Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘frustration

Thoughts on Regret

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

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

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

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

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

And I do know better than that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by Barb Caffrey

September 26, 2018 at 2:00 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

Frustration as ICE Detains Families at Border, Separates Children from Parents

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Most of this past week, I’ve struggled to put into words just how frustrated I am by what I’ve seen regarding what ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is doing at the United States border. And while I’m still not sure I have the words, the time has come for me to do my best anyway…so here goes.

The current Presidential administration of Donald J. Trump has put a premium on keeping refugees out of the United States, including those seeking asylum legally. And one of their most potent weapons toward this is the current ICE protocol that says children should not be kept with their parents or families; instead, they should be separated out. And put into confinement.

It’s almost as if these kids, who did not and certainly could not have crossed the border on their own, are being punished with jail. And that is inhumane.

Worse yet, there have been reports of children being ripped from their mothers’ arms, including at least one child who’d been breastfeeding.

(I don’t know what is worse than that, considering we are all supposedly civilized here in the Western World.)

This has happened whether the people coming in are legal (seeking asylum) or illegal, according to most sources I’ve heard or read about. And it’s being used as a sort of negative reinforcement, in the apparent “hopes” of keeping refugees out of the U.S.

Thinking about this sickens me. But I feel I cannot look away, either, because if I bury my head in the sand, I feel as if I’m silently assenting to such horrific treatment — and that I absolutely, positively refuse to do.

Yes, immigrating to the United States should be considered a privilege, and not a right. Yes, it should be done legally.

But how does it help anything to separate children from parents? Especially when you’re talking about children under five (or worst of all, infants under the age of two)?

That’s a bureaucratic nightmare. Because those kids can’t tell you who their parents are. They can’t tell you their own names, in some cases (especially if they’re under the age of two). They don’t have any idea where they came from, except “there,” and they have no idea where they are now, except “here.”

Keeping these kids with their parents should be the priority, not the reverse. Even if the parents and kids get sent back because the parents were trying to enter the US illegally, at least they are still a family, are still together, and can make their way back at the same time. And they’ll know where everyone is the whole time.

Now, I ask you: Why would anyone think that separating parents from their children is a good idea?

Put yourselves in this situation, if you would. Think of yourself at age four or five. The world is a huge, scary place. You don’t have any idea where things are or who most people are, except for your own parents and maybe a few of your cousins or aunts. And you’ve just traveled somewhere (we’ll say, for the purposes of discussion, Guatemala) for the first time, going into the unknown…and then someone takes your parents away and you’re left alone?

Do you honestly think you’d be happy? Especially if they put you behind a bunch of barbed wire with a whole lot of other kids of various ages? And you had no idea what to do next, much less where your parents are?

So, if you’d not be happy with some other country doing this to you, why do you think these parents should be happy with the US as it’s done to them?

Somehow, we citizens of the US must rise up and say, “No.” And insist these kids and parents be reunited. Because kids in tent cities, by themselves, with barbed wire around as if they’re criminals, is just wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong.

We have to be better than this.

Really.

Thoughts in the Stressful Mist

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Folks, it’s March 1. We’ve had fog on and off where I live for a few days now, and tonight we’re supposed to have rain, sleet, and snow.

I say all this because that’s “the mist,” though there’s also a metaphorical mist, too. (I call this “the mood of the area,” not just of me.)

And I have to deal with both mists, or I can’t function.

We all do this, mind. We all have to deal with weather, and whatever life events are happening around us, and try to do it with equanimity. (Or at least not screaming, as that is considered bad form.)

So, how are we supposed to keep going when we’re under immense and enormous stress? And how can we remember that we, too, are worthwhile souls, no matter whatever is going on around us?

What I try to do is take it moment by moment. One thing at a time, one moment at a time, and one thought, even, at a time: Focus. Be concerned, yes, about whatever is troubling you.

But don’t let it consume you.

Sometimes I observe this better in the breach than in its keeping, of course. I’m human. I have bad days. And on those days, I have to remember that things can change on a dime — and that good days are assuredly ahead, whether I can see them or not.

If things feel like they’re overwhelming (and if you’re anything like me, they often do), try to take a breath. Then take another. And a third.

After that, take whatever tasks you have in front of you in their order of importance. (If you’re really feeling terrible and can’t figure out what the order of importance actually is, take the easiest and/or quickest first.) And go slowly; remember that you aren’t at your best, but you are trying. That does matter.

And that you, too, do matter.

Otherwise, also remember this: No matter how close the relationship, if someone treats you badly, you do not have to put up with it. You should try, at least once, to say you do not like this behavior and wish the person would change it…but if it’s something that either can’t or won’t be changed, you have a decision to make.

Only you can make this decision. But you need to remember that refusing to make a decision is also — wait for it — a decision. (Odd, huh?)

Anyway, whatever mist surrounds you — that of overwork, extreme stress, bad health, bad weather, or anything else that is getting in your way — try to remember as best you can that it will pass. No matter how bad it is, it won’t last forever…

And you need to make sure that you, yourself, are still there for the better days ahead. (OK?)

 

Communication — Not Just for Breakfast Anymore…

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Folks, I keep thinking about communication. What does it mean, and how can we improve it?

Communication, to me at least, means that someone is saying to me, “I am listening. I am paying attention to what you’re saying. What you are talking about matters even if I don’t understand it, but I do want to understand.”

We see a real dearth of communication these days, and not just in our personal lives. (The lack of communication in Washington, DC, these days is startling. Even by non-communicative DC standards.) And yet, no one seems to know how to improve it, to make things any better…and the bad communication (or worse, complete lack of communication whatsoever) just keeps going on and on, dragging down everything it touches.

If you are having communication problems with someone else, try to listen. If you can’t do that because you are swamped with work, at least tell that person you will listen as soon as you can and that you do care. (Yeah, is this a personal message to someone? Maybe. But maybe not. There are a lot of people in my life I’d tell this to, if I could get them to sit down and listen.) And then, make some time and listen. Don’t judge — listen.

Communication isn’t just for breakfast anymore. (Who knew?)

Anyway, the only way to fix bad communication is to actually try. Refuse to be afraid of confrontation; just make sure that you are as respectful and calm as you can be, or if you can’t be either, apologize for your lack of same and then get on with trying to understand each other.

This is harder to do with some than others, granted. But if you are friends, or family, or have common interests, or work together, you have to try to do this even when you don’t want to, or the problems that will result from same will just keep snowballing…

And there is no point to that. At all.

***Note: I am fortunate that nearly everyone I know can and does communicate. But my goodness. I am tired of the non-communication in this world…beyond tired. Thus, this post.

Dealing with Disappointment, Part the Nth

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Folks, I know I’ve written about dealing with disappointment before. It’s one of those fundamental things that everyone has to face from time to time; we will be disappointed in something, even if it’s something tangential to us like the performance of our favorite sports team. (I’m looking at you, Milwaukee Brewers.)

Right now, I’m feeling discouraged, disappointed, however you want to put it, in nearly every aspect. And it’s hard to create that way; it’s hard to even function.

My energy level is not there, and I’m fighting hard to get it back. (Yes, my doctor knows about this. I get to see her soon.) My drive is not there, either…it’s almost as if I’m having a life crisis (I won’t say “mid-life crisis,” as I have no idea how long anyone will live, much less me).

So, what can I do about it?

Mostly, I remind myself that today may be bad, yesterday may have been bad, too, but tomorrow can still be different.

Yeah, I may never be known as a writer. (I knew that when I got into this field.) All I can do is control what I can, which is to write the books I feel compelled to write, keep working on my craft, and hope I touch at least a few folks with my stories so they’ll maybe remember them past the moment they’re read and consumed.

So, even though today’s one of those days that turning my face to the wall seems like the right action, I’m not going to do it.

Nope.

Instead, I’m going to keep trying, even if it’s slow; even if I have to rest more; even if I need to take more breaks; even if I have to adjust my diet again and cut out every processed food (I hope I don’t have to go that far, but it may come to that)…and I’m going to try to keep my friends in the loop, ’cause that’s important.

So, I deal with disappointment, roughly, by trying to get through it and remembering we all have days like this.

And so long as I keep trying, I cannot fail…because I refuse to allow myself to fail.

How do you deal with it? What tips and tricks would you like to share?

Tell me in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Holidays, Grief, and Disappointment

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Folks, as we all know, the holidays are upon us.

As I have written before (most recently last year, here), this is an awful time of year for anyone who has suffered losses. You can’t help but think about those you miss, especially when you have happy memories of better days when they were alive, well, and completely themselves.

I don’t have the answers for how to deal with this, despite having to deal with it for so long. As time passes, I know I’ll be grieving more and more people, and that’s the way life works — some of us keep going, and remember those who have passed before us, and try to honor their memories as best we’re able.

But that doesn’t make it easy.

In addition, because this is a highly-fraught time of year, any disappointment you receive at this time seems magnified. By a hundred, maybe, or even a thousand…it’s an illusion, mind, borne of the fact that you’re probably already under stress for various reasons, you’re expected to be “happy happy, joy joy” all the time at this time of year, and maybe you’re expending energy you didn’t realize you were using to stay on an even keel.

When I’m disappointed, whether it’s in someone else, myself, the world at large, whatever, I try to take a step back. Will this matter in a week? Will this matter in a month? Will this matter in a year?

If the answers to all of those questions are “no,” it’s a little easier to push past the disappointment.

“But Barb,” you say. “What is it about this time and people getting on each other’s nerves?”

Believe me, I wish I knew.

What I do know is that I try hard not to get upset by what other people do. Sometimes I observe this more in the breach than in its keeping, but I honestly do try.

OK, not everyone is going to be be what you want them to be. (Maybe no one is. Maybe you, yourself, aren’t, either.) Maybe you don’t have the life you want. Maybe nothing went right for you this year. And maybe, just maybe, you are having trouble hoping that tomorrow will be better than today.

That is normal, human, and you have to realize that other people feel the same damned thing.

So, yeah. This time of year is very hard for me. I feel almost as if I’m a chronic observer rather than completely in the mix of life and all its pleasures (and annoyances), and that’s only partly because I’m a writer and my observational skills have been heightened by years of practice.

All I can do, quite frankly, is endure the holidays. Get past them. And hope that 2017 will be a whole lot better than 2016.

Anyway, may we all treat our loved ones, friends, and co-workers gently at this time of year, and throughout the year…and may we all be richly blessed, one way or another.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 22, 2016 at 11:32 am