Slated to start around mid-May this year, Ramadan is looming closer, and I await it with mixed feelings.
The holiest month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is a time for families to come together, reflect and grow spiritually. It truly is a beautiful time.
It's also hard. Forget what they tell you – time does not fly. Especially in the last few years, when Ramadan has fallen during the summer months, when it's hot as Hades (pun unintended) and the sun is setting later. Those of us that fast go through dramatically different stages as the month progresses.
The first week is filled with trepidation. You're looking forward to the familial bonds that are strengthened during this time, when everyone is sitting down together to partake in the most anticipated meal of the year. Whether with friends or family, the sense of comradery and oneness is really something else. But it's the first week of fasting – as in, abstaining from all food and drink for 14 hours or more (depending on when the sun sets and rises in the country you live in). That first day is TOUGH. The rest of the week is a compilation of struggling to stay awake during the day, taking naps after work, dealing with on/off again headaches (and if you're a big coffee drinker or smoker, withdrawal sucks so bad), and generally being cranky.
The second week is the only "good" week fasting-wise, so to speak. At that point, you've been fasting for a week already and you've got the hang of it. Your body has accepted it and you start to function like a normal human being. You even start exercising during fasting hours. It's cool, you've got this.
The third week is the longest. At this point, you're over it. Everyday feels like it is multiplied by ten. It's like being stuck in a vortex of a never-ending cycle of fasting followed by breaking your fast. Nothing else exists. This is the point when Muslim women the world over start praying for their menstrual cycle to start.
Menstruation deserves an important mention. You see, when you're on your period in Ramadan, you are exempt from fasting. If there is one time it truly pays to be female, it is then. Of course, we fasting ladies will still gripe about it when we get it. The timing of your period within the month of Ramadan is key! You see, if you get it the first week, while everyone else is collectively getting used to fasting, by the time you're off your period and ready to start fasting, no one has sympathy for your struggle – you know, cause they've all been there, done that. The second week is okay, but not ideal because it disrupts your fasting mojo (which you only really get in week two). If you get it in the third week, you've scored. Fourth week periods are a little sad, simply because you've made it so far already, it feels irrelevant.
This is the make it or break it week. Every day the finish line seems closer and yet still so far. It's during this week that I truly start thinking of my husband as an alien. This man that I married – this beer guzzling, football fanatic, anti-smoking male who has already transformed into a pious, daily card-playing and post-iftar shisha-smoking enthusiast, suddenly, somehow, gets a second wind.
He's all amped up in that last week – maybe it's because it's the final week, but this stranger is taking it all in stride, doesn't empathize when I whine, is animated during the day when all those around him are running on reserved battery power. He's almost got a spring in his step.
Crazy, right? And also, super annoying.
But then it's the final day and the final iftar meal, and dare I say it? It's bittersweet.
Ramadan Kareem, everybody!