Why am I so happy about the start of December?
I have nothing against November in theory. But I was so ready to be done with the month. I even changed my calendar to December a day early. I really did not need that extra day.
November was a busy month of events, including a couple of speaking engagements and travel. For someone who has only traveled to a couple of countries (essentially only India and Saudi, not counting layovers, or the two countries I have lived in), traveling three times in a single month, back to back, is a lot.
November was a month full of many sleepless nights.
Surprisingly and by the Grace of God, after three weeks of attempting to sleep in beds that are not my own, I have been sleeping at least 8 hours each night this week. It could be because I have been sick for the past couple of days and really needed the rest. Apparently, according to the “experts,” you can’t make up for sleep deficit. But I feel like this week I have been. I hope it continues, God-willing.
So, why am I so excited for December?
Well, because it’s the last month of the year! Being the nostalgic that I am, this is the month that I get to look back on the year I’ve had. And being the purger that I am, think about the things I want to do in the year ahead.
This might be a bit too premature to do a year-in-review, since the month just got started. But I’m excited now, so why not?
Okay, so I am not going to do a month-by-month review. I don’t have the patience for it and I’m sure anyone reading this does not either.
Mostly, I’m really happy about the following things:
1. I started running for real in February/March and while I still have fears that I will struggle to get back into trail-running when the weather gets warmer, yesterday I browsed around a few stores to look into getting a running jacket and gloves. I didn’t purchase anything, but the fact that it’s on my mind is an indication that this “running thing” is not another one of my fads, Insha’Allah.
2. After over two years of working remotely, I finally got a full-time job in the city I currently live in. I must admit: I had gotten comfortable with the whole “working from home” thing, especially being a new wife trying to figure out how my new life with a man I had quite literally just met would end up panning out. But Alhamdulillah, I got what I wanted – I am working at a university and within the faith sphere. It’s not what I would have foreseen back when I started my M.A. in Religious Studies over 5 years ago, but I know that journey is far from over. Well, I don’t know for sure. But I feel it.
3. Most importantly, I performed Hajj this year. I had resolved to do it for real sometime around this time last year actually. After about two years of marriage, I knew and felt in my heart that it was what I and Mr. Rafia needed. It’s weird when you think about the reasons why you finally decide to do things you know you should be doing. Like with the headscarf for example. I didn’t start wearing it the day I became convinced it was required. Truth be told, I have gone back and forth on that. But I always knew that it was a good thing to do; surely committing yourself to Allah in such a way was not a bad thing. But I didn’t grow up around many Muslim women who did wear a headscarf. What drew me to hijab was not a convincing teacher or text, but a sense of gratitude to God. As a recipient of a major blessing (i.e. my 100+ lb. weight loss), I felt called to do this. With Hajj, I’ve always known that it was required and had resolved to perform it with my then-future husband before we decided to start a family. But why not earlier or later, after getting married? I felt called within that moment to do something for God because I knew it was only God who could help me out of the situation I was in.
“You do not draw near to Allah except by fulfilling the obligatory duties which Allah has made obligatory on you.”
Sometimes, it takes worldly matters to bring you closer to your Lord. That has been my experience anyway. I wish I was one of those Muslims who is joyful even in sickness. But I am not there yet – and maybe never will be. I am in a different station and that is fine; the struggle that Allah has decreed to be my struggle is uniquely situated for me. The fact that I struggle with body image and self-confidence, for example, is nothing compared to people who struggle to find enough food to feed their families… but that was another lesson that Hajj taught me. Seeing all those pilgrims out on the streets while we had air-conditioned tents to go back to after a long day of being out in the sun, I realized that I can never compare myself to anybody. We all have our own struggles. I cannot even begin to fathom why them and not me, but I do know that those who suffer in such conditions will not always suffer. Allah is Just and His Justice is not always explicable to us, because we live maybe 90 years in this life at best. Our views are limited in scope, because our time in this world is limited. We need to take a step back from our own perspective to see that it is not the only one.
I went off on a tangent there, but it was needed.
Being back, I feel like I am back to being who I was before Hajj. Sometimes I feel like, did anything about me even change? I still worry about the same things. But one thing I do have now that I did not before are the memories. Seeing the Ka’aba with my own eyes is a memory. Touching the Ka’aba with my hands, albeit for a brief moment, is a memory. Having my own sa’ee crisis is a now wonderful memory. Sitting, praying, and contemplating the meaning of being inside Masjid al-Nabawwi is a memory. Giving my Salaam to my Nabi (SAW), the reason I am a Muslim, is a memory.
I am brought to tears even at the mere mention of him. So maybe I have changed.
I think that’s it for now.
As long as I am alive, there will always be things to improve on. God-willing, I will continue to make strides in the year(s) ahead.