Trinkets and Armor, 5: Shame is Useless for Living (but Excellent for Senryū)

Someone once told me something about sarcasm being cheap, right before asking why I preferred senryū over haiku. I ignored her cheap jab, and answered, “Because sarcasm and satire with human bits in them are the perfect tools in a world where everything is either screaming or mouthless.” I still believe those words and these, too: “Sarcasm helps me overcome the harshness of the reality we live, eases the pain of scars and makes people smile.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish


So… smile at this threesome, my Wicked Luvs:

my cancer hurts you?
oh, I know, I feel your pain
splitting my right boob

coping is so hard,
my pain hurts you much deeper
because you aren’t me

no, my darling nut,
I shan’t be prey to more ills—
I’m kicking you out


If you are visiting from the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads and wished to read only the poetry, feel free to skip the next bit. For the rest of you, my Wicked Luvs…

…here is Trinkets and Armor 5:


If we’ve had more than a handful of conversations, or if you’ve read my blog for a little while, then you’ve probably heard me say things like: “stick it to stigma” and “guilt is a drag” and “politeness that threatens tranquility is a life-suck”, and yes… you’ve also heard me rant (quite vividly) about the uselessness of shame enticed by someone else’s expectations or lack of imagination or superabundance of stupidity.

After I posted “No Caress; or, Boob Talk”, I received a message (or 3) from people who might have some serious reading comprehension issues, or… perhaps, they’ve taken self-absorbed to an egocentric level that not even my well-known narcissistic ways can fully comprehend. I was gentle with one or two of them, but when certain individual suggested that I had to allow him or her access to me so that they could find the best way to process my breast cancer diagnosis, I lost all sense of coolness.

I just exploded. I wouldn’t be surprised if that individual’s tympanic membrane has not recovered. And… I shared my fiery feelings with my Piano Man, with a friend, with several healthcare providers, and with a gentleman who was diagnosed on the same day I was. After he finished wiping the tears of laughter (you see, my Wicked Luvs, it seems that rants made in Spanglish and shouted at a gazillion miles an hour can be seriously humorous) he told me, “I wish I could tell some people to give me space, but I don’t know if I could live with the shame.”

The comment made no sense to me, and I told him so. Then he explained where he is originally from, said that his parents and relatives would probably stop talking to him if he shamed them by being impolite… The more he shared, the more outraged and sadder I felt for him. After he confessed that he had even considered not telling anyone about his illness, I just hugged him. “Dude”, I said, “one must do what one must to get through this mess. If I were you, I would try to figure out which one is more difficult to achieve. Then I’d go for the one that requires the least amount of energy. Once the breast cancer is under control, then it might be time to stick it to a lifetime of society-pimped shame. But… since I’m not you, feel free to ignore me.”

I don’t know what he has decided to do. But I do understand that his position is an incredibly complex and painful one. I feel terrible for this man… and disgusted by the reasons behind his emotional troubles. Family, community, culture and such… should be about love, protection, and comfort for the group and for its individuals. But… we all know how ridiculous this thought reads, if placed next to some of the beliefs and ideals some families and larger groups have embraced.

As you can see by the tone of the last bit, I am still slightly pissed off. When one is host to a disease (or 5) that take almost everything out of one’s mind and body, one should not have to worry about hurting people’s feelings. The damn thing shouldn’t even be an issue. And, you know what? Those who truly care about you don’t make it an issue. They might want to be with you 24/7, but they do what they must to be sane (and caring enough) to help your immune system fight the grim reaper.

If you must spend every second of every day battling depression or Crohn’s or necrosis or a nerve disorder or bipolar disorder or cancer or whatever your health demon happens to be, those who say they care about you should have the decency to do their very best to fight the pain your disease causes them in a way that doesn’t worsen your illness. That, my Wicked Luvs, would be true politeness in my book.

Anyone who can’t feel bad about me being sick without making their suffering another thing I have to deal with, will be gently removed from my sight. Any person (other than a child, since they don’t know any better) who has the nerve to try to make me feel guilty about not helping them cope with my cancer won’t be treated as gently. They might not even get a sick joke as my door hits their cheeks.


This week, I invite you to share a wee bit (or a whole lot) on how you deal with people (groups, society…) that make you choose between your health (physical, psychological, spiritual…) and their peace of mind. Write a post, or a poem, or a story, or paint a picture and tell me about its meaning… do what works for you.


To participate in Trinkets and Armor, please add the direct link to your entry at the end of your comment. If you don’t have a blog or a public platform, or don’t wish to write a post, just add your contribution as a comment. If you can, take a minute to read other entries. Unrelated links will be deleted without explanation.


71 thoughts on “Trinkets and Armor, 5: Shame is Useless for Living (but Excellent for Senryū)”

  1. Sounds like you got new volunteers to donate their eyeballs to feed your stuffed raven.

    All joking aside, I think I remember what an eye opener it was the first time I read about the concept of emotional labor, and how it is unrealistic (not to mention rude) to ask someone who is close to or at ground zero with a big emotional issue to comfort people further out of the blast zone than they are. I think its easy to fall into this trap, but sparing a moment of attention on who are the ones who are most deeply impacted can help the forgetful find the proper level of discernment.

    • Have you met my vampire sheep? I must introduce you to my vampire sheep, her name is Mavis. I think Mavis and the Raven would make a fantastic team.

      And, my dear friend, you are so right. Emotional labor left unchecked can kill a person in a more seriously devastating way than anything that attacks the flesh and bones.

  2. My first reaction to this prompt is to say, I don’t have a huge support system but those that do “know” me and my disorders treat me very well. But then there is the nagging truth that urges me to be authentic and say, the above statement is true except for those that don’t. I know, WHAT?
    I am one of those people who cuts family, friends, neighbors, sometimes strangers, out of my life if I can’t handle their BS about my BS. It’s a life long behavior. The only exception to this rule is my hubby. He’s a bit of a nob. When it’s convenient, it’s okay if I am ill. If he needs me to do something for him, he has amnesia about my health.
    Yes, it is maddening, but then I’ve grown used to it after 47 years. That probably is more telling than I even realize.
    I don’t suffer fools and ass hats, except for my jar head. This from the Oma who insists that Nice Matters. It does but it doesn’t mean that you have “Patsy” or “slap me down” written on your forehead for all to see.

  3. Give em hell. Though I know they mean well, it’s always veiled under the “I care about you” but in reality it’s about their own comfort. I have depression and I always have people telling me to think positive, gee thanks Karen I hadn’t thought of that…do yoga, meditate and I’m like Karen all those sound awful. It’s worse when I make jokes about death or suicide, I get like oh my god are u ok? Looks. Like talking about these is good cathartic, we shouldn’t be doing it in hiding. It’s like people think they catch it if they talk about it or stand too close to you.
    Anyways, people can be alot sometimes.
    But my darling, I’m glad it was caught early. I’m glad to read have this piece because it’s so good. Please get well. ❤

    • People can be so thick and rather unfeeling when it comes to things they swear they can understand, but… don’t really know jack about. Some can be educated, mostly because they really want to help, but others… no, with others is best to walk away. Since jail would do terrible things to our complexion.

  4. So true! Rommy called it right, emotional labor! Unfortunately, I fear that a lot of people don’t want to do their own work. I am sorry that you had to go through this! I have a new compressor powered staple gun(I staple instead of sew) that I am sure would do a fine job of stapling this person’s tongue to the wall so they can think about their rude and unkind words.
    My mother’s favorite words were, “What will other people think?” and “You should be ashamed!” I still have to fight hard to keep those phrases out of my head.

  5. Fantastic poem..kicking you out… it, no hesitation..slay ! ( “darling nut” made me laugh) ! I love your unapologetic vibe…and your energy surging through your words here…especially the last three lines…I can feel it. Magaly , so many of your poems make me wanna get up and move… and kick in the air a some kind of dance -fight…you in? Oddly enough, Billy Idol’s ..dancing with myself.. just popped in my head. ( so random!)

    Yes, it is hard to fathom the things people say/ how others act/react to one’s illness/struggles..and to put that on you as well……tres bizarre?

    I too, feel sad for that man and his situation, I really hope he at least has a friend he can share and turn to for support. For, it is so important to have the right kind of support/love/connection/safe place…and sometimes others can add more toxicity to those already suffering..(so strange!) I know which people in my life are my safe-places and I am their safe-place as well… is so precious a gift to have that kind of support/understanding/unconditional connection from our friends/family when going through hellish days and times.

    I so love your visual poems/art/ gorgeous and intriguing..I love getting close and also reading the words printed behind…another layer to discover.

    Giving you lots of love and hugs…so enjoying all that you share..and much appreciation for creating a space for us all to share and learn and grow.

    • Bizarre is an excellent word to describe their reaction. Just when one thinks that people’s craziness can’t bring any more surprises, BOOM! they do it again. It’s almost morbidly fascinating. Sometimes I wonder if they look in the mirror or listen to their word words, and think, “Did I just say that?”

      Thanks a million for the love and hugs and the rest. Your rocketh very much, mi Victoria. 🙂

  6. So, I’m always a little bit behind on the blog. But I do catch up. First off, thank you for not running to the “safety” of the cancer blog lady. Damn her to heck; she can’t have you. This spot is who you are and where you belong.
    Second, you got this and I can’t wait to see what your therapeutic scribblings conjur in your caldron of ink.

    • We should fight the uglies on our own turf, in a place where everybody knows our name *looks around to make sure the Cheers lawyers aren’t listening*. Seriously though, the idea of running away from friends in order to be encouraged by people we don’t know feels a tad silly to me.

      There shall be conjuring!

  7. I don’t talk to many people. That’s not the best way to deal, but still. I’ve been fortunate enough to generally have a couple people in my life who are supportive and everyone else can see I don’t open up even a little to them. Completely unhealthy, probably, and I can’t recommend it, but…

    Some people can’t empathize, I think. Everything that happens is happening to THEM.

  8. I think hope you know how much I love and admire your ability to fight the dark with words and dark humor. I channeled that tonight at an open mike and then when I got home to sit down and write the poem and frankly I’m just going to throw the link in here and remark that I have been fighting for my life for years now 20 years… and I have fought and lived with chronic pain much longer than that I faced death 3 times before I was ten…I came into the world with a broken clavicle…but a girl does get tired and sick of it all and when resilient is not enough and your told your celibacy is a lie…well then this pussy has teeth and frankly I don’t give a fuck if I’m dancing with myself…real solitude would truly be something…I can’t even see my wanking audience…anyway…it’s my dance and it’s authentic and “my love is too magic to have thrown back in my face”
    Read here

    I’m gonna take a nap before I watch my experiment touch space.
    I’d say feel better soon but that’s a platitude and a lie you won’t it will be a long healing process and we are never the same after am I right so I will say fight the good fight, embrace your cray, fight the dark and the pain with ink and be you. You are beautiful no matter what they take, scars are tattoos with realer stories…stories that are hard earned…and wisdom that makes you appreciate what you still have. I love you ❤️ 🖤🔥🚀🔱

  9. Oh hell no! 😐 I can’t believe how some people can be so insensitive and it’s way worse when they try to justify their actions.

    People need to realize that if you can’t share one’s pain and difficulties then just back off. Don’t add to their problems by sticking your unempathetic nose in it.

    All things aside I think you are very courageous and are dealing pretty well with them. Those who love you know you and can understand the daily pressures you face.

    Your words are always full of fire and spirt! ❤ I love the attitude in this poem and can totally feel the vibe! 😊

    Sending you lots of hugs and freshly brewed coffee with love ☕ Don’t pay heed to these sort of people cause they are not worth our energy and time.

    Happy Tuesday to you and yours! 😘😘

  10. I have no doubt that in fighting the cancer it will be necessary to put people in their places as it is your battle alone. As I mentioned before, Maureen my wife was the great fighter with her disease while I was merely a sword bearer, being there but aware that it was her battle alone. It is good that you have such great purpose in your fight and are so expressive in sharing your feelings.

  11. Everyone who is just about draining my energy disappears from my world. I don’t feel guilty about cutting ties and being very explicit about why I do so. This also goes for people who only ever show up when they need something – I want to build real tribes, not just energy funnels. (This also goes for family – my mother and I have an ongoing battle about racist jokes and memes, and I have told her if she does not stop talking this nonsense while I am around, I will stop talking to her altogether.)

  12. Oh, this would get on anyone’s nerves. We have to first and foremost take care of ourselves — if we are able to comfort ourselves, even a wee bit, that’s all the responsibility we have. We can’t indulge others, their perceptions or how they deal with our pain or condition, especially when it impacts us negatively.
    “Anyone who can’t feel bad about me being sick without making their suffering another thing I have to deal with, will be gently removed from my sight”: Preach!

    And I admire your senryu — sarcasm aids in swallowing the bitter pills of life; your voice is powerful and so wicked-good.

  13. What Rommy said. People can be SUCH needy spongy jerks! I hope your anger was cathartic, and I was going to say, showed them what twits they were, but who really cares about them?? Let them go off to twit world and moan to each other about the emotional garbage dump that is their lives. I also feel deeply for anyone who has to be ‘polite’ and considerate’ to his so-called support group while going through this emotional wasteland–what malarkey! I have shed almost all the people who clung like little annoying pulled threads to the clean clothes of my life by now, but anyone who whined at me at this point about ‘needing to process’ etc etc, would be dropped off a psychic cliff into a my moat-full of krakens.

    Oh, this is an excellent poem, too, btw. ! ;_) (((())))

    • It was cathartic, it reinforced my reasons for keeping certain individuals as far away as possible. The pictures brewed by your closing of your first paragraph will have me giggling for a while. 😀

  14. (((( HUGS TO YOU MAGALY ))))
    (((( Senryu’s best way to go ))))
    (((( You kick A my girl ))))

    I was going to say that even before I read your post script, I seldom do haiku and ones who say they do often aren’t true to the form.

    My friend, our Men’s head basketball coach at our college, went through breast cancer. He’s fine now, and retired. Our relationship didn’t change anymore than it does, and I feel should, when one of us has any other very serious illness or injury, his or mine.

    Mrs. Jim is a social worker, now retired emeritus. She worked at our M.D. Anderson hospital here in Houston with patients and family for three years. She helped me with some does and don’ts when being with Coach. Mostly be me.

    I hope it will be okay for me to have you in my prayers, I do pray. And as usual, I’ll keep in touch with your blog here.

    • I don’t write much haiku because they always make me think of tenderness and such, unless we are talking of violence in nature’s ways. And my ink dances with different feelings.

      Good energy is always welcome, Jim. So pray away. 🙂

  15. I usually only tell immediate family and closest friends – not to spare anyone else, but so’s I don’t have to deal with their anxiety, questions, well-meaning advice about things my medicos and I already know about or which are in no way useful for what I’ve got going on, not to mention the various kinds of snake-oil. Even more importantly, I don’t tell them because I don’t want them perceiving me as frail, weak, at death’s door etc., and putting that energy all over me while I am busy working with Reiki, magic, the power of the mind and yes, even orthodox medicine, to create the energy of wellness. Immediate family and closest friends, I hasten to add, I can trust to do none of the above.

    But that’s me. The things I have going on CAN be kept hidden or made light of for the most part, which tells you they can be controlled sufficiently not to interfere too much with my life so far. They and their effects remain fairly invisible most of the time.

    My best friend takes quite a different tack, which she came to eventually when, after decades of living various kinds of nightmares, she finally found a beautiful husband who is also wealthy enough to allow them to travel (albeit often separately as it costs so much to get a carer for her severely autistic son; and albeit she often has to come home early at short notice because her body has conked out too soon) – various so-called friends started making snarky, jealous comments about what a lucky life she has. She decided to become public about the less fortunate aspects of her life, and the daily basis of that. (Now she gets some people insinuating that she’s whining and ungrateful. Oh well, it weeds out a lot of non-friends.)

    So I guess we all find what best suits US, and it’s not the same for everyone, but it does always involve being heathily self-protective.

    And oh yes, btw, terrific poem, and witty as ever too … but I couldn’t laugh, not even wryly.

    • We have to do what works for us.

      I was smiling, knowingly, at your friend’s new situation. If I kept a list of the people who say things like, “You can’t be that sick, you are smiling all the time.” Or, “Your pain can’t be that bad, you still write and leave the house.” The little bastards, I tell you.

      In the past, I never spoke about being ill. My reasons were very similar to yours, even today, I don’t share details–some are shocking and can be slightly disturbing to some. I decided to speak because stigma is an even nastier bastard. For me, it is important to let others know that being chronically ill doesn’t mean unhappiness or despair or a constant dance with death.

      And I don’t blame you for not laughing, some bits of sarcasm are best snarled.

  16. When I fell ill last year, I suddenly became everyone’s property with my symptoms discussed in coffee shops and supermarkets. So I know where you are coming from. You are entitled to your privacy, and to say and do whatever is in your own best interest. I salute you for taking a stand.

  17. I have so much love for you Hun y you know I do, I continue to send you love and healing and I’m lighting a candle everyday for you x
    People get selfish around others illnesses something I know a little about from when Lee was sick … they certainly show their true colours.
    But you stand your ground and speak your truth, be bold, be brave, and fuck them if they don’t like it… love you x

    • People certainly show their true colors when something slightly terrible happens, and some of those colors are pure rainbows. I will hold on to those.

      It’s so good to read you here, dear Pixie.

  18. Since you’ve asked…I’m a celiac. That shouldn’t even be a problem since I’ve already given up social eating…but the way I found out I’m a celiac turns out to be that the most popular “pesticide” in America is an airborne spray that affects me, when I breathe it, the same way wheat does only moreso. Right. All celiacs already know we’re freaks and can’t expect people to change their food habits so they can eat with us if social eating means so much to them–nor would it be good for people who can digest wheat to stop eating it. But it turns out that the popular pesticide, “Roundup,” harms other people too, only in different ways. I lose blood, someone else loses memory, someone else has flu-type symptoms…because people are too lazy to cut down and dig up their own weeds?!?!?!

    That’s my pain–at least it gives me some insight into why you feel more angry than sweet-pious-“positive” about yours.

    Here’s to the healthy cells pushing up under the sick ones…

  19. I have a bad habit of trying to please everyone and not always saying what I should in a situation. There have been rare times that I have been brave and spoke my mind. I don’t have a medical story to use as an example, but when I was a child, my mother passed away when i was 9, and people would always have this intense pity for me when they would find out. After a while it would drive me crazy, it made me feel like there was something wrong with me. I know they meant well, and their heart was in the right place, but sometimes people do not realize how much what they say can affect us in ways they are not perceiving. You are strong, and I think you handled things gracefully Magaly!
    Here is my haiku for you:

    Courage is a lovely woman
    whose beautiful strength and spunk cannot be taken
    her name is Magaly

    • People are such strange creatures, especially when it comes things that come out of their mouths. I wonder if they test-speak their words before they spew them. Probably not.

      Your poem bit made me grin like a happy fool. Thanks a bunch, Carrie!

  20. You’re sharp, passionate and a hell of a poet – forget those people who step on your toes and try to take over, Magaly, you’re doing it your own way and it’s the right way for you! If you need anyone, just give a shout and a whole crowd of people will be there for your, on your terms. 🙂

  21. I think that the pseudo empathetics are just as insensitive – like your poem – “I feel your pain” would make me want to make sure they do – right where it hurts. There is so much energy to your poems and creativity – I am sure your dynamic self with help ride rough shod over your cancer – even so I will say a prayer – and mean it

  22. Bravo! Why am I imagining you in a metal barbarian warrioress outfit as I read this, and of course gleaning teeth as you swing around weapons! Must be the concept of Trinkets and Armor .Anyhoo thanks for tweaking my perspective of sympathy… empathy can sometimes make for worse not better. Let’s raise or swords, hammers, (or whatever weapon of choice is needed at the moment) and run forward screaming into the storm.

  23. I can’t really let loose in a public forum in the way I’d like to on this subject, but suffice to say, it really hits home for me. Guilt has been been my unwelcome companion my whole life, having been blamed for things since childhood that were completely out of my control. And I can SO relate to the frustration and disappointment of dealing with extremely difficult life issues while having people who should be supporting you, just make it all about themselves. So instead of being bolstered, you end up weighed down with even more to bear as you have to take into account the delicate feelings someone else is experiencing about your worries. One person in particular has been an outrageous offender in this department. I put up with it for years out of guilt but the solution was finally to walk away and shut the door on them forever. The relief of having this person out of my life is still tinged with guilt, but 2 years later, I feel like I’m turning a corner on that and realizing that I have every right to live my life as I choose and not have the joy sucked out of it.

    • Someone very intelligent said that nothing is as liberating as exchanging guilt for understanding. Guilt is a terrible cage, and some people have become much too adept at using it on others. We can’t let them. Joy is to precious to allow the undeserving to suck it out of us.

  24. no, my darling nut,
    I shan’t be prey to more ills—
    I’m kicking you out

    This obviously is one in the course of friendly banter with a loved one. Putting a finality to a relationship is not to be taken lightly!


    • Not so long ago, someone told me that cancer should be approached with more “somberness”. I laughed. This person wasn’t very happy at my lighthearted ways towards a disease that terrifies her. The senryu are ironic, but I assure you that lightheartedness of spirit has little to do with lack of seriousness. No, this was not “obviously in one in the course of friendly banter with a loved one”, this was in complete earnest to several someones who do not deserve any of my time.

  25. Magaly, I’ve had three major surgeries in three years..each with life changing results.
    I have two older sisters who would probably be a wealth of help and information for the challenges I’ve faced post-op.
    if not for the fact that they are nasty, bitter, negative life suckers, i might have asked for their guidance.
    removing myself from their presence was not only good for my health, it was good for my soul.
    Staying away from stupid is just as important as taking your medication..

    Sending you love, light and laughter..

    • Some things (and people) are better avoided, even if having them around might be helpful at times. That sort of “might” is often not worth the cost. So, yes, I completely agree with your statement: ” Staying away from stupid is just as important as taking your medication.”

      *sending you the gentlest hugs*

  26. Your senryu sequence is a total gem. Full of that twisted humor senryu is known for at its best! But if the ironic/satirical bite of senryu is still too subtle for those neanderthals you used it on, there’s always the tried-and-true New York-ism you can use:


    Should end any ambiguity.

    Stay strong, warrior-poet! As if you need me–or anyone else–telling you that! 🙂

  27. You know what Magaly? I just cant be concerned about someone else’s peace of mind. Other than family, I don’t/can’t help them. Its their problem. I have enough of my own. And you, dear one, should be the same. Don’t EVEN, for a MINUTE (that’s a New York minute!) worry your little head about the ignorance (yes it is) of someone else who has decided they can live YOUR life better than you, or tell you how you will be much better off doing it their way. Just roll your eyes…..waaaay up….and get on with your own self. Slam that door! You have enough on your plate, and you don’t need a second helping of peas to try to keep from rolling off. xoxo

  28. I am so very angry when people believe their own sensibilities or opinions, or even their own infirmities, are more important than the physical sufferings of another person.

    Seems Merriam-Webster has abandoned the word “compassion” from their pages.

    • You and me both. I know all about being too much into oneself, but I didn’t realize that some people can be so much into themselves that they can’t see nothing else. And even when they see it, it just doesn’t matter. Maybe we should smack them with a HUGE copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary until the word resets. 😀

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