Try, try, try again

He also likes to mix up my decaf and regular tea bags. His fine motor controls are pretty good, maybe better than I’d like.

In the last two weeks, KRH has discovered walking. He’s been a bit of a slow developer when it comes to physical skills, preferring to sit back and watch others before he tries something. He didn’t start to crawl until he was nearly a year old, and he seemed to be slow to try to walk compared to his daycare friends. Still, about a week ago, he decided it was time, and now he walks quite confidently, and takes just about any opportunity to practice.

Observing his explosion of skill got me thinking about the value of learning and how it’s often an uneven process. I’m in a manuscript workshop class right now, and recently it was my turn to have my novel critiqued.

It was an… interesting process. In my past works, I’ve had some feedback before I turned it over to beta readers, but not for this one. Furthermore, rather than a chapter-by-chapter reading, this got turned over to 7 other readers, in all it’s glory (or lack thereof), who read the whole thing and spent two hours offering me their thoughts. And although there was a good amount of positive stuff, there was about as much constructive feedback as you’d expect for a 3rd draft. And for a while, it was hard not to be discouraged. And indeed, for a few days I was. I knew how to fix some of the problems, but others I didn’t, especially the ones I’d come to the class specifically to work on.

That, in turn, got me thinking about a tweet I’d seen. I spent at least ten minutes searching twitter so I could share it with you.

I suspect I’m at a “perceived lack of skill” stage, but this is more a point about learning and advancing. Ideally, this should be our process for pretty much every skill, but of course we don’t have the time or effort to consider practicing everything in the meaningful, developmental way that’s needed to progress your skill.

KRH, meanwhile, don’t really think about progress or advancement yet. He’s busy moving through the skills most of us will develop through our life, at the pace he feels comfortable at. At some point, he’ll develop the ability to consider his failures, which will hopefully give him the ability to learn from them. Then, he’ll have to learn how to keep going, even when he’s discouraged.

I do have those skills. So even when I don’t get get the glowing feedback I’d prefer, I have to get back to work. Because that’s the only way to get better, and getting better is the only way I’ll get to that next step. So, onward.

#MeToo and Me

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the #MeToo movement. A lot of the best pieces are coming from Laurie Penny (whose book Bitch Doctrine was an excellent and worthwhile read), including her latest The Great Stink about how men should be responding to #MeToo.

I have primarily been thinking about #MeToo in a way relating to KRH, in terms of doing everything I can to help him grow into an empathetic, non-toxic guy. This is really important to me, because I see it a duty to both myself and to him to not just raise him well, but as a way to leave the planet better than I found it. I have also spent some time thinking about myself and my actions in the wake of #MeToo, but I must admit a large part of them come from a place of fear of being accused. I count myself a “good guy.” I don’t think I’m guilty of treating women badly. But here’s a quote from that article that struck me.

Let go of your resentment at women’s lack of patience, let go of your wounded pride, let go of your useless shame, and let go of the idea of being a “good guy.” “Good” is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do, or don’t do. The world is not neatly divided into good and bad men. It never was, and we need to let go of the idea that it ever was, so that we can finally be better to one another, finally learn to deal with our shit like grown-ups in this strange new cityscape we’re crawling through together, trying to find our way to the light. That’s the only way we’re going to move from a place of holding abusers to account, into a future where abuse is less likely to happen.

This was poignant to me, because the same day I read this, author Myke Cole published When you make a mistake you have to own it. In it, he examines some of his past behavior, and finds himself guilty of what I think many men would on reflection; making some people feel unsafe. I don’t know Myke, but he’s friends with a number of authors I like and respect, and I believe him when I say he’s tried to be aware of his behavior. I don’t think Myke deserves praise or defence for this realization, but I do think he’s doing the right thing by examining his behavior (albeit prompted by someone else) and making amends as best he can. I think all men should be doing the same. That’s the only way we’re going to change masculinity and be better going forward.

Which is where it comes back to me. I aspire for good to be, in Laurie’s words, something that I do. But I don’t know if it always has been something that I’ve done. Some of my behavior from my early 20s, in particular around things I said and ways I acted when drinking, now make me uncomfortable. And I certainly don’t think I’m immune to the same kind of blind spot Myke showed.

So here’s what I’m going to do. First, I want to take a good, deep think about what I do and how I act. If I have that kind of blind spot, I want to find it. I want to, as Myke did, own my behavior without excuses, exceptions or defences. Even if this is something I no longer do, I need to recognize it. And I especially want to teach KRH to do better than I have.

The other thing I want to do is apologize. If I have ever made someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe, then I deeply apologize. It doesn’t feel good to recognize that I may not have been the good person I thought myself, but any shame I might feel from my past actions doesn’t compared to any hurt or other feelings I may have caused others. I want to assure everyone I will try to do better.