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The isolation I have been feeling had led to me becoming slightly depressed and withdrawn.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. 


Stripping It Back 

The dictionary definition for lonely is as follows:A lonely situation or period of time is one in which you feel unhappy because you are alone or do not have anyone to talk to. It’s quite ironic that whilst I am blessed with my beautiful children and amazing friends, that ultimately, I am lonely.
Ramadan has fallen at a perfect time for me this year. In a year in which my marriage has ended and I have had to learn to discover myself again, I need this period of peace and serenity in order to strip everything back and find my reassess my values.
This time last year, things were so much different. I was going through a very unhappy period in my life. I knew deep down that my marriage was over, and again, ironically, it was certain events which happened during the month the concreted my decision that I needed out. Working 8 hours days in a busy coffee shop on top of 18 hours of fasting actually gave me more strength to stand up and make the step to leave than any other period in my life.
Fast forward to the present day and I am so lucky to have some fantastic people in my life who have helped me up when I’ve been kicked down and who have listened to my problems. My children are my purpose- they are the reason I strive to do my best, so that they can look back in years to come and remember that I was always there for them and never gave up.
The biggest problem lies deep inside. I don’t know who I am anymore. Whilst in theory, I am a 32 year old woman with her whole life ahead of her to choose what she wants to do, and who she wants to be with, I am lacking guidance. I have been kicked back so many times in my life, lost everything that I ever cared for and was told that I was never good enough- to overcome the fear of that happening again is mentally and emotionally challenging.
Friends have asked me if I really need to fast this year. It’s simply not as easy at that. Whilst I am divorcing my husband, I am not divorcing my religion. I didn’t become a Muslim for him, I became a Muslim because it felt right for me. I simply cannot turn my back on something I have believed in for the past ten years at a time when I feel like the only person who has ‘got my back’ is Allah.
This year will be physically and mentally hard. The first week of Ramadan falls on the half term school holidays, and we are currently experiencing 25C heat. Whilst my children know about Ramadan and what I am expected to do, they deserve to live their childhood and I will be spending many hours trying to entertain them single handedly. By the time they are in bed, I will still have around a hour before I can break my fast, and this will be emotionally difficult because I will be doing it alone. There is nobody to sit and pray with me, nobody for who I can prepare the iftar meal and nobody to encourage me and tell me that I am doing well. Likewise, I will be waking along for sahur to eat and drink before sunrise whilst my children sleep peacefully. I will turn to Turkish television to listen to the prayers from the hoca and set my alarm to listen to the sound of the call to prayer from a recording I will find online.
Tonight when my children are in bed, I will remove my make up and nail polish, remove my jewellery and wash in order to pray. I will cover myself and take the time to read from the Quran in order to prepare for the month ahead. I will pray for strength, hope, health and without a doubt happiness. Allah works in mysterious way and there is a reason that things happen in our lives, whether it be to test us or not. So many times I have been guilty of questioning that reason. So many days I have wondered how much more strength I have inside me to carry on fighting. I am hoping to find those answers over the next 30 days. 
I do believe though, the happiness lies in our own hands. If we see an opportunity then we need to grab it. We cannot expect love and luck to knock on our door, just in the same way we cannot expect to win the lottery if we don’t buy a ticket. If we should buy a ticket and not win then at least we tried, but we need to make more of an effort to expose ourselves to opportunities. If we fall down on our path to happiness that we need to stand up, brush ourselves down and try again. We meet the people we do in our lives for a reason and those people shape us. Those people may change our way of thinking, may question our morals or may teach us valuable lessons. The moral is, is that there are many hidden messages in our everyday lives.
So on a beautifully sunny and holy day of Friday, tonight we look forward to welcoming the holy month of Ramadan, and for the third yet, I am also looking forward to sharing my journey with you all, wherever you may be across the world. Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Ramadan.