Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘heartbreaking stories’ Category

Survivors Heal at Their Own Pace

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Folks, I read a Facebook post from a friend I’d like to know better earlier tonight. It was from two years ago, and I missed it at the time.

Without any privacy violations, my friend had gone through an ordeal while in middle school (once upon a time called junior high school; whichever works). A teacher had abused him for over a year, and he ended up with PTSD and other problems.

While I left as supportive of a message as I could now, albeit two years late, I wanted to say more about this.

Many of us have suffered wounds that take years, if not decades, to heal. And because we have had these problems, we think we’re less than we are; we think that maybe, just maybe, we deserved to be abused, or mistreated, or assaulted, or even molested.

I’m not saying we do this consciously. But we still do it.

How do I know this? Because I’m a survivor of sexual assault, that’s why. It happened in my teens. And for years after, I felt I wasn’t good for anyone, and never would be.

It took me over seven years to get any sort of a handle on it. I went to counseling. I read as many books as I could. I tried to forgive the person who’d assaulted me — which I found to be impossible, setting back my healing for a few more years.

And then, I found The Courage to Heal Workbook. That, along with a good counselor who knew how to use it, was my salvation. It taught me that I did not have to forgive the person who’d assaulted me. Instead, I could leave it up to the Higher Power.

Best of all, I learned that I was not to blame for any of it. And that I was stronger because I’d survived.

All of that helped me heal.

After I did all that hard work, I eventually found my late husband, Michael. He and I found a fulfilling life together in all aspects. He wasn’t afraid of my flashbacks, and would hold me until I was better; he had empathy, and knew how to use it. (I wish all people did. But empathy is still an exceptionally rare quality, it seems…but I digress.) And our sex life was second to none, because we both understood each other, loved each other unconditionally, and wanted to make each other feel that love every minute of every day.

Why am I’m sharing this now, rather than at the height of the #MeToo movement? Well, it’s mostly that I want my friend, who has found a good woman at long last and will be married soon, to know that he, too, can have a fulfilling relationship and that his past — the stuff that was inflicted on him — doesn’t have to derail anything.

The right person, you see, will be there for you no matter what. That’s what unconditional love is all about. And once you find that person who loves you, no matter what, hold on to him or her — because that’s a person whose worth is above rubies.

If you are reading this, live in the United States, and have suffered from rape, incest, molestation, or other forms of sexual violence and need to talk with someone, call RAINN at (800)656-HOPE. They are free, confidential, and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And if you can’t call now, but need to find out more about how you’re not alone — as indeed, you aren’t — and that people do care (as we do!), go to https://www.rainn.org and read at your leisure what they’re doing to combat sexual violence in the United States.

A Crisis of Conscience…(Mass Shootings Commentary)

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Folks, I haven’t written anything in the past few weeks, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been dealing with a number of things, and have been too scattered to put words down on the page. In addition, most of what I have to say seems old-hat, trite, or like something I’ve said three thousand times before.

Yet with the two most recent public mass shootings (one in El Paso, TX; the other in Dayton, OH), I feel I have to respond.

My own crisis of conscience, in other words, can wait. There’s a much bigger one going on in the United States as a whole, and I need to try to address it, while I still can.

First: I am frustrated. Angry. Enraged. And heartbroken.

These shootings did not have to happen. These people didn’t have to be injured or killed. And this weekend didn’t have to be marred by senseless violence, yet again.

Second: Here’s what I think will happen in the coming days.

(Crickets.)

Or, in other words, as I saw on Facebook: “Politicians send out thoughts and prayers. Facebook devolves into flame wars. Everyone forgets. And the same thing happens again.” (And again. And still, yet again.)

This is possibly the best way I’ve seen to sum up what’s been going on in the United States for the past several years with regards to mass shootings.

And that is flat-out unacceptable. We stay in the same place. More people die for no reason. And nothing gets done.

It’s wrong. And while I have no idea what the Hell to do about it — see below — I feel I must at least point out how frustrated, enraged, angry, upset, hurt, and heartbroken I am that other Americans have died because of two madmen. (As per usual at my blog, I will not name either shooter.)

And while I do think it’s a “mental illness problem” as much as anything else — I’ve said so, even, before — I don’t know what to do about this anymore.

Me saying I hate it does nothing.

Me begging my legislators for common-sense solutions has done no good.

Me trying to ask if there’s anything non-governmental entities (i.e., charities and the like) can do anything to put a stop to this has also done no good.

And yet, the killing goes on and on.

It drives me crazy that we have people in this country who think so little of others that they’ll go shoot up a Wal-mart, just because. (As in El Paso, TX.) Or they’ll go shoot up a bar scene in Dayton at night, just because.

Before my Hillary Clinton advocate-friends chime in, I am well aware that the first gunman was a white nationalist/racist. But while that shows his mental processes were, shall we say, unformed and ignorant, that does not explain why he picked Saturday as his day to shoot up a Wal-mart.

And do I think that was domestic terrorism? You bet it was. But I think every single one of these mass shootings has been a form of domestic terrorism, going back to the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

These gunmen are all marginalized souls who can’t see the forest for the trees, and they hold their own lives so cheaply, it means nothing to take others. That much is certain.

But again, what can I do about it? Nothing I do or say does any good. And it’s so frustrating, to sit here, impotent, unable to do anything whatsoever to bring healing or hope or anything other than rage to the situation.

Because we have more than enough rage already, thanks.

What we need now, somehow, is for our legislators to work with doctors and nurses and those in law enforcement and come up with something that will actually help reduce the amount of mass shootings in this country. But how we get that done in a super-polarized political climate is beyond me.

So, all I can say is what I’ve said before: I feel terrible that more good people have died for no reason. And I wish we could all come together and work out something that would do some good, rather than just continuing to let this fester…as letting it fester is obviously doing no good whatsoever.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 5, 2019 at 12:37 am

The Duties of Friendship

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When you want to have good friends in your life, you need to be one yourself.

This seems like a truism, something so obvious that no one could ever possibly mistake it. But I have seen, lately, some folks I care about very much being treated exceptionally poorly by their friends…and it makes me wonder if these so-called friends understand that truism above.

Without naming names, I’ll give you an example.

One of my friends recently had to have emergency surgery. She reached out to her friends, as people do when they’re in a crisis. The problem is, some of her friends just didn’t get it, while one of them — shockingly — decided to “ghost” and just not return any of her messages, text or otherwise.

Now, I got it. And I talked with her every day, sometimes many times a day, as we usually do. Because I know how it is to have a crisis and feel like no one cares.

Apparently, this one person either didn’t know that, didn’t care, or just figured it didn’t matter.

What do you think of that, hm? Is that palatable in 2018? Have we come so low as that, where we can’t even reach out to those who need help and give them any support at a time of crisis?

See, friendship has duties and responsibilities. We don’t like to think that, because it sounds transactional. And being a friend should not be about anything transitory or transactional.

But you owe your friend kindness, respect, comfort when you can give it, a sympathetic ear, caring…honesty? And you owe it to them during the bad times, as well as the good.

You should never, but never, “ghost” out of the picture. That’s just wrong.

I’m sorry. Someone who does this, who “ghosts out” at a time like this, is not worth your time. They are not your friend. They have just shown their ill worth, their lack of understanding, their lack of empathy. And you don’t need them.**

So, what should you do instead?

Even if you are under major stresses yourself, you should at least tell your friend you are rooting for her. (Or him.) And that you care. And that you want to know how the surgery goes.

Anything less is ridiculous.

What other duties do friends have? Tell me about them in the comments!

————

**If someone does this to you, I can only hope that this person, down the line, will have that happen to him as well. (Karma can be a mother.)

**And if you have done something like this, and didn’t realize it, you should make amends. Pronto. (‘Nuff said.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 29, 2018 at 10:35 am

Tiredness, Writing, and Two Quick Comments on Recent Events

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I figured I’d give you a quick health update, for those of you keeping score at home. (Someone must, after all.) I’m a lot better than I was three weeks ago. I’m back to editing on a more or less normal schedule, and I can and have resumed most daily activities, with some caution. I can do more than one thing a day now, which is very good; I can also do some more extended/difficult things, like shopping for an hour-plus (always hard for me to do, considering I walk with a cane and have some back issues), without making things any worse.

That said, the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) is not gone by any means. It’s just a lot better, that’s all. Not quite down to a simple respiratory ailment (or even a capitalized Respiratory Ailment, which must be worse, right?), but still enough to get in the way if I don’t keep a running calculation of how much energy I have on any given day — and how much I can, in all actuality, do.

I’ve had some folks in the past ask me why I’m so open about my health. Mostly, I think someone out there may need to know that he or she is not alone; maybe they’re dealing with health issues, too. Or maybe they’re frustrated because they’ve been sick for weeks, and they wonder if there’s any daylight on the other side, because it’s been so long since they felt halfway decent, they can hardly remember when that was.

And I know I would’ve liked to find a blog like this when I felt my worst.

It’s because of the health issues and only because of the health issues that I didn’t blog at the time about two very big stories that upset me greatly. The first was the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh; the victims were older folks, and all except for one were there to delight in the glory of God. (That last, a doctor, rushed to the scene when he heard gunfire, and was shot dead with the rest.) And the second was the unwarranted and vicious murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia; this last is compounded by the problem that the United States has not taken the lead on this despite Khashoggi being a permanent resident of the U.S. at the time. Instead, Turkey has been the one to find out the most details, and to do the most pressing on the international stage to get justice for an innocent man.

Both are horrible tragedies, and are hard even now for me to write about because I hurt so badly when I think about them. I don’t understand how a bunch of innocent people in a synagogue could be shot to death (and a doctor, rushing to help, too); I don’t understand how a writer who advocated for peace in the Middle East and for greater transparency and for the freedom of the press to do their jobs could be dismembered without the formal representatives of the country he was living in at the time, the United States (read: the State Department, the President of the U.S., the Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, etc.), being outraged.

I am outraged by both.

So while I’m very slow off the mark to write about either thing, I wanted you all to know that I did see these stories. I was saddened greatly by them. And I hope there will be justice for the victims, because what happened to all of them should not have ever occurred.

It’s hard to heal when you see such devastating things as this. But I will continue to do whatever I can to get healthier, so I can perhaps write blogs in a timely manner when I am upset, outraged, or better yet, really happy over something going on. (Hey, it could happen.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 3, 2018 at 2:38 am

Six Things for Saturday

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Folks, I know I didn’t write a blog all week, and I’m sorry. So without further ado, here are six takes on six different things. (Why six? It’s Saturday. I like alliteration. It makes sense in my head, anyway…)

  • I’m very happy that my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the playoffs. They haven’t had a team this good since 1982, and that year, the Brewers (in the American League back then) made it to the World Series. I don’t know if this year’s team can do that or not; much remains unclear at this time. But they have had a great year, and their bullpen is the main reason, along with the play of MVP-candidate Christian Yelich.
  • I’ve thought a lot about editing this past week. Some books that I’ve otherwise loved end up with odd errors in them. One such error is “fairing” instead of the proper word, faring, as in, “How are you faring?” (Meaning, how are you doing.) I don’t know why this keeps showing up in books, except that I’m guessing the authors either didn’t have good editors or they relied too much on spellcheck and/or grammar check. (No spellcheck or grammar check in the world is as good as a real, live editor.)
  • I am far from indifferent to the political situation we have going on in the US right now. I am frustrated with the descent into tribalism. We cannot get any traction if those of us in the middle are either vilified or ignored. And yet, if you try to take a middle stance on anything, that’s exactly what happens. As I’ve said before, change usually is incremental. (Mind, it may show up, all of a sudden, as a huge one, such as when same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states in 2015. But it took decades of progress to get to that point.) And to get that incremental change, you need people who are willing to look at the problems — take a good, hard, rational, fact-based look — and then compromise to get the best solution possible.

Now, is this hard to do? Damn straight it is. Most people do not have the wherewithal to truly serve the public rather than themselves, or worse, special interests/big moneyed interests. Maybe they want to serve the public, but can’t figure out a way; maybe they get to state capitals (or even more challenging, Washington, DC) and get blinded by the “bright lights, big city” phenomenon.

But this is what must happen to have good, positive public service. And right now, because no one trusts anyone else politically and there’s very little bipartisanship to be had at any level, those of us who just want to fix the potholes and make sensible public policy get pushed to the side. And that’s wrong.

  • Someone asked me if I believed Doctor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. The answer is that I did. Something definitely happened to her, and she was definitely sexually assaulted. Her behavior afterward is characteristic of that, as is the fact it took her years to put herself back together. So yes, I believed her. And yes, I believe we need to listen to sexual assault survivors, and make better public policy overall if we can in that regard, too.

(Before someone says, “But Barb! That doesn’t say Judge Kavanaugh did anything! You have no proof! She has no proof either beyond her bare word,” I will point out that I am answering only the one question. I wait for facts.)

I am very pleased Doctor Ford put herself back together, mind, and used her experiences to better inform her life, make better and more positive choices in the long run, and get her doctorate (which is a very big deal). That’s hard to do. She did it. She deserves credit for it.

And the people who are angry with her for telling her story need to show some compassion. Even if they think she’s flat wrong, they should be praying for her; they shouldn’t be doxxing her or sending death threats. (That should go without saying, but somehow, it no longer does.)

  • Weather is the last bastion of bipartisanship in the United States.

Weather is a great equalizer, you know. We all face it. We all have to deal with it. We all have to learn to live with it. And we all have to figure out ways to cope with it.

In my area in Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had lots of rain lately, with some of it overflowing the banks of the various rivers. That is never good. (We also are getting more rain and the ground is super-saturated already. Also not good.)

So, weather is still bipartisan, and is still a safe subject. (Hallelujah?)

  • Sixth and last, if I’ve learned anything from this life, it’s that I can’t change anyone else. I can only change me. (And that happens very, very slowly.)

Why am I talking about this? Recent events in my personal life, mostly. I have had to face the fact that no matter what I want, certain folks just aren’t going to change. I have to deal with the problem as it is (or as a golfer would say, “Play the ball as it lies”); I can’t prettify it up or hope for better.

Now, this can be depressing, if you take it one way. But it also can be liberating.

See, if you’ve done everything in your power, and nothing has affected the outcome, that just shows you’re in the wrong place. Or maybe with the wrong people.

So, going forward, I will keep working on myself, and my craft, and my art. And if I can find like-minded souls willing to walk with me on the journey, good.

If not? Well, I’m going to have to stop bending myself into pretzel-shapes, and save steps.

Any comments from the peanut gallery? (Preferably not about politics?) Let me know in the comments!

Heat Wave…and Mike Shinoda’s New CD Post Traumatic

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For much of the day, it was too hot for me to think.

We had a heat advisory for much of the day, in fact, so I am spending the evening somewhere air conditioned. (Thank goodness.) That way, I can think better, breathe better, and also rest a whole lot better.

Because of that, I can do what I’ve wanted to do for a few days now: discuss Mike Shinoda’s extraordinary album (or CD release, if you’d rather), POST TRAUMATIC, in greater depth than I used in my review at Amazon.

Why?

Well, as a musician, and as a grieving widow, I understand a good deal of what Mike Shinoda has done on his CD.

For those of you who don’t have any idea who Shinoda is, he is a musician, rapper, producer, and one of the surviving members of the alt-rock band Linkin Park. Last year, their lead singer, Chester Bennington, killed himself.

At the time, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know much about Linkin Park’s music then, save perhaps “In the End.” So I’d heard Bennington’s voice — one of the more distinctive voices in rock, as he could go from very soft to very loud/screaming in what seemed like the drop of a hint — and had heard Shinoda rap, but not much else.

Since that time, I’ve listened extensively to four Linkin Park Albums, HYBRID THEORY (their debut, from 2000), METEORA (from 2003), MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (2007), and ONE MORE LIGHT LIVE (2017). I’ve heard a number of songs I think are extraordinary, including “What I’ve Done,” “Battle Symphony,” “The Little Things Give You Away,” and “In Pieces.” These aren’t as bombastic as early Linkin Park songs, but they contain much heart and emotion and empathy, along with solid musicianship and interesting lyrics.

As a woodwind musician, I respond to excellent musicianship much more than I do to lyrics. (Though don’t get me wrong; I enjoy lyrics, too.) And I could tell the craftsmanship of how these songs were put together the first time I heard them.

So, yeah…”Numb” and “Crawling” are great, and there are all sorts of other songs that had a lot of airplay that are fine, too. But to me, “The Little Things Give Me Away” or “What I’ve Done” pack a huge emotional punch along with their craftsmanship and musicianship, so they’re probably my favorites of LP’s work. (At least, the work I’ve heard. I still have more albums to listen to, of course.)

Anyway, I told myself months ago that I’d buy Mike Shinoda’s CD when it came out. I knew it would be emotional, along with having good, solid musical underpinnings and of course the rapping Shinoda’s known for. (Any CD that’s named POST TRAUMATIC obviously know what it’s about, after all.)

The CD starts off with “Place to Start,” which deals with Shinoda’s sadness, frustration, incomprehension, and perhaps a bit of rage after Bennington’s suicide. Because all of a sudden, Shinoda’s in a place he never wanted to be. His bandmate is dead. And his group, LP, will not be the same without their lead singer, especially as Bennington had a huge range (like Chris Cornell) and the ability to sing any style required.

The suddenness and unexpected nature of Bennington’s death reminded me very much of what happened to my husband Michael. (Michael died of several heart attacks in one day, without warning, mind.) And Shinoda’s reaction to it reminded me very much of how I responded after Michael died; by incomprehension, numbness, anger, rage, sadness, frustration…and wondering how I’d ever manage to create again, considering Michael was my co-writer as well as my partner in life.

The next song, “Over Again,” deals with the run-up to the benefit concert LP did after Bennington’s death along with the aftermath for Shinoda personally. And the chorus, which says, “Sometimes, you don’t say goodbye once…instead you say goodbye over and over and over again, over and over and over again,” resonated very strongly with me.**

Other songs, including “About You” (featuring Blackbear), talk about how when you do finally manage to find a bit of peace, someone else brings up something that reminds you again about how you are grieving, and relates it back to the sudden death you have just endured. (“Even when it’s not about you, it’s still about you,” goes the verse. Yep. Ironic sometimes, and the literal truth other times. Works on every level.)

“Promises I Can’t Keep” and “Crossing a Line” both deal with the problem of how do you go on afterward. You need to do whatever you can, but you can’t do it the way you did before, and you may break promises even when you do your best, because your best alone is not what your best would’ve been with your creative partner (and you well know it). And to get to a new creative place, you may well need to cross a few lines…in Shinoda’s case, he has four other bandmates who have to be wondering about the future of Linkin Park every bit as much as Shinoda obviously is, and Shinoda seems rightfully worried that if he succeeds in his solo venture (as I sincerely hope he does; his message is powerful and his music is equally powerful), his bandmates won’t appreciate it much.

(I’m guessing they won’t have a problem with it, personally. But I can see why he’d be worried, sure.)

There are a few songs that are harder for me to handle than others, mind, because of the raw, emotional, and sometimes deeply profane lyricism. But that’s just another color in Shinoda’s palette, and I get it, artistically; this is what’s authentic to him, and as such, it works. And works very well.

In short, as I said at Amazon, POST TRAUMATIC is a heartbreakingly beautiful album. It goes through so many different emotions, moods, and feelings, all of which rang true to me. And the music itself is superb, with “Brooding” (an instrumental) probably my absolute favorite cut of all.

If you are grieving, if you’re a fan of alternative rock with electronic elements and rap mixed with solid musicianship and outstanding emotional lyricism, or if you’re a fan of Linkin Park, you need to hear this album.

Mind, you may not always like it, ’cause it’s a tough album to listen to due to its subject matter. But stick with it. It’s cathartic, raw, emotional, and real…and as such, it might be the most important album of 2018.

—–

**Edited to add: The dangers of writing when you’re tired got to me earlier. I mistyped the lyrics, and have now corrected them. (Sorry to all who read this sooner than I realized I needed to correct ’em, or read in their e-mail.) The error is mine alone.

 

 

Frustration as ICE Detains Families at Border, Separates Children from Parents

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Most of this past week, I’ve struggled to put into words just how frustrated I am by what I’ve seen regarding what ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is doing at the United States border. And while I’m still not sure I have the words, the time has come for me to do my best anyway…so here goes.

The current Presidential administration of Donald J. Trump has put a premium on keeping refugees out of the United States, including those seeking asylum legally. And one of their most potent weapons toward this is the current ICE protocol that says children should not be kept with their parents or families; instead, they should be separated out. And put into confinement.

It’s almost as if these kids, who did not and certainly could not have crossed the border on their own, are being punished with jail. And that is inhumane.

Worse yet, there have been reports of children being ripped from their mothers’ arms, including at least one child who’d been breastfeeding.

(I don’t know what is worse than that, considering we are all supposedly civilized here in the Western World.)

This has happened whether the people coming in are legal (seeking asylum) or illegal, according to most sources I’ve heard or read about. And it’s being used as a sort of negative reinforcement, in the apparent “hopes” of keeping refugees out of the U.S.

Thinking about this sickens me. But I feel I cannot look away, either, because if I bury my head in the sand, I feel as if I’m silently assenting to such horrific treatment — and that I absolutely, positively refuse to do.

Yes, immigrating to the United States should be considered a privilege, and not a right. Yes, it should be done legally.

But how does it help anything to separate children from parents? Especially when you’re talking about children under five (or worst of all, infants under the age of two)?

That’s a bureaucratic nightmare. Because those kids can’t tell you who their parents are. They can’t tell you their own names, in some cases (especially if they’re under the age of two). They don’t have any idea where they came from, except “there,” and they have no idea where they are now, except “here.”

Keeping these kids with their parents should be the priority, not the reverse. Even if the parents and kids get sent back because the parents were trying to enter the US illegally, at least they are still a family, are still together, and can make their way back at the same time. And they’ll know where everyone is the whole time.

Now, I ask you: Why would anyone think that separating parents from their children is a good idea?

Put yourselves in this situation, if you would. Think of yourself at age four or five. The world is a huge, scary place. You don’t have any idea where things are or who most people are, except for your own parents and maybe a few of your cousins or aunts. And you’ve just traveled somewhere (we’ll say, for the purposes of discussion, Guatemala) for the first time, going into the unknown…and then someone takes your parents away and you’re left alone?

Do you honestly think you’d be happy? Especially if they put you behind a bunch of barbed wire with a whole lot of other kids of various ages? And you had no idea what to do next, much less where your parents are?

So, if you’d not be happy with some other country doing this to you, why do you think these parents should be happy with the US as it’s done to them?

Somehow, we citizens of the US must rise up and say, “No.” And insist these kids and parents be reunited. Because kids in tent cities, by themselves, with barbed wire around as if they’re criminals, is just wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong.

We have to be better than this.

Really.