdays seem arbitrary to me. And more than that, I grew up in a family where most family members didn’t have birth certificates (or death certificates) – you were born generally on X date, around about when Y and Z got married… and it was Winter… or Spring.

And in this country, we remember (some) dates for the wrong reasons: to enshrine death and casualty

This year, I felt a tugging that Ramadan was when 30 began. This marked my 30th year alive – my 30th Ramadan. And this month feels significant. It matches the significant and infinite feelings and thoughts swirling and whirling, cooking inside. And this moment/month also underlines a desire to act on responsibility in action and words, that may be received (inshallah) differently than before.

I specifically mean restarting the conversation about my queerness and my life with my parents.

The letter I sent them was intercepted for many/all the right reasons by my siblings. It’s not fair to them to be the messengers, or the ones who bear the brunt of the weight of our parents reactions… I have to return to my role as the older sister and I know in my heart that my parents want me to return to them as both daughter and now adult. It has been undeniably too long that we’ve held our breaths, skirted questions and that I have been restrained in my living, breathing, and being me: as whole self.

Next steps are brewing.

But I feel renewed in this moment, after moment. Infinitely.

(this was started the other day in preparation to be posted yesterday, which didn’t happen: the 8th day of Ramadan- 8, on it’s side: infinity)

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 8): Honor in striving (ttg)

web

Salaam beloveds,

This is really just a note to hold space for the commitment we made to post everyday. Life in Ramadan is throwing us some curve balls and we are striving to catch them. Inshallah I want to write about surrender and saying yes to Allah again and again (one of my favorite subjects: ) in a post to come. Before the clock strikes midnight, I hope you have had an inwardly rewarding day. I raise my coconut water (is anyone else burning up in their town??) in honor of striving. Cheers.

 

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 6): Stuck

I’m stuck.

I’ve been stuck all day on my feelings about the Trayvon Martin and the verdict.

I’ve been asking myself how to contextualize this within Ramadan. Where do I reflect on this?

I’ve been writing little lines here and there… I opened up the Quran to find an answer. I opened to Surah: Al- Araf

Surah 7: Ayah 34 stood out to me:

And for all people a term has been set:to and when [the end of] their term approaches, they can neither delay it by a single moment, nor can they hasten it. 

In this I choose to believe that Trayvon’s murder and the end of his young life was meant to be. This ruling by the court is also an end to apathy, inshallah. I hope that those of like-mind and heart will understand that we must fight for justice in all its forms and name racism, sexism, xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia and on, in all it’s forms. At all times.

We cannot – I cannot – be as tight-lipped (which generally, I am not) in naming racist actions and remarks around me. I particularly cannot falter or hesitate as a woman with skin-privilege.

THIS MOMENT IS RACISM IN ACTION – this is institutional and socio-cultural racism in all it’s glory. I refuse to be engaged or even hear any form of explanation or defense that is contrary to what I know. That is exactly what we, as millions of people in the US and around the world, know to be true.

I started to write a little poem, but I’m not ready to share it yet… I’m taking an easy route right now by ending with something from bell hooks… I hope you’ll understand.

bell hooks on Zimmerman case

“White supremacy has taught him that all people of color are threats irrespective of their behavior. Capitalism has taught him that, at all costs, his property can and must be protected. Patriarchy has taught him that his masculinity has to be proved by the willingness to conquer fear through aggression; that it would be unmanly to ask questions before taking action. Mass media then brings us the news of this in a newspeak manner that sounds almost jocular and celebratory, as though no tragedy has happened, as though the sacrifice of a young life was necessary to uphold property values and white patriarchal honor. Viewers are encouraged to feel sympathy for the white male home owner who made a mistake. The fact that this mistake led to the violent death of an innocent young man does not register; the narrative is worded in a manner that encourages viewers to identify with the one who made the mistake by doing what we are led to feel we might all do to “protect our property at all costs from any sense of perceived threat.” This is what the worship of death looks like.”

– bell hooks