Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Inspirational stuff’ Category

Sunday Thoughts: Be a Better Person (Starting Today)

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Former President Jimmy Carter is the inspiration for this blog post. Enjoy!

Have you ever felt like wishing that you could just start over? That you messed up something so bad, so vital to your well-being, and you have no way in the world to fix it?

We all have done things we’re not proud of, as there are very few saints walking the face of this Earth. (At least, saints the quality of Mother Teresa, or Father Damien the Leper-Priest.) So I’m guessing that at least a few of you know what I mean.

You’ve had a bad day. Or a bad succession of days. And you wonder what you can possibly do to redeem yourself. Or at least do better than you’ve been doing.

Jimmy Carter has the answer, and it’s surprisingly simple. Decide to be a better person. Starting today.

See, the first thing you have to do, if you feel like you’ve messed up in an irredeemable way, is to tell yourself, “No more. I will do better. I will be better.”

Then, of course, you have to do the work. You have to figure out what type of person you want to be. And do everything in your power to work toward what you see as your best self — a more generous person, perhaps. Or a wiser one. Or maybe even one that’s more self-forgiving…ahem.

But you first have to make up your mind that you are going to change for the better. And that you’ve had enough of the status quo, whatever it is that’s plaguing you; that, too, you have to decide to get past, because otherwise, you’re going to fall into the same old traps.

That said, every day is a new day. If you screwed up badly yesterday, today is a clean slate. You can still make it a worthwhile day full of laughter and love, or creativity and inspiration (or better yet, all of the above). You, too, can make a better life for yourself, brick by brick, resolution by resolution.

You do not have to be held back by your fears, or by your past mistakes. Not if you don’t wish to be.

No, you can’t change the past. But you can learn from it. And you can grow, and change, and deepen, and make yourself more interesting and empathetic and kinder if you truly wish.

So, what do you want to do? Stay in the same ever-changing rut? Or learn from your failures, and make a clean, fresh start?

Yes. You can be a better person. Believe in yourself, give yourself a chance, and go forward rather than reliving the past.

You can still change the future, if you act today. But ultimately, it is all up to you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 26, 2019 at 4:43 am

Love Matters. (Really.)

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The most powerful force in the universe is love.

This may seem simplistic. But it’s the flat truth. There is nothing more powerful than love in its purest form; there’s nothing that can motivate you more, make you try harder, make you want to be better, or give you more joy than love.

When we run into life’s difficulties — and oh, aren’t there a bunch of them! — love helps smooth the way. Knowing that you are cared for, needed, appreciated, and loved for yourself without any preconditions and without any need to be anything other than what you are is the most phenomenal feeling in the world.

I write this today mostly because a good friend of mine, in New Zealand, is struggling. He just got married — only a few, short days ago — and his wife is ill. (As in, in the hospital.) He and his wife found each other online, she flew to meet him and spend a few weeks with him, she flew home, they became engaged, and she flew back out to be with him. They have been very happy together despite all that life has thrown at them thus far, but I wish very strongly that my friend’s wife were not ill and that they’d been able to have the first few days as a married couple without so much stress and strain.

That said, they love each other deeply and well. I know they can and will come through this, precisely because of the love they bear for each other.

While I don’t know much else with a great deal of exactitude at the moment, I do know this: If you find true love, nurture it, work with it, and let it heal you…as much as it possibly can. (It may not heal you physically. But it can heal you every other way.) And celebrate it, every day of your life.

I know my friend and his wife have done all that, are doing that now, and will keep doing that. And I am certain they will continue to appreciate each other, for as long as they both shall live.

That is what is truly important, in life. (Don’t let anyone else tell you anything different, either.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 6, 2019 at 6:42 am

Be That Someone

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As we’ve entered Lent, a season in the United States that is observed more in its breech than in its keeping, I wanted to write about something I’ve only rarely talked about. (Yes, me. The person who seemingly talks about everything.)

In the 21st Century, the vast majority of people seem disconnected. There are many studies showing it, and there are a number of reasons for it. We are more electronically connected than ever, but somehow it’s made us feel less important and less necessary.

Granted, there are billions of people on Earth, and most of us will not be remembered once we pass into eternity. That’s just the way it is.

Do I like that fact? No. But that doesn’t change the fact either.

So, what can we do against the oncoming oblivion?

My advice is, help others. Be that someone. Take an interest. See who’s in need, and try to meet at least part of that need. Don’t act in a way Lois McMaster Bujold’s character Mark Vorkosigan once described (my best paraphrase) as, “People always say they can’t do it all, so they don’t do any,” even though that seems easier.

And you can take small steps to help, if you’re struggling yourself, as many of us are these days.

When you’re out in a checkout line, really look at your cashier and say “thank you.”

When a friend is hurting, but you don’t know why, and they just won’t tell you, stay in that person’s life. Tell them you care. Tell them, “You matter. I see you.”

I know it’s hard to keep trying. It seems useless.

But it’s not.

Do these small things. Be that someone.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 9, 2019 at 5:07 am

Sunday Inspiration: Find Your Path

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Folks, I thought a great deal about what I wanted to write this week.

Then, just a few minutes ago, I finished reading this article, about a young man named Mats Steen with substantial disabilities who found his way forward as a character in World of Warcraft named Ibelin. There, he could be himself, the man he wanted to be but was prevented from being…there, he found friends, and is still mourned to this day. (He died in 2014.)

His parents didn’t understand until after Mats’ passing just how much Mats had made an impression on others. The people he gamed with came to his funeral, even though they’d never met him in person (that would’ve been quite difficult, for obvious reasons). And they spoke about the person they knew: the warmth, the humor, the silly jokes, it was all there.

Mats cared about others, you see. And he was best able to express it as Ibelin. He found his path, and he lived the way he wanted to live despite all odds.

Why does this hit a powerful chord in me?

Well, one of the things Mats said on his blog, according to his father, was that the computer screen wasn’t just a computer screen to him. (This is my best paraphrase, and the article says it better.) Instead, it was a gateway to whatever Mats wanted and needed it to be.

Modern technology is a blessing that way. We can have friends from all over the world, and get to know them as if they live next door. Perhaps even better, as they get to know who we are inside, rather than who we are on the outside. Without masks. Without filters. Without any preconceptions.

Just us.

Learn from Mats’ life, and take what you need from the story now being told accordingly. If he could do it — and he surely did! — you can do it also.

No, it may not be traditional. No, it may not be what you expected.

But it still has rewards beyond measure, if you only try.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 10, 2019 at 2:46 pm

Collaboration With a Purpose: Let’s Talk About Men (International Men’s Day)

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Folks, it’s International Men’s Day. And as promised, the bloggers who comprise Collaboration with a Purpose — including yours truly — are going to talk about men. We’ve talked about International Women’s Day before (here’s my post for that) and I, personally, mentioned International Women’s Day a couple of years ago…so it’s high time that International Men’s Day got its fair share, no?

design 2

(Jane Love made the graphic above.)

Men, these days, often feel underappreciated. Too many times, they’ve been told they’re “privileged,” because they’re men. They’re expected to succeed from the get-go, and yet, they grow up with many of the same fears, struggles, and problems as women — what will I do? How will I become my best self? How can I find love and happiness? And so forth.

When men try to find ways to express themselves, they often aren’t understood. Compounding things for them, there are two big stereotypes that cause trouble; first, men are often expected to be the “strong, silent type,” and so showing emotions can be very difficult. Second, men are often supposed to be the breadwinners, even now, in most situations…to a much larger extent than most women, the garden variety guy out there worries about how he’ll take care of not just himself financially, but his family, too.

There are some folks out there now who seem to undervalue the fact that men struggle as much as women do with finding their place in the world. I don’t understand this. We’re all human beings. We have many of the same motivations, fears, desires, etc., and we all need to come to grips with who we are and what we’re going to do in this world.

But men, somehow, are just supposed to know what this is.

My late husband Michael assuredly felt like this. He told me, on multiple occasions, that when he tried to better himself educationally, his needs were not understood by his parents. He graduated high school a few years early, worked in a comic books store, signed up for the Navy as soon as he decently could (his mother had to co-sign, as he was still under eighteen)…and then, he had some sort of accident while running in Naval training that broke both knees.

He was eighteen years old. The only thing he’d wanted to do was now closed to him. So what was he going to do?

He went back home after his knees healed. He started work as a typist for the Naval Base in Oakland as a civilian, probably because it was the closest he could get to his old dreams. And over time, he became a contracts administrator, because he found he was very good at both problem solving and small differences in contracts…and these two things added up to a job he could do that was useful.

Then, his world was rocked again when the Naval Base closed. He could’ve followed his job to a different base somewhere else, but he didn’t want to do that. He was married — not to me, as he hadn’t met me yet — and his then-wife had found work and he wanted to stay where he was. He loved San Francisco, you see…the place he’d spent much of his young life, and most of his adult life also.

So he stayed. And wrote fiction. And edited, sometimes, for friends. And worked on his art — he sketched, and his drawings had real life to them (unfortunately, I don’t have any of them with me, as they were lost during our move somehow). He also did a type of macrame with ropes, and sewed, and cooked…basically, Michael was creative as Hell, and any way he could create, he was going to do it.

Then he met me. In 2001.

He had been unemployed except for temp jobs and working for friends for over two years. He’d been on some dates, as his previous marriage had broken up (they remained friends until the end of his life, mind; one of the true amicable divorces I know about), and none of ’em had panned out. The women he’d met wanted men who made money. Or had a home, as in San Francisco, that denoted wealth. Or at least had a car, as that, too, denoted more than the average amount of wealth, as on-street parking is rarer than hen’s teeth, and on-street parking where you didn’t have to pay anything at all for it is even more difficult to find than that.

He was in his early forties. Distinguished-looking. He didn’t see himself as handsome. He was only middling tall. He used a walking stick (not a cane; call it a shillelagh instead), because of the old double-knee break and the finding of chondromalacia afterward (a type of arthritis; that’s what put him out of the Navy, when they found that). He felt like no woman would ever care about him.

But he met me. And found out he was wrong.

I think, for once in his life, Michael was glad to be proven wrong. (Michael loved being right more than anyone I’ve ever known.) I didn’t care about him not having work at the time, because I knew how hard-working he was, and the more I found out about him, the more intrigued I was. I didn’t care about him not having any money, because I didn’t have any myself. And I did care about him being creative, because I was creative, too…and had been vastly misunderstood, too.

Anyway, I put that in there to try to illustrate why Michael felt there would be no one out there for him.

I wonder, sometimes, if other men feel like this. They aren’t wealthy. They don’t have big houses. They don’t have fancy cars. They don’t have Rolexes, or any status symbol possessions. And our consumer-driven culture makes them think that no one will care, no one at all, unless they have these things…

But being a man is about much more than making money. It’s about caring for others, nurturing them, helping them. It’s about finding out who you are and maximizing your talents. It’s about sacrifice, sometimes. It’s about making choices, and rolling with the punches, and finding your own way through the thicket of what is supposed to be “masculine” behavior. It’s about finding yourself, and working on yourself, and doing whatever you can to do good in this world.

My husband succeeded, as a man.

And I will celebrate that success, all the days of my life.

*****

Anyway, here are the other bloggers this month celebrating International Men’s Day with me; go read their blogs, too, and let them know what you think!

Ipuna Black — International Men’s Day: A Father

Jane Love — A Real Man, Part 1

Mylene Orillo — A Tribute to All the Men in My Life

Sadaf Siddiqi (will be posting later due to family illness)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 19, 2018 at 9:50 am

Thoughts on Regret

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Over the course of my life, there are things I wish I could’ve done differently. I regret these things, and yet, if I had them to do over again — and didn’t have the additional knowledge of hindsight, of course — I almost certainly would do the exact same things in the exact, same order.

I wrestle, often, with the idea that no matter what I do, it’s not going to be enough. And I regret, often, that I can’t do any better than this…(even though this is the absolute best I’ve got, and I know it.)

I regret when I’ve lost friends I truly care about, all because they’ve misunderstood me or I’ve misunderstood them. Sometimes there is no way back to being friendly, either, and that just makes me so frustrated, I have no words to describe it.

I’ve thought long and hard about the idea of regret, and have only come up with one conclusion.

I seem to regret so many things because I somehow,  in defiance of all logic, believe I should’ve done everything absolutely right, every time. And while wanting  of that is understandable, not to mention very human, it isn’t possible.

And I do know better than that.

I know we can’t control things beyond ourselves. We can’t control other people. We can’t control their actions. We can’t make them do anything.

(Nor would I want to control anyone but myself, either. That would not only be boring, it would be utterly pointless, and take all the joy out of living. But I digress.)

Anyway, if you are dealing with a lot of regret in your life right now, you need to remember two things.

  • One, you aren’t a bad person.
  • Two, you are almost certainly on the cusp of positive change, even if you can’t see it right now.

One final thing: as a writer, I believe that all experiences are necessary to write good stories that ring emotionally true and have depth…so even the worst experiences (and I have a bundle of those) can be transmuted into something much better. I hope knowing that makes it slightly easier to deal with the bad days, in the hope that good days will come again.

What do you think about regrets, or this blog in particular? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 26, 2018 at 2:00 am

Fighting Disappointment, and Moving On…

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Folks, I’ve written about disappointment before. (Many times, in fact, with my most recent example being here.) But it seems to be a good time to write about it again, and I have a different take on it…so why not?

I have known some other authors besides myself to have intense struggles getting their work before the public. They’ve put their books out there, and gotten no response at all. They’ve slaved over their creations, taken care of the edits, the book covers, tried to get reviewers interested, all that…and still, nothing happened.

Some of success is being in the right place at the right time. I know one author rather well — Loren K. Jones — who put out several novels in late 2009 and early 2010. None of them did much. He was, I believe, extremely frustrated at the time, and thought no one cared about his writing.

Fast-forward to 2018.

Now, Loren has a thriving career as a novelist. He has ten books out, with more on the way. His six books in the “Stavin DragonBlessed” series did exceptionally well, and put him on the map as a fantasy novelist. (Don’t believe me? Go read ALL THAT GLITTERS for yourself; it’s only ninety-nine cents for the e-book version.)

Loren’s not the only one I know who’s had this sort of thing happen, but he’s possibly the best example right now.

So why am I talking about him, when the theme is disappointment? Well, sometimes you have to learn how to roll with the punches, keep your chin up, and keep trying.

That is what Loren did.

It’s what I’m trying to do, too.

Do your best to fight on, no matter what odds you face. Believe in yourself, and your dreams. Work hard, learn much, and keep fighting.

Sometimes, that is literally all you can do. (Because you can’t control the market. You can only control yourself.)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 2, 2018 at 9:22 pm