A Different World

In case you didn’t know, it’s Ramadaan – the Muslim month of fasting and heightened spirituality. While Corona robbed us of the traditional communal prayers last Ramadaan, this year, South Africa is in a low state of lockdown, so our mosques are open.

Going for the night prayers this year is, for me, an escape from a stressful bubble I’ve been in for around two months. You see, we’ve been renovating our home – a comprehensive, multi-faceted endeavour which was supposed to wrap up before this month arrived. But building work often runs over time. No exception here.

So, we spent the first few days of the month in the other home we were renting, before moving back to our real home that still wasn’t finished. I’ve spent the past 5 weeks working in the home-under-construction, dealing with contractors and decisions and running to shops for parts…and dust. Dust everywhere.

Although the month officially started last Tuesday night, for me, only that first night actually felt different. After that, it was back to the grind of the all-consuming renovation. A renovation which was made all the more taxing, both psychologically and physically, because I have been working full-time (from home) through it all.

My employer, of course, has been wonderfully accommodating. I’ve taken 5 days of leave – in little pieces as needed (a few hours here and there, all adding up) – over these weeks, and have thankfully remained very productive in this time.

But it all adds up. The burdens weigh heavily, because I’m working later into the afternoon (given the building interruptions, plus occassional errands like fetching the kids), and once that’s done, the nights have been punctuated by visits to the ‘new old house’ to see what needs to be done; what to ask the contractors; what to cover up and protect from some of the careless workers who show little regard for the property of the person employing them on this job.

And then came the move home. Moving, in itself, is hectic. But doing so to a home that’s not finished, while fasting, adds new dimensions to the struggle. Our fasting days are short, though (unlike the Northern hemisphere), so I didn’t really feel that fatigued – despite the near-constant physical activity.

Once we got back home, a major, still-not-done challenge for me was organising and packing my stuff.

I’m very organised at work, but in my home life – my home environment – it’s very different. Over my shortened Summer holiday (cut in half because my wife and her family contracted COVID), I felt pride at finally sorting a ton of stuff in my cupboards. After that, I went back to work, and didn’t get round to finishing the job.

Little did I know that a few months later, I would be forced into doing it. And that’s my looming task, which I just cannot bring myself to begin yet.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not just a rant. I’m extremely grateful for the wonderful improvements to our home, and I thank all those who have played a part.

But the fatigue sets in after so many weeks of almost non-stop pressure.

We still have people working in our home. In every room, making more dust and noise and robbing one of a sense of security in the place that’s supposed to be a refuge from the stresses of the outside world. I’m hoping it’ll all be completely over a week from now. But you never know…

And by that time, we’d have reached the halfway mark in this precious month, which has been slipping away from me while the demands of the renovation and moving have remained top of mind.

I haven’t felt guilty about it, though. What could I do? I can’t put pressure on myself because everything else has sapped me.

So I just let go and decided to do whatever little extra I could, in terms of spirituality.

A turning point came a few nights ago, when I went to the mosque for night prayers for the first time this month. It’s far quieter now, given that the early Ramadaan buzz dies down after a few days.

And it felt wonderful being back. I missed this last year – as did all Muslims here in SA (and all over the world). It was like a blast from the past…a return to normality, albeit with masks and sanitizer and social distancing.

And slowly, I started getting back into my Ramadaan night routine – which includes a good amount of alone time. Time which, this year, is especially important because it’s my only refuge from the renovation bubble I’ve lived in for these past weeks.

I treasure my alone time immensely under normal, non-Corona circumstances. So to get it back, regularly, in the midst of this renovation, and in Ramadaan, is a gift I’m truly grateful for.

I get to escape, each night, to a different world. A more familiar world. One where I can focus on what matters to me far more than what’s happening with the work at home.

And maybe it’s selfish of me to see it this way, but it’s what I need. It’s my self-care, and I need it to bring some semblance of balance back to my life.

Like last year, it’s another unique Ramadaan this time. One which, I hope, will pick up tremendously very soon.

And though it’s sad that I can’t fully indulge in it like I’d want to, this is perhaps a lesson to teach me that I need to be more appreciative of this month when, God-willing, my world – and the bigger world outside – returns to normality.

2 thoughts on “A Different World

  1. I appreciate your thoughts here, Yacoob. Do not feel guilty about the precious alone time. It is what helps keep us whole. Good luck with the renovation (I know how nerve rattling those can be).

  2. Oh, no, Yacoob, what a lot of stress…even happy changes can be stressful, but you’ve had a mixed bag, it seems! So good to hear your reclamation of evening solitude has helped with rebalancing. Good for you. I hope this sacred time will restore your spirit and renew your energy, Yacoob. Gentle peace to you.

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