Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category

Sunday Thoughts: Reject Hate

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Lately, I’ve been very worried about how the United States — and the world around us — has given in to both tribalism and despair.

I understand despair better than I wish, but I don’t understand tribalism.

Why? Well, it seems to be a conduit for hatred. And we need to reject hate, in all its forms, as best we can.

We are all human. It can be hard to remember that, with some of the awful things that people do. But we are all human, and we are neither the least of our actions nor the best of our actions.

Instead, we are the sum total of our actions.

Where I live, we’ve seen an uptick in senseless violence in the past several years. Last week, some guy with a long gun ran out into the middle of a busy highway, and carjacked not one, but two people. He wrecked both cars, and was killed by the police before he could do any more harm.

I don’t know what caused this man to run out into the middle of the street with a long gun, much less carjack two different people. But I do know that he gave them nothing but pain. Their cars are wrecked. Their finances will take a hit in trying to get new ones (and in this area, the public transport is so spotty, you absolutely need to have a car), their mental health will take a hit in that they were hostages, and their emotional health will take a hit because they were helpless to affect their own lives in those moments.

I don’t know if this man hated everyone, or hated himself, or hated his situation. But he spread nothing but vitriol in the last hours of his life on this Earth.

I also don’t know what the answer is to people like this, except for trying to be a better person myself. As I said above, I know we’re not either our lowest moments (what my good friend calls our “blooper reel”), and we’re also not our highest moments (what she calls our “glamour shots”). But I can try, the best I can, to help others, to understand them, or at least make that effort in trying to understand.

That matters, even when I think it doesn’t. (Does this make sense? If it doesn’t, blame the lateness of the hour.)

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder if I am making a difference. After all, the Earth is huge. The amount of people living on Earth is staggering. And it’s only possible to get to know a few, select people most of the time. That means there are so many others we don’t know, that we can’t ever know, and yet we have to act as if we know them all.

Or at least as if we want to know them all.

Anyway, I know that any given human being (myself included) can only reach so many people, whether it’s emotionally, or mentally, or (even fewer people) physically. If we’re fortunate, it’s also possible affect them in a spiritual sense, too. (Hopefully for good, and not for ill. But I digress.)

And every little bit does help. Every time you can help someone, even if it’s just smiling at them and actually seeing them, or if you can listen for a while without judgment (very tough to do, if you do it right, but necessary), or if you can run an errand for someone who’s shut-in, or if you can be good to a stray animal and find that animal a home…every little bit helps.

When I’m depressed, or worse, despondent, I think that everything I’ve done has no meaning. I am honest about this, which I guess is unusual in and of itself.

I know it does have meaning, though. Even if I don’t exactly know what that meaning is, I know it does.

So, I will continue to do my best to reject hate in all its forms. I will continue to do my best to help others, as best I can. And I will continue to live my life on my own terms, and hope I can affect others’ lives for the better in the process.

May we all choose to reject hate. (Please?)

Hey, #MLB: What’s With the Terrible Umps?

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This year in baseball, I’ve seen more awful calls by umpires than ever before.

I know this seems hyperbolic, but it’s true. The umps have made bad call after bad call after bad call. I don’t know who’s supervising them, but something has to be done.

Why am I saying this, other than the fact that I’m annoyed with the umps? Because over the weekend, my Milwaukee Brewers had a series with the Minnesota Twins in Minnesota. The umpires, led by crew chief Brian Gorman, made plenty of bad calls, most having to do with the strike zone. (For non-baseball fans, the strike zone is generally from the batter’s knees to the top of the letters on his jersey. The pitch also has to be reasonably close to the batter. Pitches that hit the zone but are in the opposite side’s batter’s box are balls, not strikes, because they’re too far away.)

But the most egregious thing was this: Bench coach Pat Murphy brought a lineup card out on Saturday night, and somehow managed to get ejected before the game even started. As Murphy is not known to be a hothead, and seems for the most part to be a rather calm and collected person, this made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Now, you may be asking, “So, Barb, they have instant replay now. Why aren’t these calls being fixed by the instant replay folks?”

First, there is no such thing as an instant replay of a ball or strike count. No matter how bad it is, it can’t be challenged by instant replay.

Second, on the plays that can be challenged (such as a close play at first base, say), the instant replay people seem to get it wrong at least 40% of the time.

Third, sometimes it seems like all of the umpires have no idea what they’re doing in a major league baseball stadium. (And I say this being a fan of former umpire Ron Luciano, who was one of the most ebullient and charismatic umps to ever work a major league game.)

I know that major league baseball (MLB) has procedures to grade umpires on what they’re doing and what they’re not doing. But I have no idea if MLB realizes just how bad some of these umps are, as they don’t tell us anything about these evaluations.

Now, I will admit that I am especially frustrated because there have been not one, not two, but three umpires — female umps — in triple-A baseball in the past thirty to forty years that were every bit as good as the male umps, but never got a chance to umpire in a major league, regular season game.

Yet we have these yahoos out there, who are willing to throw out a bench coach before a pitch is ever thrown, and before a game has even started.

My solution would be to make the umpire evaluations public. (At least that they’re doing them. Please!) And take another look at the current female umps in the minor league system, if you would, ’cause I can’t believe they’d be any worse than some of the idiots we have up here now. (All apologies to the good umps, as I know there are still some in MLB. But really, this is just wrong.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2021 at 8:23 pm

What Makes a Good Story?

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Recently, I wrote about Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher John Axford, and I said that the way his story ended was not the way his story was supposed to go.

This begs the question: What makes for a good story, anyway?

By contemporary standards, what would’ve made Axford’s story much better would’ve been him coming into the game, striking out the side (or at least getting three outs), getting the save, and having the stadium rain cheers upon his head. (The crowd did cheer him when he came in — I think he may have even received a standing ovation — and cheered him on the way out, too, which is not usual when a pitcher is unable to get out of the inning. This last happened because we Brewers fans knew Axford well from his previous service with us, and knew he was deserving of such approbation due to how well he’d done before.)

In previous eras, though, they had stories such as MADAME BOVARY that sold a ton. Those stories would have characters put through the wringer and they’d never be able to come up for air; instead, even their children would be put through the wringer for no purpose, and would never be able to get ahead.

Why audiences appreciated such stories is beyond me, but that was the fashion at that time. The would-be heroine (or hero) had a tragic flaw (or two, or five), and because of that flaw would taint herself and everyone around her beyond any hope of redemption.

The fashion now tends more to happy endings, but well-deserved happy endings. Characters still get put through the wringer (see Lois McMaster Bujold’s MIRROR DANCE, or Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS, or any of Robert Jordan’s novels in the Wheel of Time series, among others), but they live to fight another day. They learn from their mistakes, too. And they continue on, having learned much more about themselves in the process.

Of course, the Harry Potter novels also exemplify this sort of story. Harry grows up to be a powerful magician, but he’s put through the wringer and must fight the big, bad, nasty, evil, and disgusting Lord Voldemort (and yes, I meant all those descriptions, as Voldemort is just that bad) in order to become the magician he needs to be. He and his friends Hermione and Ron are put through all sorts of awful things, but they eventually prevail.

My friend Chris Nuttall’s novels about Emily, starting with SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and continuing through to FACE OF THE ENEMY (with CHILD OF DESTINY coming soon), also have a plot that shows Emily being thrown into awful situation after awful situation, but she finds a way to prevail every time through hard work, effort, and a talent to get along with people even if they’ve crossed her (or she’s crossed them). Emily scans as a real person, and we care about her because she faces things most of us face even though we’re not magicians.

What are those things, you ask? Well, she has to learn from her own mistakes. She has to realize that she can’t fix everything and everyone. She has to find out that her snap judgments are not always correct. And she has to reevaluate people and situations, even when she doesn’t want to.

Of course, my own stories about Bruno and Sarah (AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) have many of the same lessons. There are things Bruno can do, and does, once he realizes he’s been lied to about nearly everything. Sarah is in much the same boat, except she has different talents — complementary ones, in most cases — and the two of them have to find that they’re stronger together than they could ever be alone. But there are still things they can’t do, and they must make their peace with that (as every adult does), while continuing to work on the things they can.

In other words, they can control what is in their power to control. But they can’t control other people. (It would be wrong to do so, anyway. They have to make their own lives meaningful in whatever way they can, too. And make their own mistakes, as we all do…but I digress.)

Anyway, the stories I love best are those with happy endings. People sometimes start out with situations they don’t deserve (such as my friend Kayelle Allen’s character Izzorah, who went through a childhood illness that damaged his heart and nearly blinded him), but they get into better positions and find the people who can help them — maybe even love them the way they deserve. (Izzorah, for example, finds a treatment for his heart — it’s not a standard one, by any means, but it works in the context of the story — and finds love along the way in SURRENDER LOVE.)

So, to go back to the beginning of this blog, as we love happy endings and we want to see deserving people find good luck and happiness, the true ending we wanted for John Axford was to get the outs, get the cheers, bask in the glow of achieving his dreams once again at the baseball-advanced age of thirty-eight, and stay with the Brewers the rest of the season as they continue to make their run at postseason play.

That Axford was unable to achieve this happy ending was distressing. But all the hard work and effort he put into his return to the big leagues should still be celebrated. And my hope, overall, is that he will still be with the Brewers in one way or another after this season ends.

What makes for a good story? Do you agree or disagree with me, and if so, why? Tell me about it in the comments!

Unsettling Times

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Folks, I wanted to write a blog today about editing, but instead I’m writing this.

Why? Well, in Racine County yesterday morning, a man went up to another man outside a gas station and shot him to death at point-blank range. There appeared to be no connection between them whatsoever.

This definitely made me uneasy.

That the shooter then went to a different gas station, where he in turn was shot to death by a police officer (the shooter shot at the unmarked police car, and at the officer who was in plain clothes at the time), just underscores how random life can sometimes be.

If that shooter had gone somewhere else, the policeman who stopped him wouldn’t have been there. So in that much, I suppose I can see the hand of divine providence. (I’d like to think so, anyway. Surely the police officer saved much more strife by killing the shooter.)

In my area of Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had various protests over the past four or five years in Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Racine. Most have been peaceful. Some have been socially distant, as has been needed since the pandemic of Covid-19 broke out. But some, unfortunately, have brought bloodshed and tears.

I don’t know what the answers are for this mindless violence. I don’t know why yesterday was the day the shooter decided — apparently — to flip out and murder someone in cold blood for no damned good reason whatsoever.

So, even though I know — as a good friend told me earlier tonight — that nothing has changed for me, it feels like everything has changed.

To be honest, living my best life during the pandemic has been extremely difficult. Add the summer into the mix, where I observe not one, not two, but three sad anniversaries, and that ups the difficulty factor considerably. I also do not have the consolation of playing music right now, as I took a leave of absence from the Racine Concert Band. (This was necessary, but it’s a necessity I still regret.)

Then, add in the problem of yesterday, with the Kenosha riots of 2020, and the Milwaukee issues in the last five years, and it seems like Southeastern Wisconsin is a hotbed of chaos.

That, I know, is an illusion. But it feels real.

So, what is reality in this situation?

According to a good friend, I may as well try to predict where lightning will strike next as to worry about some random thug somewhere putting a bullet where it doesn’t need to be. So that means that all I can do is the same thing I do every single day.

What’s that, you ask?

Simple. I choose to write. I choose to edit. I choose to write music, and to practice it when able. I choose to help. I choose to keep going. I choose to fight chaos, even if all I can do is fight the despair in my head. I choose to remember better days, and I most of all choose to be the same person my late husband knew and loved so well.

Even on a day like this one — a day after a previously unimaginable tragedy in an extremely rural area with a bunch of farms, cows, haystacks, and not much else — I choose to live.

This is a candle flame against the darkness, but it’s all I’ve got.

Observing Sad Anniversaries…

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Folks, if you read my last blog, you know I’ve been keeping track of various sad anniversaries. (Or “sadiversaries,” as I’ve called them before.) The atrocity at the Pulse Nightclub is one of those observations because of many reasons, which I’ve already enumerated.

“But Barb,” you say. “Why are you going over this again?”

I have another sad anniversary coming up that’s far more personal. (That’s why.) And it started with a very happy day, the day I married my beloved husband Michael. That particular day couldn’t be more incandescent if it tried, as it was the culmination of the best life-choice I have ever made.

If you’ve been reading my blog over the years, you know this is true. Michael changed my life for the better in many ways. He helped me learn how to believe in myself. He gave much encouragement. He was an outstanding husband, and we lived and worked well together. He was a creative person, too, and he understood me — everything about me.

I wish I would’ve found Michael when I was 21. But I’m glad I found him, even if it was a bit later than 21…(I’ll not say how long).

Remembering all this is bittersweet now, of course. But that makes sense, as I am human. I miss my husband with every breath I take, and even if I am so fortunate as to find another good man some year who understands me and loves me and wants to be with me and is endlessly fascinated by me (why, I don’t know), I will never forget Michael.

I can’t. Not and still be the person I am today.

So, this week I will be observing my nineteenth wedding anniversary. It will be the seventeenth I’ve observed alone.

If you believe in such, please think good thoughts, say a prayer, or wish me well if you can. I will truly appreciate it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 20, 2021 at 8:58 am

Five-Year Anniversary of Pulse Nightclub Shooting…#LGBTQ

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Folks, I can’t let today go by without a mention of one of the most disgusting, disgraceful, and straight-up awful actions of the last five years. (Those years being full of such actions, mind you…but I digress.)

Five years ago today, forty-nine people in Orlando, FL, lost their lives while dancing and drinking at the Pulse Nightclub. They weren’t doing anything wrong. They were just out for a night on the town.

And a shooter murdered them out of hand, for no reason at all.

Edited to add: My first version of this blog post said the shooter hated #LGBTQ people. A friend sent me a link to this website, which shows the shooter was more interested in killing any Americans than he was about killing any #LGBTQ people. He also abused his wife physically and cheated on her, so overall he was a terrible individual. This makes his actions no less painful, unfortunately.

Back to the original blog post, already in progress:

However, I wanted to remind you of something else. The rise of human decency after the terrible shooting was something to behold.

I tried to depict this in my book, CHANGING FACES. A memorial walk for the folks who died at the Pulse Nightclub is the last major scene in the novel. My transgender characters Allen and Elaine, plus the others on that walk lived and walked in Lincoln, NE. This was done for a reason, mind.

Lincoln, you see, isn’t exactly the gay-rights capital of the world. But it is learning, and growing, and changing, just as the rest of us are. And there really was a walk there in memoriam for the innocents killed at the Pulse Nightclub, from what I remember…just as there were many other walks in many other places throughout the United States and the world.

Though it’s five years later, I continue to mourn the innocents who died at the Pulse Nightclub. But as one of the survivors said recently on CNN, “Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

I don’t know what the answers are, mind you. I only know the questions.

So, here are those questions.

For the shooter himself, who’s now dead (so I can’t ask him these questions): Why were you so intent on killing innocent people? What is wrong with you that you thought hate was stronger than love? Why didn’t you get mental health treatment before it was too late?

To those who hate LGBTQ people on principle who have somehow found this blog, I want to ask this: “Why do you feel so superior? Why do you feel you’re any different than anyone else? Why do you feel like you should make your viewpoint the only viewpoint? Why can’t you live, learn, and grow like everyone else? Why must you kill what you do not understand?”

We need to stop hating people just for the sake of whatever label they fall under. Whether they’re LGBTQ, Wiccan, conservative Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever, we need to stop the hate.

I just don’t know how to say it any better.

But if anyone has any ideas on how we can learn how to stop the hate, please chime in. I’m all ears.

———-

Even though this particular shooter wasn’t specifically looking for LGBTQ people (I believe the HuffPost article, along with several others I found after looking including one by NPR and another by the New Yorker), he was a horrible person and he did way too much wrong.

That this shooter’s widow was persecuted afterward was flat-out wrong, too. She had nothing to do with any of that. (I thought that at the time, too, but I didn’t say so. Bad me.)

Seems like there’s a whole lot of wrong in this example, with no good answers. (I am glad the shooter’s widow was acquitted, in case anyone is in doubt.)

The important thing now is, how do we stop the hate?

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.)

Who Edits the Editor?

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As I wanted to talk about editing today — especially since I’ve been doing a great deal of it over the past few weeks (thus almost no blogs) — I figured a catchy title might lure you in. (Did it work?)

Anyway, the question of “who edits for you, Barb?” has come up among my devoted readership. And as the answer is complicated**, I thought I could maybe make a blog out of this, remind you all I’m still alive and kicking, and help give you some idea of what I go through when I talk with my editor(s).

I am fortunate to have two very good mentors. Both are excellent editors in their own right. They are so good, that when I feel overloaded, I tell people to please check with them. (As they are both in high demand themselves, I am not going to name them. But trust me: they exist, and they’re damned good.)

Now, because I haven’t had anything ready to go for over a year, I mostly have just talked with my mentors over this when they have been able to come up for air. I trust them, I trust their judgment, and I believe them when they say something needs to be cut, something needs to be added, and/or something needs to be changed.

Because I can speak frankly with them, I try to offer the same level of frankness to my editorial clients. I want those who deal with me to know they can trust me, and my judgment, and be able to bounce ideas off me if they’re in distress…or even if they aren’t, and just want to chat about stories with someone they know who “gets it.”

But frankness does not necessarily equal bluntness. (Trust me, though; I can be quite blunt, when need be.) It does mean I try to give praise as well as criticism, and I hope my critiques are constructive rather than destructive. And it also means that I do my best to let my clients know I understand their stories, and what they’re going for; if I didn’t, how could I possibly do any good for them?

My view, as an editor, is to help my clients refine and improve their own work. I want them to sound like the very best versions of their writing style, in order to bring out all the specialness and sense of wonder they have in their own creation, while polishing up the various rough edges as much as I can without taking the freshness/uniqueness of their viewpoints out.

And what I look for in an editor, and have been privileged to find it with two wonderful editors who happen to be my friends, boils down to this:

  1. How well do they communicate?
  2. How well do they understand what I’m doing?
  3. How can they best help me help myself?

Ultimately, it all comes down to trust. Without trust, there is no communication; without trust, there is no understanding; without trust, there is no willingness to work together to find better solutions.

So I urge you, when looking for an editor, to find someone you can trust who has the skills you need in order to help you polish your work to its utmost.

And if you, like me, manage to find a good friend in your editor(s), so much the better.

———

**As I said, the answer is a bit complicated. I, myself, can look at something if I’ve had some time in between me writing it and me going to edit it and get the ball rolling. But unless time is pressing and my editor-friends are unavailable, I am going to ask one or both of them to help me every single time. Because I’m not stupid; I know I tend to see what I think is there, rather than what actually is.

And I do this for the same reason everyone else does. I have it set in my head that I wrote X, which means I’ll only see X. But I might actually have Y, Z, AA, BB, CC, DD, or something totally incomprehensible…which is why I, too, need editing. (You expected me to say anything else?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 4, 2020 at 5:39 am

Johnny Weir, Individuality, and You

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Recently, I’ve been watching the American version of “Dancing with the Stars.” I had stopped watching regularly a few years ago (though I would catch it if I happened to be near a TV and someone else was watching), mostly because all the storylines seemed the same.

But not this year.

Nope. This year had my favorite figure skater, Johnny Weir, partnered with a new pro, Britt Stewart (who’s Black, dignified, and quite talented). And the two of them danced like nobody’s business; they were a dynamic, engaging, and energetic pair that did more interesting things in ten weeks than I’d seen in the previous five or six years on the show.

Now, why do you think that was?

(I know I’ve been asking myself this question, anyway, ever since Johnny and his partner Britt were eliminated earlier this week.)

My view is this: Johnny Weir knows who he is, as an individual. And Britt obviously knows who she is, too. They both understood each other, down to the ground, and because of that, were able to work together and create some truly amazing dance routines. (Johnny and Britt’s tribute to Amy Winehouse, for example, was simply stunning. And that’s only one of the fine dances the two of them created together.)

“But Barb,” you say. “What’s this about being an individual, and how does that apply to me?”

It’s simple. The better you know yourself, the better work you can do. And Johnny and Britt showed that, over and over again, during this season on “Dancing with the Stars.”

You know, if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, that I am a firm believer in being your authentic self. I think it wastes time and energy that most of us don’t have to keep up a front. I also think the better you know yourself, the easier it is to get things done.

If you use Johnny and Britt as examples — and I think you should — you can extrapolate a little. For example, the two of them, together, were able to bring a certain style and verve into the ballroom. Johnny is more of an extrovert when he performs, while Britt has a quiet dignity to her. The two, together, were more than the sum of their parts.

And it all started because Britt apparently decided, when meeting Johnny for the first time, to use that uniqueness of his — not to mention hers (though she probably takes that for granted, as she can’t see herself from the outside anymore than any of the rest of us) — to create movement and magic.

Granted, if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Johnny’s been a figure skater since the age of twelve. He knows about movement. He studied some dance (though I think it was ballet) because that helped him express himself through movement on the ice.

And knowing about movement helped him a great deal, I think. It meant Britt did not have to teach him from Ground Zero.

However, it also may have hampered him a bit, because ballet — and the associated movements of that dance — are nothing like either ballroom dance or Latin dance. They’re not even that close to “freestyle” contemporary dance.

What that meant for Johnny was, he had to unlearn at the same time as he learned. And that’s tough to do.

How do I know this? Well, Johnny once said, about learning a new technique for one of his jumps, that he was “old.” At the age of twenty-five or twenty-six, he said this. (Chronologically, of course, that was just silly. But with the wear and tear of figure skating, I’m sure he did feel old.) And he admitted, at the time, it was not easy to unlearn the previous technique.

(I probably should say “jettison,” but learning is not like that. It stays with you. It can’t truly be jettisoned. You can only use it, or not, or get past it, or not. But I digress.)

So, Britt taught Johnny, as well as helped him correct various issues, and worked with him and his uniqueness from the get-go. (Maybe all of the pro dancers do this, but it seems to me as a longtime viewer of “Dancing with the Stars” that it was far more pronounced in Johnny’s case.)

Being an individual, see, has its charms as well as its quirks. You can do more, if you know exactly who you are. (Again, I think it has something to do with refusing to waste your energy on non-essentials.) Add in the fact that when you’re doing more, you are giving your all to it rather than holding some back to “save face.” And top it off with a good, healthy dose of self-skepticism, for that matter, as that will keep you from getting too arrogant to be borne. (That last has nothing to do with Johnny Weir or his partner, Britt, but it certainly should be factored in by the rest of us.)

Anyway, the points of this blog are simple:

  1. Be yourself. Be unique.
  2. Don’t put on fronts, as they waste your time and energy.

That’s the way to “win” at life, you know. Because that’s the way you will be remembered: as the unique, powerful individual you are, who touched many lives and did many things and knew many people and tried your level best.

Anything less than that just isn’t worth bothering about.

Sunday Musings: Self-improvement, One Day at a Time…

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Folks, I keep having one thought running through my head. And as it’s Sunday, it’s time to talk about it.

Too many of us coast through life. Maybe we take the easy way out too much. Maybe we don’t look hard at ourselves, and our motivations. And maybe–just maybe–we are the poorer for doing that.

(You know I think so, or I’d not be writing this blog. But I digress.)

We must learn how to work hard on ourselves, every day, and to become the best version of ourselves.

For example, if you are a great bricklayer, that means working hard every day to lay your bricks, maybe finding faster or easier ways to do it, or perhaps better materials with which to do it. The one thing you don’t do is to rest on your laurels, because once you say, “This is the best I can possibly be, and I can’t lay any bricks better than I’m already laying them,” that’s when your progress as a human being comes to a screeching halt.

I can hear some of you now, though, asking this question. “Barb, what the Hell are you talking about? I don’t lay bricks, so why should I care about the bricklayer?”

(It’s a metaphor. But again, I digress.)

See, the bricklayer in this example is doing their best to improve every day, and improving their art (of bricklaying, in this case) matters. It gives a shine to everything else they do all day. It gives them a sense of purpose, a sense of satisfaction, of a job well done. And all of that matters, because it all helps them to learn more, be more, and grow more as a human being.

But that’s not really what you asked, is it? What you asked was, “I’m not them, so why in the Hell should I care?” And to that, I have two reasons, one transactional–that is, do it because it will help you–and one that’s not.

The transactional reason is as follows: While you may not know the bricklayer, he may know you. And if you are rude or uncaring to him, or his family, or his friends, that will ultimately hurt your reputation and standing in the community.

But I prefer to use the non-transactional one, which goes like this: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (Jesus said that, and it’s the best reason to do things that I know.)

In short, we are all worthy of care. Because we are all doing our best to learn, grow, change, improve ourselves, and/or survive while doing all of the aforementioned every single blessed day.

As it’s Sunday, I would like to ask you all to do just one thing today. It’s a hard thing, sometimes. But it’s a needed thing, too.

Be kind to each other, even when you’d rather not.

What did you think of this blog? Tell me about it in the comments! (I like to know someone’s reading, as otherwise I feel like I’m shouting into the big, dark Void.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 8, 2020 at 3:42 am