I never took that dive into being one of the faithless. My faith was just… never there. When all the other kids in my school proudly put on tefillin, I was merely annoyed by yet another irritating task to perform. I coped with my apathy toward religion the same way I cope with my anxiety, by always moving forward. Moving smoothly, never stop. That’s part of why I became a surgeon…so I can spend 99% of my time thinking about someone else’s problems. It helps me avoid my own.
If I had the ability to see the future, my younger self would be thrilled. I’ve more or less escaped the confines of the religion that was so all-encompassing throughout childhood. While I’m still outwardly religious to friends and family, it has minimal baring on my day to day life. I spend almost all of my time in the hospital, where I don’t wear a yarmulke, and have essentially no interaction with frum people most days. Sure, I put it on when I come back home, and more or less keep kosher, but that was never a huge deal for me. I leave early in the AM, and don’t have to daven or put on tefillin. I hit the loophole of working on Shabbat as an MD when I’m on call, so I don’t need to observe it every single week, and when I am home I don’t really mind going to shul an hour late and mostly hanging out with some guys and drinking. In so many ways, I’ve really forged the life that I’ve always wanted for myself had I been able to write the ideal scenario.
Living a lie hurts. It pains me when I sit down in the dark. When the noise all stops, and I have that small minute to myself, I want to crawl out of my skin. The feeling that no one has ever really known me. Living a lie is living alone, even surrounded by the people who you love most. So I just keep moving forward; moving smoothly, never stop.
So what has come along and really put a hitch into my perfectly planned status quo? What drove me from avoiding all my problems by always moving forward? A small little hitch. Rather a small, adorable roadblock: I had a daughter. She has added more joy to my life than I could ever imagine. A little smile full of energy that makes a gloomy room light up like the sun.
How do you raise a child in a lie? How do I sing Shema to her at night, not believing in a God? Is it not my job to teach her the truth? The thoughts and feelings that I have managed to avoid now stare me in the face. I don’t know what’s worse… do I push on and pretend and try not to break? But do I then risk pushing my own child into the same place I’ve worked so hard to escape?
It’s impossible to move smoothly forward when I’ve run into a little bump in the road. Rather, an adorable, little roadblock.