Self Pity and Samurai


A trusted advisor told Max last week,”Wallowing in self pity is a choice.” Ha, I beg to differ.

Sometimes, self pity is the rational response to one’s situation. Just as depression, anger or grief are rational responses to heartbreak, betrayal, and loss, for example.

Our culture insists that we have the power to change things by being positive, and inherent in this thinking is the disapproval of “negativity.” If I were in Max’s position and someone had delivered such an inane assessment of my mood, I hope I would sock him in the face.

Barbara Ehrenreich has written a book about the pressure to be positive, and I couldn’t agree more. She recalls being admonished at a cancer support group, soon after she was diagnosed with the disease. At one point, she was even offered a book called “The Gift of Cancer.” Having hope is one thing. Denying fear, rage or self pity is unhealthy at best, and it’s often just another way to blame the victim of disease or tragedy or unlucky circumstances.

Me, I am full of negative emotions. When things are hard, I freak out. But I know I will keep fighting. That’s why I like to identify with the samurai, and I guess that part is a choice. I could choose to identify with Sylvia Plath, or Joan of Arc, but there is no resonance there for me.

I like the idea of staying on my horse no matter what. I intend to plunge into any battle with total commitment, even if I’m outnumbered.

In the case of the pretend “hospital,” they told me once again that Blue Cross had denied further treatment there, even though Blue Cross denied this. I told the case manager at the “hospital” that we would refuse any discharge plan and appeal any refusal of payment by Blue Cross.

Meanwhile, Max’s current roommate, the one with the noisy oxygen machine, now has an infection from his PICC line. His family has not returned after one visit. I’m afraid he won’t get out of there alive. I ask him every day if he needs anything, and he shakes his head, No. A social worker came to see him last week and asked him to rate how tired he was on “a scale of 6 to 20.” I swear I’m not making this up. Where are numbers one through five??

Today, Max stood up for the first time in nearly ten weeks. Hallelujah. I’ve found a great hospital with an Acute Rehab Unit, but he’s not quite strong enough for their program.

Everyone who has sent their blessings and good wishes, the saints who donated to the Sister Wolf Fund, and the people who made purchases from the Sister Wolf Museum of Hoarding, you have given more comfort and cheer than you can imagine. My sword would be so much heavier without you.

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37 Responses to Self Pity and Samurai

  1. I love Barbara Ehrenreich. Nothing makes me more furious than “The Secret” and other bullshit positive thinking books that claim your sickness is the result of negative thinking. Anger is the natural reaction to a diagnosis of cancer! Illness is NOT a gift; it just plain sucks.
    Anyway, so glad to hear that Max stood up! He’s so lucky to have you Sister, unlike the poor guy in the next bed whose family doesn’t visit. I hope he can get into the acute rehab unit and be well on the way to complete recovery.

  2. Susan says:

    Just for you, I found this rather depressing little video on the internet. Not sure what to make of it really, but I guess that everyone interprets life in their own unique way. For some, the experience can be nothing other than positive. Seeing only the good may not be entirely realistic, but it is certainly a blessing. Fighting for change (for the better) is something else – keep the Hallelujahs coming xx

  3. Sister Wolf says:

    Iheartfashion – Let’s read her book. Wish you were here, xo

    Susan – I disabled the link to that website: those guys are too puerile to support by sending traffic their way. Anyone who wants to see some gory animation can ask Susan for the url. Moving along…if it’s a blessing to see only the good, then who will fight for change? The unblessed? Perhaps it’s more of a blessing to curse the darkness if the alternative is to pretend it’s not dark.

  4. dust says:

    I rate 6 right now, life is in stinky phase right now…. need a shoulder to cry on……

  5. Dena says:

    I’m a big one for telling myself to “suck it up” whenever I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself, but I think that’s just another way to berate myself when I’m at a low ebb sometimes. However, I love the Samurai analogy!

    The key thing, for me, is the desire to fight whatever’s making me feel so sorry for myself. So eventually I will “suck it up” and go out there and try to kick the ass of whatever’s got me down – at the moment it’s lack of stable job & money worries, but I’m working on them. I’ve allowed myself a period of wallowing & feeling pitiful and feel all the better for it; it can be somewhat cathartic to allow yourself that period of moping. Well I think so anyway.

    I’m glad to see you’re still fighting the good fight though Sister Wolf. Can’t afford to buy anything from the Museum of Hoarding – though I did consider going without food for a while to get those Vivienne Westwood boots! Hope both you & Max continue to recover, at pace 🙂

  6. arline says:

    It is really maddening, when people spout shit off like, your suffering is a choice.

    That really disregards feelings and the reality of a situation sometimes.

    I do believe to a degree, that we can influence our world, by the attitude we project, and everything is a choice, but we have to be honest, and if that means wallowing in self pity, that is a necessary place to be. Sometimes things suck ass. It is important to accept a situation, and try to relax around that, but the reality is, that there is a process that has to take place.

    It seems to me, that sucking it up, is not being fair to yourself. True life goes on, and we can always find something or someone, that if far worse off than ourselves, but we have to stop making our feelings wrong, if they are not deemed positive.

    I am happy that Max was able to stand yesterday. That is great news.

    I, and others will continue to have positive and healing thoughts for Max and You. You feel what ever the fuck you feel, and take out that sword when you need it. Slice the shit out of ignorance.


  7. Mrs. Shreck says:

    I love you.

  8. Sarah P says:

    Hallelujahs echoing over here for Max being on his feet.

    And you know, I think I’ve always thought it takes real balls actually to face up to how shit things are. Isn’t real courage knowing full well what the battle is, but still fighting it? God almighty – sometimes howling at the moon is the only sane thing to do!

    In my head, Sister Wolf will now always be riding a white charger in full samurai armour. Which is just A-OK by me!


  9. Jill says:

    A fierce Samurai who has a beautiful way with words…

  10. Ann says:

    What a timely subject. I’m sick of having to project happiness and positivity all the time and I do feel an unimaginable pressure to do so. I have cancer, and it sucks. It’s not a fucking gift, it’s actually pretty lame. Of course it could be worse, but you know what? Sometimes it really blows and I am through feeling guilty for expressing that.

    Max standing is the best news I have heard in weeks. My hope, my wish, is that he continues healing and can be in a position to get out of that shithole and into the great Acute Rehab Unit you found.

    I love you and would proudly carry you, your sword, your shield and the horse you rode in on, if I could. I love you very much.

  11. Eline says:

    I think you’ll be quite interested in reading this article: Depression’s Evolutionary Roots.

  12. Alicia says:

    Great post. I’ll be rereading this for the next several days. It’s good to know that someone has taken the stand that negative emotions are completely normal and should be experienced. Overly-happy people scare the shit out of me.

    I’m so glad to hear Max is able to stand now. If you need help riding on Blue Cross and the hospital, I’ll recruit my army of cats to help with eye-gouging.

  13. Deni says:

    Running the full gamut of human emotions and responses to various situations, from joy to self pity, is what makes us human and individuals; denying varying emotions and responses and following one prescribed path to any human condition devalues all and makes us more akin to automatons than humans. You can’t tell someone what to feel and when to feel it. My 2 cents.

    I’m happy for Max that he is able to stand! And I HATE that quazi-hospital that he’s at. I wonder could it be run by Scientologists? Or worse, if there is worse, money-greedy people who care less about their patients and more about the bottom line? Is there anyone you can report them to about the lies that blue cross won’t pay the bills? Is it emotional harassment? Is there a medical malpractice lawyer who might find this an interesting case?

    Wishing the both of you quick recovery, and abstinence from the ones that have all the answers with their positive attitudes.

    You go Sister Wolf, ride your charger and fight the good fight!

  14. Iron Chic says:

    Good to hear your son is progressing!
    I saw that Barbara lady on tv recently and was like, finally! holy fuck.
    I believe she mentioned her dislike of pink-themed breast cancer items.
    Kirtie Ally was blabbing on Oprah the other day about how she wished for this mansion she drove by as a child to be hers one day…and now it is!
    All you have to do is constantly WISH for things and they will be yours.
    Fuck hard work, perserverance and risk taking, just WISH!

  15. Vee says:

    People who spout the whole “Things will change as long as you stay positive! Your negativity is what’s causing all your troubles! Smile!” schpiel are usually over-entitled, privileged fools who have never felt true hopelessness or despair in their lives. Suffering from starvation and genocide in your country? Oh, you silly worrywart. Just smile, and food and peace will magically come to you! I suppose that’s an extreme counterargument, but I hope you get what I mean.

    Having negative feelings is a sign of awareness and acknowledgment. Plus, it makes you smarter, according to a study! 😀

    I’m so happy for Max. I hope your hip is getting better as well! As always, best, best wishes from me.

  16. Where would one be without a full on self pity wail, a why me moment.
    I completely agree with what you said – I have complete freak out that help me grasp everything and attack!!

  17. Moda says:

    Hooray for Max! That’s massive. Still sending all the best vibes I can. I hate self righteous pricks that say things like “with that attitude I’m not surprised you’re ..unwell/ not healing/ unemployed/ not pregnant.. fill in the blank..”. “The Gift of Cancer”? Fucking incredible. I’m with you Sister, I’ll always come out fighting, always have- but sometimes it gets overwhelming and sometimes my head is down, but I’m still fighting Godammit!

  18. Moda says:

    P.s. I love this fucking blog.

  19. JK says:

    Great going Max! Show those bastards.

    And… uh Sister Wolf? If you choose to stay upon that horse (hope you’re speaking figuratively) I’d advise staying out of Alabama.

  20. Can’t wait till Max is in the new hospital. And his roommate’s situation is heartbreaking and depressing.

  21. WendyB says:

    I have gotten some really shitty gifts in the past but if anyone tries to give me the gift of cancer, I will kill the bitch.

  22. Susan says:

    I’m really surprised that you disabled the link on my previous comment as the whole damned point was that it was puerile (though related to self pity and about samurai) I would never have thought you were into censorship.I thought you were a champion of freedom of expression (whether it be self pity or four letter words). The internet is a truly fascinating place… by the way, have you seen the Googlezon EPIC video (won’t waste my time adding a link) – I’m just wondering where all this is headed and who is ultimately going to be responsible for censoring information on the net.

  23. Ann says:

    You always amaze me

  24. hoochiegucci says:

    what a fucking fucking asshole…

  25. Ann says:

    That latter Ann is not me, your “regular” Ann. But your IP address identifier already knows that. However, you do always amaze me, SW.

  26. in the past, i think it went something like, you were a bad christian if you got angry or expressed negativity, then when that threat didn’t work so well anymore, it was, you’ll get cancer if you are angry or negative. it’s some sort of weird blame the victim mentality. i was reading an interview with the writer of the sopranos, and he is always in therapy, but he still doesn’t really agree with it it seems. he was saying “what we can’t even get angry and yell now?” something like that. yes, learning to express anger well is a good thing, and violent crazy outbursts aren’t too helpful, but this blanketing or smothering of negativity in goody goodyness is damaging too. so, ya i agree!

  27. Kate says:

    Sylvia Plath and Joan of Arc are inspiring women for their genius and direction, but ultimately both were to one degree or another suicidal. But of course Samurai Seppuku gave the honor of ritualized suicide to the fearless warrior who would sooner die with honor than to fall into the hands of an enemy and surrender. Feigning happiness in the face of disease is such a surrender. Suicide was one way out, but letting yourself fall into the graceful darkness of anger, sadness, and questioning is far more profitable for the psyche and character.

    Thank you for your strength, beauty, and grace. Your son, though not lucky to be in his situation, is lucky to have you.

    In Inga Muscio’s questionable but rousing book ‘Cunt,’ she outlines how the titular word comes from the non-pejorative word for “woman” in Chinese and other languages and was once a word of honor. Being a cunt is being unafraid of our own black holes, negative emotions, and the power and bravery that bestows.

  28. honeypants says:

    I hadn’t quite realized that. I learn so much from you! I’m sorry! I love you!

  29. i want to read more Kate.

  30. Juri says:

    He is risen! That’s glad tidings!!

    But that trusted advisor should shut his mouth. In a free world, reading nonsensical self-help books (and believing in them) is everyone’s own decision but spreading that crap around is downright inconsiderate.

    As a rule, forced positivity makes me want to strangle somebody. Those “you choose to be sick” people would do well to catch some terminal disease, or get paralyzed like Superman, before offering their wisdom to others.

  31. Queen Marie says:

    Hooray for an upright Max. How wonderful!
    Hopefully he will soon be strong enough the acute unit.
    And as for your dearest Sister, a horse and sword is so much more you!
    Sod the walker…

  32. annemarie says:

    Congratulations to Max!

    The pressure to be positive is uniquely American and that is why everyone is on anti-depressants here.

    However, I don’t know of any culture that approves of self-pity, which is a bullshit of an emotion. In fact, I don’t think it even is an emotion, since it basically says “why me? why not somebody else?” and is therefore utterly rational in the worst possible way. Self-pity=bullshit. I’m sorry I disagree with you.

  33. Sister Wolf says:

    Dust – Oh I’m sorry things aren’t good. I have two shoulders for you if you need them.

    Dena – Prayers for you to get a job asap. You sound like a samurai. xo

    arline – HA, thank you! Ignorance is always the enemy!

    Mrs. Shreck – I love you too.

    Sarah P – Thank you! I love your big balls! xoxo

    Jill – Looking forward to our talk show.

    JK – Okay, thanks for the tip. xoxo

    Ann – Well, you are my idol in the samurai category. Hair category also.

    Eline – Great article, thank you!!

    ALicia – Oooh, cats and eye-gouging: very tempting.

    Deni – I will get even with those fuckers if I have the energy once this is over. Meanwhile, I hope you’re feeling better! xoxo

    Iron Chic – YES YES YES, dammit!

    Vee – MORE YES! Will go read that article. xoxo

    Make Do – And you always prevail! Can’t wait to read your paper.

    Moda – Fuckers! I’m glad you’re here, I love you too.

    fashionherald – Yep, now I feel responsible for him. Very upsetting.

    WEndyB – Exactly.

    Susan – But why would you want to send a puerile link in response to a heartfelt post?? I always disable links that offend me, not wishing to send traffic their way. I am constantly disabling links to Ugg boots and Smokin Hot Moms, for example. If anyone wants the links, they need only ask and I’ll send them along.

    Ann – Really? I feel pretty predictable at this point. Thanks!

  34. Sister Wolf says:

    Hoochie – Total asshole.

    Ann – “Regular Ann” hahahaha!

    SWanDiamondRose – Bad attitude = cancer is the worst piece of garbage ever. Grrrrrrrr.

    Kate – You should be writing this, not me.

    Honeypants – I love you more!

    SwanDiamondRose – Me too.

    Juri – A-fucking-men.

    Queen Marie – Yes, the sword looks silly with the walker, I can’t wait to get rid of it. xoxo

    annemarie – Self pity doesn’t equal “why not somebody else” to my mind. It’s just literally, “I pity myself. I feel sorrow for my own misery.” If the term self pity is seen as pejorative, that’s cuz our culture is so fucking repressive and puritanical. What about other cultures where it’s acceptable for grieving families to sob hysterically at funerals?? Look how people in the US and the UK frown on that, when it’s actually so normal?

    Let us disagree in a dialogue that we can post here later, how about that? But don’t forget I love you, xo.

  35. annemarie says:

    Please, I’m Irish– I spent my entire childhood attending wakes and funerals.

    There is a huge difference between grief and self-pity. Grief is about death. It’s an unhappiness borne of the human condition and existential fact of our finitude. Self-pity, on the other hand, has one object: ME.

    I still love you too…. more than you know!

  36. hammie says:

    Sis: for some reason I am chemically efficient enough to rise above depression, most of the time. Not by choice but luck or nature has engineered me that way. (either that or a diet of 2 bottles of generic champagne a week minimum keeps the pharmaceuticals away)

    However, I when I need to, I wallow. When I do feel shit for long enough I get angry and turn it outwards (to paraphrase Tony Soprano) then set my mind on whatever it takes to solve things.

    That’s just me.

    The rest of my people need to hear what you say. They need to feel unashamed to be pissed off, depressed, unwilling to accept the plate of shit that life has served them. So they too can get on with it.

    And the gift of cancer? Fer fucks sake!! why doesn’t someone kick these people in the arse?

    Sister, we need to get YOU a publishing deal. “The little book of being a fucking cunt TM”


  37. Liz says:

    Thank God!!
    I am so sick of being ignored, told to “get off my pity pot” blah blah blah. I’m so glad other people feel the same way i do.
    Its like i’ve been through shit. wasn’t my fault. I’m sad, i’m depressed, i’m unmotivated a lack of acknowledgement and thoughtless words such as “why are you so negative” make is so much worse. Its like ok i’m depressed and now i’m isolated.
    Thanks for putting this out there.
    Most people will acknowledge that there is not a perfect person on this planet, yet we are all to behave as if we were. I fucking hate it!!!

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