The Blame Game

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Today I’m linking up with Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary for Just Write.

I went roller skating last week for the first time in 20-25 years. Saying that makes me feel old. Someone commented about how the carpet never changes at skating rinks. So true. Skate City’s carpet was no exception.

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The carpet was indeed awful. And yes, these are really my legs. The skates are just rentals.

I helped the girls get their skates on, then I did my own. And I was off. Shaky at first, shin splints, wobbling and unsure.

Before long a Katy Perry song came on and I slithered into the middle of the rink, which smelled like sweaty teenage boys and feet. The air was damp and musty, making me feel trapped and gross. I skated behind groups of teenage girls, next to boys goofing off, and sometimes with my daughters, holding their small hands.

I felt my right ankle cross over my left to turn, my weight shifting slowly. I didn’t remember that I knew how to do it until I just..did it. Isn’t it funny, the way things drift back to you sometimes without intention or thought? Something from decades ago that sat dusty, like a forgotten photo in a plastic frame. Something you forgot or unlearned just pops up again out of nowhere, like the random zits I get now, even though puberty has long since passed.

I didn’t remember other things, either — until the skates were on, carrying me around and around the rink. Things from long ago, things I had buried alive.

Like another time I’d been skating (potentially the last time I’d done so before this writing) with a girlfriend and we met some boys. They liked us. We exchanged phone numbers and they called. My mom said we could invite them over and have pizza, so we did. It was awkward. I felt self conscious. The boy who had seemed to like me in dimly lit Skate Country now appeared to like my friend instead. Which made sense, because that’s the way it always worked. This boy didn’t go to my school, so he didn’t know.

This boy didn’t know that at school? I spent a lot of time hiding. People called me Witch Nose. Some of the guys used to goad me, saying, “Why don’t you just crawl back into your little Erin shell?” and my face would get hot and lo and behold, I did. I crawled away.

I’ve been talking to my new therapist about the way these childhood events can…shape you. And while this particular incident didn’t come up, others did. My shrink asked me why I thought they picked on me, why they said and did these things. Some of my responses were:

“Because I was ugly.”

“They did it because I didn’t stand up for myself.”

“They did it because I let them.”

When I’d finished the laundry list of reasons, he pointed out to me that every single last one of them began with “I.” With me. Which translates to…I blamed myself. All these years, all this time, flatlining out before me, wasted, gallons of water down the drain while brushing teeth.

My therapist said kids are egocentric. They don’t see much outside of themselves… and so…it makes sense in a way that it all came back to me.

I blamed myself.

And so began a trend in my life. Finding fault with myself for things that truly had nothing to do with me.

I still do it. It’s a trap. I’m stuck in the net.

But now, I’m seeing it more clearly. I’m seeing me, Erin, from outside myself. I’m caught, but I’m fighting my way out. It’s like I have a tiny pair of scissors and I’m cutting the twine in spots here and there and things are loosening.

I may not free myself overnight.

But I’m working on it. And it starts with the negative self talk, the blame game, and things that I have no control over. Sometimes I don’t know how I’ve carried this shame, this weight for so fucking long.

So yeah, you might see me with a weird to-do list now. With things on it like:

“Let yourself feel relief. This is not your fault.”

“Recognize the many layers of blame you put on yourself, day in, day out. All of that weighs a person down.” 

So yeah, I’m starting. And I’m trying to tell that little me inside…that she isn’t responsible for all the STUFF.

Thank you, Heather.

***Last but not least– I’ve been busy with Listen To Your Mother: Kansas City. Submissions are OPEN through February 15! We were on Fox 4 this morning, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to get the word out about it. You can watch that clip here:  Please help us spread the word about the show! Thank you.***


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  • Andrea

    Wow. Thank you for sharing such a huge part of yourself, Erin. It’s very powerful, the things that we are taught when we are just being formed. Luckily for us we don’t have to stop growing and learning. Your to-do list is genius, to make it a regular part of the day to work on yourself. It’s something that I think I would benefit from, too.

    • Erin Margolin


      The to-do list is my therapist’s idea. So I can’t take credit for it. And I haven’t really started with it, but need to. Because he says at this point I have to sort of “schedule” this kind of thing in order to remember it and to eventually make it a habit…

  • Kerstin Auer

    I wish you could see yourself like I see you: beautiful, talented, generous, supportive, vulnerable and incredibly strong. Because you are – and I’m glad you’re taking an important step towards letting go of the blame! xox

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you, Kerstin, and it’s my hope that in time, and with a proper therapist this go round, my vision of myself may start to shift. I’m so lucky to have you. hugs!

  • Lori Estep

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Erin Margolin


      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Lori Estep

        You’re welcome! I look forward to more from you!

  • LKmominkc

    I may have needed to hear this today. Seeing myself from the outside. Feeling from in my own head what I feel about myself. Balling up in me somewhere all the “you are not pretty” ‘s and the “you are fat” ‘s and “your ass is huge.” I swear I keep the weight on to protect myself from people. Padding against the world. Thanks for putting pen to paper on this. These rumblings in my own mind- and the vicarious therapy aint bad either- wink wink

    • Erin Margolin


      Sorry I am so late to reply…but thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts for me here. I think vicarious therapy may be my new favorite phrase! And yes— padding against the word. I know this. Hugs to you, friend.

  • Jennifer P. Williams

    Oh my gosh yes. I’m so glad to know that those threads are loosening. I love that phrase, “It’s not my business what you think of me.” That’s so true. We need to feel great about ourselves and not be concerned with what is going on in other people’s head.

    • Erin Margolin


      I think I need to tattoo that line on my arm where I can see and read it every day!! And I just need to move to Texas so you can whoop some ass for me when I’m… not in the place to do it myself. I’m so glad you’re coming to BlogHer!!! I’m counting the days!! xo

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    “You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.”
    ― Mary Oliver

    you don’t have to be good. you belong. here. with us. whisper that to the part of you that speaks those old truths not yet healed by the new knowledge of all that you have become. xo

    • Erin Margolin


      Even now, 11 days after first reading your comment with this Mary Oliver poem, I still don’t have the right words. Thank you for sharing this with me. It gave me the chills. Geese going home. Me. I’m good. I’m home. xo

  • Natalie the Singingfool

    Um, me too. I’m going through this in therapy too, ironically. I blame things on myself that are in no way my fault, and struggle with anxiety because of it. Isn’t this fun to work through, lol?

    • Erin Margolin


      Oh my. We are living parallel lives, then. And yes, my new doc is helping me see that this is what is at the root of my so-called anxiety. That instead of just calling myself anxious and thereby blaming myself for all of those associations…. I need to get to the root of it and expose what’s really there. Which is blame. And it’s an old, dirty habit. That will take some time for me to evict from my soul. If you find an easy fix will you let me know? Thank you for reading!

  • Kim@Co-Pilot Mom

    I tend to blame myself first a lot – and all that blame does weigh on a person. I am glad that you are starting to move it away from you.

    • Erin Margolin


      Thank you. I know it will take some time and hard work. It’s an old habit, heavily ingrained, and…I’m just hopeful that recognizing it and talking about it more and really facing it/understanding it… may help.

  • thekitchenwitch

    I do the same thing! It’s so important for us to learn to catch ourselves doing self-destructive things.

    • Erin Margolin


      good to know i’m not alone in this, but I still wouldn’t wish it on you….or any dear friend. it’s deeply rooted. an old thing. gonna have to dig it up.

  • Stacey

    What a beautiful revelation. You are right, you aren’t responsible for all the stuff, but replacing that thought process is so hard. It takes a lot of practice.

    • Erin Margolin


      It does and will take a lot of practice. I’m learning it doesn’t come easily, it’s something I’m going to have to work really hard at. It’s like my brain knows the difference– it knows something’s not logical, not real.. but it does it anyway (the blame thing). And I’m just now seeing it in this light. Exposed for all it is. It’s wretched and ugly and I want it gone. But it’s not as easy as I’d hoped. I have to think that I’m on the way, and that I’m wiser for knowing more now than I did two weeks ago. ;-)

  • Nicole Morgan

    My heart hurts for the younger you and the hand I know I would have held out to you … Instead here you are, bringing words of wisdom to the no longer self assured person that I once was ….I am drinking in your passage of learning xxxx

    • Erin Margolin


      Oh, but you have it the other way around. It is I who is looking to you — you are wiser than I and have traveled your own difficult paths. And I look up to you so much. You are a pillar of strength and perseverance. I hope I get to see you again soon. xo

  • Andrea B.

    Beautifully written, Erin. So very beautiful. I’m sorry that you have had these memories crop up, but I am glad you know that it wasn’t, it isn’t, it’s not you. xo

    • Erin Margolin


      Thank you, friend. Isn’t it strange the way the mind works? I am grateful to have finally (after years and years) found a therapist who can actually help me.. because I feel like I’ve wasted so much time (and money) on others who….either didn’t have a clue or didn’t feel the past was relevant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • The JackB

    Sometimes I think about the things that haunt me and their origins during childhood and then I think about my children and wonder what is going to stay with them and can I stop it. It is hard.

  • Sarah Heleringer Reinhart

    my favorite part? “let yourself feel relief.” you deserve it, Erin. xx.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you, Sarah. That is one of the things that keeps ringing in my head. But also possibly the hardest to actually DO. Because it entails a letting go. Of something that’s so…. habitual. And ruthless. Ugh. xoxo

  • Ally

    Really well written, Erin. Sadly, I know that blame game well. Shrinking into myself, blaming myself back in those childhood days. I’m 46 and I still work on “it’s not my fault”. But I’m better at it, and that’s a good thing.

    • Erin Margolin


      I’m not happy that you can relate to this, but it’s nice to know we’re traveling a similar path together. I just hope my daughters don’t have to go this route. I want to save them from everything, even though I know I can’t. Thank you for reading and for letting me know it’s not just me. xo

  • Alison

    I’m glad that the threads are loosening. That you’re learning to see yourself in a different light. xoxo

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you, Alison! Hope you’re sleeping peacefully en France right now, and loved seeing the photos you shared w/ the kids earlier. So happy you’re feeling better and enjoying the trip (cold, narrow stairs, and strollers aside!). xoxo

  • Kristin in St. Louis

    Please, Erin, never doubt for a second that the world is blessed every moment you are out of that “little Erin shell.” Your words mean so much to so many. Thanks for posting this.

    • Erin Margolin


      Thank you so much. Your words mean a lot, too. You know that, right? Thank you for taking the time to read this and comment.

  • Kimberly M

    Oh those carpets…
    I don’t know how it felt on your end but I did see it firsthand with my sister. People are so fucking cruel. I had to put my fist in a girl’s face when she pushed my sister off of her bike on her birthday.
    My sister is so beautiful and has stepped into herself (rather than trying to be someone that won’t get picked on) but deep down, I know that this still affects her.
    You’re a beautiful woman. A strong one. Keep skating on those ugly carpets and try to ignore the fact that there are a lot of teenage hormones caged in that place.

    • Erin Margolin


      You’re so right. I just hope my daughters can avoid a bunch of this crap…because it’s really hard. And I don’t want them to view themselves this way. xo

  • From Tracie

    I remember those carpets well. And the bad feelings when that boy from the rink liked my friend more than me.

    You, my friend, are amazing. I am glad you are loosening the twine that has bound you for so long.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you, Tracie. It may be loosening, but it’s still going to take awhile. I’m in unchartered territory and things are murky. I think un-learning this mindset will be quite a bit of work. Worth it in the end, of course, but … it’s so in there…I don’t know how I’ll get it all out. xo

  • Nina Badzin

    I relate that image of cutting threads from the inside–like cutting out that outer layer.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you, sweet Nina! xo

  • Stephanie Lormand

    “They don’t see much outside of themselves…” Which nicely sums up so many people–not just kids– that do and say hurtful things. I really enjoyed this (and the memory flashback from those carpets!)

    • Erin Margolin


      Thanks so much for stopping by. And now that I think about it, you’re right— about so many people in general being egocentric. How sad is that? I’m glad you enjoyed this!

  • Julie Gardner

    Isn’t it amazing that you couldn’t see from the inside that you’d been placing all the blame on yourself?

    I hope this revelation brings you one step closer to peace.
    The journey is long and twisted, but you DESERVE to be on the right track.

    • Erin Margolin


      Yes, it really is amazing to me. I guess it pays to find a good therapist? It’s just frustrating that for so long, I hadn’t been seeing a decent one…how are you supposed to know? I mean, I thought I knew for awhile that he was good. And then… I started wavering… and then CRASH. Then I started w/ a new one and the difference is like night & day. I’m so relieved!

  • Galit Breen

    Oh Erin, you’re doing so much important, hard work right now. I’m cheering you on (so, so very much) from here. xo

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you, Galit. I need your cheers. xo