Words Fatema A.
Header Credits Fatema A. (@cosmicweavers)
Summers for the past two years have been incredibly anxiety-inducing for me. When this lockdown began, I sent my mentor a voice note dramatically exclaiming “I’m going crazy.”
She laughed and asked why?
Seemingly endless days were why; not having external cues, a university schedule or an upcoming art market that I needed to prepare for. That was March 24th. It had only been a day into Ramadan and I was already feeling fatigued at the monumental task that lay ahead.
Without the presence of something or someone, in my case mostly university, dictating what my day, therefore my week, therefore my next 4 months look like, I quite literally fall apart, mind and body. The past two summers – 2017 and 2018 – after having taken trips to be with my parents, I would come back to 3 months of nothingness.
And so most days, that weren’t spent socializing, or shopping for groceries, would be spent on my couch, binge-watching. I’d tire of it not long after. My mind numbed. Yet rarely would I be able to find it in me to get up and simply do something else. Ironically so much freedom left me bound. It would be unfair to myself to say I lack willpower, or passion, or the desire to do something. When I am at school, or working for an art market, I am fired up. I am making so much work, growing, learning, selling.
Yet these patterns have always existed.
At 24, they no longer surprise me. Yet with every year, anxiety’s tendrils at the arrival of summer only grow thicker, their roots deeper. I realized too that I have been carrying the guilt of not being productive over summer for so many years, that the prospect of change felt near impossible.
All this weight with the added pressure of shifting to online classes, tackling finals week, and the fear of the speed with which Ramadan passes you by if you don’t stop to pay attention.
I decided the only things that required my focus then was Ramadan, and school – in that order. I started building my days around ibaadat, which my husband and I eased into effortlessly. Everything was laid out, all we had to do was show up. Finals week came and went. Layaalee Fadela came and went, as did Lailatul Qadr. Until, just like that, Ramadan too, belonged to yesterday. Except it left me with so much.
Whereas once, namaz and quran were just another part of my daily to-do list, sometimes getting done, sometimes not, Ramadan had allowed me to fortify these as the cornerstones of my day. Instead of waiting till the last 10 minutes of Zohr, like Ramadan, I made an effort to arrive at my masalo by zawaal. Quran recital became a non-negotiable. As did tasbeeh. If I missed my window in the day, I would not allow myself to go to bed until it was done. With the same vigor that I had during Ramadan to ensure I read a sipara a day, and catch up when I fell back.
Today, it’s June 12th. Almost 3 weeks since Ramadan, and over a month into my summer.
The very elementary stipulations of my faith, that I have known since I was 5, at 24 have become my lifeline. Everything else comes easier. Now that I see with such clarity what certain windows in my day look like, slotting everything else around it works seamlessly. The barakat of them, the transcendence they bring, the guidance, on a level I don’t always comprehend, but feel within myself, makes my tasks easier to simply begin.
It feels almost silly to admit it, to write about it. Yet it was difficult to accept. That before this Ramadan, the foundations of my amal were non-existent. That though I went around always responding to “How have you been?” with “Incredibly busy!”, wearing it like a badge of honor, everything was out of balance. That I needed someone else to tell me what to do, when to do it, and even how.
Returning to these basics allowed me to really look within. Look at what was fundamentally wrong in the way I had been living, in the compromises and daily trade-offs I was making at the cost of I don’t even know what? With staying true to just these two things, things that altogether barely take up 2 hours of my entire day, I found a way to take charge of my daily narrative. My smallest, seemingly insignificant choices. And just as easily, without any noise, or clamor, or declarations of how THIS summer was going to be different, this summer already has been different. The shifts happened on an infinitesimal scale, ever so gently. It required no planners, no self-help books, no charts, no lists, and certainly no beautiful pens. It reflects within me, a sea of calm. No void. No nothingness. And certainly not the guise of being busy, yet empty.