Why do we fall?

 I live with superheroes.  Seriously, I literally have superheroes all over my house.

A life-sized Captain America shield - check. Thor's Hammer - check. Collectors edition Superman and Spiderman figurines - check. Silver Surfer doing a  drop-in off the top of my bed - check.  And this is not even the tip of the superhero iceberg. There are toys, lego sets, books, anthologies, DVDs and boxes full of vintage comic books.

All of this is my husband's doing. He grew up reading comic books with his father and brother and learning life lessons from his heroes. He is now passing down that love and those lessons to our children and I have to admit, to me as well.

So, it came as no surprise to me that in thinking about vulnerability and doing some of the "homework" assignments for the Brene Brown Gifts of Imperfection course that I am doing, that one particular lesson from a superhero movie came to mind.


I have been taking a wee break from some of my social media sites this month and have had some time to really think about what effect social media has on me personally. Specifically, I have been staying off of Twitter and severely limiting my time on Facebook and Instagram. The effects of this tiny break have already been seen by my family and have given me some new perspective on how I interact and with whom on the internet.

There has been much written in the past few months about the toxicity of Twitter, especially within the circles of feminism. Michelle Goldberg's piece in The Nation on Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars set of a veritable toxicity shit-storm across the interwebs and spawned yet another catchy, let's all be sarcastically and aggressively passive aggressive, hashtag called #whitefeministrants. Which, when you sit back and look, in my humble {and yes, white, feminist} opinion, does nothing more than add to the growing vat of toxic "talk" going back and forth. Many a post has been written in response to Goldberg's piece, but what Jessica Wakeman at the Frisky wrote struck me as the closest to the way I see things.

"The toxicity in online feminism contributes to the tuning out of the privileged folks who we all want to be listening. It’s a despairing twist after white feminists have shut out WOC feminist for so long, straight cis women have shut out trans and lesbian women for so long, and men have shut us all out for so long. The solidarity that I believe in is one where we make an effort, for our own betterment and each other’s. It’s one where we listen and learn and don’t jump to conclusions or interpretations of bad faith. It’s one where people who make a good faith effort — be they male or female, straight or gay, cis or trans, white or biracial or WOC —  are given the benefit of the doubt. It’s a solidarity that is, above all, kind."

 Kindness.  There's a thought. What ever happened to that? Can it truly exist online?


The so-called "Mommy Wars" are waged silently and not so silently all over the place, with judgement canons shot daily from all camps. Gasps of "Oh, no she did not!" and "OMG, I would never" and "what the heck is she trying to prove" are heard/read/interpreted and internalized all over Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram and Twitter. Myths abound about doing it all, having it all and finding that mythical land called "Work-Life-Balance" and/or the peaceful island of "ME-time". Media images of being "mom enough" bomb us from every corner, while various labels of what kind of mom you are make it easy for new recruits to pick a side.

We make fun of celebrities choice of clothing, how much weight they gain during pregnancies and what they name their children. We jump all over a mom who writes a post reflecting her value system when teaching her sons about responsible Facebook use or crucify a woman for breastfeeding a three year old and judge her with ridiculous puritanical outrage while simultaneously 'liking' every naked-but-body-painted Swimsuit Illustrated image. And we @ and hashtag to death anyone who dares write something online (however well-researched it may be) that doesn't somehow address all of our collective experiences, cultures, identities and privilege or lack thereof. Our righteous indignation over the most minute of things becomes entangled with true outrage over really important issues, the result of which is a flattening of our response to people, a deadening of our compassion and a alarming foray away from empathy and kindness towards our fellow humans.

In other words, I can't help but feel like no one is allowed to fall anymore.


We have to fall. Like Thomas Wayne says, it's the only way we learn how to get back up. We teach this to our kids everyday. When they fall of their bikes, we teach them to brush themselves off, treat that little bit of road rash as a wicked cool battle wound and get back on their bikes. When they don't get something right the first time, we encourage them to try again. To figure out what went wrong and make the necessary changes to do it better. We teach them that anything worth doing takes practice and patience and perseverance and that in the end they will be rewarded for their efforts. We don't expect perfection from them and when they fall -- and they will fall -- we are there to help them up, to show them kindness and compassion and to encourage them to try again. 


But if you are a grown up?  Well, it seems the world has different expectations past a certain age.

Somehow as grown-ups we are expected to know it all. We are expected to know how to handle any and all people, situations and life events that come our way. We are constantly being told that "we should know better", but not allowed to make the mistakes that would enable us to learn those important lessons of knowing better. We are all human and we make mistakes. We mess up. We say the wrong thing. And sometimes we make the wrong choice. We simply can't know everything about everyone and every situation and so, we fall.

It is in this falling that we learn. We learn more about who we are, we learn more about the people, places and things in our world, and we learn how to get back up and try again, this time with our new knowledge to help guide us. In falling we recognize our own humanity and that we must be kind to ourselves, speak encouraging words to our inner 'kid who just fell off her bike', brush ourselves off, take a deep breath and get back up. And when we see someone else fall, we must resist the urge to point and pass judgement and announce to everyone around us just how bad a fall it was. We must instead, reach out a hand, help them up and recognize ourselves in that person and their fall. We have to let them know that they are not the only ones who fall and practice a level of compassion and kindness that we would want given to us in a similar situation.

In our overly-critical, hyper-sensitive, online world it's very easy to become afraid to fall for fear of the backlash and instant judgement that our connectedness enables. We are afraid to take a stand on something, because it may not be a popular one. Afraid to admit to doing something that breaks the illusion of perfection and put-togetheredness that we feel we must portray for the world. Afraid to call yourself a feminist because, while you believe in equality and the concept of feminism, you do not want to be lumped in with "that" group. Afraid to admit that you sleep with your kid most nights because that is the only way anyone gets any sleep, because that would make you one of those crazy hippy-dippy co-sleeping moms.  This fear can be overwhelming for some and I fully admit that I have felt it more lately than at any other time on the internet and it's made me question what I 'put out there'. For the first time in a long time, I am afraid of being vulnerable (of falling) and that is not ME.


In the end, I have to tell myself that all falling really is, is admitting that I don't know it all, that I will always have more to learn in my lives and that it is OK to actually do that. That it is actually imperative for all of us to do that. And yes, sometimes when we fall, we'll get a bit beat up and a bit of road rash under our skin. Those are the battle wounds and scars that remind us of our falls, of how we got back up again and what we learned through it all.

Because really, where would the world be if Bruce Wayne never learned to pick himself up?