Barb Caffrey's Blog

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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.)

Continuing on, Slowly, and Solely…

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Folks, I let you all know when I was attempting a long-term, long-distance relationship. Unfortunately, that relationship has now ended; my male friend and I decided we were better off as friends than prospective lovers, but I will admit I was the one to make the break.

Why?

What I found, under the pandemic, is that my mood is shorter and sharper. I am much more tired, too. And the usual things I would do to relax, such as playing in the Racine Concert Band, just haven’t been available due to the pandemic.

How does that relate to the relationship? Well, I think it made it harder for both of us. I was home more. I was stressed out more. And I couldn’t get to see him, where he was, due to Covid-19.

All of that frustration did not help, at all, on any level.

You see, sometimes with all the will in the world, two good people cannot make a go of it as a romantic pair.

That’s just the way it is. (But oh, how I hate to admit it.)

I will always care about my male friend, and I hope our friendship will survive. (He said he wishes the same thing, but you never know until you’re actually at this point after a relationship ends as to whether or not a friendship will happen or not.) I am glad that we got to find out what we could of each other, even if it didn’t turn out the way either of us planned.

I still believe in love, though. There are many kinds of it. Love of friends. Love of family. A higher love, an altruistic love, a spiritual love…as well as romantic love, with all of the wonders and terrors of that very thing.

So, when I said months ago that I was doing my best to get to know someone, I talked of love too soon, I think. Or maybe didn’t clarify it, even to myself. My expectations perhaps were too high. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready.

Anyway, what I had with my late husband Michael was every type of love there was. Agape. Philios/philia. Eros. All of it. That’s why I’ll honor that love, and my husband’s memory, forever.

And I have to believe that eventually I will find someone else who I can have at least some of all three things (agape, philios, eros). A good friendship, where we understand each other, and want to know more and more about each other for better understanding and more love…excellent communication…a positive feedback loop that bears fruit, perhaps, is the way to go.

Anyway, at this point all I can do is go on, slowly, still dealing with the bronchitis, and put my head up high. I know I tried my best; I know my friend and former love-interest also tried his.

Sometimes, no matter what you want, it just does not work.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 17, 2021 at 9:32 pm

The More Things Change…

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…the more they stay the same. (Yes, I’m borrowing from the famous French saying.)

It’s September. It may be 2020, but it’s still September. And September is the month I lost my beloved husband, Michael.

I’ll never forget that day. It is seared into my memory in so many ways, and has shaped who I’ve become. It is a part of me, and I am a part of it…that I tell myself, daily, that Michael would not want me to dwell on the nature of his passing matters not. Because I was there.

I wake up, even now, and reach for him. I wonder what he’d think of this, that, and the other. And I’m glad he’s not lived to see the deep, divisive partisan divide in the United States that’s gotten so bad, we can no longer agree on what the facts are if we’re in different parts of the country. Or in different political parties. (Or worst of all, both.)

Michael believed that you needed to make your argument logically. Factually. With care. With concern. And that if you couldn’t do all those things, it wasn’t much of an argument. (That he’d hold someone like that in contempt is a given.)

That the current President of the United States is a man who can’t do any of those things, or worse, doesn’t even see the point to wanting to make a logical argument about anything (why use logic, when appeals to emotion and unreason will do instead?), would vex Michael as greatly as it’s vexed me.

It’s almost as if we live in Bizarro World. Everything we thought we knew about people, that they could use reason and logic along with compassion and empathy, has turned upside-down.

(Mind, in many ways, I’ve lived in my own, personal Bizarro World since the day Michael died. But that’s just me. Now, back to the blog, already in progress…)

Instead, these days, it’s seemingly all about who can scare everyone else the most.

I don’t understand it. I will never understand it. But I will continue to work against it, for as long as I possibly can.

Michael would expect no less. (And I certainly expect no less out of myself anyway, Michael or no Michael.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 10, 2020 at 12:56 pm

Sitting, Resting, Loving

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Folks, the above title is kind of odd, but I hope you will bear with me.

Over the past several months, I’ve been battling with some long-running illnesses. They don’t stop me from editing. They do get in the way of writing, whether this blog or any fiction. And I’ve been frustrated by a lot of things because of this.

I’ve had to rest a lot. And that got me to thinking. Did I want to keep living the life I’d been living, where I was lonely all the time, and just frustrated overall? Or did I want to try to see if I could find someone I liked to spend time with, online or off? (As Covid-19 is still around, and is still prevalent most especially in the U.S., online time is more important than ever. And long-distance doesn’t matter if you can’t do any short-distance dating anyway.)

Michael would never have wanted me to feel like he was the be-all, end-all, of my existence. He knew how important he was. He knew how much I loved him (and will continue to love him, come what may). But  he’d have not wanted me to be alone for sixteen long years.

That wasn’t what Michael was about.

Michael was about joy. Shared sacrifice. Enjoyment of each other’s quirks and follies. Appreciation of who we were, good and bad. And so many other things, I can’t possibly list them all.

In short, Michael cast a very, very long shadow. And for years, I didn’t think I had enough room in my heart to share it with anyone else, knowing I would love Michael until the end of time (and then some).

Then came Jeff Wilson, my very good friend. I cared about him a lot, and talked about everything with him. But he died suddenly in 2011, just three short days after he said, plaintively, “Can we please proceed to the dating phase now?”

And I was devastated.

Jeff was a good man, someone I believed Michael would’ve liked. We laughed together, sometimes cried together (or at least I cried; him being a Confucian, he’d not admit to such frailties), enjoyed each other’s online company, and I was making plans to go see him in Colorado when he suddenly died.

I miss him to this day.

Fast forward to 2015.

A few years ago, I met someone I thought might be the guy. (I have talked a little about this, elliptically, over the years.) I was wrong. He wasn’t the right guy. But he did remind me that life is short, and that feeling something good for someone else was not wrong.

It didn’t work out. But it did get me to thinking.

Now, we’re up to 2020. And throughout all this time, one man stood beside me. He was the first person I called after Jeff died. He was the first person I called when I had to go into the hospital for heart issues. (Fortunately, they weren’t serious.) He was the first person I contacted when I was ready to talk about anything, and he was always there. It might take him a day or two to figure out what he was going to say, if I contacted him by e-mail…but he always, always answered.

And he was also there when Michael died. He was worried about me, and despite disliking the phone, called quite often in 2004 and 2005. (I also called him.)

He liked Michael. Respected Michael. And understood why I felt so terribly. He didn’t want to rush me. (He certainly knew about Jeff, too.) And until the past few months, had thought I was too far away on the one hand and not attainable on the other.

But Covid-19 changed everything.

We’ve been friends for twenty years, this man and I. But it still surprised me when, about a month and a half ago now, he said to me, “Can we try a virtual date?” (That is, listen to the same music, talk online, relax, play board games, etc.) And I said, “Sure!”

Our virtual date was a rousing success, so we didn’t stop there. We’ve continued to chat. We’ve even exchanged short video messages, and are trying to figure out what comes next. Because of him, I smile a lot more. I laugh a great deal. And while I am still tired, and still recovering from whatever Ye Olde Mystery Illness is, I feel much more optimistic despite all the vagaries of the outside world, and all the political messes, too.

Because of Covid-19, I can’t go see him anytime soon. But I do plan on finding a way to do just that, now.

What I’ve learned, over time, is this: Love matters. It may take time. It may not show up the same way every time. But when someone declares himself, and you have an honest connection together, it changes your life for the better.

The main difference between the last two people is this: the gentleman from 2015/2016 was more interested in helping himself than helping me. He didn’t see me as a priority and despite knowing me for quite a number of years never tried to visit me. He never told anyone about me, and he never admitted that I was anything other than a good friend if asked. Whereas this man, my 20-year friendship-turned-romance man, is as interested in helping me as he is helping himself. He does see me as a priority. He does want to visit, but Covid-19 won’t allow it. And his health right now is such that I’d be the one who must visit him in any event, though he still would rather come to me if he had his druthers because he knows this is going to be hard on me, finding a way to go to him.

Despite how it sounds, I’m grateful, in a weird way, for the gentleman from 2015/2016. He showed me that I was wrong about whether my heart could handle yet another love-interest. And that prepared me when, all unlooked for (at least by me), my very good friend stepped up and said, “I’m here. I care. Will you try with me?”

So yes. I am going to try. And I believe Michael would be very happy that I’m willing to do just that.

 

 

Peace and Remembrance

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Yesterday was my eighteenth wedding anniversary, AKA the sixteenth wedding anniversary I’ve spent alone since my husband Michael died suddenly and without warning in 2004. Usually, observing this day and remembering how wonderful Michael was in all his allness crushes me. (I’m not going to lie.)

But this year was different.

(Why? I don’t know.)

I decided that I was going to do my best to remember Michael as he was. How he loved to make me laugh. How he enjoyed doing just about anything with me. How he wanted to hear whatever I had to say on whatever subject, and about how interested he was to hear about my day even when I had been sick for three days running and hadn’t even been able to go to the computer.

In short, Michael was an outstandingly good husband as well as an outstandingly good man. And I felt better for remembering him that way.

Many anniversaries, I’ve thought more about what I’ve lost than what I’ve gained. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, either. It’s how I felt at the time, it was authentic, and it was the best I could do to process my catastrophic level of grief.

But this time, I was able to think more about what Michael and I did together. How we wrote, together and separately, and talked our stories out together. How we watched current events, sometimes bemusedly, sometimes with great insight, and could talk them through in a historical context. How we were able to talk about spiritual matters, him being a Zen Buddhist and me being a spiritual seeker who probably best aligns with NeoPaganism (but isn’t NeoPagan enough for some because I still appreciate the life and works of Jesus Christ and try to make common cause with what makes sense to me, especially “love one another”). How we were able to forge a life together despite previous divorces…

Anyway, concentrating on what we were good at together, and how good we were together, helped me a lot. I was able to get through the day with more peace than usual.

I will always wish Michael were still alive, beside me, on this plane of existence. I wish he were still here, writing his stories, writing with me, helping me with my stories, and editing for other people. I wish he were able to tell me what he thinks of the state of the world — most particularly the coronavirus concerns and the #BlackLivesMatter protests, though I’d be interested to hear his (likely trenchant) takes on the current crop of DC politicians (most especially President Trump, someone I don’t think Michael would’ve cared for at all due to that gentleman’s previous experiences as a reality TV star). I wish he were still here so I could see his smile, hear his laugh, enjoy his touch, and get to watch and listen and observe how he got through the world with such serenity and optimism.

But as he’s not alive on this plane — though I do believe the spirit is eternal, and that love never dies either, so in those senses he’ll always be with me — I can only do what I can to remember. And yesterday, I chose to remember the good.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 25, 2020 at 5:15 am

Relationships and Covid-19

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Folks, I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now, but here goes: I think people’s relationships are being tested in many unexpected ways by Covid-19.

I have some sympathy for this, even though my husband has been dead now for quite a number of years. Early in our marriage, we had a period of time where we were flat broke. Neither of us was working steadily, and that meant we were home most of the time. With each other, trying not to get in each other’s way…doing whatever we could to keep each other’s spirits up.

I think of that time when I think about people in long-term relationships, shut in with each other, and Covid-19 now. Because providing neither of you are ill — and God/dess forfend, I hope you aren’t — that’s what you’re enduring right now. You have 24/7 companionship, you’re unable to leave the house very often (if at all), and you must be trying to keep each other’s spirits up.

(If you’re not, I’d wonder about you. But again, as per usual, I digress.)

Because Michael and I found each other a bit later than many couples, we had already faced a number of challenges before we had to deal with our marriage being tested by being home, together, nearly every minute of every day. This made it a bit easier for us, as we had committed to talking things over before we ever got engaged, much less married…and we had also agreed before ever getting married that we’d make the commitment to stay together every single day, too.

What this meant, in practical terms, is that we talked things out often. The way he did things wasn’t necessarily the way I did things. But we both enjoyed each other’s company so much that we were able to compromise, or at least agree to disagree. And it led to some of the most delightful hours of our marriage, those hard times — all because we let ourselves talk to one another.

Well, refusing to deny what we felt was part of it, too. If one of us was having a bad day — and I admit, that person usually was me — being able to say I was having a hard time and get reassurance that it was perfectly acceptable to dislike the situation we were in helped me go on. And on the rare occasions Michael needed the same thing from me, I of course willingly gave him the same thing.

Now, as to how you can apply what I just discussed in your own situations, being trapped at home 24/7 and disliking the fact you can’t go out intensely? My best advice is to talk to one another. Admit that you feel bad, at least some of the time, that you can’t go out and do what you’d normally do. Admit that you are frustrated with the current situation, because no one has any idea when Covid-19 is going to let up; there’s still no vaccine (obviously), there’s no idea yet as to whether plasmaphoresis is going to work; there are very few drug treatments that have shown any ability to shorten the course of illness (if any at all); and because of the shadow of Covid-19, you don’t know when one of you is going to get sick!

See, all of this is scary stuff. But if you can admit to it, you’re ahead of the game.**

Anyway, I do understand how difficult it is right now for those of you in relationships. And while I don’t know if what I just said helps much, I figured saying it can’t hurt anything, either.

Just remember that eventually we’ll get back to some semblance of normal. But until then, treat each other gently.

———

**And guys, I know what you’re thinking. Trust me: being vulnerable to the one you love is sexy as Hell. (Got it?)

Who Do You Want to Be? A Meditation

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Normally, at this time of year, I write about my late husband, Michael. He was the most wonderful person I have ever known, and thus I want to keep my memories of him — and his bright, lively, and fun-loving spirit — alive.

But today, I want to talk about a different side of Michael. And, therefore, of me, too.

One of the questions he and I pondered quite often was this: Who do you want to be?

Too many people out there don’t develop their talents, partly because they don’t know they have any. Or they repress their talents, because they need to make money and their talents don’t seem to be useful toward that end. Or, maybe, they’re just frustrated with trying to work with their talents (guilty!), and don’t know what to do with themselves.

The thing is, our talents are only part of us. They’re not everything.

We humans are a complex lot. We have so many different things inside us, and so many different things we can do.

That said, the question “Who do you want to be?” has particular resonance for me for a different reason, too.

There’s a well-known axiom, “Know thyself.” To know yourself should be the first step in figuring out what you want to do, what you need to do, and what you must keep doing to make not only your life-circumstances happy, but your immortal soul happy as well.

(Yes, I went there. Michael believed, too. But it’s OK if you don’t. Moving on…)

But again, knowing yourself can be fraught with peril. People go down paths they shouldn’t be on, all because they convince themselves the ones they need to be on aren’t good enough. Or that they will never be accepted for who they are, so they’d rather “fake it ’til they make it” or worse, pretend to be someone else.

(Yes, I know some of you live by the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy. If it works for you, and you still know yourself, good. If you don’t, and are on the wrong path, go meditate for a while and figure yourself out. But I digress.)

To me, the most important thing to do every day is to help others. Whether it’s by music, writing, a gentle (or sometimes, not-so-gentle) word, or running an errand, I try to help others as much as I possibly can.

Why? Because I can’t live with myself if I don’t. And because to my mind, if you can help someone but refuse, you aren’t worthy of very much.

“But Barb,” you say. “You can’t help everyone. You know that.”

True. But as Lois McMaster Bujold’s character Mark Vorkosigan says in MIRROR DANCE (my best paraphrase as the book is not in front of me): “Everyone always says they can’t do it all, so they won’t do any. And they don’t.”

In other words, you should try to help others as much as you can.

Because really, what else are we here for? (Surely it’s not to ascend to our own one-person Heavens.)

Back to Michael, though. He believed in helping others as much as he could. He ran errands. He rebuilt other people’s computers. He fed feral cats. He listened and helped as much as he could.

And, oh yes, he reached out to a lonely woman suffering her second divorce and wondering, “Why, God/dess, why?” And the result of that was the richest, deepest, most rewarding, and by far the best relationship I have ever had with anyone in my entire life.

So, just for today, be like Michael. (And, maybe, like me.) Help someone else. Be there, even if they don’t expect it.

You could find a friend. (Or more.)

And if you do, toast Michael in The Good Place (TM), as it’s because of him and his love that I still stand. And still write.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 21, 2019 at 6:00 am

“Writing After Widowhood” Essay Is Up…

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Folks, author and editor Deborah J. Ross asked me, a while back, if I’d be willing to write an essay for her about the differences between writing before my husband Michael died, and after. I called this essay “Writing After Widowhood,” and it is up now at her blog. Here are a few excerpts, though I do hope you’ll go over there and read it…then let people know, far and wide, about it.

(In particular, if you can leave a comment at her blog, do. I am all thumbs today, and can’t seem to get Blogger to accept my profile for love or money, meaning I can’t even comment over there. This is very frustrating. So if you can do it instead, that would be great.)

Here’s a bit of what I remember about writing before widowhood, mind:

Anyway, when Michael was alive, we wrote some short stories together despite having very different writing styles. We could do this because we’d heard Eric Flint, in 2002, discuss how he collaborated with other authors. It was all about communication, Flint said, “Also, if you could check your ego at the door, that would help immensely.”

That wasn’t all Michael did, mind you. He edited for me, as I edited for him. He and I talked about our stories for many hours a day, every day of the week, a great gift…and he made sure to do all the things a good husband does for his wife without prompting—and without fanfare.

My quote there is my best remembrance from 2002. That comment from Eric Flint was made at a gathering of Baen Barflies (or Barfly gathering) in July of 2002 in Chicago to the best of my recollection. It was only a few, short weeks after our marriage, and it made a huge impression on me.

I discuss Michael’s passing (which you should go over there and read about), its effects on me, why I decided to keep going with his stories as best I could and get at least a few of them out there, and a bit about how frustrating it was to write for a few years after Michael died.

Then I got into the nitty gritty about what it’s like to write now:

But as I started writing again, I realized something. I am a verbal processor. I need to talk my stories out with someone who wants to hear about it. And since Michael died, I really haven’t had that. Though I do have some very good friends who will let me bend their ears on occasion, they are working writers. They are doing more in the field than I am currently, and I don’t want to be a millstone around their necks.

(And yes, I listen to them. Of course I do. But that’s not the point.)

With Michael, I knew if I made mistakes, he’d fix them. Or he’d show me where I’d made mistakes, and I’d fix them myself. I had more confidence in going to write on a day I had little energy (as I have battled lifelong health issues), because if I screwed up on a name or made an unnecessary tense-shift, he’d catch it. So I could relax and create.

Those were the good old days.

And I discuss what I try to do now to get around what I call “Life, Interrupted.” I write prose notes on days I can’t do anything else. I think a lot about my stories (I didn’t say this at Deborah’s blog, but I hope it’s implied in subtext). And I do my best to keep my husband Michael uppermost in my mind on the worst of days, because he believed in me — and dammit, if he could believe in me, so can I.

I do hope you will read the rest of the essay. It’s about 1400 words long, so I only excerpted a little bit of it here to whet your whistle.

For other widows and widowers out there, or those touched by tragedy in other ways who are struggling, know that your life can continue. It is frustrating, difficult, sometimes exasperating, but you can keep creating if you make the effort. It won’t be the same — it can’t be the same — but you don’t have to lose all of yourself when your spouse dies.

It took me a while to learn this. But now that I have, my hope is that I can help others along the way.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 17, 2019 at 1:24 pm

Computer Woes: Stuff I Learned While The Computer Was Down

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As the title says…here we go.

  1. I am very impatient. Waiting to get my computer fixed seemed like forever, rather than nearly eight days.
  2. I was more stuck in ruts than I’d previously thought.
  3. Trying to type on a phone — even on a smartphone — is much harder than I’d thought, and it’s not just because of my quasi-carpal tunnel syndrome.
  4. Following from #3, I figured out I owed a friend an apology from a while back. He and I got into it because I was being very chatty, and on a good day — and with a good computer, complete with a proper keyboard and my hands cooperating, I can type nearly 80 words per minute. He could not follow me on his phone, and said so. (He later admitted he wasn’t particularly nice about it and did apologize.) At the time, I didn’t understand this…but boy, do I ever, now.
  5. Following from #4…yes, I did apologize. Because it’s better to apologize late than never. And it’s a lot better to know, in and of yourself, that you tried to do the right thing, albeit late, and albeit when the other person may not even care anymore…because it was important once, and I muffed it. It’s a statement that I won’t do it wrong–at least not intentionally, anyway–again. (Of course, that leaves all the other stuff that I haven’t run across yet as potential things to do wrong. But I could do ’em right, too…moving on.)
  6. Tablets are damned hard to use.
  7. I don’t enjoy texting. Not on a flip phone, not on a smart phone, not at all. (“I do not like this, Sam I am.” — Dr. Seuss.)
  8. That said, texting my best friends when the computer is down beats staying out of contact all to Hell.
  9. And using a tablet is better than using a phone of any sort to stay in contact.
  10. Sometimes, life doesn’t go as planned, at all. And while I’ve known that for a damned long time, it bears repeating. (Like a clue-by-four upside the head.)
  11. I have a hard time reframing a bad situation, something I truly can’t stand, into anything remotely resembling a good one. I did try. I told myself over and over that I had more time to read. (I read all sorts of stuff, too. Found a couple of good new authors — new to me, anyway. One of ’em is Kate Stradling. Really am enjoying her work.) I told myself, over and over again, that I was still thinking about my stories — which I was — and that there have been times I’ve not been able to write for seven or eight days before, and I didn’t panic, so what’s the big deal?
  12. Enter panic. (Ding, ding, ding!)
  13. Getting my computer back was useful. I’m still not back up to speed. But I have friends to help. And I’m grateful for that.
  14. I have to believe, despite it all, that there are better days ahead. We all have trials and tribulations. That this affected my livelihood for a week-plus in addition to my communication and my mode of living wasn’t good. (To put it mildly, but I digress.) But several of my friends made a point of calling or texting daily. They were concerned. And they made absolutely sure I knew they were concerned. (Bless them forever for this.)
  15. My family was also very good through this crisis. (It wasn’t just this I was dealing with. This is just what I’m willing to talk about. Further writer sayeth not.)
  16. “Sufficient unto the day are the needs thereof.” (Intentional Biblical misquote by my husband, Michael.) I have to meditate more on this one, I guess.
  17. Buddhists point out that you don’t have to enjoy your circumstances. You just have to accept them.
  18. But yes, when you get an ounce of joy, wring it out to the fullest! (I intend to do so, just as soon as I get some sleep. I’m going to write, and edit, and write some more…)

What do you think of this stream-of-consciousness blog? And what have you, yourself, learned when you have not been able to be online for a significant amount of time due to a computer failure, power outage, or any other reason? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 25, 2019 at 12:53 am

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

with 10 comments

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