I love this photo; let’s call it “Looking Out My Backdoor”… cue Creedence Clearwater Revival. I took the shot in early May as the new leaves were just beginning to unfurl. I was climbing the stairs from our basement after my workout, having pedalled my exercise bike, no doubt listening to a mystery novel on my i-pod. And even though the weather was cold and windy, the sky was blue, and the day promised to be gorgeous. It was Sunday. And I was anxious to have my lunch and then get stuck into the blog post I was writing.
Sunny Sunday morning in early May
Looking out my back door
Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? Beautiful sunny, spring day, and I was excited to hunker down at my computer. If I had been facing a pile of essays that needed marking on a day like that I would have chaffed at the task. But blogging is something that I really enjoy. Researching posts or learning how to do something technical that I’ve never done. Writing the posts themselves. Finding an entry point into a subject, and making it link back to my own situation or experience. I love doing all of that.
Blogging is like planning a new lesson for my classes when I was still teaching: finding a “gimmick” to introduce a topic, making it fun, and telling my own stories were all things I loved to do as a teacher. Especially the storytelling. And I’d always be rewarded by kids sharing their stories in return. I remember telling one class how honoured I was that they let me into their lives through their writing. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. We’d been working on the memoir writing unit, always my favorite. And kids entrusted me with details of their childhoods that weren’t all trips to Disneyland: the death of grandparents, family break-ups, first loves, sometimes embarrassing and often sad stories. Reading their stuff was a privilege. And it was soooo difficult to evaluate. But let’s not go there. My point is that once they had told their story and I had told them mine, we forged a connection that was wonderful. And that’s kind of how I feel about blogging.
After the research and writing, after I’ve clicked “publish” on a post, I love sitting back and watching the comments come in. Finding out what readers have to say. And getting to know those who comment often, feeling as if I’ve developed a sense of who they are. And of course reading other blogs. Essentially learning how much I have in common with so many women out there. That is the coolest thing.
Boaters on the Rideau River
The Rideau River from my back yard
Blogging has become an important part of my post-work life. But for months and months after I started writing my blog, I rarely talked about it with friends or family. Of course I called my mum, who has read every post I’ve written, when I was excited about a topic or reached a milestone with my stats…”Oh, Susie, that’s wonderful.” She’s always been enthusiastic. And there’s a few stalwart and supportive friends who were early readers, some of whom surprised me. But frequently if I mentioned my blog around people I know, an awkward silence followed. Like I had said something inappropriate. And so I usually followed up my comment with… “Well, it’s just a bit of silliness I’m doing. It’s not like it’s anything deep or important. You know, just about fashion and books and stuff I’m interested in.” I’d shrug and laugh. As if I were apologizing. Never mentioning the hours I spent reading up on a subject before I even started to write. Or how excited I was at the fact that my readership was growing. Or the comments on posts from really smart, interesting women from around the world.
Shame on Me: The Rideau River at dawn.
Five-thirty AM on the river. It’s a rare morning when I’m awake at this hour.
And you know, I didn’t put a name to what I was feeling until I read the article Shame: An Explainer written by New York Magazine columnist Heather Havrilesky for the blog Man Repeller. I mean, I knew I was feeling embarrassed talking about my blog, but I didn’t equate it with shame. Turns out that is exactly what I was feeling. For according to Oxford dictionary, shame is “humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Havrilesky says: “Shame isn’t just a bad cognitive habit of the psyche– your bad brain telling you that you’re failing or fucking up or falling behind. Shame is an onboard navigational system, one that’s intent on keeping you small and apologetic indefinitely.” She goes on to say:”Suddenly I see how often I explain myself unnecessarily. How I apologize for everything I do.” Oh yeah, that would be me. Have a look at the full article if you’re interested; just be warned, the beginning has lots of profanity.
So. Clap hands briskly here. No more explaining unnecessarily for me, folks. No more belittling, no more apologizing. I am done feeling foolish for how I choose to spend my time. Done like dinner.
Now back to the benefits of blogging. And the community of women of which I now feel a part. I’ve been reading and loving Frances’ blog Materfamilias Writes for years. And I finally got to meet her in person. She’s in town for the week, and yesterday we met for lunch at Play Food and Wine in Ottawa’s Byward Market. We had a great lunch; the food at Play is always delicious. But the conversation. The conversation was better. I will admit I was a trifle giggly when I arrived, feeling a bit nervous. Like one of Frances’ followers on Instagram said… it was a little like a blind date. Kind of strange meeting someone in person with whom I had had so many, many on-line conversations. About books, and fashion, and life. She looked fabulous in her black linen dress and two tone flats… very chic. And the hair. I must say, Frances has the best hair! We yakked up a storm. And then stood in the sun on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant… and then in the shade in the little square across the street… talking and talking. Here’s the double selfie I took of us. I wonder, if there are two people in the shot does that make it a “selves-ie?”
Shame on Me: Frances of Materfamilias Writes and me
Two blogger buddies.
And after we parted and I was driving home, I thought how ridiculous I’ve been to feel apologetic for writing a blog. If someone as smart and accomplished as Frances, someone with a PhD, who has raised four children, and travelled the world, and had a great career… writes a blog. Well, what the hell am I apologizing for? Shame on me for being so silly.
So… no more of that, missy. “No more!” quoth the blogger… to misqouth Edgar Allen Poe. Ha. English teacher joke.
Now, I must remember to find out from Frances what shade her Marc Jacobs lipstick is. I really like it. And mine is too pale, don’t you think?
Not that I’m apologizing for that


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62 thoughts on “Shame on Me”

  1. So much I can relate to in this post. I've adopted exactly that same embarrassed or self-deprecating or dismissive tone when the subject of my blog has come up. . . But I'm going to try to adopt your new attitude. Yesterday afternoon, after all, I was very happy to be in the company of a blogging friend whose writing I admire and enjoy. And if that blog wants to say nice things about my writing, why do I want to undercut myself by denying them. Why not accept them graciously and be on my own side, instead?! Why not applaud myself for doing something that I enjoy and trying my best to do it well?
    You should hold your head up high and claim ownership whenever you get a chance — you bring pleasure to so many readers and you stoke a conversation that is sustained and happy, often quite meaningful, and that builds community. Brava, brava!
    (and thanks for the kind words about my hair and WIW — your outfit was perfection! That dress! and that bag! — And I think your lipstick looks pale here only because you caught more of the sun in the photo — It was just right IRL. — Mine's Le Marc Kiss Kiss Bang Bang! How's that for a name?!
    Delightful lunch! Only wish we lived closer. . .

    1. "Be on my own side"… and not be afraid to openly be so. that's it exactly. Wish I'd said that. And thanks for your kind words, Frances. And when I'm in the west…we'll do it again.

  2. Two fabulous ladies and two fabulous bloggers. Oh how we hide our accomplishments as you mention. Guilty as charged! I shall read the article you mention later. Great post and a reminder that we should hold our heads high. You both look fab by the way.

    On another note, you mentioned the other day about linking clothing purchases on your site. I realize the remuneration aspect but hope you don't do this too much. I just love the inspiration and then have a rummage in my closet!

    1. Thanks, Christy. I haven't actually done had any renumeration for my posts. Only considering it at this point. I thought if I could find an exact item I was discussing in a post and find a link I might do so. But I agree with you, even when I peruse sites that are selling clothes, I never purchase there, only use their ideas as a guide to styling what I already own. Much more fun.

  3. I feel the same shame, but then I'm a novice blogger. However in the real world I'm a professional women who is profiled in magazines and sought after as a speaker. Never the two will meet. My blog is my silliness and very few people know the two mes.

    1. Maybe what I've been feeling, Anna, has to do with the fact that, unlike you, I'm no longer in the professional world, where I was perfectly at home and confident about my value. Perhaps what I've been feeling is part of the adjustment of retirement…finding the new me…so to speak. Something to think about.

  4. Yet another thought provoking blog post.

    As to the lipstick: if you were wearing no eye make-up, then, yes, I would say that your lipstick would be too pale. But you *are* wearing eye make-up so a bolder lip might not work so well. She wears no eye make-up, so needs the extra boost that the bolder lip color gives.

    1. Thanks, Riley. Good point. I rarely wear a bold lip because I always wear eye make up…and feel it would be too make-up-y. Frances wears much less overall make-up than I do and so a bold lip looks just right on her. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  5. I completely understand, Susan! My husband called it "my hobby," for three years, but one day, he took it seriously and now introduces me to people as a blogger. I finally take pride in it, but it took awhile You do a lovely job and should shout from the rooftops…I AM A BLOGGER. It is hard work which requires creativity, and intelligence. I am proud of that!

    1. Thanks, Pam. You should be proud; your blog is very successful. I guess it takes a while before we stop suffering from impostor syndrome.

  6. Hi Sue, you both look fabulous! I'm meeting Frances tomorrow, and I must admit to feeling a little nervous. It will be strange – I know lots about her and she knows almost nothing about me, save what she has gleaned from almost 10 years of my comments.

    1. Wow…ten years. You probably will feel strange at first … for about ten seconds! When Frances and I first met at the restaurant, I said a couple of times, "it's so weird to finally hear what you sound like." Have fun tomorrow, Patricia. You guys will have a great time.

  7. I blogged for almost a year before I even told my sister. My only sister. My coworkers don't even know. It is just my own private thing that I do. I do consider it a hobby because my career is my job. This is just for fun. I don't ever want it to feel like an obligation. Mind you, I still feel very "small potatoes" compared to other bloggers. I think that may be because I do not wish to be part of any other social media.
    I think that is wonderful that you were able to get together with another blogger. (Now I want to start reading her blog, too!) I love my down time in which I read other blogs and write comments. It is how I unwind and spend a little "me time". -Jenn

    1. We all have to be whatever we want…small potatoes or large. I'm small potatoes too. And not apologizing for it anymore! You should read Frances' blog, Jenn. I think you'll love it.

  8. I'm so happy you got to meet Frances! Isn't she lovely? So warm and fun to talk to. I've had some of the same feelings about blogging, and really down-played it to most of my family and friends for many years. Now because I spend so much time on it, I'm pretty open about it. Some people get it, others don't, and that's OK.

    1. She is lovely…and we had a lovely afternoon. You're right about blogs too, of course.. some people just don't get the attraction. Whether it's reading blogs or writing them.

  9. This is why I love your blog. You manage to address a serious question in an intelligent and engaging way and then finish with a question about your lipstick choice. Having seen Frances' comment, I think that lipstick is worth investing for the name alone! How lovely to have an real life meeting with someone you've connected with through blogging. Looks like you had a wonderful afternoon and glad to see you wearing your new dress. So glad you've resolved your angst re blogging. Blogland needs bloggers of your calibre. Iris

    1. Thanks, Iris. You always say just the right thing. And that lipstick… I'd wear it just to be able to tell everyone I'm wearing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang:)

  10. Sounds like a lovely afternoon, wish I could have been there. It's always a delight to be with someone who "gets" you!
    Funny about the shame thing — I used to think it had to be linked with something really, really, dreadfully bad, and then after reading a lot of Brene Brown's work, and seeing her TED talk, I realized that shame is exactly what I was feeling every time the negative self-talk script was running through my head.

    1. Susan, Brene Brown is the author of the book I was telling you about "The Gifts of Imperfection." Well worth reading if you're becoming aware of ways that Shame holds you back. She's a psychologist who's specialised in "shame, authenticity, and belonging." Really pertinent to this discussion. Thanks, Adele, for mentioning this and prompting my memory.

    2. Isn't it funny how things all just coalesce? I read something, you read something, we talked, I wrote, Adele comments, and we come back to our talk and what you read… and now what I'm going to read. Blogging IS the coolest!

    3. Leslie in Oregon

      Thank you for creating, inspiring and otherwise nurturing this particular blogland community, Susan. I love reading what you have to say, and I so enjoy the comments it elicits. We all have the opportunity to get to know each other in very unique ways.

    4. Leslie in Oregon

      P.S. I love the photograph of you and Frances…such beautiful people, in every sense of the word!

    5. Coalescence, exactly! Like my looking up where your favorite bike path is and realizing it's just on the other side of the border from where my closest friend's family has a home, Cape Vincent.

  11. It's lovely that you and Frances were able to meet up and such a great photo! Both lipsticks look good to me 🙂 I agree with une femme with regard to Blogging, some people get it and some don't. I don't know anyone in my group of friends who writes or reads blogs. Although, possibly they're doing it in secret! You and Frances have so much to be proud of with regard to your blogs. You both write so eloquently, about such varying topics, showing intelligence and humour. The way that you both reply to comments encourages a feeling of dialogue between yourselves and your readers and sometimes between your readers themselves! I'm sure I've mentioned this before but after reading both your blogs I feel as though I've spent some time with a friend …as though we've met for coffee and a "catch up" I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like this.

    1. Thanks Rosie. That's the tone I feel comfortable writing in… like we're chatting. Looking forward to chatting with you in person next month.

  12. Two lovely ladies together,it's great,isn't it?
    I remember meeting for the first time my pen pals from Germany-Claudia visited me for a vacation and next summer I spent three weeks with Gabby near Aachen.
    You should be more than proud of- your blog is so interesting! I have read about books reviews – what a fortune did I find 🙂
    But,I could understand the feeling- when I mentioned something about reading and commenting to my friends,they were reacting very weird. Their problem!
    Rosie said it much better than me 🙂

    1. So kind of you to say so, Dottoressa. Glad you liked the book posts. I think a lot of people who haven't read blogs think they are more like Facebook.

  13. You both look great -and I enjoy reading your blog – one of my top five! (came here via Une Femme). I have passed on your posts on retirement to some Principal friends who are about to retire -they were just the right thoughts at just the right time for them!

    1. Ah thanks, Dore. And thanks for passing on my post. Many of us struggle with this on our own because there's so much pressure to either be joyous about retirement or see in as a living death… and never the twain shall meet.

  14. Boy, do I connect with this subject! I never labeled it as shame, but it has taken me over a year to feel somewhat proud of my blog. My one dedicated reader is my mom, as well. It has troubled me a bit that the few friends that I have openly discussed blogging with, really haven't taken an interest in reading it or understanding it. That stings a little, but I must march on and do what feels good to me…without the shame. Thanks for sharing this Susan! P.S. I'm ok with being small potatoes too 🙂

    1. That's something Mater and I discussed yesterday… the indifference of some of our close friends and relatives to our "work." And it does sting. And so let's all march on together…:)

  15. Hmm, I read many of the blogs of those who have responded. I have not commented much but to me, this is a world much like the coffee "klatches" my mother went to weekly in our neighborhood when I was a child. My mother has passed, I have moved and retired and have very much been feeling my way through this process. The bloggers I choose to follow feel much like "my tribe" which I have not been able to find elsewhere – a diverse group of very accomplished women. Thank you all, Sue

    1. I live on the edge of the tribe,but enjoy and look forward to reading all of you. I agree that many don't get it, but I'm most grateful to all those I follow for the time and effort they put in.

  16. I agree very much with what the person at 10:56 AM said. You're one of the people I check on regularly, and even if we've never met, I feel like we're pals. I'm not much of a commenter, but I've been enjoying your blog for a long time, and right now the blogs I read pretty much constitute my entire social life, as I work at home. Thanks for being out there, Susan!

    1. So glad you're enjoying my blog. Working at home must be isolating… happy that blogs are providing some informal social contact to offset that. Stop by for a chat anytime:)

  17. Susan, you are a writer with a unique voice. Many bloggers either choose not to exercise that "muscle", or don't have it. No shame being a wonderful story teller!

    1. Ah, thanks. Must be the Irish in me…storytelling is a big part of how I always connected with my family (listening to stories as a kid) with my students (telling and listening) and now here, on my blog.

  18. I love seeing the photo of you and Materfamilias together! Two articulate, bright women! I call myself a "blog reader" and proudly share what I learn with my friends. Whether it is "going grey", "art class in France", "redefining oneself in retirement", "traveling solo", etc. A few have asked me to send them links to your blogs! I so appreciate what you have shared, what I have learned, and what I've been able to take action on. You are both inspiring, thoughtful, smart, and engaging! I so agree with Sue who mentions the coffee klatches of yesteryear. Indeed, meeting over coffee and a treat is wonderful and fun. You, Frances, and a few other bloggers provide those "treats"!
    Thank you! Charlene H.

    1. Thanks very much, Charlene. And thanks for passing on a post or two. I love reading blogs while I have my morning tea. It's become a lovely part of my routine, now.

  19. You have "hit the nail on the head". I am often afraid that what I am sharing is "of no importance". I feel the urge to write consistently but every day is not exciting, every outfit is no photo worthy. I am just a retire woman finding her way. I have read Frances' blog for years and I too feel a connection with her. I have just started reading your blog and I find it insightful. So glad that you had a chance to meet up in Ottawa.

  20. Shame. Weird. Have been guilty of shameful acts and done my best to atone but now I try not to be cowed by my inner shamer. Especially about my blog which I love and which I enjoy writing. It is just talking with friends at a distance to me. The worst that could happen? Get un-followed. My husband blogs too. It is just stuff we do, having both written to make money in papers and magazines. I love blogs. My day isn't complete unless I have done my trawl. Now I can add you too! Blog on, sister.

    1. You're right, of course. It's just that, for quite a long while, I felt silly telling people I wrote a blog…as if they might say.."Why would someone want to read what you have to say?" It was the comments from readers whom I've never met and who don't know me from Adam that convinced me otherwise.

  21. You can thank Frances for my arrival at your blog. Thank you for putting into words how I often feel. Sad isn't it! My blog is quite a secret part of me and I know as yet in its infancy. It is fun tho to go around during the day looking for the hook to start off the next post. So much fun when it's a bit different. As yet mine are mostly travel, garden or views but who knows for the future. Please pop by if you get a moment. By the way I love your city. We stopped by in a campervan in 2003. My boys were small then and we had so much fun. Barbara x

  22. Thank Frances again, for here I am, too! I have never felt shame about blogging (other stuff, sure!) A blog a gift, and I view mine rather like those books I place at the curb or bus stop for someone to take- may be read or not. Meeting wonderful women IRL has been the most wonderful aspect of blogging, and ma is definitely on of them!

  23. Susan – Obviously there are many of us with the same experience of telling others about our blogs and then feeling a little silly when we get odd reactions to the news. I have to say that I let myself feel momentarily taken aback, and then recover. I've had a "friend" or two who have proudly told me that they never look at my blog – suppose the friend is a writer and I never read her written pieces? What does that say about friendship? Anyway, I "own" my blogging now and, yeah, it is mostly my version of fashion and a little superficial, but it is a part of my voice and who I am. That's a good thing. Jeanne

    1. I've had that friend too…who comments that they've never read, the subtext being that they're too busy to bother with such silly stuff… or maybe I'm just too sensitive. But the writer analogy fits, I think. One might imagine that a good friend would read, at least occasionally, just to be a supportive friend. Thanks for your thoughts, Jeanne.

  24. I read this quite a way back and wanted to find a moment to focus and reply. I was embarrassed to tell my family when I first came out from anonymity. But, we've gone all the way to not even needing to talk about it much:), and my father has written for it, my sister has provided some outfit photos, etc. I'm still quite self-deprecating when I talk about it to others, here in Silicon Valley, if you didn't start Facebook it's all a little besides the point. But, really, let's all enjoy ourselves and be proud that we are practicing something. That we are trying our hardest to do well at something, we are providing entertainment and sometimes intelligence or insight, and also, as you say, we are meeting and making a community. So well done you, and I wish I could have been there when you and Frances met!

  25. You have such a well written and witty blog Susan and I so enjoy reading it. I started following a few fashion blogs to keep up with style, but yours is so much more. I often smile or chuckle at something you've written and there always seems to be something I can relate you. Cheers.

  26. When I first read this post I couldn't even comment because it was such a lightbulb moment. Gosh you are so right, the feeling is shame, and why the activity of blog-writing brings out this feeling, and the condemnation that initiates that feeling from other people… well I'm not sure what that's about.
    I started writing a blog in 2009 and I loved it, it really helped to alleviate anxiety and was a welcome distraction when I had free time. It was just fun, and I so enjoyed meeting other people through the blog. My real life friends reacted quite badly, from announcing they would never read it, to checking it and talking about it and even emailing me that they could see my face in a post and didn't think it was appropriate, to going into full-on mockery one night at a dinner party I was hosting, laughing hilariously at bloggers sitting pathetically in front of their computers, their asses getting ever fatter. I mean it was really terrible.
    I plodded on with it and the situation calmed down. Years went by and I met many friends through my blog, some who are really great friends to this day. I ended up shutting down my first blog which had a domestic focus for reasons I won't go into here but let's just say it wasn't positive and I think I had used up all of my bravery and forging on… but never mind that. I do still write a blog, mostly about clothes, and I love it. I will no longer feel ashamed of it. Thank you Susan for articulating what I was feeling and couldn't understand. XOX

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