Today marks the end of my fasting for Ramadan. My final Iftar took place in a pub at BWI before I got on a plane for a family vacation. I broke this fast in the daylight with a beer and a bacon burger. So…not strictly speaking a traditional Ramadan success story.
I have written previously about my distrust of perfection further affirmed by my favorite sage, Sister Anne Patrick, who often said “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” I can acknowledge this is one of those truths I cling to, in part, because it’s convenient.
Sidenote: always distrust sage advice that is too easy for you to follow…not because it isn’t true for others, but perhaps not quite so true for you.
Here are all the ways my Ramadan fast was less than perfect:
I did not always wake by 5:30 to eat my breakfast before sunrise. Sometimes I did. Other days early morning runs, or yoga, or other forms of rationalization had me eating my breakfast in the guilty gleam of the morning sun’s rays.
I almost never waited to break my fast at Sundown. Instead I would break my fast in the evening (ahem) or late afternoon when I sat down to dinner (ahem) or stoop sitting with my family (ahem) or close neighborhood drinking moms.
This brings me to,
I often broke my fast with an adult beverage (drunken Monk style). My kidneys, turns out, did not appreciate this.
Which is why,
I drank water during fasting hours. It comes as a surprise to most non-Muslims that the Ramadan fast means you do not eat OR drink during the day. Not so, in Christian fasting. Thirst rather than hunger in my experience is by far the more difficult craving to stave off. Last Ramadan I was only able to pull it off a couple of days.
Speaking of which,
I may have taken a few days “off” from Ramadan. Sundays, for example are NOT counted in the 40 days of Lent. SOOOOO….I reasoned for this to be an ecumenical blending of traditions, maybe I just ate one less meal than usual that day. Who says brunch can’t be transcendent?
One might ask with all this “Ramadan by negotiated agreement” why do it at all? More importantly, might not all this compromise be viewed a disrespectful to all those devout Muslims around the world who adhere to these directives fervently? Perhaps. Though that is not their intent
This is my sincere confession. Forgive me.
Ramadan, I have learned, is not just about what you (try to) subtract. It’s about what you add. Muslims read the entire Koran during the month, they do works of charity, they make amends to people they have wronged.
One of the most beautiful reflections about the multiplicity of meanings that emerge out of this Holy month come from “Ramadan Revealed” with American Muslims around the country, recorded by “On Being.” I listened to it last year and this year while I ran along the Baltimore Harbor in the early morning light. Please make the time for these beautiful stories. They are full of humor, generosity…and MacDonald’s French Fries.
Many of these American Muslims tell stories about how challenging it is to keep the fast in America…hemmed in by 24 hour neon signs for french-fries and doughnuts. One confesses, when she fasts in America she feels like the only person in the world not eating. Not drinking.
I can’t say I strictly identify. I can say I do feel different even when I do Ramadan imperfectly. I feel more patient. More loving. More grateful. More mindful.
Even when I do less, I feel more.
Maybe it’s because all that blood is rushing to my brain and not my digestive tract. Maybe because so much of consumption isn’t nourishing. Maybe because I have used the discomfort of hunger as an excuse to be grumpy or impatient.
Maybe for some other mystical reason.
My hope is that one day I will do more and be more because of it. One day I will work up my spiritual stamina to 30 days of true pre-dawn profundity, alcoholic temperance, and sundown first sips.
Until then, my fast from food is closed. (I’m on vacation and one of my former students told me you’re not supposed to fast when you’re traveling, so, another convenient truth for me to adhere to).
But my heart is more open.
Thank you Ramadan. I’ll open my fast with you again next year.