Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for October 2020

Sunday Musings: One Step at a Time…

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Well, it’s Sunday again, so I figured I’d better write something. Here we go…

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a number of issues. The world at large seems stifling…the fact that Covid-19 rages on, and that “real life” remains so constrained, definitely does not help.

A week or so ago, my father told me, “So, what’s the big deal? Your life hasn’t changed that much since the pandemic.” His view was that I mostly do everything I’ve always done, except for wearing a mask while I do it.

Maybe that’s true. But it doesn’t feel that way.

As a writer, I observe things more keenly than most. And what I’ve observed is that societally speaking, we seem to be in a free fall. We’re tired, we’re frustrated, we’re angry, we’re definitely not happy…and the few who usually try to find bright spots mostly seem to be muzzling themselves. (Except maybe for posting various cat and dog pictures; they’re nice, but don’t make up for everything else.)

I know I usually try to concentrate on something positive, or uplifting, or at least interesting. And the past few months, I’ve been in a rut of my own that has made it hard for me to do any of that.

Why? Well, I think part of it is because 2020 has been so difficult. Everything I’d wanted to accomplish has been slowed significantly. And that’s extremely vexing.

One of my writer-friends sent me an essay that I wish I could find right now. The essay pointed out that sometimes, rage is your friend. It may stop you from writing in the short-term, but providing you do not give up, the rage can give you enough energy to keep going until you can write again.

But in case rage doesn’t do it for you, consider it from a different angle.

A book I read years ago called THE QUOTIDIAN MYSTERIES discusses just how these fallow periods in our lives can lead to greater creativity in the end. We seem to need these empty spaces with regards to our creativity for some reason, just as fields need to be left fallow every so often.

In other words, we have to trust the process.

And speaking solely for myself, I have to believe that this fallow season will come to an end, and my creativity will reassert itself as soon as it possibly can. And providing I stick it out, the words — and the stories — will come back full-force just as soon as they possibly can.

What are you doing during the pandemic to best utilize your creativity? Or at least keep yourself from running around, screaming? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 25, 2020 at 3:02 am

Sunday Musings Regarding the United States, Division, and the Upcoming Election

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It’s been awhile since I last wrote one of these Sunday Musings posts, so I thought it was time for another. Enjoy!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the United States came to be so divided. (The idea that we’re supposed to be united despite our divisions and differences really seems to have gotten lost beside the wayside, lately.) And the only thing I can come up with is, some people — maybe the vast majority of people — want to believe in their own version of reality.

Now, you might be asking, “Barb, what the Hell are you on about this time?”

It’s simple, really. Most people, whether their politics are conservative or liberal, want to believe whatever it is that makes them feel the best about themselves and their circumstances. So whatever narrative they see has a great deal to do with their own lives, and nothing else need apply.

Should it be this way?

I’d like to say no. Because facts are what they are, and you can’t choose to only believe some facts rather than others. And optimally, everyone should do a good deal of research into political candidates — almost the same as if you’re vetting a personal friend for a job you’re not sure they’re up for, but want them to try for anyway.

The thing is, here in the United States, and perhaps around the world as well, there are many people working more than one job. Or they are working way more than forty hours at the one job they have, to support their families.

In other words, they are exhausted, and they don’t have time to do the research if they wanted to. So they pick whomever they think they can hate the least, and call it a day.

While I understand exhaustion quite well — having fibromyalgia as I do, that comes with the territory — I still wish people would challenge their own assumptions more often. Because that way, it’s easier to get out of ruts; in fact, if you do challenge your own assumptions regularly, you may never fall into a rut at all.

I also wish that we could somehow get back to where we were ten or fifteen years ago, where people didn’t choose their friends solely by whether or not they fit their political beliefs. There are so many things that unite us that it pains me to see unnecessary divisions making things worse.

It’s almost like people thought after 2008, when Barack Obama was elected, that everything would now be wonderful. (You may remember that I conscientiously objected at the time to that point of view.) And because it didn’t happen, they grew disenchanted with anyone who still wanted to see hope in any form.

Yet somehow, we went from the cult of personality that Barack Obama had about him to the cult of personality that Donald Trump now embodies. And we went from “Yes, we can!” to “Hell no, we can’t!”

What I would like to see, going forward, is that we all realize we have more in common with each other than not. We want safe streets. Good quality, affordable health care. Schools that do more than just warehouse kids, and actually teach them usable skills. And I’d like to see us have a dialogue that shows we’re paying attention to one another, rather than just dismissing everything the other side (or sometimes, sides) says out of hand because it doesn’t automatically fit our worldview.

That said, some things are flat-out wrong. Racism is one of them. Sexism is another. Unnecessary fear regarding the LGBTQ community is another.

But you know what is the most wrong of all? Stupidity.

So I urge you, today, to reach out to your friends, neighbors, and others. Try to see where you have things in common. Do good things for one another, if you can. Or at least listen and care if you can’t.

Regardless of who you vote for, you need to start looking to re-form a community around yourself. So we can all feel like we matter, and are important.

That’s what being a citizen of the greatest nation on Earth is supposed to be about, rather than “us vs. them.”

Writing, the Universe, and Everything…

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…or something like that.

I’ve not blogged much the past few months, and I thought I should come over here and try to explain why as best I can. (As I do have regular readers, and some do ask me, “Barb, what’s up with your blog? Don’t you have anything to say these days?”)

Well, it’s a combination of things.

First, my health kind of took a nosedive at the beginning of the year, and I haven’t fully regained my strength. This has affected me with everything except my editing, because I need more energy to write (either music or words) than I do to edit. (Why? I don’t know. It just seems to be that way.)

Second, I have been editing a lot. This is a very good thing, and I’m happy to have the work. However, I have a tendency while editing of blocking out nearly everything else, including my own writing, as the manuscript I’m working on takes priority.

Third, the crises — plural of crisis — in the United States have made me furious at times, frustrated at many times, despairing some of the time, and wondering what the Hell is going on nearly all of the time. I can’t help but notice that there’s all sorts of unrest, and I wonder if we’re going to be able to have a peaceful and quiet election due to some of the things that have happened. (The latest being a plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, by a right-wing militia group that seemed to believe she was a traitor. Why they believed this is beyond my comprehension. And even if they believed this fervently, they should’ve let the authorities handle it, not taken matters into their own hands.)

Then, there’s the pandemic–where my state of Wisconsin continues to be among the worst in the nation for community spread of the coronavirus. My family is on edge. There’s a lot of anxiety. Hospitals are near capacity or at/above capacity in many places. A sort of “tent city” has been set up again in Milwaukee for overflow Covid cases…and the only reason Wisconsin hasn’t been quarantined, I think, is because of the obstructionists among the Republicans in our heavily gerrymandered state legislature. (Wisconsin is a true purple state, where it’s closely split among Democrats and Republicans. But somehow, the state assembly — our lower house — is 2/3s R, while our Senate is also controlled by the Rs but not with as much of a margin.) These folks among the Rs do not want to do anything, at all. Except sue over the mask mandate, or sue because they don’t like something the governor is doing, or sue because they want to block vote-by-mail if it comes in after the day of the election (which some of it will, considering how the mail service has been bollixed lately).

I can’t help but see all that, and be appalled.

I think our duly elected representatives should be able to do better than this. Yet they can’t. Not in the state, not at the federal level (where the Hell is the second stimulus bill? Sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk again, no doubt…and him a Republican. Somehow I sense a theme there. But I digress.)

Then there was that debacle of a Presidential debate a bit over a week ago, which also didn’t give me any feeling that the current President, Donald Trump, took his job seriously. (He certainly didn’t take that debate seriously, interrupting and sounding like a petulant child as much as he could. And going off on tangents, as often as he possibly could, some of which made no sense whatsoever.)

With all that going on, maybe it’s not that surprising that my writing has been slowed way, way down.

That said, I recently have been able to do more writing. I have finally figured out how to prioritize my writing — something that has eluded me for years — and I’m getting more done, both with writing music and words. I’ve told myself that maybe my writing will never matter to anyone but me — as my sales record, thus far anyway, is (for lack of a better term) dismal. But as it does matter to me, I am going to keep trying.

And as I’ve said before, writing — whether music or words — helps me function. I feel better when I write. And I also feel better when I take my own needs seriously, and prioritize them, as I ought…another theme here, huh?

Anyway, the point of this blog is mostly to tell you that I’m alive, I’m still writing, and that I do have hope. I’m not sure why I have hope. I’ve seen and done and lived through so much stuff, and am continuing to see and do and live through even more stuff, that there have been times I’ve thought, “Where is that light at the end of the tunnel I’ve heard so much about? And why the Hell can’t I find it?”

Still. I have hope. And hope matters to me, as does my writing and any creative pursuits I’m able to pursue at the moment (obviously, playing any concerts is out for the foreseeable future due to worries/fears about Covid-19 and how it could allow audiences to more easily contract the virus).

I’m still here. I’m doing what I can. I’m looking for as many positives as there might be, from enjoying a drive-thru hamburger to hearing some of my favorite music, quite unexpectedly, when I’m out and about. In this way, I will overcome as many obstacles as possible.

So, the state of the Elfyverse — or at least writing, the universe, and everything — is stable. And I will try to blog more often, honest…at least to let you all know I’m alive.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 9, 2020 at 5:45 am

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Hold on to Hope, Despite it All…

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It’s been hard for me lately to hold on to hope. I admit that freely.

Why? Well, the world situation — the coronavirus in particular — is depressing. And the situation in the United States is even worse; Covid-19 is running rampant in many states, including my own Wisconsin. Hospitals here are getting overrun in some areas, and because of that some very little-used rural hospitals are getting a plethora of patients sent out to them. Then there’s the presidential election, which bids fair to become “who can throw the most mud and make it stick,” the wretched economy, which hasn’t bounced back to pre-Covid levels, the huge amount of unemployed people, the foreclosures and evictions because people don’t have any money…the list goes on and on.

All of these things contribute to my feeling of overall wretchedness. Because I can’t do much about them.

The thing is, giving in to despair and hopelessness — even if they’re caused by damned good reasons — doesn’t get you anywhere.

So, how can you hold on to hope, when everything you see seems gray, depressing, frustrating, and anxiety-inducing? I don’t have all the answers to this, but I can tell you a few things that have worked for me.

  1. Reading a book for no other reason than it makes you smile
  2. Watching a movie, because it takes your mind off your troubles
  3. Do something for someone else whenever possible, even if no one seems to appreciate it
  4. Take a long drive in the countryside, and sing along to your favorite songs at the top of your lungs
  5. Writing for the pleasure of it
  6. Playing or composing music
  7. Talking to a good friend (or two, or six)
  8. Petting your dog, cat, or anyone else’s friendly dog or cat whenever possible

All of these things remind me that life still has good things, and good people, in it; they remind me that I have more to do, and that I can maybe have a little fun while I do what is needful. And they remind me that hope, indeed, is still possible…and still worthy of pursuit, even during a time where all seems dark, grim, depressing, and awful.

What do you do to remind yourself that hope is still possible? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 1, 2020 at 6:14 am