Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for August 2020

Refuse to Spread Vitriol

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Folks, the last few days have sorely tested my resolve to refuse to spread vitriol.

Why? Well, we had an officer-involved shooting less than ten miles from my home; worse yet, the officer shot a man who appeared to be unarmed seven times in the back. (Yes, I live not far from Kenosha, Wisconsin. And the videos of this horrific event are prevalent, so I will not link to them.) And worst of all, three of the unarmed man’s children witnessed this.

I have no words for expressing my frustration, my outrage, and my anger over all of this. I don’t understand it. I definitely don’t like it. And I wish very much that this hadn’t happened.

The only good thing about it is that so far, the man — Jacob Blake — is still alive after surgery. I pray he will have a full recovery, and that truth and justice will prevail in this matter.

Anyway, that’s not the only thing upsetting me (though that would be more than enough in a more “normal” year). But the Curse of 2020 lives on, and thus, we have to keep on going in a time that seems incomprehensible after so many bad things have happened in a short space of time.

Those bad things include:

  1. Covid-19.
  2. Shutdowns.
  3. So many murders of Black men and women, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, for what surely appear to be no justifiable reasons at all. (Black Lives Matter. Which you’d not know after all these shootings. But I digress.)

Then you add in the governmental dishonesty, the ridiculousness you see on television or the internet, and the naked partisanship that has divided friend from friend and hurt the United States as a country and the world at large, too…and it all adds up to a big, fat, smoking mess.

That said, we have to somehow refuse to add to it. Yes, demand justice be done. That is the bare minimum we as reasonably enlightened humans should insist upon. But do it through the rule of law. Peacefully.

For that matter, I want to add the following to the above: Find out the facts. Don’t just pop off and insist you’re right, la-la-la, and hear no evidence to the contrary. Learn, grow, change, develop into a better person, and try not to be an ass.

(Really, these things should be blindingly obvious. But apparently, they are not. So I am writing this blog, again, in the hopes that someone out there will realize things have got to change — for the better — and assumptions must be challenged along the way as I’ve said many times previously on this blog. But going on…)

I’m frustrated, too, by things I’ve seen closer to home.

For example, at the senior citizen housing place my mother lives at, one of the other residents was told to give up her dog — a big, goofy-looking, sweet and loving guy named Ollie. Ollie’s about fifty-five pounds, can be a little mischievous, but loves everyone. And his “crime,” which got him banished after three years of living with his owner, was that he got out one day and ran down the hall. He didn’t bark. He didn’t jump on anyone. He didn’t bite anyone. And he came when he was called by name.

Apparently, they have a “one strike and you’re out” policy at this place. And that worries me.

You see, right now with Covid, senior citizens are being told to stay indoors. Stay away from people. Don’t go out unless it’s essential. That means the love of a pet is even that more important.

Unfortunately, that is not what the apartment complex felt.

Ollie, who is over ten years old (though he doesn’t look or act it), had to be brought by his owner to her nearest relatives in Kentucky. By all accounts, both are miserable.

This happened despite a petition with over 80 names on it (in a complex that maybe holds 200 people) saying Ollie should stay. And despite the doctor’s note for the owner saying Ollie was essential to the owner’s mental health.

Nope. The apartment complex didn’t care. So poor Ollie and his owner are now separated, for what appears to be no reason at all.

This is nonsensical, ridiculous, and hurtful in the extreme to a poor, innocent animal and his poor, innocent owner. I have no words for how angry this makes me.

Otherwise, the heat and humidity and air quality where I live have all been bad again for about a week. This has not helped my mood any, either.

As I said, all of this has tempted my resolve not to spread vitriol.

But I’m still doing my best to avoid being a jackass, and help as many people as I can. I try to listen, learn, educate myself, and do the best I can to make the world a better place.

Some days, though, it seems much harder than others.

Do not give up the fight, though. I promise, I won’t, either. (And do say a prayer or think good thoughts for Ollie and his owner, will you?)

Do the Work, Even if You’re Suffering?

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The title of today’s blog is meant somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Our contemporary society, especially in the United States, says that no matter how bad things are, you should always do your work.

This ethos means that if your area was recently hit by an inland hurricane known as a derecho, and suffered enormously, and you don’t have water, food, or shelter — well, tough noogies, because you still have to do your work.

This area, BTW, that I’m referring to is the state of Iowa. They are in dire straits, and haven’t yet been sent any federal help. People are going through tremendous hardship, and the American government doesn’t seem to care.

Obviously, my tongue-in-cheek blog title makes no sense. (And yes, I did it on purpose. Thanks for asking.) If you don’t have food, if you don’t have water, if you don’t have shelter, if you don’t have any help coming…what in the Hell are you supposed to do?

This is an extreme example, mind. But it fits the message I’m trying to convey.

We all have periods of suffering in our lives. You don’t have to take damage from an unusual event such an an inland hurricane to hurt, and to need succor. Most, if not all, of us will suffer from something in our lives, whether it’s worry, fear, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of income…you name it, we’re likely to have to endure something terrible at some point, because it’s part of being human.

You can’t do the work under such circumstances. You just can’t.

What should you do instead? It’s simple: do the best you can. Remember to go easy on yourself when you’re suffering; treat yourself the way you’d treat others, and don’t expect miracles. (Let’s hope you understand that you’re not supposed to spread vitriol when you’re hurting, or this thought won’t help you much.) And of course you should try to help others with your time, effort, and care whenever possible.

Finally, if you’re in as desperate situation as my fellow Americans in Iowa are now dealing with, raise as much (polite) Hell as you can. We pay taxes for a reason, and disaster relief is part of that reason. These people need help now. And as such, the Congress needs to reconvene in a hurry so they can get some help to these people before they starve.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2020 at 6:31 am

Sitting, Resting, Loving

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Folks, the above title is kind of odd, but I hope you will bear with me.

Over the past several months, I’ve been battling with some long-running illnesses. They don’t stop me from editing. They do get in the way of writing, whether this blog or any fiction. And I’ve been frustrated by a lot of things because of this.

I’ve had to rest a lot. And that got me to thinking. Did I want to keep living the life I’d been living, where I was lonely all the time, and just frustrated overall? Or did I want to try to see if I could find someone I liked to spend time with, online or off? (As Covid-19 is still around, and is still prevalent most especially in the U.S., online time is more important than ever. And long-distance doesn’t matter if you can’t do any short-distance dating anyway.)

Michael would never have wanted me to feel like he was the be-all, end-all, of my existence. He knew how important he was. He knew how much I loved him (and will continue to love him, come what may). But  he’d have not wanted me to be alone for sixteen long years.

That wasn’t what Michael was about.

Michael was about joy. Shared sacrifice. Enjoyment of each other’s quirks and follies. Appreciation of who we were, good and bad. And so many other things, I can’t possibly list them all.

In short, Michael cast a very, very long shadow. And for years, I didn’t think I had enough room in my heart to share it with anyone else, knowing I would love Michael until the end of time (and then some).

Then came Jeff Wilson, my very good friend. I cared about him a lot, and talked about everything with him. But he died suddenly in 2011, just three short days after he said, plaintively, “Can we please proceed to the dating phase now?”

And I was devastated.

Jeff was a good man, someone I believed Michael would’ve liked. We laughed together, sometimes cried together (or at least I cried; him being a Confucian, he’d not admit to such frailties), enjoyed each other’s online company, and I was making plans to go see him in Colorado when he suddenly died.

I miss him to this day.

Fast forward to 2015.

A few years ago, I met someone I thought might be the guy. (I have talked a little about this, elliptically, over the years.) I was wrong. He wasn’t the right guy. But he did remind me that life is short, and that feeling something good for someone else was not wrong.

It didn’t work out. But it did get me to thinking.

Now, we’re up to 2020. And throughout all this time, one man stood beside me. He was the first person I called after Jeff died. He was the first person I called when I had to go into the hospital for heart issues. (Fortunately, they weren’t serious.) He was the first person I contacted when I was ready to talk about anything, and he was always there. It might take him a day or two to figure out what he was going to say, if I contacted him by e-mail…but he always, always answered.

And he was also there when Michael died. He was worried about me, and despite disliking the phone, called quite often in 2004 and 2005. (I also called him.)

He liked Michael. Respected Michael. And understood why I felt so terribly. He didn’t want to rush me. (He certainly knew about Jeff, too.) And until the past few months, had thought I was too far away on the one hand and not attainable on the other.

But Covid-19 changed everything.

We’ve been friends for twenty years, this man and I. But it still surprised me when, about a month and a half ago now, he said to me, “Can we try a virtual date?” (That is, listen to the same music, talk online, relax, play board games, etc.) And I said, “Sure!”

Our virtual date was a rousing success, so we didn’t stop there. We’ve continued to chat. We’ve even exchanged short video messages, and are trying to figure out what comes next. Because of him, I smile a lot more. I laugh a great deal. And while I am still tired, and still recovering from whatever Ye Olde Mystery Illness is, I feel much more optimistic despite all the vagaries of the outside world, and all the political messes, too.

Because of Covid-19, I can’t go see him anytime soon. But I do plan on finding a way to do just that, now.

What I’ve learned, over time, is this: Love matters. It may take time. It may not show up the same way every time. But when someone declares himself, and you have an honest connection together, it changes your life for the better.

The main difference between the last two people is this: the gentleman from 2015/2016 was more interested in helping himself than helping me. He didn’t see me as a priority and despite knowing me for quite a number of years never tried to visit me. He never told anyone about me, and he never admitted that I was anything other than a good friend if asked. Whereas this man, my 20-year friendship-turned-romance man, is as interested in helping me as he is helping himself. He does see me as a priority. He does want to visit, but Covid-19 won’t allow it. And his health right now is such that I’d be the one who must visit him in any event, though he still would rather come to me if he had his druthers because he knows this is going to be hard on me, finding a way to go to him.

Despite how it sounds, I’m grateful, in a weird way, for the gentleman from 2015/2016. He showed me that I was wrong about whether my heart could handle yet another love-interest. And that prepared me when, all unlooked for (at least by me), my very good friend stepped up and said, “I’m here. I care. Will you try with me?”

So yes. I am going to try. And I believe Michael would be very happy that I’m willing to do just that.

 

 

Why We Need Empathy Now, or, Why You Should Never, Never Punch Down

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Folks, I have been bemused — at best — by a complete and utter lack of empathy among many folks I know. I understand that tempers are frayed; we’ve already endured one lockdown and may have to endure another; the economy sucks; Covid-19 remains rampant in the U.S.; and no matter what we do, we can’t get away from these realities.

That puts a lot of stress on us, no lie.

But getting mad at grocery store clerks for having to enforce a mask mandate is stupid. Getting mad at someone who’s drawing unemployment because the U.S. government gave people under severe distress an extra $600 a week for several months is even more stupid. (Especially if you factor in the huge waits most of these folks had to get benefits they’d paid into. Unemployment insurance is not welfare. You pay into it when you’re working so you can get some help if you lose your job through no fault of your own. Losing your job due to the pandemic certainly qualifies.)

Getting mad at others because you, yourself, are up against it and hurting is very human. Yes, it is. But we are more than our basest impulses (or at least, we should be). And there are better people to be angry at than store clerks or medical personnel (many folks who can’t or won’t wear masks are angry at them, for some weird reason, as if they wanted Covid-19 about any more than the rest of us), and there are far better people to be angry at than the unemployed.

Simply put, if you are angry, you should turn that energy into something positive.

Here’s a few things to do:

Write to your Congressional delegation. Tell them what’s on your mind. Explain what you want them to do. And if you see them doing nothing, make sure you remember that when it comes time to vote.

Write to your doctors’ offices, if you can’t wear a mask due to PTSD or anxiety; explain that you do not want to hurt them or yourself, but you can’t wear a mask. Don’t stand on this pseudo-Libertarian argument that says, “Dammit, I have rights! I don’t want to wear a mask, and you have to see me anyway!” It’s a public health emergency, so no; they don’t. But you can get some help if you admit you have PTSD, severe anxiety or are so damned depressed you can’t handle the mask if you ask for that help, nine times out of ten. (The tenth time, you should write to whoever heads up the medical practice and complain to high Heaven.) Can’t they give you anti-anxiety meds before you are seen, so you can maybe get through the appointment without screaming?

And if you need surgery, and are again someone who can’t wear a mask — not just don’t want to, but can’t (as I don’t think any of us wants to wear masks, quite frankly; I’m asthmatic and I hate the damned things, but if they even give a scrap of protection to someone else I’m going to continue to wear the damned things because I don’t believe in hurting others to save myself) — please see the above.

And for the true Libertarians out there, I want you to consider this. I agree with you that you don’t have to wear masks. But if you don’t wear them, and a store requires it — which is something stores can do — don’t get mad at the clerks. (Yes, I’ve already said this, but it bears repeating.) Those folks don’t want to have enforce the stupid mask mandate any more than you want to be complaining about it.

The real problem, again, is Covid-19.

“But Barb,” you ask. “What’s this about punching down and needing empathy?”

Empathy is required to get through these exceptionally difficult times. We need to be kinder, not worse; we need to turn the other cheek more, not less. We need to remember that we’re all human. We’re all trying our best. We all are coping the best we can without running around and screaming, and need others to be as kind and gentle to us as we are to them.

The whole thing with punching down is, if you are angry with the people on unemployment for receiving extra money that they didn’t ask for but the government gave — why in the Hell are you mad at the people getting the unemployment rather than the government who offered them extra money during this time of unprecedented, multiple crises? (Mostly, again, due to Covid-19.)

These folks are hurting through no fault of their own. (See: Covid-19. Repeat as necessary.) You should not be angry at them. (And needless to say, you are not showing any empathy, are you, if you’re getting mad at people who’ve lost their jobs due to a pandemic drawing unemployment to feed their families and pay their bills?)

Be angry at Covid-19, if you must. (Not that it’ll care; it’s a virus. But still.) Be angry at the government for not preparing better for all of this.

Hell, be angry at the young adults acting like they’re immortal and partying on the seashore without masks and certainly without any social distancing. They’re a big part of why Covid-19 just won’t die in the United States, OK?

But don’t get angry at folks who need help. Don’t get angry with the doctors, even though a lot of what they do and say is frustrating. Don’t get upset at the people just trying to do their jobs without getting sick and perhaps dying, because for some folks, Covid-19 is more deadly than others (and they still don’t know why).

Channel your anger into something productive instead. Or better yet, try to understand why others are hurting, and do something, anything, to alleviate that hurt.

We must rise to the occasion and become better people. That’s the only way we can triumph over adversity that has any meaning and worth at all.

And remember: we need empathy. We need it now. We need it worse than we’ve ever needed it before. So be empathetic, and do your damndest to help others.

In short: Stop punching down. Lift others up, instead.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 2, 2020 at 10:57 pm