Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 2020

Johnny Weir, Individuality, and You

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Recently, I’ve been watching the American version of “Dancing with the Stars.” I had stopped watching regularly a few years ago (though I would catch it if I happened to be near a TV and someone else was watching), mostly because all the storylines seemed the same.

But not this year.

Nope. This year had my favorite figure skater, Johnny Weir, partnered with a new pro, Britt Stewart (who’s Black, dignified, and quite talented). And the two of them danced like nobody’s business; they were a dynamic, engaging, and energetic pair that did more interesting things in ten weeks than I’d seen in the previous five or six years on the show.

Now, why do you think that was?

(I know I’ve been asking myself this question, anyway, ever since Johnny and his partner Britt were eliminated earlier this week.)

My view is this: Johnny Weir knows who he is, as an individual. And Britt obviously knows who she is, too. They both understood each other, down to the ground, and because of that, were able to work together and create some truly amazing dance routines. (Johnny and Britt’s tribute to Amy Winehouse, for example, was simply stunning. And that’s only one of the fine dances the two of them created together.)

“But Barb,” you say. “What’s this about being an individual, and how does that apply to me?”

It’s simple. The better you know yourself, the better work you can do. And Johnny and Britt showed that, over and over again, during this season on “Dancing with the Stars.”

You know, if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, that I am a firm believer in being your authentic self. I think it wastes time and energy that most of us don’t have to keep up a front. I also think the better you know yourself, the easier it is to get things done.

If you use Johnny and Britt as examples — and I think you should — you can extrapolate a little. For example, the two of them, together, were able to bring a certain style and verve into the ballroom. Johnny is more of an extrovert when he performs, while Britt has a quiet dignity to her. The two, together, were more than the sum of their parts.

And it all started because Britt apparently decided, when meeting Johnny for the first time, to use that uniqueness of his — not to mention hers (though she probably takes that for granted, as she can’t see herself from the outside anymore than any of the rest of us) — to create movement and magic.

Granted, if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Johnny’s been a figure skater since the age of twelve. He knows about movement. He studied some dance (though I think it was ballet) because that helped him express himself through movement on the ice.

And knowing about movement helped him a great deal, I think. It meant Britt did not have to teach him from Ground Zero.

However, it also may have hampered him a bit, because ballet — and the associated movements of that dance — are nothing like either ballroom dance or Latin dance. They’re not even that close to “freestyle” contemporary dance.

What that meant for Johnny was, he had to unlearn at the same time as he learned. And that’s tough to do.

How do I know this? Well, Johnny once said, about learning a new technique for one of his jumps, that he was “old.” At the age of twenty-five or twenty-six, he said this. (Chronologically, of course, that was just silly. But with the wear and tear of figure skating, I’m sure he did feel old.) And he admitted, at the time, it was not easy to unlearn the previous technique.

(I probably should say “jettison,” but learning is not like that. It stays with you. It can’t truly be jettisoned. You can only use it, or not, or get past it, or not. But I digress.)

So, Britt taught Johnny, as well as helped him correct various issues, and worked with him and his uniqueness from the get-go. (Maybe all of the pro dancers do this, but it seems to me as a longtime viewer of “Dancing with the Stars” that it was far more pronounced in Johnny’s case.)

Being an individual, see, has its charms as well as its quirks. You can do more, if you know exactly who you are. (Again, I think it has something to do with refusing to waste your energy on non-essentials.) Add in the fact that when you’re doing more, you are giving your all to it rather than holding some back to “save face.” And top it off with a good, healthy dose of self-skepticism, for that matter, as that will keep you from getting too arrogant to be borne. (That last has nothing to do with Johnny Weir or his partner, Britt, but it certainly should be factored in by the rest of us.)

Anyway, the points of this blog are simple:

  1. Be yourself. Be unique.
  2. Don’t put on fronts, as they waste your time and energy.

That’s the way to “win” at life, you know. Because that’s the way you will be remembered: as the unique, powerful individual you are, who touched many lives and did many things and knew many people and tried your level best.

Anything less than that just isn’t worth bothering about.

Growing Pains

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I bet you, like me, thought that once you became an adult, you’d be done with growing pains.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Because things continue to happen, regardless of your age and experience, that broaden you — or don’t — and you can’t help but feel pain during these experiences.

You may be wondering why I’m writing this. I will admit that I am frustrated, upset, worried, have been sick for most of the past week, and am tired of 2020. But that’s not all of it…that’s just a part.

Mostly, I am wondering if there will be a day where I can hug my family members again. Or a day where I can greet a good friend with a hug or even a kiss (on the cheek).

Because one of my best friends came up with Covid-19, I now can’t visit her even though she’s successfully — as far as I can tell — gone through the 14-day quarantine. The fact is, I am around both of my parents daily. They feel the risk is now too great to see her, and if I picked her, I would not only have to move out of my home (as I share it with family), I’d not be able to see my family at all.

Such are the problems of 2020.

In addition, the guy I like lives in a different country. I don’t have any idea if I am going to be able to visit him anytime soon. This has put a strain on our developing relationship, and makes me wonder if we have it in us for the long haul.

And while yes, there are still good things going on in the world despite the pandemic, it’s all these frustrating things that are on my mind.

As my counselor put it a while ago, “It’s social distancing. It’s not supposed to be social isolation.”

Sometimes I wonder how well I’m doing with that, that’s all.

Anyway, I hope you all are staying safe, healthy, and sane…and are reading some great books. (I hope to talk about one such book soon, Leo Champion’s HUNTRESS OF THE STREETS. But that’s for another day.) Let me know how you’re doing in the comments…please?

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 16, 2020 at 7:56 am

Sunday Musings: Self-improvement, One Day at a Time…

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Folks, I keep having one thought running through my head. And as it’s Sunday, it’s time to talk about it.

Too many of us coast through life. Maybe we take the easy way out too much. Maybe we don’t look hard at ourselves, and our motivations. And maybe–just maybe–we are the poorer for doing that.

(You know I think so, or I’d not be writing this blog. But I digress.)

We must learn how to work hard on ourselves, every day, and to become the best version of ourselves.

For example, if you are a great bricklayer, that means working hard every day to lay your bricks, maybe finding faster or easier ways to do it, or perhaps better materials with which to do it. The one thing you don’t do is to rest on your laurels, because once you say, “This is the best I can possibly be, and I can’t lay any bricks better than I’m already laying them,” that’s when your progress as a human being comes to a screeching halt.

I can hear some of you now, though, asking this question. “Barb, what the Hell are you talking about? I don’t lay bricks, so why should I care about the bricklayer?”

(It’s a metaphor. But again, I digress.)

See, the bricklayer in this example is doing their best to improve every day, and improving their art (of bricklaying, in this case) matters. It gives a shine to everything else they do all day. It gives them a sense of purpose, a sense of satisfaction, of a job well done. And all of that matters, because it all helps them to learn more, be more, and grow more as a human being.

But that’s not really what you asked, is it? What you asked was, “I’m not them, so why in the Hell should I care?” And to that, I have two reasons, one transactional–that is, do it because it will help you–and one that’s not.

The transactional reason is as follows: While you may not know the bricklayer, he may know you. And if you are rude or uncaring to him, or his family, or his friends, that will ultimately hurt your reputation and standing in the community.

But I prefer to use the non-transactional one, which goes like this: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (Jesus said that, and it’s the best reason to do things that I know.)

In short, we are all worthy of care. Because we are all doing our best to learn, grow, change, improve ourselves, and/or survive while doing all of the aforementioned every single blessed day.

As it’s Sunday, I would like to ask you all to do just one thing today. It’s a hard thing, sometimes. But it’s a needed thing, too.

Be kind to each other, even when you’d rather not.

What did you think of this blog? Tell me about it in the comments! (I like to know someone’s reading, as otherwise I feel like I’m shouting into the big, dark Void.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 8, 2020 at 3:42 am

Bemusement City

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The past week or two at Chez Caffrey have been a period of much bemusement (hence the title, above). Or, to put it another way, much of what I’ve seen and heard hasn’t made much sense.

A friend — and her family — came up with Covid-19, for starters. This was awful. So far, they haven’t had any huge problems, but as most in the family have additional health concerns (as most of us do when we get past our teen years; don’t judge), this has concerned me quite a bit.

The reason this doesn’t make much sense is because in many ways, this family did everything right.

Of course, masks can only protect you so much. (And that “so much” isn’t nearly enough, no matter what the experts might say, if a family that mostly does everything right can still get Covid.)

The election angst is still with me, too. As of this writing, many states still have ballots outstanding, and my own Wisconsin is one of them. This prolongs the agony, and makes me worry that we still may see possible unrest here. (As Wisconsin is a true purple state, if there’s going to be unrest anywhere in the U.S. over this election, it’s likelier to be here than many other places.)

So, we may have just had a blue moon — could this be why my friend’s family all came down with Covid? — but much of the world remains the same. Much of the U.S. remains the same, too…deeply divided, with too many people thinking ill of too many other people to find common ground anywhere, or so it seems to me.

I want to hold on to hope, mind you. I believe hope matters. (Granted, I’m not the only one by far to believe this. Otherwise, why would Pandora’s Box contain hope?)

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now: doing my best to hold on to hope, and concentrate on the things that have gone right, no matter how small those things might be.

But I’d be lying if I told you that I see a sea change on the horizon, because I don’t.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 4, 2020 at 2:17 am

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