Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for April 2021

Sunday Musings: Do You Recognize the Person in the Mirror?

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Folks, it’s Sunday. That means it’s time for me to write something with a bit more depth, perhaps…or at least something more elliptical, as suits my mood.

Enjoy!


After my husband Michael died, for a few years I did not recognize myself in the mirror. That’s just a fact.

“But Barb,” you ask. “Why are you talking about this now?”

I wonder how many of us have had times where we didn’t recognize ourselves, as I can’t be the first (and probably won’t be the last, alas) to have had this phenomenon happen. And I wonder, too, if that fuels my need for stories. Because every story I’ve told has dealt with a realization, or a transformation, or sometimes both…and the person who starts the book has had to realize his or her inner truths by the end, or else.**

See, the thing about humans is, we often don’t confront problems until we absolutely have to. This is especially dicey when the problem is something you couldn’t have ever foreseen, such as the coronavirus (COVID-19), or the way-too-early death of your spouse. The latter hits you like a ton of bricks, and you literally aren’t exactly the same as you were before due to your grief and rage and hopelessness, though the essentials of you are still there and can be dug out again in time

But there’s the former group of people out there — I have occasionally been among them, too — where we know there are problems in our lives, but we don’t have a clue how to fix them. Maybe we’re trying to fix them. Maybe we aren’t. But we procrastinate, hoping that circumstances or perhaps a miracle from the Deity high above will bring clarity…and our problems don’t get solved.

Sometimes the consequences of refusing to solve problems — mostly because we don’t like the solutions we come up with — are worse than just dealing with the problem to begin with.

The easiest example I have of this phenomenon is with a non-working toaster. If you try to keep using that toaster, when you know it’s sparking from the elements being exposed (the wiring, perhaps, has gone bad), you’re going to blow up your house. It’s a lot easier to just go buy a new toaster than to keep using the old one, no matter how much you liked that old one because it always toasted the bread perfectly every time…at least, until the wires got messed up and started sparking energy off all over the place.

Of course, human relationships are much more difficult most of the time than this above problem. Still, as Mark Manson has put it — and many others before him — there’s something called a “sunk-cost fallacy.” The quickest way to explain this is, “I’ve been with my husband for seven years. Yeah, things are bad. But I love him, and I think he can change…”

(This example is drawn from my life. My first husband, later my first ex-husband, was a good man in many ways but utterly wrong for me. Just as I was utterly wrong for him. We eventually both figured that out and got out of the marriage, which was just as well. I found Michael later, and he was the right man for me. And my ex found the right person for him, so it all, eventually, worked out for the best.)

Now, I did go to counseling the whole time. I tried to learn more about myself, and why I had picked my ex in the first place. I also figured out, due to counseling, that while people can change, it’s up to them to do it. You can’t make them do it. You can’t even assist them in doing it. They will either do it, or don’t, on their own.

I’ve had friends married to alcoholics who’ve learned the same thing, mind. They know it’s not up to them to stop their spouse from drinking. They can’t. All they can do is control their own behavior.

So, what I learned there is, no matter what good points your spouse may have, it’s up to him to use them. Or not.

And sometimes, we love people who aren’t good for us. Or who once were, but stopped being so, and now have no intention whatsoever to grow with you in a long-term relationship or marriage, mostly because they can’t help being themselves.

The good news is, if you are in a situation where you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror because of your own choices, or because life hit you like a ton of bricks, you can feel better about yourself. Over time, if you keep working on yourself, and read books, and educate yourself, and learn more about who you are and what you truly want (rather than what you think you want), you should find people who will want to grow with you. And who will appreciate your uniqueness, just because they know they, themselves, are appreciated by you for their uniqueness in turn.

It does take a while. It’s not a quick fix by any means. But living your life, and continuing to be your best self, and remembering what it was about yourself that you liked before life hit you like a ton of bricks — or before you stayed in your marriage too long after it had clearly died (and everyone knew it but you) — that’s the best way to go about it.

If you can do that, you can find some inner peace. You will know you’ve done your best in whatever situation you find yourself. And you can pick up the pieces again, and start over (or at least afresh), because you have learned over time that you, too, matter.

Not just your significant other.

_________

**(Before you start on my gender-fluid heroine Elaine from CHANGING FACES, Elaine liked the pronoun “she” even when she was feeling male. There are people who like pronouns that don’t seemingly go with their outward selves, too, in this world, including a growing number who prefer “they” as they prefer not to be categorized for various reasons. Non-binary people, mostly, are in this category; gender-fluid people also can easily be in this category, though Elaine herself is not.)

Words of Wisdom from Lee and Miller’s “Trader’s Leap”

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Folks, as you know, I have been battling a mystery illness for quite some time. (Several months, minimum.) So when I read something recently in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s newest Liaden Universe ™ novel TRADER’S LEAP that applied, I knew I had to come here and let you all know about it.

Here’s the quote that resonated so much with me, I’ve read and re-read it several times (along with the entire book, of course) over the past few days:

“You will pursue all necessary tasks tomorrow,” Lute told him. “Nothing will be lost by caring for yourself. Learn some little wisdom while you sleep. You endanger all and everything by ignoring your hurts.”

TRADER’S LEAP, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, p. 124

Now, you might be asking, “Barb, why did that quote resonate with you so much? It’s not just about your health, is it?”

I think it resonated so very much because I’ve been attempting to juggle five different edits for the past several weeks. Every time I finish an edit, it seems like two more pop up. And while this is wonderful from a work perspective — it means my edits are gaining some small notice, and that people are in general happy with my work — it can be challenging to listen to my body and rest when it tells me to, even when I’m not sick.

When I read this anew, several days ago, I’d just been diagnosed with another sinus infection. This one was bad enough that it had set off several wicked migraines (worse than usual), and I was given prednisone along with antibiotics. (Prednisone is a steroid that’s intended to help you breathe easier. It also ups your appetite and allows you to have a bit of energy, as for the moment your illness is muted by its effects.) I needed to read, just in that moment, those words of wisdom from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

See, fiction can still illuminate our present problems, and sometimes offer viable solutions. (Even if, as in this case, the solution is to rest.) We can see ourselves, reflected. And though it is entertainment — how not? — it also can give you heart’s ease, solace, a few good laughs, and divert you from your pain and problems for a few, short hours.

Many people, due to complications from Covid-19 or other illnesses exacerbated by the global pandemic of the last year-plus, are hurting right now. Some of us, myself included, do not want to rest, even when we need it. I know that I, myself, am afraid that if I rest, I’ll make matters even worse. (It’s not logical, no. But it’s very human.)

That’s why reading the page above, and being reminded that resting is essential in order to fully heal up, made me want to stand up and cheer.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 15, 2021 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Happy Easter! Remember Your Lessons…

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Folks, every year I try to write something around Easter. I believe in forgiveness and love, and I especially want to believe in hope…and Jesus’s resurrection after three days of being dead ticks all three boxes.

How, you may ask?

First, if Jesus hadn’t forgiven those who killed him — nailed him to the cross and let him starve in agony and pain — he’d not have risen. (Or, for my Pagan friends who are more NeoPagan than myself, we’d not have this particular legend/belief system. I think Jesus lived and came to help us figure out how to love one another. But I digress.)

Second, if Jesus hadn’t loved his friends, family, and by extension everyone else, he’d never have let himself be nailed to that cross at all. He could’ve easily avoided that fate from everything we know in the Bible. He chose to do this, and he also chose to raise up after three days, to let his loved ones (friends, family, and again by extension everyone else) know that his soul was alive, well, and at peace.

Third, the three women at Jesus’s gravesite (or cave, if you will), were there out of love for Jesus. They had no idea that he’d rise from the grave. They had absolutely no expectation of that at all. But they were there to honor their friend and loved one, and to pay witness to his life.

Jesus rising from the dead, being resurrected, told them that what they did was the right thing. (They didn’t need to know that, perhaps, but it was still nice to know.) And it gave them hope that no matter what happened in our lives, we could still be redeemed.

There’s more to the hope than that, of course. The three women had hoped Jesus, on the Other Side (however they thought of the afterlife), would not forget them. They also had assuredly hoped that Jesus would be out of pain.

Their hopes — all three of them — were rewarded.

And there’s a lesson in that, which goes like this: sometimes, no matter how bad things look, you have to keep hope alive. You have to believe that what you’re doing matters. And you have to also believe that caring, love, honor, etc., are all worthwhile in and of themselves.

“But Barb,” you protest. “Easter is about much more than that!”

So it is. But this is the best way I have to explain how I think of it.

I am more NeoPagan than not, in case you haven’t figured that out. But I still honor Jesus, because he and his example were necessary for this world. We needed to be led out of darkness. And he is among several others in various faiths and belief systems who has helped over time to give us as a species the belief that we can become kinder, wiser, gentler, and more observant in our faith/belief system.

So, this Easter season, do your best to be kind. Even if you feel those around you don’t deserve it. And if you’re able, forgive your trespassers/debtors, too…because releasing the anger you have at them will free up more positive energy for you to do something with, if nothing else. (Hey, self-centeredness works as a reason if nothing else does. But eventually, I hope you can come to see everyone as a person — no matter what they’ve done — and worthy of redemption and care.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 4, 2021 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized