Today was the first day of Ramadan 2017. In this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset in an effort to increase in self-reflection, empathy, gratitude and patience.
This is only my fourth year fasting after a 10-year break following my diagnosis. While I knew I wasn’t well enough to observe, and therefore exempt, I always felt like I was missing out. I would listen to people complain about being thirsty and envy it. I used to lie to my friends and tell them I was fasting while skipping my lunch at school (probably not very Islamic of me to lie like that, I know).
When I finally started to fast again, I couldn’t believe I could do it. I was filled with gratitude for the blessing of good health that allowed me to benefit from the experience. I thought that being disabled meant that I was already grateful for my blessings – I had no idea how wrong I was.
There is absolutely no shame in not being able to fast, and some people find it harder than others. But for me, as a wheelchair user who has gone from not fasting to fasting, here are some lessons I have learned in the past four years.
- If I can do this, I can do anything
There are times during the rest of the year when I really run out of patience, whether its from hunger, with other people or difficult situations. That’s when I remind myself that if I can stay away from food or drink for the entire day, I can handle this. There is no reason for me to be such a drama queen. Sometimes I remember this before I lose control, sometimes its after I’ve already had a go at someone for pissing me off – my bad.
- Food can be a deflection
I’ve really become aware of how we eat just to avoid dealing with difficult situations. Food is literally everywhere, to the point of excessiveness. This is really not good for our bodies or the environment. When you don’t have any distractions, you’re forced to deal with whatever it is going on in your life at that time. My consciousness of my spiritual and reflective self is on (figurative) steroids, to the point where some of the best life decisions I’ve made have been during or after Ramadan.
- I still have food on my plate
When I’m staring at my watch counting down the hours, at least I know when my next meal is going to be and that it will be a meal to look forward to. Not everyone has that privilege, nor the luxury of a roof, freedom or security. I have never had to worry about any of these things and while we all know that people are starving, not eating has made me appreciate just how real that experience must be for the people for whom staying hungry isn’t.