Patience 

Guilty as charged. Bang went my promise of a blog post every night, the plans of cooking nutritional meals for me to regain my strength and the pep talk I gave myself about not being crabby when hungry. It has all flown straight out of the window.
We’re now on day 18 and I cannot begin to describe how proud I am for getting this far. At the start of Ramadan, day 18 seemed a million miles away, and here we are, with less that two weeks to go until Eid, and I’ve managed every single day.
The one thing I have noticed more than anything this year is the isolation. That has played the biggest part in why I haven’t blogged for so long. It is difficult enough living in a community which isn’t predominantly Muslim, as going about your everyday business, you could be forgiven for thinking that the days of Ramadan are just like any other. The isolation goes deeper though when you find yourself breaking your fast alone every night. For me there has been no extravagant meals. It seems pointless to make that extra effort when I cannot manage more than a plateful of food. The children have eaten a good few hours prior by that point, and I don’t want to cook more than necessary and have it go to waste.
Last year’s diet was mainly a small bowl of soup followed by some fried eggs. This year, I seem to be surviving on noodles. Quick and easy to make, just the right portion size and satisfyingly filling. I went one step further last night and followed it up with an egg sandwich, but by 9.30pm I am honestly past the point of hunger and just want to quench my thirst.
The isolation I have been feeling had led to me becoming slightly depressed and withdrawn. I would leave it until the last minute to leave home each morning to take the kids to school, and upon my return, shut myself off from the world until it was time to drag myself back out again in the afternoon. I wanted to interact with my friends, but realised my energy levels were sapping because I’d not had a decent meal for sahur. I was aware my breath wasn’t the most fragrant, and I found myself avoiding contact because I couldn’t be bothered to make the effort.
I missed the atmosphere of the holy month that I had been so used to in Istanbul in previous years. I missed the bustling conversation over the iftar meal on an evening. I missed listening to the drummer walking the streets in the early hours waking people up before sunrise. I felt resentful at my situation and I felt very alone.
The biggest lesson I have been taught over the past month is patience. Nothing in this life lasts forever. Every emotion we feel, every event we anticipate and every step we take is temporary. I constantly looked for a purpose, for an answer as to what I was doing with my life. I wondered when I would get my break, my good news and my focus. I had prayed so much to Allah knowing that prayers were so much more important in the holy month, and yet each day I woke with the same heavy heart and tired mind.
Today was the day I was to receive my good news and indeed, my prayers and patience had paid off. I received news that I had been accepted onto the undergraduate university course of my dreams. So many things had previously hindered me from studying for the career path I’d had in my mind since childhood. There in front of me was the email confirming my acceptance and I cried. I had done it. Despite the odds being stacked high of being a single mum to three children, going through a messy divorce and learning to stand on her own two feet again, I had done it. I had achieved what I’d set my heart on.
The first person I wanted to call was my mum. I wanted to scream down the phone and tell her my good news. I wanted to tell my Dad and show him that I was going to make him proud. I sat and looked around me and realised that the two people who would know just how much this meant to me, weren’t even there anymore and that hurt. 
I couldn’t get to school quickly enough this afternoon to tell my children. My girls were so happy for me, but their biggest worry was who would look after them when I would be studying. It was an understandable reaction after the upheaval of the past year. I then went to collect my son from his school, and his reaction was the best I could have ever wished for. He shouted for joy and gave me the biggest cuddle ever, with a smile beaming across his face. He knew just how much I wanted this, and what I didn’t have in terms of my parents celebrating with me, he certainly more than made up for it.
Today I got my purpose, something for myself. Today I learnt the lesson to never give up. So many days I felt I didn’t have the strength or determination any more. So many times I questioned when I would reap my rewards. Today my faith and beliefs were reconfirmed because I believe that this is my reward for never giving up.
I have my focus back, my motivation and more importantly, my smile. 

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Sunscreen 

I spent a lot of time today talking to a very good friend of mine- a girl who knows me inside out, has been with me through the best and worst days of my life and knows my biggest secrets. She contacted me as she was worried how I was after reading yesterday’s post. I told her my fears, my worries about never finding happiness, my thoughts about my efforts not being good enough. 
She is a girl that is always straight with me. She will never tell me something because it’s what I want to hear, she will give me the stark honest truth whether I like it or not. She told me to listen to the Baz Lurhman ‘Sunscreen’ song, and take from it what I could. The lyrics are extremely powerful for a song that was a novelty hit 20 years ago. 
“Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
. You will never understand the power
 and the beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. 
But trust me, in twenty years
, you will look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now, 
how much possibility lay before you
 and how fabulous you really looked
. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don’t worry about the future or worry that know that worrying is as affective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum
. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things
 that never crossed your worried mind
. The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday

Do one thing every day that scares you, sing
Don’t be reckless with other peoples’ hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours, floss
. Don’t waste your time on jealousy
. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
. The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults
. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how
. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements, stretch. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life
The most interesting people 
I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
. Get plenty of calcium
. Be kind to knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the “Funky Chicken”
 on your 75th wedding anniversary
. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
 or berate yourself either
. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own, dance. 
Even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
. Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
. Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Brother and sister together will make it through
. Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there. 
I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
. And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. 
Be nice to your siblings, they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. 
Understand that friends come and go
, but a precious few, who should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
, for as the older you get, the more you need the people
 you knew when you were young
. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.
Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel, accept certain inalienable truths. Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old
. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
 and children respected their elders

Respect your elders, don’t expect anyone else to support you
. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse, but you’ll never know when either one will run out
. Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re forty
, it will look eighty-five
. Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
 wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off
, painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than it’s worth. 
But trust me on the sunscreen.

Brother and sister together will make it through, oh yeah
. Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there. 
I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
. And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can.”

I think we can all take something from those lyrics. One day, for all of us, it will be far too late. Too late for anything anymore. To have that one last dance, that one last chat, that one last chance to tell someone what they mean to you. Don’t live in regret, don’t live a life of ‘what ifs’. Be thankful for every breath you take, because every breath is one more closer to being your last. 

Happiness 

Some of you may have noted that there wasn’t a post yesterday. These past two days have been the toughest days yet. It hasn’t necessarily been the fasting as such, but a combination of external factors such as my mood, outlook and events in my personal life.
My emotional outburst yesterday was triggered by hearing the call to prayer at iftar time in Istanbul on Turkish TV. I always get goosebumps when I hear the calls from the mosque, but this was particularly poignant because it took me by complete surprise. I’d not heard the sound in months, since I was last in Turkey in September. Here I was, standing in my living room all alone imaging the families across not only Turkey but all over the world who would be gathering together to break their fast. I didn’t have that luxury. I looked at my phone half expecting someone, just anyone to call or text, but nothing. I cried. I felt so very alone. 
I didn’t have it in my heart to write a post yesterday because to be honest, I didn’t have anything positive to say. I normally try to grab a nap during the day but I had exhausted myself by cleaning every corner of the house and garden, and so it was 8pm by the time I managed a shower and to sit down. I was then fortunate to receive a couple of messages from some very lovely friends which helped to lift my mood a little. I didn’t even have the energy to cook anything substantial for iftar and managed a small plate of eggs and chicken salami. I cried when I ate that too.
Despite making what I believe was and still is the right decision to remove my children from an unhappy household, it is still very raw and hurts so much knowing that I am literally a one man band now. This was even more so obvious when I woke up this morning.
I think it was the stress that brought on the really bad migraine that I had right up until this evening. I could barely lift my head off the pillow, and that was accompanied by a very heavy nauseous feeling in my stomach. I didn’t want to break my fast by taking tablets but I struggled so much. I was going from being hot one minute to being cold the next and the saddest thing was that yet again, I was coping alone. The weather was beautiful outside yet I couldn’t muster the energy to even sit with the children in the garden. They didn’t deserve this and of course, the guilt made me feel worse.
I spend a lot of time reading books about self-help and have a album full of meaningful quotes on my phone that have all meant something to me and some point. One quote in particular that really stands out talks of how we cannot change the things in our past or how people behave. Nor can we change the inevitable, but the one thing we have control of is our attitude towards our circumstances and that life is a mere 10% of what happens to us and the other 90% is how we choose to react. I cannot change my past, and I still sometimes believe I am grieving ten years on over the loss of my Mum. I have to learn to channel my thoughts and rather than be full of hurt and regret, accept the situation and use this as a point to project my own self belief that I am a strong and capable woman. Tensions are fraught between my ex and I, but whereas in the past I would jump and bite at every piece in contact, I have learnt that not reacting is a bigger and better answer, having faith that I will receive all I deserve both emotionally and financially.
I remember back in 2007 when my mum passed away and my initial thought was that I had hit rock bottom and things could not get any worse than that period of my life. When you’ve hit that level, there really is only one way you can go, and that is up. The morning after she passed, I remember waking up extremely early and thinking to myself, ‘you’ve lost your dad, you almost lost your son at birth, you’ve now lost your mum, at least divorce won’t ever be on that list’ and here I am, ten years on.
It has been so hard for me to believe that any happiness I have from this point onwards will be here to stay. We are so naive to think that tomorrow is guaranteed. We are wrong when we think that the people we have in our lives will stay forever. That fear is maybe what is holding me back from being upbeat and positive. All I had in my life that ever made me happy has been taken- my mum, my dad, my vision of an ideal marriage. Even some of my hopes and dreams were taken by the person who should have been supporting them from the start. I think I must be one of the only people around who is actually scared to try and be happy again for for fear of it all being taken away.
If anything, the past six days have helped me appreciate peace and the power of prayer. I have spent so much more time praying than I was able to last year and I only hope that my efforts are rewarded. Tomorrow will mark a week since Ramadan started- we are a quarter of the way through already. I have got past the hunger pains and thirst, the hardest parts are the lack of energy, long daylight hours and loneliness. I hope that regardless of my struggles, my hurt and upset, that Allah recognises my determination and that one day, I will find and appreciate the happiness I am looking for.