Ramadhan is my favorite month of the year, something I eagerly look forward to. Not because of the many buffets and Ramadhan markets, but because of the peace and serenity it brings to my soul.
This year, it is a month for us to enjoy being a typical family. The girls are on school holiday so we try to keep them busy with activities and little trips. It’s a little bit harder for me trying to keep up with 2 very active little girls whilst fasting, but we make do. We all get to sleep in, no school or schedule to keep to. More family bonding time, less chores and schedules. We go with the flow. And I have time to cook whatever I want for breaking fast, for it is a meal we look forward to
For the first time ever, I took the girls to the Pasar Ramadhan, the open air food bazaar selling delicacies for breaking fast. May as usual takes in all the sights and sounds eagerly, helping me carry the bags of food. Min was yelling out “Yucky! It’s stinky!” every time we pass by the smokey satay stalls and ayam percik gerai, much to my embarrassment and smiles from passers by.
Today is the last day of Ramadhan. For Muslims, it is a holy month of fasting. From dawn till sundown, we abstain from food and drink. Fasting goes beyond mere physical fasting such as no food and drink. But also spiritual cleansing, purity of thought and avoiding the temptations and desires of flesh and mind.
Ramadhan is a month of charity, of giving and mercy. Not only do we abstain from food and drink, we temper our words and thoughts. This to me is the hardest part of all, to abstain from malicious thought, unkind words and uncharitable feelings.
The gnawing hunger pangs generally goes away after a few days of fasting, though the thirst is constant. Invariably my mind is less sharp too. Even talking is a bit of a stretch for me as it leads to even more thirst. With low blood sugar, energy levels dip, tempers are short, patience runs thin. Which is pretty difficult for we are also required to keep our emotions in check, for we abstain from anger, sadness, jealousy, lust, malice and other negative or overly intense emotions. Emotions which we are frequently a slave to at times.
I remember past Ramadhans where intense anger, sadness and despair hits me again and again on a daily basis, when Autism was such a huge looming monster we battled daily. I struggled mightily in those days. Ironically, I don’t remember much hunger or cravings for food as much as I do this year. Back then, I struggled more with keeping my mood and disposition at an even keel. To avoid the dips and surges of the emotional roller coaster of being an Autism Mum raising 2 children on the Autism spectrum. Inner peace was much harder to achieve.
I have to remind myself of our blessings, how quickly I forget. This time last year, Min was in hospital getting ready for her endoscopy and colonoscopy. That was a dark time indeed. https://spectrummum.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/preparing-for-the-endoscopy/ https://spectrummum.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/post-endoscopy-colonoscopy/
This month, physical and mental exertions are harder and I’m just a little bit slower. So, my apologies for not writing as often as I’d like. There are at least half a dozen half-written articles waiting, left unfinished. Too tired to write, too weary to think, too sleepy to contemplate. Most days, my thoughts wander to what I wanted for breaking fast or Iftar.
Fasting has never been an ordeal or an imposition, I look forward to it every single year. For I feel like I’m closer to Him, I feel that I can transcend every challenge that comes our way just a little bit easier. In the tumultuous path of Autism, I look to Him for the strength and inner peace we need to go through this journey with dignity and grace. In the face of all the challenges and obstacles thrown our way.
Our children are a blessing from Him, so I thank him every single day for my blessings. I have some amazing friends on this journey, who coined the term Spiritual Autism. I hear ya……
I taught May about Ramadhan and ‘puasa’ (fasting). When I sat down with the girls when they were having lunch, I explained that I was not eating during the daytime because I was ‘puasa’. And during the month of Ramadhan, Muslims have to fast. May listened quietly. A few days later, May told my parents that she wanted to puasa too, just like Mummy. I had to explain to her later that when she’s older, she can learn to puasa with me. But for now, she must eat lots of food, so that she’ll grow big and strong. And THEN she can learn to puasa.
We went Hari Raya shopping recently, to look for the girls’ Baju Kurung, the traditional Malay outfit that we always wear on the first day of Hari Raya or Eid Mubarak. Even then we were reminded of Autism, for May rejected many outfits for they were too scratchy and rough for her. She couldn’t get them off fast enough, the feel of the fabric and even some of the stitching were unbearable for her. There’s still some sensory issues but so long as I can find soft silky clothes, I won’t let it bother us. May chose a silky purple baju kurung and Min chose a pink cotton baju kurung. They both look so adorable. Min begs me every day to be allowed to wear her Baju Kurung, but I told her she has to wait until Hari Raya.
It is a tradition in my family that it’s the children’s job to fill in the cookie jars. May and Min look forward to fill the cookie jars with the many variety of cookies this year. Last year, both girls helped fill the cookie jars. They also helped to eat the cookies too! Every time I looked, the cookie jars were less full. Loaded with gluten, casein and sugar, the two girls had a real Raya celebration indeed.
This year, we will all be together again. To salam my parents, kiss their hands and ask for forgiveness.
So what does Ramadhan, Autism and recovery have to do with one another? Everything and nothing. For Ramadhan comes every year, it is a firmly entrenched part of my life, just as much as Autism is now a part of my life. For my family and I can never deny how Autism has and still leaves a deep scar in our lives. I can choose to endure it grudgingly, with intense hatred and grief in my heart. Or I can choose to make the best of it, with inner peace, grace and serenity.
Selamat Hari Raya and Maaf Zahir Batin.