Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for January 2022

Had a Covid-19 Scare, but I’m Fine

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Folks, last week I was preparing to play a concert with the Racine Concert Band. I was looking forward to the concert (which was held this past Saturday evening) as it was going to be the first time I’d played in a concert since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, my health did something weird. I ended up going in to urgent care, and they thought it was Covid-19. They tested me…

And I’m fine. I do not have Covid. (Whew!)

However, I still did not play the concert as I missed the two rehearsals beforehand due to the medical scare. I felt awful, missing out on the concert as I did.

That said, I did the best I could with the information I had. (Sometimes, adulting is hard.)

Right now, if you get a fever, or chills, or in my case, both, any reasonable person has to assume they have Covid until it’s proven otherwise. (Unless your state or country doesn’t have that much of a problem with Covid, of course. Right now, all of Wisconsin’s counties have a big problem with it.)

And yes, I’ve done everything right. I’ve gotten the two vaccinations. I’ve had the vaccination booster shot. I wear masks when I go anywhere outside of my car or my parents’ homes. (I have to take my rescue inhaler far more often with a mask on than without it, as I am asthmatic, but I still wear the masks as long as I can.)

Still. The point remains, I will not give someone else Covid if I can help it.

There are folks out there who do not believe Covid is that big of a deal. I have to say I don’t understand that. Even if you just — just! — see this as akin to a bad case of the seasonal flu, the seasonal flu can kill you. (It most often kills those with depressed immune systems — immunocompromised — or the very young or the very old, granted.)

As I’ve said all along, I hate wearing masks. I don’t know how much good a normal mask does. (A N-95 or a Korean N-94 is different, but I can wear them for even less time than a more normal medical-type mask.) But I do know that at the beginning of the re-opening after the first pandemic shutdown, two hairstylists (I think in the South somewhere) went to work not knowing they had Covid. They cut several people’s hair that day, and neither of them gave Covid to anyone else.

(That’s the main reason I keep trying to wear my mask. But I digress.)

Anyway, the point of this blog is that I do not have Covid. I am very, very glad not to have Covid. I hope I never do get Covid, because I’ve worried all along about my parents and friends, and I do not want to spread Covid to them or anyone else.

Have any of you had any issues with regards to Covid? Are you as worried about it as I am? If not, why not? (Aside from politics, that is. I still don’t know how politics got messed up in medical care.) Please tell me how you feel in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 31, 2022 at 6:50 am

My Thoughts on Tonight’s Packers-49ers NFL Playoff Game

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Folks, as it’s now Saturday, that means the Green Bay Packers will be playing its first playoff game of the NFL season against the San Francisco 49ers at home. Seemingly everyone in Wisconsin is ready for this. (If you’re not a Packers fan in Wisconsin, you probably follow along enough to get by. We’re quite rabid when it comes to football, here.)

I think the Packers are likely to win today because they have a better quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and because the Packers defense has been surprisingly good most of the season.

But that’s not why I’m writing this blog.

Nope. I’m writing this blog because it reminds me of one of the special moments in my life.

You see, back in 2002, the Packers were preparing to play the 49ers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. (This time, the Packers got the bye, meaning they could rest during the Wild Card round.) My late husband Michael and I had been dating long-distance (as nearly all of our courtship was long-distance due to living about 1500 miles apart) for about a month, maybe a month and a half. And we both knew we’d watch this game, as we were both football fans.

We really wanted to watch this game together. But as we were not independently wealthy (far, far from it), the best way we had to watch the game together was to talk on the telephone for three hours while I watched the game in Iowa as he watched the game in San Francisco.

We both vowed that whichever team won, we’d continue to root for it throughout the remainder of the playoffs.

But that’s not why I remember the game so well. The reason I remember it has to do with the three hours of conversation, including digressions as to what sort of commercials were on, whether the announcers on TV or radio were better (I think we both agreed the radio announcers had more skill and knowledge), and, of course, cheers and jeers when our respective teams made good plays.

After the game, we both hung up, and then went to talk some more via instant messaging. (We didn’t have webcams. It was 2002. This meant we had to learn to communicate, quickly, or our relationship would founder. Fortunately, both of us were extremely motivated to find a way to do just that…)

That football game was one of the best moments of my entire life, all because I had Michael to share it with. It was astonishing then, as it is now to recall, just how much Michael wanted to be with me, and how creative he was in finding ways to do whatever he could to make my life better. (Yes, I was creative, too, and did my best to make his life better also.)

I’ve never met anyone else with both the tenaciousness and the tenderness that Michael showed me, though I have met three other special men since his passing. (None worked out as relationships, but I still have soft spots for these guys, two of whom are still living.) I believe the reason I could try again is because of how wonderful Michael was, though of course he’s a tough act to follow.

So, this football game reminds me, just a bit, of the 2002 playoff game between the same teams. And I’m wishing, right now, that my husband Michael was still alive to root for his 49ers, and to make whatever other interesting comments he could about everything else along the way.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 22, 2022 at 4:11 am

Sympathy and Empathy — Which Is Better?

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A few days ago, I was chatting with a male friend. When I told him I sympathized with something he’d said, he did the online equivalent of looking at me as if I suddenly had two heads. To him, “sympathy” means only its first definition, that of feeling pity for someone. It doesn’t mean the second, far less well-used definition of understanding what people go through as a commonality. (Such as, “The sisters shared a special sympathy for one another.”)

The second definition is far closer to that of empathy than not.

Empathy is defined, more or less, as the understanding and ability to share someone else’s feelings. No pity could ever be involved with empathy, as the word understanding is key.

So, say, you have two sisters. They have typical growing pains, don’t always agree with each other, have difficulties…but because they both were raised by the same people (or the same sorts of people, anyway), they can be both sympathetic and empathetic.

Clear as mud, right?

So, let’s try this again. I, personally, do not think sympathy should always have to evoke pity.

If I sympathize with someone, it’s because I’m human and share a commonality with the person hurting. Maybe I’ve been hurt the same way. Maybe not. But if I can put myself in this other person’s shoes, at least for a bit, perhaps I can help them in some small way to realize that they’re not alone.

Empathy, and being empathetic, also is quite important, whether I use sympathy’s first definition or its second.

Why?

Well, in some cases I have no idea why people do what they do. Maybe they’ve done something so foolish, so wrong, so stupid, or so terrible that they have had awful consequences in their life (such as going to prison) because of their own behavior and actions. I can’t feel sympathy because there’s no commonality of shared experiences there.

But I can feel empathy, because I’m a human being and so are they. And I’d like to think that none of us — none — are a complete waste of space and effort.

And it’s not just me.

Empathy is probably the reason Sister Helen Prejean continues her work to abolish the death penalty. (Though I think she also sympathizes with the prisoners she’s met in a “there, but for the grace of God go I” sense.) Empathy is probably what late Archbishop Desmond Tutu felt that kept him working hard to abolish apartheid in South Africa. Empathy is probably why most people who work at nonprofits try so hard to do good things with their lives (as they surely aren’t getting much in the way of remuneration most of the time).

I think most people understand the importance of empathy. (At least, I’d like to hope so.) But that second meaning of sympathy is just as important, and I wish was discussed far more often than the first meaning (of condolences and pity).

So, which is better?

Both are good. Both are meaningful.

My personal belief, however, is that empathy is almost certainly closer to the Higher Power than sympathy. Empathy leads closer to other people, as well as closer to the Higher Power.

Still, that second meaning for sympathy should not be discounted.

The hope here, from me, is that you’ll think about these two words — sympathy and empathy — and how they’re at work in your life (as well as your writing and/or other creative pursuits). They certainly are worth more than a bit of study.

What do you think? Are you more on Team Sympathy? Or on Team Empathy? (Or is it silly to assign teams to them at all?) Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 12, 2022 at 4:45 pm

In Romance, See What’s There, Not Just What You Think Is There

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I’ve been thinking a lot about two things. One is about romance, and the second is about the nature of observation.

See, we as human beings want to see what we desire most. This can delude us into staying in bad relationships far longer than their sell-by date (certainly, I did, in my first marriage; thank goodness I found Michael in the end). Because we see every single small gesture as full of meaning…which it is, if the feelings are true.

But what if they aren’t? What if your significant other is lying to you? What then?

We have to observe what the truth is before we can grasp that truth.

In my case, with my first marriage, it took me several long years to realize two things. (Yes, I’m big on two things today for some reason.) The first was that the way I saw my then-husband was not who he truly was. The second was that he was not the person I needed.

When I met him, I was quite young. So was he. Maybe he wanted to be the man I needed. But he just couldn’t be that person, no matter how much I wanted him to be.

There were good things, even then, that I missed after I divorced him. He liked the same music I did. He read many of the same books.

But then, there were the drawbacks, which I decidedly did not miss. He had wit, but not a lot of depth. And at the time, he was incapable of being faithful.

(I hope his second wife has found him to be much more faithful than I. But that’s up to them, of course. And as always, I digress.)

So, persistence of vision led me into a trap. The trap was that I saw only the best iteration of my ex-husband. Not the entirety of him. (Not even close.) I saw that because when we met, he was on his best behavior. And I hoped that was all he was…or that he would deepen and broaden and become more and more interesting over time.

That did not happen.

The person it did happen with, eventually, was Michael. He was funny, smart as a whip, shared many interests with me, but not all. We had amazing, long, in-depth, interesting conversations. He was more fascinating the longer I knew him. I loved him, I loved being with him, and I very much enjoyed being his wife, because he was exactly who he said he was.

(Not to mention, he was as faithful as the day is long. And honorable. And so many things that I could go on for days and still not tap the entirety of him. But I’d better finish this blog instead.)

Michael was not the first person I’d entered into a relationship with after my first marriage failed. But he was the only one who mattered.

I could tell, by observation, that Michael cared about me and wanted only what was best. I knew by what he did — how often we talked (as our relationship started as a long-distance one and proceeded that way for about six or seven months), what we talked about, how much he remembered of what I’d said, even what he sent me in the mail — that he was an honorable, loving man.

Someone worthy of me. Someone worthy of love.

Michael was ever-changing, but always at the bedrock level was the same. Honest. He’d tell you the truth, even if he would’ve rather not, because he knew nothing real could proceed without it. And the depth of feeling he had for me was incredible.

Ultimately, even though we didn’t get a lot of Earthly time together, Michael’s love and influence changed my life. It’s made me a better person.

Again, I know this by observation. I know this by re-reading our letters to each other. (Mostly e-mail, but a few are dead-tree versions.) I know this by the stories he wrote. I know this by every action he ever performed.

There’s a big difference between someone who truly loves you and someone who only says they do. That difference is as clear as night and day, but you have to first perceive it before you can see it. And you have to admit to yourself, when you’re in the wrong relationship, that it’s time to go.

I fought that realization before I divorced my ex. In a way, he forced my hand, because he started the next relationship before he was done with me. But his action in doing that somehow got through to me that he was not about to change; he could not be the person I needed, and he’d already left, emotionally and spiritually. He’d made that choice to go.

So, you may be wondering why I’m talking about this. (No, it’s not just because of rewatching the new Matrix movie, Resurrections, again. Though I enjoyed it even more the second time around, I will say.)

We see, often, what we expect to see. So if we are in love, we expect to see that our significant other loves us in return. We look for reasons to believe what we think is right, rather than observe how they’re behaving, or listening to what they actually say, or watching their body language, or a thousand other little details that tell a quite intricate story if we just paid attention.

In this New Year of 2022, I urge you to pay attention to what is real. Observe. Listen. Pay attention.

Whether in romance, in life, in work, or in play — or in all of them — paying attention matters. And you should not ever stay with someone who doesn’t respect you as much as he respects himself.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 1, 2022 at 6:54 am