Monday, November 14, 2011

Single Invisible Muslimah, Part III

As salaam alaikum,

Backdrop:  "[...] as a community, we are so focused on grooming our women to be wives and mothers that we lose sight of the fact that this is not even our number one role.

"Servitude to Allah (swt) is our number one role. We need to use what He has given us, the means that we have at the moment we have, to worship Him in the best of ways." - Wifehood and Motherhood not only ways to paradise.

And, from yesterday:  God knows I will love when I am married, and I will love each moment of life with my children. Those two will be the greatest love I'll ever know, I know it. I feel it in me. God made me a nurtuerer, and it's true for my patients, family and friends and it will be true of my family. I am going to be the best wife and mother I can imagine, insha'Allah.

But that's not my stage right now, and it's not my place to throw myself into that, to love that just yet. It will just leave me longing, as one who fasts the day and thinks too much of iftar longs painfully for that food.

I think I can learn a lot of lessons from fasting. My will power is great and I am usually not hungrily longing for food during the day, even when I sit with friends at lunchtime who are eating. It takes time, and it's not immediate at the beginning of the month, and it does feel isolating for that time that you are waiting to be one of the few around you not eating. The key to getting through those times is recognizing that yes, this is a lonely time, but it is temporary. A month is short, and before you know it you will be eating again during the day but missing the noor of Ramadan.

The ease of this, of course, is knowing that Ramadan has a foreseeable end and recognizing the value of that time. While it's harder to know that one's state as being single has a foreseeable end, a concept that I'm going to have to construct for myself, one definite thing I can do is recognize the value of this time of absence, my abstaining, my fasting...

Lessons from Ramadan extend past the month, as always, and the lessons are many!

Pretty early during Ramadan, I do not crave food, I do not envy those who have food and eat during the day because I am content to know that I am following the will of God, devoting myself to something greater than my base desire to eat. Ramadan is often lonely for me as I don't have family to break fast with, but I am sure that I participate in iftars in the community when I can or invite friends to eat a meal with me and thus effectively break fast with me. I am happy that others eat when hungry during the day and I know I will soon be one of those, but I am not eating with a purpose, a deeply spiritual purpose that I try to realize even in the busiest part of my days.

I recognize that Ramadan is hard, and sometimes it's harder than others. Sometimes my stomach grumbles, sometimes I start to feel spacy and tired. Sometimes I have a hard time concentrating on my work. Sometimes I do look forward to iftar...but I never delay Maghrib for stuffing my face. I drink something, eat a date, and I pray, focusing on my prayers as I did the rest of the day. I am deliberate with it, and eat in moderation when iftar time comes. It's especially hard because of the energy-draining profession that I've gone into. I even passed out this year on the last day of Ramadan, as I did not eat sufficiently during iftar and then walked into a delivery with a profusely-bleeding mom.

With the same resolute (but not resigning) attitude that I look at Ramadan, I should look at my life as a single Muslimah. Yes, I am abstaining...abstaining from sex and I am unmarried while people around me have sex, and other abstainers marry. I should look at that as I look at everyone around me in the hospitals and clinics eating while I'm fasting Ramadan. Not only is this time temporary (and I have to believe that) with the end to come, though perhaps not as forseable as the end of a month, it is a worthy abstinence. It feel isolating, but as that doesn't stop me from fasting Ramadan every year and enjoying it, the isolation should not keep me from going forth vigorously and purposefully in life and enjoying it.

Alhamdulillah, I am making a life for myself that is awesome! First and foremost, I am Muslim. I am about to become a physician and a published author. I am an amateur singer/songwriter, bachata, merengue and samba dancer. I have always been a daughter, sister, cousin, granddaughter, niece, and insha'Allah a decent one. I have grown to be a friend to many, and insha'Allah a decent one. I have been an excellent student, and I will always be a learner. I am rediscovering my inner voracious reader, my silent inquisitor.

The way that I am has been isolating often, and sometimes I despair that, but I should despair that no less than I despair the isolation of Ramadan. I found solutions to my loneliness in Ramadan, resolving to sit with friends and colleagues through lunches because being around food didn't affect me.

I think I have the solution. Marriage and family will not cease to be important to me, things that I desire. I just need to frame this desire in a different way.

I will no longer say "never." While I have aunts in my family who I often remember who did not have happy marriages, they all formed families that they love and fulfill them nonetheless. I don't personally know anyone who never had a family of their own. And the people I know who are still single are not out of their 30s yet, and there is still time. Since I was a kid and didn't have many friends because of my family's social isolation because of my brother, I've longed for companionship. Alhamdulillah, I've gotten it in the form of many awesome friends and a friend in my parents that has developed through the years and fulfills all needs except for that carnal base need that all of us humans have. I will continue to fortify my life with companions, friends male and female, Muslim and non-Muslim, to fit into the various places where I desire companionship.

I often despair that friends with these people will one day disappear as they go to form their own lives and I may not be forming my own. Here we return to loving the stage that we're in, loving where we are right now. Right now, I'm still a medical student, and I'm surrounded by wonderful friends, a virtual family that I've made while here. These will be the most precious times of my life, I know, because of these people, because of what it meant to me to be surrounded for the first time by so many brilliant and beautiful black men and women, and knowing they'll be out there, doing there thing in medicine.

Let me not have that overshadowed by my angst, my anxiety to marry and go on with that part of my life. That will come soon enough. I have these friends now. When I move, I will undoubtedly forge new friendships. Where I move, I want to become more involved in the Muslim community as I did automatically when I came here. When I move, I will be a professional, working and not having as much time as I do now to write, ponder, and write some more. I will have my own place insha'Allah, pay my bills, prepare my own food, listen to my own music in my own stereo, watch my television set, sing in my own place, gaze outside my window, write when I want to (of my free time)...I can be friends with whoever I want, go wherever I want, save up my funds and maybe travel for leisure for the first time in my life abroad...


If it's family I want, insha'Allah family I shall have. I no longer take it for granted but recognize there is no reason I will not have it. Either God will provide me with a husband and the ability to bear my own children or I will adopt when the time is right, insha'Allah. Or maybe I'll do both! I will have my family that I've always wanted, not because Jannah will be at my feet but because I want it. But this time of my life is no less valuable or important and is arguably more important because I'm growing in important ways that will fortify me as the older adult I will become, whether I'm a physician-writer or a wife-mother-physician-writer or anything else I may become!

So let me love life now. What is now? I am preparing for 11 more family medicine residency interviews but leisurely enjoying the last week of my laid-back pharmacology class that has allowed me to take care of life outside of medicine. I have written a short story that is due to be published! I am enjoying the company of a crew of friends who are also in the class, including daily lunches at the public health school. I have made friends with a young, gorgeous man and I am flattered as it becomes apparent that another one of my friends has feelings for me. My skin is clear and my hair is robust, thick and healthy and I come to appreciate more and more each day its native curl pattern. I'm watching a novela that entertains me, I get to read books again that excite, inspire and educate me, I'm writing music for my latest story idea and am once again invigorated to edit my novel. I have great friends who I can talk to, I can confide in my parents and three of my dear cousins who were with me through the tough times of my breakup. I am at liberty to spend my days lounging around my place, and the weekends blend into the weekdays because I don't have clinical responsibilities. My grandparents are alive and hanging in there, I have four new baby cousins this year and one more is in the oven, my family is largely healthy and happy. I don't need to worry about my student debt just yet. I have all the resources I could ever want. I have a huge, purple, spacious, lovely and warm room this winter in a modest apartment that I share with biting centipedes and a little black field mouse that is hiding somewhere but that mostly don't bother me. I just made okra soup that tasted so much like the authentic thing that I almost cried upon eating it.

I am not talking to a man who wants to marry me and I am not engaged as I very much imagine I would like to be right now, but honestly, honestly honestly, in the hypothetical, that adds nothing to the richness of the life that God has given me. When and if such a man comes along that fits and is worthy (yes, worthy), it won't be the fact that he will marry me that will be what I love (only, let's be honest), it will be his mere existence, not only in my life, but his existence period that will bring me joy. Wanting it without that element is an empty want. Waste not, want not? Don't waste the blessings of this life that you already have and you shall not want.

So much to love about my life, including the fact that I had a kind and gentle ex who went through pains to respect me even though he was incapable of being what I needed, who can still respect me even as we are not even able to maintain a friendship, who is intelligent and, in general, I'm happy he was part of my life for the short time that he was to teach me that there can be beautiful, different people in life.

And probably other things that I'm forgetting!

Here's to loving this stage of my life, and being more myself than I have ever been!

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