Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘advice

Sunday Thoughts: Working Through Pain

with 6 comments

Folks, as it’s Sunday, it’s time for me to reflect on something bigger, something more profound…or at least something I usually don’t.

This week, I wanted to talk about pain, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. We all deal with pain from time to time in our lives, and it can seem overwhelming. And dealing with the pain is damned hard, because it takes so much of our energy just to keep functioning while we hurt.

I wish I could tell you that the pain will go away tomorrow. Unfortunately, I can’t. (Refer back to the apocryphal Buddha story of how everyone suffers in life for further details. I wrote a blog on this a while back.)

What I can tell you is that you’re the same person you were before, with a few more life experiences under your belt. And that none of us — not one, single, solitary, blessed person — gets through life unscathed.

But while you’re in pain, it’s very hard to function. Especially when the pain is new and raw.

All you can do at such times is take it day by day, moment by moment, sometimes even minute by minute. And remember that who you are at your worst is not who you are any more than who you are at your best; it’s all the places in the middle that matter more to you, as a person, than that. (Though of course most of us try to be our best selves as often as we can, that isn’t always possible. And we have to forgive ourselves when we can’t do it — while vowing to do better later, natch.)

My late husband Michael had a trick that I always attributed to his adherence to Zen Buddhism, in that he told me at times like this to feel the pain, no matter how bad it is, for ten minutes. Then, after ten minutes, tell yourself, “OK, self, I’ve heard you. I’ve felt this pain. Now I need to get on and do what I need to do anyway.” Most of the time, doing that will allow you to carry out the rest of your day unscathed; some of the time, though, you may have to repeat this exercise two, three, even four times a day, just so you can do whatever you can the rest of the time, and tell yourself that you have, indeed, heard and felt what your inner self is insisting you must hear and feel right now, thanks.

I know these tricks do help. They aren’t a cure-all, no. They aren’t going to make the pain go away. They aren’t going to make you feel that much better, either…because that’s not the purpose of the exercise.

Instead, the purpose is to help you remember that you can still do things.

You aren’t stuck forever, in short, unless you want to be. (And most of us don’t, though sometimes it does take a while to get through the pain. It took me nearly twelve years, after my husband died, to deal with the worst of it, for example. I still have moments where it seems overwhelming, even now.)

You do have options, even in times of great pain. There may not be many, and they may be just the best of all the available horrible options. But you do have a few, and you have to be able to look coldly and rationally at what they are, so you can make the best decisions possible for yourself.

As I’ve said before, you do matter. Who you are, who you want to be, who you’ve always been…that all matters. And what you do for yourself to create beauty, joy, and purpose is also incredibly meaningful.

These are the things that make life worth it, in spite of the pain. (Or maybe because of it. But that’s a separate, future blog post.)

So, do your best to look past the pain, if you can. (Can you tell I’ve dealt a lot with pain in my life?) But if you can’t, feel it as long as you need, and then go forth and do whatever it was you were going to do anyway.

That’s the best way to go, and eventually you will realize that you still have more to offer…even if it wasn’t quite in the exact, same way you’d hoped.

Advertisements

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 4, 2018 at 3:13 am

Be Good…to Yourself?

with 7 comments

Folks, I have been thinking about something for the last week or two. And I hope it makes some sense.

We see all sorts of bad stuff on television, on the internet, and any other way we consume media these days. And it can be hard to keep going. People dying in Florida at a school shooting (why, oh why?) is only the latest awful thing to take over the airwaves.

This affects everyone, whether you know it or not. People dying when they don’t need to is hard for society as a whole to bear. And it seems to happen over and over again.

So, why am I saying to be good to yourself, rather than all the stuff I normally say? It’s simple. I think in addition to talking to your legislators (if you feel the need), making donations to groups you support (including those supporting responsible and safe gun ownership), you need to remember to take time for yourself in your day, especially when times are hard or bad.

Most of us don’t do this. And then we wonder why we get worn down to nubs at the end of the day.

I have friends who have multiple jobs, and also write. I have other friends who are like me; they try to help their family members and friends as best they can, do their work, and cram in writing whenever possible. (Tonight, mind, I’m also cramming in a concert with the Racine Concert Band, another thing I enjoy doing.)

We don’t remember that we, ourselves, are the priorities in our lives. We think about others. We don’t think about us, because we’re taught not to, and the few who do seem to think about themselves at all are so blatantly narcissistic, any reasonable and decent person wants no part of that.

But there is a continuum, you see. You don’t have to be a narcissist to be good to yourself.

All I ask you tonight is, try to do something good for yourself every day, if only for five minutes. Listen to some music you haven’t heard in a while but you really like. Read a chapter of a book you’ve been meaning to get around to. Take a bubble bath. Go find one of those massage chairs (or ask a friend) and get your neck and/or back massaged.

That way, it’s easier to do everything else you need to do — including when you need to deal with bad news you’d rather not have to deal with (such as the latest school shooting) — with a fuller heart.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 20, 2018 at 7:35 pm

Time Waits for No One…

with 4 comments

Folks, I’ve had it up to here with mortality.

I’ve lost my husband. I’ve lost my best friend. I’ve lost my grandmother, my uncles, my aunt, and numerous other good friends way too early.

But I’m not the only one.

Other friends of mine have lost sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, best friends, you name it.

We’re all here for a short time. I’m not entirely sure what we’re supposed to do with that time, other than love one another and develop our gifts and talents as much as we possibly can.

So please, remember that time doesn’t wait for anyone.

That’s why you have to make the most of today.

Don’t wait. Use your talents, use your mind and heart and body and spirit, and cherish your family, your friends, and all your loved ones as much as you possibly can.

Do everything you can to make a positive difference, while you still have time. Don’t let anyone put you off; don’t let anyone tell you that the small things you can do on your own won’t ever matter.

Because that is a lie. And you need to remember that.

Mind you, there’s a lot about life that really frustrates me. But one thing I know is true:

Time waits for no one.

So do your best today. Love your best today. Create your best today.

And never stop trying, loving, or creating. (Because the day you stop is the day you lose. Guaranteed.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 6, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Encouragement: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore? #InspirationalStuff

with 2 comments

As a writer, sometimes I need encouragement. Advice. Support.

And, like most of you, I don’t always get it.

So what can I do on days when I don’t feel encouraged?

Usually, I just put my mind to the task and do it anyway. But lately, I’ve been wondering this question: What if I tried to encourage myself, rather than tear myself down?

Why is it that we feel like there’s something wrong with self-encouragement? Why can’t we treat ourselves as gently as we’d treat our friends? Why can’t we give ourselves the encouragement we need, when no one else is doing it?

Interesting concept, no?

But how do you go about all that, when you don’t even know where to start?

Like I said, my tendency is to realize I’m not going to be encouraged, and just go and do it anyway. So what I do is look over what I have of my work-in-progress. Sometimes I add a little here, take a little out there… Then I get an idea, and I’m off to the races.

Even so, wouldn’t it be easier if, just for today, I told myself what I’d tell my friends?

So here’s what I want to tell you, if you’re feeling discouraged today:

  • Keep trying. You have a good idea. You just have to trust yourself.
  • Don’t give up. You’ve worked too hard for too long on this project to let a moment of discouragement derail you.
  • Believe in yourself. You can do anything you put your mind to, if you just keep going.

And if you still feel discouraged — if the above does not help you, because you’re ill or feeling tired or have physical limitations (all things I completely sympathize with) — I want to tell you this:

I, too, have days where, due to my physical limitations and other health issues, I must rest.

I hate those days, but they are necessary. They recharge my batteries, so I can come back stronger and better, more able to take on the challenges in my current work-in-progress, more willing to keep fighting.

Also, inability is not at all the same thing as unwillingness. It’s one thing to be unable to do something today. It’s another thing to be unwilling to do it.

That’s why I am a big advocate for listening to your body. If it says, “No,” go rest. If it says, “Maybe,” give it a try. You might just surprise yourself.

So, when you need encouragement, refer back to this blog. And remember to treat yourself gently, the way you would a friend.

It might just help you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm