Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘meditations

A Writer’s Meditation: Can People Change?

with 2 comments

This is one of my more experimental blog posts. I hope you find it useful.

People change in stories. I love that about writing.

In fact, if there is no change at all in a story, there is no story. So you’d better have change, you’d better account for the change, and you’d better understand just what change is going to do if you’re writing a story.

But in real life, it’s a lot murkier.

For years on end, it seems like people don’t change at all. For good or bad, their situations stay the same. (Though the way you approach your situation can indeed change, as if you’re changing the lens on a camera to get sharper emphasis, the actual mess you’re in stays the same day after day, year after year.) And it makes it harder to explain their stories, because a steady state does not — in general — tell a compelling story.

Now, someone else telling you the story of your life as they see it may indeed be compelling. That’s because they hit the high points. They usually skip the low points, or maybe make those low points into something that turned into grist for the mill and self-improvement galore. (And as I’ve said before, it’s all grist for the mill.)

But how you see yourself? How you see the folks around you that you’re closest to? How you see the situations you tend to be in, and what you do about them, and what happens after you’ve done (or not done) those things?

In general, we tend to see sameness in ourselves. Because we want to recognize who we are, cradle to grave; we want to know exactly why we’re doing what we are, even when sometimes that’s impossible; we don’t want to live lives without meaning and resonance and value.

That’s sensible, too. It’s a good evolutionary strategy.

But it messes with the thought of change. Because we all do change in our lives. We learn things. We improve, or sometimes don’t; we take the experiences we’ve had, and use them as a way to give the framework of our lives more meaning, more value, and more understanding.

Or at least, we should do this if we’re smart.

But it’s hard. So hard, it’s much easier to explain when someone else has changed, rather than recognizing it in and of your own self.

And recognizing you need new and different experiences for self-growth and actualization is even harder, sometimes, because it feels like a betrayal of the self and a loss of the framework of the person you thought you knew.

Ultimately, I think change is going to happen. But it depends on how much you “lean in” to it versus opposing it at every turn. And it’s conditional upon understanding that you, yourself, are still a work-in-progress…

My view, in summation, is that people do change. But they don’t always recognize it. And when they do recognize it, sometimes, they don’t like it very much.

The good thing about that? When you realize you don’t like something, you can change it to better fit yourself, your values, and your goals. Or at least you can change the way you look at it, in order to find more peace with what you’re dealing with and less stress.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 28, 2019 at 3:15 pm

A Meditation on Hope

with 15 comments

This post may seem elliptical, even for me, but I hope it’ll make sense at the end. (You have been warned.)

Sometimes, I wonder about the feeling of hope. We need that, in our lives; we need to feel that whatever we’re doing will eventually succeed, or at least that whatever we’re doing will lead to ultimate success in whatever it is we’re trying to do.

And without hope, how could we get there? Especially as many things we try to do, such as write a book (or lengthy piece of music), require the devotion of many hours of hard and taxing work?

In the midst of such labors, maybe you’re like me and wonder if the feeling of hope makes any sense.

Is hope logical, in other words?

I don’t know if is. But I do know we couldn’t live without it.

Hoping for better tomorrows is one of the reasons the Founding Fathers of the United States drafted the Articles of Confederation, then the Constitution of the U.S. They thought long and hard about what they wanted — and didn’t want — in such documents, and realized that whatever they did (or didn’t) do, it wouldn’t be enough. Yet they had hope, and they persevered, and they eventually came up with those important, bedrock documents.

And in the Bible, many people lived in hope that God would show them the way, even if they didn’t necessarily always understand what that way was. (Many, many people did not recognize Jesus when he showed up, for example.)

Hope was the one thing in Pandora’s Box, too…the one, unstoppable thing that might make all the difference in the world.

When we’re at our lowest ebb, it’s hope that allows us to try again another day.

And it’s when all hope is gone that we slowly, surely, lose our place in this world, and wonder why we’re even here. And what good we’re even doing. And why we should bother to keep doing it.

But is hope ever truly gone? Isn’t there always something to hope for? Some reason to get up in the morning, and face the day, and smile?

I don’t have the answers to that question.

What I do have is the hope that I will find the answers to that question someday. (I know, I know; there’s that word again, in all its slipperiness.)

And sometimes, that has to be enough.

What do you think about the meaning of hope? Or about how elliptical my thought processes can sometimes be? Let me know in the comments!

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 7, 2018 at 4:08 am

A Meditation on Forgiveness

with 3 comments

Sunday tends to bring some serious thoughts out in me, so I thought I’d discuss something that’s been on my mind lately. Namely, forgiveness…why is it so hard, and what are we supposed to do when it seems nigh onto impossible?

I was thinking about something Jesus apparently said any number of times, as quoted in the Bible. “Go, and sin no more.” Usually this was after someone had asked Jesus to absolve him (or her) of a sinful action. (Sometimes, it may have been because it was expected of Jesus, for all I know.) Which means the people who went to Jesus were looking for divine forgiveness, just showing that forgiveness has always been somewhat of a difficult art.

I don’t think you need to be as good of a soul as Jesus Christ was to forgive someone, mind. But Jesus helps to point the way when times are hard, bad, and it seems nearly impossible to forgive. (Mind, my late husband used to make the point all the time that someone has to ask for forgiveness, otherwise it doesn’t mean much. Without someone asking, there’s no acknowledgment from the transgressor that there was a problem in the first place, making any proffered forgiveness a moot issue.) Jesus pointed out that we should do our best to forgive, and hopefully that person would “sin no more” against us.

I would imagine it wasn’t all that easy for people to go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness or any sort of help. People don’t change that much over time, and we’ve always been a stiff-necked lot, we humans. As affable, as warm-hearted, and as caring a personage as Jesus undoubtedly was — without those qualities, the Twelve Apostles never would’ve followed him — it still took courage for people to go to Jesus and ask for help, especially at first when Jesus was not known as a prophet, healer, or Son of God.

So, why did they do it anyway?

My best guess is that people, then and now, want to be absolved of guilt. They may have hurt someone, without wishing to do so. They may have coveted another’s wife or goods — in this day and age, we don’t seem to worry about that as much so long as people don’t act, but back then, coveting was definitely seen as halfway to action. They may have had a horrible fight with a loved one, and now want to know how to come back from that mess and let their loved ones know that was an aberration, something they’re going to try to get past…

Something they don’t intend to repeat, if they can help it.

Maybe they tried to go to the person they hurt, and the words came out wrong. Maybe the person they hurt wouldn’t listen. Maybe they were so injured in spirit, they didn’t hear the remorse…or perhaps the person now seeking forgiveness truly doesn’t know how to ask, so it came out sounding like mockery instead.

I don’t know about you, but I have tried to ask for forgiveness in the past, and that is exactly how I sounded. And I’m sure I’m not the only person among all the human beings who’ve ever lived on Earth to sound this way.

That’s where Jesus came into play. He was willing to listen, and people were willing to go to him and confide, because of two things: Sometimes, people are more willing to tell a stranger their troubles than a loved one, because the stranger doesn’t matter as much in the long-term scheme of things nine times out of ten. And if you’re lucky, that person you’re confiding in, that stranger, is a good person who truly wants to help you, and will point the way toward a better resolution for you and the person you have hurt without injuring your pride too much in the process.

See, that’s another thing about we humans. We are also a prideful lot. And half the time, we get our backs up precisely because of pride.

Yet another thing that gets in the way of asking for forgiveness is our unwillingness to admit to making mistakes. (As a perfectionist by nature, I understand this one, too. But we aren’t called upon to be perfect; we can’t be. As the old bumper sticker used to say, “I’m not perfect. Just forgiven.”)

So, we need to get past our pride. We need to admit to making mistakes. And we somehow have to keep from getting our backs up when we need to ask for forgiveness — or when we actually do our best to forgive someone.

Now, that’s the next layer in this forgiveness onion that makes it tough. Too many people say they’ll forgive someone, and then they mouth the words but don’t actually feel the actions. They don’t feel their heart get lighter. They don’t try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. They don’t try at all to do anything other than go through the motions, maybe because they don’t know that forgiveness is a verb — or at least, it should be.

So, if you decide you’re going to forgive someone — after they’ve no doubt asked for forgiveness — you need to make damned sure you’re actually going to do that very thing. It may not be easy. It may take a while for you to forgive. But you should search your heart, and your soul, and do whatever you can to empathize with those who’ve transgressed, because that’s the best way forward overall.

Anyway, I don’t know if I, or anyone else, can “Go, and sin no more.” But what I do know is that I can do my best to care. And try to rectify any mistakes, while being humble enough to admit I do not know everything and cannot know everything.

None of us can, except the Almighty/Higher Power. And that personage (of which Jesus is surely a part of) is not telling us everything, probably because that takes half the fun out of living.

And yes, making mistakes, and having to ask for forgiveness (as humbling as that is), is also part of living. So if you can’t “Go, and sin no more,” keep doing your best.

Because life, as we know it, is a work-in-progress. And we forget that at our own peril.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 7, 2018 at 5:08 am