Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Persistence’ Category

“Sadiversary” Week, Fatigue, Illness…

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Folks, later this week will be the fourteenth “sadiversary” — that is, the saddest anniversary there is — of my late husband Michael’s death. I struggle with this every year; unlike some widows and widowers, I seem stuck, and think more and more about him over time rather than less and less.

Granted, I’ve also done my best to “make new memories” and have even gone on a few dates. (Two, to be exact.) And I was in a long-distance friendship with a guy for a while with that I’d hoped for more with…but it didn’t happen. So it’s not like I’ve just shut myself down cold, even though it took a long time to even get to the point where I could try to do these things.

I keep wanting to wake up one day, and find out the previous fourteen years are nothing but a bad dream. My husband, in this scenario, is alive, glowingly vibrant, cooking me meals, helping with my stories as I helped with his (and yes, while I cook, too, Michael was the better cook; I was glad to step aside for him).

Hell, my husband even would do all the laundry, knowing I have a bad back, and if I was allowed to do anything at all, it was to sit at the laundromat with him “looking decorative” and of course carrying on a conversation.

Those were the days.

Instead, I wake up and find that the stark reality is, I’m here, he’s not, all the work I’ve struggled with, everything I’ve done, is not enough. Too few people even seem to be able to find out about our work, much less like it enough to tell friends about it who might also tell others.

When I’m sick, as I am now (I am guessing a sinus issue and possibly a weak onset of the flu), it makes it harder to believe that I am doing everything I can. And yet, I know I am. There isn’t any single thing I could be doing any differently; I can only do what I can do, and if it’s not enough, and if it drives me crazy that it’s not enough, well, I just have to live with that.

I’m grateful for my family and my friends. I’m also grateful for the two guys I went on dates with, even though I’m sure they were awkward and I knew I was very awkward, too. Even the guy I crashed and burned with in the long-distance friendship taught me something…I’m not dead, and I don’t think Michael would want me to do my best imitation of a vestal virgin because he’s already on the Other Side.

Still, I look at the totality of my life since my husband died, and it frustrates me so much.

Maybe we all feel this way, when we’re sick, that we haven’t done what we set out to do, and that we are failures because of that.

And I never expected Michael, the goodness of him, the totality of his existence, the love he brought to my life, and the sly sense of humor that invigorated every conversation and interaction with him. (As I’m trying to keep this to a PG level, as I know there are at least a few younger kids who read this blog on a regular basis, I won’t talk about the rest of it — shall we say that everything, absolutely everything, about my marriage with Michael was phenomenal, and leave it at that? Yes? Good.)

All I can do now is go on. It’s hard. I haven’t been able to see the road in front of me since the day Michael died. And even at my best with the three guys who’ve put up with me long enough to want to get to know me a little better, I still didn’t see anything but glimmers.

So, that’s where I am right now. I am sick. But tonight I’m going to try to edit, and I did manage to write this blog. Tomorrow I will do laundry, and think about Michael while I do it (as that makes me feel better, as I definitely don’t enjoy doing laundry in any way, shape, or form, but I do enjoy clean clothes). I’ll get to the doctor, do what they say to do, talk with my counselor of course as this is a very highly-fraught week, and do what she says also as best I can.

And I’ll try to be as good to myself as I can, even though that’s not something I’m all that good at.

P.S. Next week, I hope to talk about fun things again, or at least current events things…something different.

 

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Written by Barb Caffrey

September 18, 2018 at 10:53 pm

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

Birthdays and Funerals

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Folks, on Friday, I went to my uncle Carl’s funeral. And Saturday was my birthday.

To say I feel strange at the confluence of events is understating the point. I never do all that well with birthdays anyway, as I am more like my late husband in this than not (he who famously celebrated “unBirthdays”). And today, my plans were simple.

But I was wrung out from everything else. My plans got changed; I had to rest, at home, and think, at home, and deal with the consequences of being alone, at home.

Anyway, my uncle Carl’s funeral is more important than this, so I will tell you about that instead…as he was a retired policeman, there was an honor guard around the casket until the service started. Three policemen were guarding it; two at each side, one to rotate in and out so the others could rest a bit. (Standing in one place like that is not easy.) The way they rotated in and out was like an elaborate ballet; the third officer would come up, salute the casket, turn on his heel, turn to the side, and the officer being relieved would come forward. Then the relieving officer would take the first person’s place…I’d never seen anything like that before.

Note that Carl was not much for pomp and circumstance. But I think he’d have appreciated his much younger colleagues doing this for him, even so.

There also was a 21-gun salute as Carl was a military veteran. (The young kids at the funeral were scared.) And I saw two young military women first drape the flag over Carl’s casket, then re-wrap the flag and hand it to one of my cousins, thanking my cousin gravely for my uncle’s military service. (My late husband was also a military vet, but the flag came in the mail already wrapped, with a letter from then-President Bush’s office thanking Michael for his service and, I suppose, me for being Michael’s wife.)

Carl was 88, and he’d outlived my aunt Laurice (his wife) by a little over a year. It’s hard to realize they’re both gone now, though as long as we remember them, at least a small part of them lives on. (Plus, my aunt and uncle had grandchildren, and even a few great-grands. Time marches on and all that.)

The last year or so, Carl was in and out of the hospital, and was in a nursing home. He probably didn’t enjoy that overmuch, but the folks who took care of him were smitten by his remaining charm and by how he approached life. (Even as he was dying — he had Parkinson’s, and it was at a late stage — he could still charm the socks off people if he wanted.) He may not have remembered entirely who he was at that point, but he was still the same generous-hearted person he’d always been, even to the last.

My personal view of my aunt and uncle? They came to a lot of my concerts, when I was young. They went to my high school graduation, and my aunt went to my first marriage. When I returned to Wisconsin after my late husband died in 2004, they were among the first to comfort me.

They were kind people. Smart, thoughtful, interesting…they lived their Christian faith in a way most others can’t seem to figure out.

It’s partly because of them that I kept trying, even as I was laid low by my late husband’s too-early passing. They were unafraid of my deep grief, and they were willing to listen to my memories of my husband. Carl even said to me that as fun-loving as Michael seemed to be, there would be no way Michael would want me to feel this bad for many years after his passing. (I think that is true, but my mind had its own ideas.)

Anyway, it does feel weird to be officially another year older. My aunt and uncle are gone. My husband is gone. My best friend is gone. My grandma is gone. Some of my other good friends over the years have dropped by the wayside, too, and I feel terrible about that even though I don’t know how to repair what became broken.

I’m fortunate that I do have family left. Good friends left. And a strong mind, a willing heart, and at least a dab of creativity here and there to make things a wee bit better.

I love them, and they love me, even if they don’t always understand me. (Well, I don’t always understand others, either. Maybe love transcends that in some way. I’m not sure.)

So, I’ll keep going, and remember those who’ve gone before me. And do my best to honor them, and their memories, all the days of my life.

Because really, what else can I do that’ll do any good?

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 19, 2018 at 12:06 am

Romance, Short or Long, is Worthwhile

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I thought tonight about how being with someone truly good for you is worthwhile, whether you get a long time with that person, or a short one.

Why? Because it helps you feel better about yourself. You know you’re doing whatever you can to help another person, and he’s doing whatever he can for you. And if you both truly care, and do the best you can for one another, that is an amazing thing.

It really is.

And it can change your life for the better, even after that person has died.

The important things to remember, if you want to build a life with someone else, are these:

  • Communication
  • Caring
  • Concern
  • Attentiveness
  • Appreciation
  • Sticktuitiveness

If you have these things, and are willing to work hard every single day and commit, every single day, to being with that special someone, you will have a successful marriage. One that’s based on mutual respect and liking as well as sex appeal (nothing wrong with the latter, but that will not carry you past the rough spots that invariably come). One that’s based on reality, tempered perhaps with a bit of optimism that you two can, and indeed will, find a way to make a better life together.

That’s what worked for me, and it’s why I celebrate the time I had with my husband every single day.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 7, 2018 at 4:34 am

Still Writing (A Brutally Honest Essay)

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Sometimes — especially lately — I’ve wondered why I write.

Writing, like any creative pursuit, takes a lot of energy to do it well. And if you know anything about me, you know I take as an axiom “whatever’s worth doing is worth doing well.” (I didn’t say that first. Neither did Lois McMaster Bujold, though her character Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan is famous for saying this. Nope, Philip Stanhope, Fourth Earl of Chesterfield, said it first as far as anyone can tell.)

This past year, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to my writing as I wanted. There were various reasons for this. But the upshot was that life got in the way of my writing, and because life was so all-pervasive, all-emcompassing, and extremely difficult, I lost my belief in myself for a while.

Now, I’m working on getting it back.

The easiest way to get back to work is open up an old MS that you believed in once, and still believe in now, if you can just figure out what else to do. If you open it back up, and don’t judge yourself as you fix a little here, and add a little there, before you know it, you’re back to writing every day.

Or at least every other day.

What complicates matters for me is that I thrive on audience participation. (Maybe that’s the musician in me, the musical training; I don’t know.) And for a writer, the only way for an audience to participate is to share your works-in-progress and talk it out with someone who’s as knowledgeable and as skilled as you are.

(Or at least is working on it and has a keen interest in doing so.)

There are a few ways for me to do this with stories that are further along than what I have, in various private forums I know about. But I haven’t felt confident enough to do just that. And as I always tended to work best alone, but with copious amounts of discussion between a trusted person (my husband, then my best friend, then a few other friends when they had time), I don’t want to put myself out there when I’m still building on the idea that it’s OK for me to put myself first, and my need for writing first as well, over what I’d been doing before.

In other words, I feel fragile. Almost as if what I’m doing won’t stand up, if I look at it too hard. Or that I am perhaps being too emotional about it all, as it means so much to me that it’s almost easier to bury it and leave it alone than get it out, face it, and move on with my creativity intact.

I’m not the only one who’s ever faced this. Most of us do, whether we realize it or not. But most don’t talk about it, because it feels like an illness, something to be hidden away, something shameful, maybe…something others won’t understand, unless they’re writers.

And they, my friends, figure they know what it is, so why talk about it?

I am working on it, and doing what I can to write my way, in my time, however I feel I must, and do what I have to do to feed my creativity. Because that’s undoubtedly where my soul resides; my husband knew it, my good friends have known it also over the years, and while they don’t say much about it, they know when I’m not writing, I’m not happy.

So that’s where I stand right now. Continuing onward, though the road seems dark and the scenery rather depressing. But the sun could come up tomorrow for me, and I want to wait it out, all the while scribbling madly (or typing, rather), to get down my impressions of where I am and where I hope to go.

That’s my strategy. But I would like to know what yours is, especially if you’ve dealt with disappointment, frustration, or “life, interrupted.” The floor is open…comments, anyone?

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 28, 2018 at 6:47 pm

Why Friendship Is Important

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Some days, it’s hard to get by. The world seems like it’s gone crazy. Politics make no sense. Current events show that people are overstressed, overstrained, and are getting into arguments–some deadly–seemingly at the drop of a hint.

It’s on days like that I definitely need the help of my friends. (Hey, it wasn’t just the Beatles who believed they’d get by, providing they had the help of their friends.)

Why? Well, they help keep me grounded, for one…for another, I value their perspectives, their voices, and themselves so much, it takes me out of my own head and makes me realize I’m not all alone in the world.

To me, being someone’s friend means more than “I care about you.” It means, “I care, so I’m going to tell you what I can. Show you what I can. Help you all I can.”

Anything less than that is not enough.

Now, are there different levels of friendships? Sure. You have folks you’re just getting to know, you have folks you’ve known a long time, and you have folks somewhere in between that continuum.

But with all of them, the point remains: if I care, I will do everything I possibly can do to show that I care. And that means if they have a problem, I listen and try to help. If they have a success, I rejoice with them. If they are frustrated, I let them vent; if they are buoyant, I allow myself to be lifted up by them, even if it’s been a horrible day on my end.

See, you have to try to see the other person’s viewpoint, or you’re not truly a friend.

Will my friends and I have differences of opinion? You’d better believe it. But we’ll at least try to agree to disagree because that is what friends do.

(No, they aren’t clones of you. If they are, you’re doing it wrong.)

Lately, I’ve been battling a great deal of frustration. My friends know this. They try to give me hope, or at least give commiseration, understanding, and support…they listen, they empathize, they care, and they make a huge difference thereby.

But I’ve also had to come to the realization — one I truly didn’t want to come to, mind — that there are some people in this world who will profess friendship, but honestly do not mean it. Or they maybe mean it some of the time, but not all of the time, and when the chips are down, they will not listen, they will not help, they will not empathize, and they will not understand.

There’s nothing I can do about people like that. The only thing I can do is remove myself from their consequences, and keep on going, with the friends who’ve proven true and trustworthy by my side.

So, on this Sunday morning, ask yourself the following question:

How can I be a better friend today? (I ask this question of myself all the time.)

Then, when you come up with an answer, go ahead and do whatever you need to do to be that better person.

Because you can choose to do better. You can be that better person, living up to the Golden Rule and treating people the way you, yourself, want to be treated.

And when you make mistakes, as you inevitably will?

Admit to them. (Even when it’s hard.) Apologize for them. (Even when it’s almost impossible.) And be determined to do better, and at least make different mistakes the next time.

That way, your friendship can go forward. And that way, your mistakes won’t weigh you down forever, either…so it’s a win/win.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 15, 2018 at 2:06 am

Try, Try, Try Again

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If I have a motto, it’s the above-titled one.

You see, I don’t believe in leaving well enough alone. I keep trying, even when all seems lost. Whether it’s with people, causes, books…while I may set something aside for a time, I don’t give up.

See, setting something aside when you’re tired, or ill, or have had enough, is the smart and sensible thing to do. Because those are times that you shouldn’t overtax yourself, if you can help it.

So, yeah, you can be persistent, but you also have to be smart about it. (I’m still learning about the latter, mind, and tend to learn best from The School of Hard Knocks (TM).) Pick your spots, maybe. And give yourself the leeway to rest, when you can…because as I’ve said before, if you don’t rest well, it’s much harder to access your creative faculties.

I know that to write well, or to compose music at all, I have to have rest. This past year or so, rest has been hard to find for a variety of reasons. But I continue to work hard at finding a way to rest…and finding a way to create, and be my best self, as well as the best person I can possibly be overall.

At any rate, that’s what I’m pondering, this hot July morning. What’s on your mind?

Oh, and for those who’ve asked: Yes, there will be a free concert at the Racine Zoo tonight at 7:30 by the Racine Concert Band, weather permitting of course. (Our first free concert of the year was rained out last week.) Hope you can stop in and hear some free music if you’re in the neighborhood…who knows? You might just enjoy yourself.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 8, 2018 at 1:43 am