The Standout

10 Sep


When you’re converting to a new religion, you like to stick out as little as possible.  After all, the point is to learn to do things exactly like everyone else does.  It’s not such a big deal in Christianity, where adherence to the religion is mostly theology-based, but it matters in Judaism, where adherence is mostly action-based.

When you have cancer, not sticking out is easier said than done.  Fasting for Yom Kippur?  That’s a no-go.  I had strict (Jewish!) doctor’s orders to drink water and eat a sandwich at lunch.  Giving up leather shoes?  That also wasn’t going to happen.  When you’re on chemo, cuts and sores don’t heal properly (it’s the whole “chemo attacks rapidly dividing cells” thing).  They get gross and inflamed and infected and… well, you get the picture.  I couldn’t afford to have that happen to my feet (they were still trying to heal from the previous round of chemo), and the only shoes I had that didn’t make sores were my athletic shoes, made out of leather.

Then, two days before Yom Kippur, I got an email saying DON’T FORGET YOUR TALLIT.  Yeah, I didn’t have any yet.  I hadn’t yet learned the rules about when and how to wear them properly because nobody had taught me.  I wished I had been given a hair more advance warning, given that I was going to be standing up and singing in front of the entire community (and thus very visible).

As I recounted this to my longest friend afterward, she cracked up.  “Since when are you NOT the one who’s different?!” she exclaimed.

She had a point there – I’ve been told my entire life that I go against the grain.  Ever since I was a newborn in the hospital nursery, demanding to be at the center of all the action, crying out “WAAAAH!  WAAAAH!” in a very distinctive low voice that sounded nothing like the other newborns’.  Now I still go against the grain – after all, who would look at the statistics for kidney cancer and pick me out as a likely patient?


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