The Shame Game

CS Lewis on shame.

There is a very nice mom at our bus stop.  One morning, out of the blue, she looked very, deeply, deeeeeeply sad.  I wondered if something really terrible happened.  I honestly have never seen anyone quite so affected.  It was alarming, awkward, and uncomfortable (I’m being honest).

After that I didn’t see her around much, and her husband was taking the kids to school. So, today when I picked up Brooke, she was there, and I realized it felt like it had been a really long time since I’d seen her.

I walked up to her and she smiled and greeted me, along with the other moms.  Someone said to her, “I’m glad you’re feeling better”.  She nodded, then announced very calmly and shamelessly, with a big smile to the rest of the group, that she had been in the hospital for a week, for depression.

We were all so clearly taken off guard by her blunt, unapologetic, unembarrassed confession.  Some of us just clammed up.  Others tried to fill the awkward silence with words of encouragement and offers to help. It was alarming, awkward, and uncomfortable, again.

Thinking about that now, I’m just really wishing we could all just speak openly, without fear of embarrassment of such personal things.  Without shame and worry that it could be received with shock, embarrassment, awkwardness.

My opinion of her hasn’t changed at all from what it was before.  I pretty much could tell she was a bit of a wild card from the get go.  No harm was done to our relationship.

In fact, now I know something about her that will make me feel less awkward, and more caring when I’m around her.

I don’t need to worry about whether she’s judging me now, because she shared something deeply personal.

If we all have dirt on each other, because we all share our dirt without shame, and consequently continue to treat each other with ever-deepening respect, the world just becomes a more peaceful, graceful, comfortable place.

Maybe if it became more common to blab about our personal business freely, a natural side affect would be that people naturally become better at accepting one another.  Who knows?

xoxo, Mere

PS: I really thought hard about writing this, because she is my neighbor, and I don’t believe in humiliating anyone for blog content, so I wasn’t sure if I should “out” her.  BUT, after I read the words I wrote, I realized that if someone wrote something like this about me, I would feel proud.  So, that’s why I’m writing this, at the risk of her someday reading it about herself, because I really admire her honesty.

I do also want to mention that she’s from Western Africa, and I’m really curious to see if it’s more common for people to speak openly about their problems in the culture she comes from.  It’s no secret that some cultures are more sensitive than others.  New England is definitely a play-your-cards-close-to-your-chest kind of place.  She’s a brave one.

16 thoughts on “The Shame Game

  1. Jennifer

    I have never before sent off a comment like this, but I honestly just don’t understand your blogs. The one before this was offensive but not enough to get me wanting to say something. Your title alone “Birth Control” says so many things about you. I get the crying kids etc. etc. I’ve been there., but the way you describe people in your blogs totally talks of your prejudices. And to you the Save a Lot might be “Ghetto Ass” as you put it, but I would think to some people it’s the only place they can go., and maybe they think that it is kind of a cool place.

    What really got me though was your latest Blog. About how you consider that you now have DIRT on this neighbor because she told you about her depression. DO you consider Cancer Dirt, or MS Dirt? And the fact that you said “You always did consider her a bit of a wild card”? Hopefully your neighbor will never in her life come across your blog because that comment alone would terribly bother me, and hurt my feelings. And really….is it your place to out her? She shared something with four women., maybe five, not 200. Granted we don’t know her, but we might, you never know right. But then again you’ve got dirt on her, so maybe you could blackmail her in to not being totally embarrassed. If it weren’t for your sister I would drop your blog in a second., but what I’ll do is just not read yours.

    Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Truly
        I don’t know you., so really I shouldn’t be judging you. It just confuses me why you consider a disease like depression as having dirt on someone. To me that means that you are going to hold that in your back pocket until the time is right to you it as your playing card. I apologize for my assumptions. Happy Holidays/ Merry Christmas. Jen

      2. Mere Post author

        Did I say at any point that I wanted to blackmail her for this? I assure you my intentions are quite the opposite. I would encourage you to read this again. My point is that I applaud her for her honesty and trust, and I love it when people are unapologetic about their own lives, as I am about mine.

  2. sue

    um, jennifer, meredith is one of the kindest most understanding, thoughtful people that i know. i think you misunderstand her posts, or just don’t get sarcasm at all.

    Reply
  3. Heidi

    If we all have dirt on each other, because we all share our dirt without shame, and consequently continue to treat each other with ever-deepening respect, the world just becomes a more peaceful, graceful, comfortable place.

    Jennifer – the fact that you overlooked this bit leads me to believe you may have not read as carefully as you should have.

    read for comprehension! all the cool kids are doing it!

    Reply
  4. Lindsey

    My favorite thing about Meredith’s blog…..it’s real. Thank you for not sugar coating the world we live in and pretending be the most perfect, politically correct, unoffensive gal out there. Writing is a form of expression and you’re incredibly brave to share your most personal thoughts, opinions, and experiences with total strangers. I think I speak for many others when I say I appreciate the humor and levity your bring to all of life’s uncomfortable moments.

    That is all. :)

    Reply
  5. Wine Induced Blogging

    One of the reasons I enjoy checking in on this blog from time to time is the way that Mere folds thoughtful honesty and openness into clever wit in her posts. We obviously didn’t get the same message from her story, but as it bothered you enough to reply, I wanted to share my thoughts as well. What I took away from it was that after the initial strangeness of the event wore off, Mere felt like she had a better insight into who this person was and was much better for it…that maybe if we were all able to open up a little more freely, that these things wouldn’t feel as awkward and we’d all be closer, more understanding, and a little better off. I don’t think that I’ve ever read anything that Allie or Mere posted that I took as malicious or mean-spirited…but that’s one of the troubles with text on a screen…you get the words, but sometimes their intent doesn’t translate as well as it should for each reader. Just my wild-card opinion.

    Reply
    1. Mere Post author

      Thank you so much, you did a really nice job of interpreting my meaning. I love your blog by the way! And, I use the term “wild card” in the most loving way possible. I’m a wild card, and I think wild cards are what make this life tolerable! Thanks for being one too.

      Reply
  6. wineinducedblogging

    In response to your question, I work closely with a woman from Nigeria who has absolutley no filter when it comes to personal information. I think that within the first week that we met, she asked me for change and very clearly stated that it was so that she could use the machine in the ladies room because God was blessing her with barely controlled bleeding. It’s possible that it’s a cultural thing, I just assumed that she’s batshit.
    Glad to hear that your bus stop friend is getting help.

    Reply
    1. Mere Post author

      Really? That’s interesting and funny. I just love honest folks. Once I was at the mall, and a lady came up to me and told me she had cysts on her ovaries and she’d just found out that day. I’d never met her before and it was completely out of the blue. It was surreal!

      Reply
  7. Jennifer

    Alright, clearly I misunderstood your meaning of wild card., and referring to having dirt on her. Like “wine Induced Blogging” said, Its difficult to interpret what people really mean when it’s on the internet, in a blog, or in an email. Our poor children won’t even know what it is like to talk face to face with all the technology. Sorry for starting all this. I really must have misunderstood. Jen

    Reply
    1. Mere Post author

      Thank you, Jen I’m glad it’s cleared up. It’s true that things can be really hard to interpret over the web. No harm done, it’s been a learning experience for me.

      Reply

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