Column: Self-Indulgent or Self-Effacing

Column: Self-Indulgent or Self-Effacing


Kenneth B. Lourie

After re-reading last week’s column: “Not in the Mood,” I began wondering if that column had strayed beyond the boundaries, so to speak, and was too much about me and not enough about my circumstances. Certainly I understand, given my column’s recurring theme, that the subjects of me and my circumstances – and the personal stories I share with you regular readers – are basically the same. Still, I never want the content to be considered important because it’s MY life that’s being profiled. Quite the contrary. If the columns were any more about me, you wouldn’t be interested.

Cancer is the issue, and one person’s survival, however compelling and/or statistically unlikely, is not. Granted, success in the face of extremely dire and discouraging warnings from one’s oncologist is worth noting for sure. But it’s not because of me that any of it matters. I’m just a prop. It’s the story that matters, not the storyteller. Yet I couldn’t help but think that my droning and bemoaning last week was in some ways more for my purposes than it was for you: a few minutes spent in my shoes living some of the cancer life. (By the way, in person, in my non-column life, I’m not very cancer-centric.)

Admittedly, I may be a bit sensitive to this self-indulgent possibility/tendency. When you write a first-person narrative about the writer’s life, as I do, it’s a reasonable claim to make. A claim I regularly and insistently deny. As odd as it sounds to say this, it’s never about me; that’s my nature. Ergo, how can a column I’ve written weekly going on almost 17 years, the last five and half of which have been what I call “cancer columns,” be about me? In my mind (or perhaps, according to my way of thinking), it can’t.

I suppose I perceive self-indulgence as the opposite of self-effacing (self-effacing being a characterization I’ll happily embrace). And I refuse to believe that the three most important words in the dictionary are “me,” “myself” and “I.” Though I am the subject of my columns, it’s the fact that I’m a cancer patient/survivor that’s most relevant. Moreover, there are many more cancer survivors with many more stories to tell who add substance to my claim. I’m just one of the few with the opportunity and inclination to share and share alike. It’s been my pleasure doing so, and it has become my passion as well. It’s who I am; it’s what I’ve become. “I may not be right all the time, but I’m very seldom wrong” (to quite one of my deceased father’s favorite phrases). However, there are some columns/weeks when I may scribble outside the lines. It’s unintended. Let’s not forget one incontrovertible fact though: “Cancer sucks.” But it’s not because of anything I say or do.

Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers