Cue the Paul Anka song ‘My Way’: Regrets/I’ve had a few/but then again/too few to mention. This song offers some suggestions about this word and what it means to people. When I hear Frank Sinatra sing it I can’t help but reflect on the arrogance of believing a man must only do it his way. This can set the stage for abuse.
I don’t think anyone can live free of regrets. I once moved our family dog out of the way with my foot. I had to answer the door, the animal was barking and about to trip me up. He fell down some stairs and it made me feel ashamed of my impatience. Another time I wrestled my teenaged son to the ground in an effort to make him mind what I was saying about where he was going one night. Another son felt my verbal frustration when I thought he wasn’t pulling his weight at a campground. I’ve made amends for these moments when I have lost my temper to my boys and to our dog (who got extra walks with me and enjoyed the treats I had in my pocket). To this day though, when I recall these moments of poor behaviour, my chest still hurts.
Anka’s lyrics, read in the context of the #metoo era, scare me.
They reveal a sense of entitlement that males, and white males particularly, continue to anticipate. Going your own way can make you feel self reliant but likely makes others feel redundant. I sometimes feel I have to atone, as a male, for another male’s abuse of power and privilege. I feel uncomfortable being lumped in with those who are not being respectful. I want to shout, “That’s not me!”
I feel very fortunate to have been the son to a father who was often described as a gentleman. The best part of me comes from this man who always spoke respectfully of, and to, women. Growing up I found my mother to be a challenge to live with, but I only heard my dad disparage her once. He would have felt lost in this world where the idea of sexual equality is in such flux.
I recently chatted with a female neighbour about all this judging going on in a world that has long needed a cultural realignment. When I said I wasn’t sure what I could do to help, she said, “Just keep showing your support.” I didn’t feel any better. Was I perceived as needing a pat on the back for being one of the good guys? I regretted not having the right words to express my multiple feelings.
There is a great line in the movie Chariots of Fire, where the lead character is asked if he has any regrets. He responds that he has had several; but no doubts. I’d like to believe that I am strong enough in my own character and aware of my impact on others that I can move through life without doubting my actions. My dad would say, “Start with kindness.”