Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Why Perfection is a Trap

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Have you ever heard from some well-meaning busybody, “Go back, and make it perfect?”

I know I have. And hearing those words didn’t help, because perfection — and the pursuit of it, perfectionism — is a trap.

See, nothing we human beings can do is perfect. Nothing whatsoever. We can only do our best. And try to make our best even better over time, of course…but that is not perfection, and it can’t be.

So, if you’re like me, and you are unwilling to admit that you can make errors — sometimes bad ones — that makes life difficult. Because perfection, as I said, is a trap; it makes you believe that nothing you do will ever matter, because you can’t be perfect, and yet you still must try.

Now, being excellent, striving for excellence, is indeed doable. And I urge you to do that very thing.

But trying for perfection? Um, no…not a good idea, because of what I’ve already said, and also because if for some reason you do hit someone else’s standard of what “perfect” actually means, you’ll end up never being able to satisfy that person again as no one can be at that high of a level all the time.

In my life, I’ve known a number of people who were incredibly encouraging and giving in spirit. None of them believed that you should try to be perfect.

Yet, partially because of my early training as a musician, I fear to make mistakes. (Even though I know I can make huge ones, as I said before.) I try over and over again to fix things that maybe don’t even need to be fixed; I try over and over again to explain myself, because I don’t think my initial explanation cut the mustard, even though it was perfectly understandable — and listening does take some energy, if you do it right, so me trying so hard to make myself understood is also a trap…hm.

At any rate, try to avoid the trap of perfectionism, or the will to be perfect all the time. Instead, accept that you will go for excellence instead — and that will be more than good enough.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

April 25, 2018 at 5:14 pm

We Must Do Better and Insist on Better Health Care (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Sorry ’bout the lengthy title there, folks…on with the show, er, I mean blog.

collaboration-healthall

I am especially cognizant this year of World Health Day due to the myriad of health problems my family has suffered over the past year. Because of all the times we’ve been to the doctor, or in the hospital, or in the rehab center, I am more aware than ever about how we need better quality health care in the United States. (I can’t speak for the rest of the world, though my fellow bloggers have done so brilliantly. Links will follow at the end of this post.)

What I’ve seen shocks me. (And I thought I was unshockable.) A woman who needs hearing aids was in one of the rehab centers my family member dealt with this year, and can’t get them because she can’t afford them. She is over sixty-five, is retired, has Medicare–meaning, she does have state-sponsored insurance that’s subsidized by the federal government–and she still can’t afford hearing aids.

This affects her quality of life.

This affects how she can interact with her family, her grandchildren, and those working with her to help her heal up so she can go home.

There’s something wrong with a country that doesn’t find a way to help someone who needs hearing aids find a way to get them. (She is willing to pay, mind. Her daughter told me that. But it’s a matter of making it affordable so she can, and still eat, pay her bills, and afford her medications.)

Or how about this? I, myself, have dealt with a problem trying to get any help with my vision. I have Obamacare. I am eligible to be seen and get glasses, which would be subsidized (but not free)…yet every time I try to set up an appointment, and I’ve been trying now for over two years, I am told there are none.

So, I continue to wear glasses that are over two years old. My backup pair is over ten years old. My vision hasn’t changed much in all that time, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a checkup or get another pair of glasses that is perhaps a little bit more up-to-date than my backup pair.

How many other people are out there who can’t afford to pay full price for glasses, thus wait to be seen, and then never get an appointment because it’s supposedly always full?

Then, there’s the problem of paying for medication. My family members have radically different insurance. One has no help at all to pay for her prescriptions. Another has some help. But when your medicines can cost over $300 per month — yes, one of the cardiac meds my mother takes is at least that expensive — the co-pay is still plenty high. And when you’re on a fixed income, in retirement, coming up with that high co-pay is damned difficult.

Why is this considered acceptable?

Then, there’s the problem of getting doctor’s appointments when you’re sick. (I know first-hand about that one, too.) Getting your doctor’s office to even call you back is a pain in the buttinsky. And then, if you do get to talk with a nurse, they just send you to urgent care anyway, so why did you waste your time?

In short, there are major problems with health care.

Right now, we have a proliferation of forms, a proliferation of HMOs, PPOs, and all sorts of other alphabet-type agencies, that basically boil down to, “No, we’re not going to help you.” And that is utterly unacceptable.

Mind, there are wonderful people in health care. I’ve met more great nurses and doctors (much less PAs and CNAs) than I can shake a stick at. These people genuinely want to help, but they are overwhelmed by paperwork and there aren’t enough slots to see everyone who needs to be seen. And nothing at all seems to get done whatsoever about fixing these systemic problems.

The World Health Organization has done this World Health Day since 1948, to call attention to the need for better health care for as many people as possible. (Preferably, it would be for every single last one of us, and that is indeed their goal.) And this year, their slogan is called #HealthForAll.

I think we badly need to be reminded that health must be cultivated. We have to have enough resources to help people get hearing aids when they are on fixed incomes. Or afford expensive cardiac medicines when they are on fixed incomes. Or have access to doctors, nurses, and appropriate care, while being treated as the human beings we are rather than an inconvenience or worse, someone to be brushed off and ignored.

So I’m pleased that the Collaboration with a Purpose group wanted to talk about World Health Day this year. It is something that is close to my heart. And it is something we desperately need — better health care, for as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, so we all can live better and happier lives.

Because if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Period.

Now, please go check out my fellow Collaboration with a Purpose group members, as they all have interesting takes on the subject. (Links will be added as their posts go up.)

Staying Stable in an Unstable World

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Lately, wherever I’ve gone, I’ve had the feeling that the world just isn’t as stable as it used to be.

Granted, maybe it was all illusory, that feeling of stability. But feelings need to be taken into account, or you can’t keep yourself stable no matter what’s going on around you.

In the United States, we have a President who shoots from the lip (or at least from “the Twitter”) as often as he possibly can. He doesn’t seem to care if this bothers foreign leaders, or his own citizens, or anyone else; he just does it, because “Trump’s gotta be Trump.” (Yes, I’ve heard this a great deal.)

We’ve never before had a President like this in the U.S. We’ve had blustering Presidents, sure. (Some might say Teddy Roosevelt qualifies, here. And certainly Warren G. Harding.) We’ve also had Presidents that got in under odd circumstances (witness the 1876 election of Rutherford B. Hayes). But we’ve never before had someone who seems to delight in recklessness and obnoxiousness in this particular way.

That President Trump doesn’t seem to understand the pain of new widow Myeshia Johnson, the wife of deceased U.S. Army Sergeant LaDavid T. Johnson, just adds the cherry on top of a whole bunch of unadulterated rudeness and disrespect.

And as an American citizen, I can’t help but feel terrible about this. I don’t understand why this particular man can’t seem to understand that being the President requires empathy as well as logic, and caring as well as commerce.

Not that Donald Trump is alone in seeming to bring the caricature of “the ugly American” to a new (and highly disgusting) sheen. There are all those people who marched in Charlottesville in a white supremacist march, too, pointing out there are still plenty of others in this country who have no interest in tolerance, respect, or basic human decency.

And that also makes me, as a rational person, feel less stable. Less like the light I can bring, and the creativity I keep trying to use, will make any difference.

Regardless of anything else, those of us who have a shred of creativity need to keep using it. This is when it’s needed most. And we can’t stop when it’s hard; we may have to take more breaks, and we may have to give ourselves time to rebalance ourselves sometimes, and we may have to remember that what we do still matters no matter what it looks like…but yes, indeed, we must use our creativity as best we can.

Why? Because we need to do everything we can to stay on balance. Live the lives we were born to live. And refuse to let anyone, regardless of pride, position, or Presidency, take us off our course.

So, in addition to doing my best to stay creative, I’ve also resolved the following things. I’m going to reject bad behavior, whoever it’s from. Reject words that make no sense, whoever says them. Reject those who just don’t seem to get it that we all need to pull together, and do what we can to bring more rationality and respect and tolerance and (dare I say it?) kindness into this world.

And if I can do all that, I believe I will feel more stable, centered, and whole.

What do you do to stay stable in an unstable world? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 24, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Beat the Heat and Stand for Something

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Folks, you may be wondering why on Earth I decided to combine these two topics. It’s mostly because it was 95 F with high humidity (and far from the world’s best air quality) where I live in Southeastern Wisconsin; originally I was going to talk only about standing for something, but it being so hot made me combine them.

So, hopefully my brain hasn’t melted, and this will make sense. Enjoy!

There’s so much negativity in this world right now. And the only way I know to try to fight against any of it is to find something to believe in, and take a stand.

What do I stand for? (I’m going to try to stay out of politics for the moment, as it’s so hot…) Literacy, for one. And education. And thinking for yourself, and making up your own mind after using reason, logic, or at least some sort of step-by-step rationale for making your decisions, rather than following the whims of whatever “in-crowd” seems to be dominating the airwaves this week.

This is important. You need to think for yourself. And stand for something, as well as stand against stuff that makes no sense to you.

Such as narcissistic contemporary behavior. And I am not alone in that.

Tonight, while watching television, I saw highly respected journalist and writer Gay Talese, speaking with MSNBC’s Ari Melber. Talese said that in his opinion, our culture is incredibly narcissistic. He pointed out that even when he goes to a baseball game, more people are watching their phones than watching the game — and he truly does not understand that.

(Neither do I, as a baseball fan. That just never has made any sense to me. Watch the game if you’re there, dammit. Or stay home and follow your phone…unless someone in your family has a health emergency, turn the damned thing off.)

Talese was speaking broadly, as well as specifically (as he was talking politics; someday, maybe soon, I’ll talk about that, too, but not today). But his point is well-founded. We are too narcissistic now, in the Western World in particular; we are not thinking about tomorrow so much as immediate self-gratification.

How do we combat all this? We need to stop undue navel-gazing. And instead, take a stand. Find something you like to do that will actually help someone else. And stop focusing on your own problems to the detriment of everyone else.

(I know, I know; I am at fault as much as anyone reading. But I’m telling myself to do this, too, as I really don’t want to be hypocritical. Trust me. Now, back to the regularly scheduled post, already in progress…)

Some ideas of how to help:

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry
  • Volunteer with dog, cat, parakeet, or other animal shelters, and make sure those animals are well cared for until they find their “forever homes”
  • Send money to Florida, Puerto Rico, Houston, the Virgin Islands, or any other place that’s been devastated by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria

Those are just three ideas, but I hope that gives you some food for thought.

We’re only here for a short time. We have to help others while we’re here, or at least make a good attempt to do so; otherwise, why were we put on this Earth with millions upon millions of other souls rather than in our own hermetically sealed bubble, alone in our “perfection,” alone with our thoughts…and no doubt bored silly by same?

As the heat beats down, and the humidity makes the heat even worse, do your best to keep yourself focused on people other than yourself. That’s the best way to honor the better angels of your nature, and it’s the best blow against self-defeating narcissism I know.

P.S. It’s not that you shouldn’t care about what happens to you, mind…it’s that you also should care about what happens to others.

How do you help others? And what do you think of this post? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 22, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Communication — Not Just for Breakfast Anymore…

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Folks, I keep thinking about communication. What does it mean, and how can we improve it?

Communication, to me at least, means that someone is saying to me, “I am listening. I am paying attention to what you’re saying. What you are talking about matters even if I don’t understand it, but I do want to understand.”

We see a real dearth of communication these days, and not just in our personal lives. (The lack of communication in Washington, DC, these days is startling. Even by non-communicative DC standards.) And yet, no one seems to know how to improve it, to make things any better…and the bad communication (or worse, complete lack of communication whatsoever) just keeps going on and on, dragging down everything it touches.

If you are having communication problems with someone else, try to listen. If you can’t do that because you are swamped with work, at least tell that person you will listen as soon as you can and that you do care. (Yeah, is this a personal message to someone? Maybe. But maybe not. There are a lot of people in my life I’d tell this to, if I could get them to sit down and listen.) And then, make some time and listen. Don’t judge — listen.

Communication isn’t just for breakfast anymore. (Who knew?)

Anyway, the only way to fix bad communication is to actually try. Refuse to be afraid of confrontation; just make sure that you are as respectful and calm as you can be, or if you can’t be either, apologize for your lack of same and then get on with trying to understand each other.

This is harder to do with some than others, granted. But if you are friends, or family, or have common interests, or work together, you have to try to do this even when you don’t want to, or the problems that will result from same will just keep snowballing…

And there is no point to that. At all.

***Note: I am fortunate that nearly everyone I know can and does communicate. But my goodness. I am tired of the non-communication in this world…beyond tired. Thus, this post.

Why Must We Be So Negative?

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Folks, the other day I read an interesting post by my friend Tajwar Fatma, she of the blog Life As We Have Never Known it. She’d just passed ten thousand hits on her blog — a truly impressive feat, if you think about it — and she decided to talk about how much negativity she’s had to overcome during her newfound blogging career. (It’s called “Overcoming Negativity,” and can be found here.)

This got me thinking.

Why must we all be so negative all the time?

Granted, there are plenty of negative things in this world. Politics often makes no sense. The weather is too hot, too cold, or maybe just too boring. Prices are rising. Everything we seem to like gives us cancer; everything we don’t like is touted as curing everything down to the common cold, but is ultimately just good, solid food that we continue to dislike.

So, we can eat healthy and hate it. Or we can eat what we like and clog our arteries (at best).

It seems like no matter what we do, we can’t win.

I have no answer for why others are negative. But I do have an answer for how to overcome your own negativity, at least in part.

First, as Tajwar put it in her blog, “Don’t let negativity get to your mind and heart. You have to lose in order to win. And if you can’t handle criticism and negativity, you sure can’t handle praise and victory!”

Second, you need to realize that some of this negativity, regardless of how personal it feels at the time, is not being directed at you in specific. It’s because people are frustrated, upset, angry, or sometimes even jealous of the fact that you’re still trying, but they’ve given up.

Third, it’s important to keep going because you know in your heart that what you’re doing matters to you. (For example, I continue to write, despite the struggles and life-worries and frustrations, because writing matters very much to me. And my stories matter, too.)

Don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing doesn’t matter. Or that no one will ever care, either.

As a barely-succeeding author (someone most people don’t even know about), I’m here to tell you that so long as you care, that’s all that matters.

So keep doing what you are. Work hard on yourself, and spread joy and light and life wherever you can. Try to overcome the negativity in this world as best you can (mind, constructive criticism is not negativity, but that’s a separate issue and I’m not going to get into it now).

And most importantly of all: Whenever you get a negative thought about what you’re doing right now, do your best to throw it out. (Or better yet, laugh at it, as Tajwar suggested in her blog.) Don’t let that negative thought stop you from doing whatever it is that you need or want to do…because that’s the only way that you truly lose.

And I see no purpose in that. (I hope you don’t, either.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 25, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Speaker Ryan, Listen to Your Constituents

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Folks, this is my semi-obligatory post about the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act in the United States House of Representatives, otherwise known as Obamacare. As Speaker Ryan is my U.S. Rep (surely for my sins), I’ve decided to speak directly to him.

Speaker Ryan, you’ve been my representative for many years. But I am frustrated with you.

Why?

You do not talk with your constituents at all. You haven’t for years, as far as I can tell, but it’s gotten much worse since you assumed the Speakership a year ago.

Because you don’t talk with your constituents, you are out of touch with how people in Southeastern Wisconsin feel about everything. Including the Affordable Care Act…which is why I am now going to explain it to you.

I did not approve of how the ACA was passed back in 2010. I felt a huge bill that wasn’t read should not ever be voted on, because no one had any idea what was in it. I actually agreed with you at the time about that, in fact…along with Lindsay Graham and a number of Republican Senators who didn’t agree with the way the ACA was rammed down the throats of the Republicans serving in the Congress at that time.

However, what you seem to have learned from that is, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” That is, the Democrats rammed the ACA down your throat, so now, you want to stick it to the Democrats in turn.

How does this help the American people? Quite simply, it doesn’t.

And it doesn’t help your constituents here in Southeastern Wisconsin at all, Speaker Ryan. We are poor, for the most part. That means most of us are getting help to have healthcare because of the ACA. The process was horrible, but it actually did help some people, including a whole lot of your constituents…

But now, you want to take it away, and make it much harder for the poor, sick, and elderly to get any decent quality of healthcare.

Make no mistake, Speaker Ryan. This was a heartless thing to do.

I am aware that the Senate is not even going to look at this version of the bill. Whatever comes out of the Senate may be far different than this, and your bill and the Senate’s bill will have to be reconciled before it can go to the President’s desk and be signed into law.

Still. I am frustrated that you did this, Speaker Ryan. You spearheaded this in order to force a vote to repeal the ACA and replace it with yet another omnibus bill that no one’s read but has some truly awful stuff in there among its lowlights. (I don’t see where taking money away from the poorest of the poor — that is, taking a great deal of money away from Medicaid — is helpful in the least. Especially if there’s no help forthcoming…what are we poor people supposed to do, anyway? Just go out into the streets and hope we get run over by a bus?)

So, congratulations, Speaker Ryan. You have won a “victory.”

May it give you exactly what you deserve.

Your constituent,

Barb Caffrey