Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for August 2019

Unlock Yourself, and Get Out of Ruts

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I realized, earlier this evening/morning (as my mornings and evenings have been all screwed up for a while now), that I hadn’t written a blog in a while.

Shame on me.

There is a reason, of course, and it’s the usual one: I have a sinus infection, and it’s getting in the way of most fun things in life, including reading, writing, playing music, and just about anything except playing Sudoku and online card games.

Still, one thought kept crossing my mind, and I thought I should blog about it. Here goes: “Unlock yourself.”

What do I mean by that?

When you are in a rut, or you know you have to make a change but don’t want to do it, you are stuck. It’s like you’ve put a lock on yourself, on all of your abilities and talents and goals and dreams.

Worse yet, most of the time when you do this, you don’t even realize it. You are so brain-numb from whatever is going on in your life and/or work and/or circumstances that you just can’t deal with anything. Then you try to do what you normally do, and can’t. And feel worse about yourself.

I’ve learned that half the battle, when I’m brain-numb, is realizing exactly that. And once I do realize it, I can back off; take a break; do something fun; or at least try to get my rest. Any and all of these strategies will help me get back to living my life without feeling like I’m just going through the motions.

While the strategies above will help no matter what your circumstances are, being in a rut is not a fun thing. Most of the time, something major needs to happen for you to evaluate yourself, realize how deep the rut you’re in actually is, and make positive changes to get away and out of it.

The goal here is, you need to think about things differently. Maybe put your best friend, or your sister, or your mother, in your place; how would you advise them in a similar circumstance? (Surely you wouldn’t want anyone you cared about to stay in that rut, right?) And try to turn tragedy into opportunity.

Thus, “Unlock yourself.”

“But Barb,” you say. “I don’t get it. I need to change my attitude? But my attitude didn’t get me in this rut, so how will that help?”

That’s not exactly what I’m getting at, here. I know attitudes alone do not put anyone into a rut. But refusing to evaluate your circumstances, or re-evaluate as needed, and tote up the pluses and minuses of wherever you’re at, contributes to ruts. And if you don’t do these things, it’s easier to just go brain-numb, as I said before, and go through the motions…and the rut gets deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Worst of all, for most of us, that shuts down our creative facilities something fierce.**

That’s why I say the key to everything is unlocking yourself. Your own potential. Your own belief that you can, and will, do whatever you set your mind to doing…just so long as you get proper rest, eat well, and treat whatever problems are going on all around you accordingly.

What do you think of my strategies? Did “Unlock yourself” make any sense to you? Tell me about it in the comments!

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**Those of you who don’t have this happen aren’t necessarily better off if you can get around this, mind. I know one person who swears he has to be unhappy to write, or he can’t do it; that, to my mind, is just awful. But there’s no talking him out of it, because it’s his way of thinking — his rut, if you will — and the only one who can get him out of there is himself.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2019 at 4:42 am

Writers, Choose Your Strategy

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We writers tend to group ourselves into different camps.

Some are seat-of-the-pants writers (also known as “pantsers”). Some are meticulous plotters. Some are half-and-half…and no matter which type of storyteller you are, at some point you realize that your meticulously plotted story has somehow warped itself into an entirely new shape.

It’s for those days I’ve come up with my new saying, which is the title above: Writers, choose your strategy. Learn how to deal with the unexpected. And then take it from there.

Why do I say this?

Well, when your story goes sideways, that can be difficult to deal with. For many writers, writing seems like the one thing we can control in this life; when it, too, shows we can’t, that can be deeply disturbing.

Plus, even when your story is cooperating, there are times in the story where you step away from it and just have to shake your head. The villains are one thing; you expect bad behavior from them. But the moral equivalency, the bad behavior from otherwise good characters, and the rationalization that if they’re otherwise good, this bad behavior can’t be as bad as all that…where does that come from?

Quite simply, it comes from us.

We contain multitudes (hat tip to Walt Whitman). We all have darkness inside us, as well as light. Our characters can’t help but reflect that. And sometimes, the spattering of darkness and light leads us into weird corners…but we have to trust the process, and persevere.

If you’re at a weird place in your story right now, I want you to remember one thing. You may not be able to control what comes out of you, not entirely. But you can choose what to do with it once you have it.

May that bring you comfort, if it’s one of those writing days.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2019 at 7:24 am

Survivors Heal at Their Own Pace

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Folks, I read a Facebook post from a friend I’d like to know better earlier tonight. It was from two years ago, and I missed it at the time.

Without any privacy violations, my friend had gone through an ordeal while in middle school (once upon a time called junior high school; whichever works). A teacher had abused him for over a year, and he ended up with PTSD and other problems.

While I left as supportive of a message as I could now, albeit two years late, I wanted to say more about this.

Many of us have suffered wounds that take years, if not decades, to heal. And because we have had these problems, we think we’re less than we are; we think that maybe, just maybe, we deserved to be abused, or mistreated, or assaulted, or even molested.

I’m not saying we do this consciously. But we still do it.

How do I know this? Because I’m a survivor of sexual assault, that’s why. It happened in my teens. And for years after, I felt I wasn’t good for anyone, and never would be.

It took me over seven years to get any sort of a handle on it. I went to counseling. I read as many books as I could. I tried to forgive the person who’d assaulted me — which I found to be impossible, setting back my healing for a few more years.

And then, I found The Courage to Heal Workbook. That, along with a good counselor who knew how to use it, was my salvation. It taught me that I did not have to forgive the person who’d assaulted me. Instead, I could leave it up to the Higher Power.

Best of all, I learned that I was not to blame for any of it. And that I was stronger because I’d survived.

All of that helped me heal.

After I did all that hard work, I eventually found my late husband, Michael. He and I found a fulfilling life together in all aspects. He wasn’t afraid of my flashbacks, and would hold me until I was better; he had empathy, and knew how to use it. (I wish all people did. But empathy is still an exceptionally rare quality, it seems…but I digress.) And our sex life was second to none, because we both understood each other, loved each other unconditionally, and wanted to make each other feel that love every minute of every day.

Why am I’m sharing this now, rather than at the height of the #MeToo movement? Well, it’s mostly that I want my friend, who has found a good woman at long last and will be married soon, to know that he, too, can have a fulfilling relationship and that his past — the stuff that was inflicted on him — doesn’t have to derail anything.

The right person, you see, will be there for you no matter what. That’s what unconditional love is all about. And once you find that person who loves you, no matter what, hold on to him or her — because that’s a person whose worth is above rubies.

If you are reading this, live in the United States, and have suffered from rape, incest, molestation, or other forms of sexual violence and need to talk with someone, call RAINN at (800)656-HOPE. They are free, confidential, and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And if you can’t call now, but need to find out more about how you’re not alone — as indeed, you aren’t — and that people do care (as we do!), go to https://www.rainn.org and read at your leisure what they’re doing to combat sexual violence in the United States.

Dealing with Disappointment, part the Nth

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What are you supposed to do when your efforts are not rewarded?

This is something that every single human being has to deal with at some point in his or her life. You’ve done everything you possibly can, and yet, your efforts are not appreciated. And sometimes, you wonder just how to appreciate yourself when you think no one else on the face of the Earth does.

It can be very hard to deal with this sort of disappointment. Even though we know, realistically, that other people will sometimes disappoint us, the lack of appreciation for our efforts tends to come at the worst possible time, often adding insult to injury.

In addition, I know that I tend to look at myself through a very harsh lens. So when I do something to the utmost of my ability and it doesn’t seem to have made a dent — think of what I said earlier this week about the efforts to get politicians to do anything about mass shootings, for example — I just wonder what the Hell I’m doing here.

Then everything starts to spiral down, out of control…at least, until I get some perspective, and tell myself the following things:

  1. You can’t control what other people think, say, or do.
  2. But you can control your own reactions. So if someone takes your hard work, grunts, and turns away, rather than saying, “Great! Thanks for putting in the hard work to get this done,” you have to tell yourself that’s their issue and not yours. (Maybe something is going on in their lives that’s making them be less responsive and less empathetic than they should be.)
  3. Sometimes, you just have to celebrate your own efforts yourself.
  4. It’s OK to be upset if someone is rude. That’s natural, normal, and human.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up due to other people’s failings.

If you can tell yourself those five things, it may help you feel a little better.

And even if it doesn’t, there’s still one more way to deal with your frustration, anger, and hurt over whatever’s disappointing you.

My late husband, Michael, told me you should not push your anger, frustration, or disappointment away. Instead, you should fully feel whatever it is, and put a time limit on it. (Say, five or ten minutes.) Then, after that time, you tell yourself, “OK, self, I’ve heard you. Now, let’s go back to what we were doing before.”

This may not sound like something that works, but it does.

Why? Because you’re acknowledging your feelings. You’re not pushing them away. You’re telling yourself it’s OK to have these feelings, even if they’re ugly and make you feel less than your best self; you’re reminding yourself that you’re a human being, and we all have bad days.

And when you can accept your feelings, even if you still dislike them, it’s much easier to get back to what you were doing.

In a few days or weeks, whatever was upsetting you probably won’t be as bad. (Excepting this whole mass shooting mess. That just seems to go on and on. But I’m putting that aside for now…hm de hum de hum.) But even if it is, you may have figured out how to deal with it better, and how not to beat yourself up for being human.

So, that’s how I deal with disappointment. What do you do? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Crisis of Conscience…(Mass Shootings Commentary)

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Folks, I haven’t written anything in the past few weeks, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been dealing with a number of things, and have been too scattered to put words down on the page. In addition, most of what I have to say seems old-hat, trite, or like something I’ve said three thousand times before.

Yet with the two most recent public mass shootings (one in El Paso, TX; the other in Dayton, OH), I feel I have to respond.

My own crisis of conscience, in other words, can wait. There’s a much bigger one going on in the United States as a whole, and I need to try to address it, while I still can.

First: I am frustrated. Angry. Enraged. And heartbroken.

These shootings did not have to happen. These people didn’t have to be injured or killed. And this weekend didn’t have to be marred by senseless violence, yet again.

Second: Here’s what I think will happen in the coming days.

(Crickets.)

Or, in other words, as I saw on Facebook: “Politicians send out thoughts and prayers. Facebook devolves into flame wars. Everyone forgets. And the same thing happens again.” (And again. And still, yet again.)

This is possibly the best way I’ve seen to sum up what’s been going on in the United States for the past several years with regards to mass shootings.

And that is flat-out unacceptable. We stay in the same place. More people die for no reason. And nothing gets done.

It’s wrong. And while I have no idea what the Hell to do about it — see below — I feel I must at least point out how frustrated, enraged, angry, upset, hurt, and heartbroken I am that other Americans have died because of two madmen. (As per usual at my blog, I will not name either shooter.)

And while I do think it’s a “mental illness problem” as much as anything else — I’ve said so, even, before — I don’t know what to do about this anymore.

Me saying I hate it does nothing.

Me begging my legislators for common-sense solutions has done no good.

Me trying to ask if there’s anything non-governmental entities (i.e., charities and the like) can do anything to put a stop to this has also done no good.

And yet, the killing goes on and on.

It drives me crazy that we have people in this country who think so little of others that they’ll go shoot up a Wal-mart, just because. (As in El Paso, TX.) Or they’ll go shoot up a bar scene in Dayton at night, just because.

Before my Hillary Clinton advocate-friends chime in, I am well aware that the first gunman was a white nationalist/racist. But while that shows his mental processes were, shall we say, unformed and ignorant, that does not explain why he picked Saturday as his day to shoot up a Wal-mart.

And do I think that was domestic terrorism? You bet it was. But I think every single one of these mass shootings has been a form of domestic terrorism, going back to the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

These gunmen are all marginalized souls who can’t see the forest for the trees, and they hold their own lives so cheaply, it means nothing to take others. That much is certain.

But again, what can I do about it? Nothing I do or say does any good. And it’s so frustrating, to sit here, impotent, unable to do anything whatsoever to bring healing or hope or anything other than rage to the situation.

Because we have more than enough rage already, thanks.

What we need now, somehow, is for our legislators to work with doctors and nurses and those in law enforcement and come up with something that will actually help reduce the amount of mass shootings in this country. But how we get that done in a super-polarized political climate is beyond me.

So, all I can say is what I’ve said before: I feel terrible that more good people have died for no reason. And I wish we could all come together and work out something that would do some good, rather than just continuing to let this fester…as letting it fester is obviously doing no good whatsoever.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 5, 2019 at 12:37 am