broadsideblog

The view from the plateau

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, life on December 31, 2013 at 1:08 am

By Caitlin Kelly

As we head into 2014, the view from here is distinctly novel. Finally, after decades of struggle and toil — and thank heaven for some respite! — things are in pretty good shape.

It’s such an odd notion for me, to not have to struggle all the time. It’s felt like a default status.

When you’re as ambitious, driven and competitive as I am, there’s always some new mountain to scale, a new place I need to plant my flag.

I’ve written two well-reviewed works of non-fiction, which for many people is a terrific accomplishment, a mountaintop from which to enjoy the view. But being a New York-based writer means knowing people — some half my age — who have already produced six or ten books, or a TV series or a NYT best-seller or…

It’s difficult to just sit still and enjoy the view.

Time to try.

Evening view from Col de Perjuret on the south...

Evening view from Col de Perjuret on the south edge of the Causse Méjean plateau in the Cevennes, France. Panoram stitched from several shoots. —- (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our apartment, after years of waiting, is finally renovated and an absolute joy to come home to; here’s my blog post, with photos, of the big reveal of our fall kitchen renovation this year.

My husband still has a good job he enjoys, with no imminent threat of losing it, a very real fear we faced in the winter of 2009 when his employer laid off many of its staff. I have a decent list of established clients who want to work with me, even as I still seek new ones almost daily.

We’re in good health and have savings. We have friends. My parents are still alive and fairly healthy. We have no kids or grandkids or nieces or nephews to worry about, (or to enjoy.)

For the moment, (she wrote, praying for more of the same), our lives contain no sweat or drama or conflict, all of which have simply felt normal to me for a long, long time. Operating in crisis mode, as many of you know, is exhausting and distracting:

Between 2000 and 2012, I had four orthopedic surgeries, the most recent being the replacement of my left hip. I waited 2.5 years for the surgery because I was scared of the operation and needed to find the income to allow me to fully rest and recover for a month; freelancers get no paid sick days.

Between 2002 and 2010, my mother, (whose only child I am, and who lives a six-hour flight away), faced multiple major surgeries and months-long hospital stays, first selling a large house and moving into a small apartment and, on a week’s notice in 2010, into a nursing home.

I moved to New York in 1989, to face the first of three recessions since then; the latest one, reaching its nadir between 2007 to 2009, was a terrifying time for us financially, as it still is for millions of Americans.

My step-mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2006 and was dead within 18 months, dying on my husband’s 50th birthday.

So, for a very long time, life felt like trying to swim in rough surf — every time we surfaced for air,  we were thrown back onto the sand, coughing up salty mouthfuls.

Now, grateful but somewhat disoriented to find ourselves on a calm and quiet plateau, we wonder what our next steps are.

How does your life look and feel these days?

Are you looking forward in 2014 to some new travels or adventures?

Expecting or enjoying a new baby or grandchildren?

Coping with your first year of university?

Whatever it is, and wherever you are, I wish all of you  — now almost 8,800 readers worldwide — the very best for 2014!

  1. Wonderful to hear that things are going so well for you!!! You deserve this calm enjoyment!

  2. i am so happy you are on the plateau at last, you have earned it and deserve it. my life is quite calm right now, children grown, married, lots of babies, everyone healthy, job secure. my wish in 2014 is to find a partner to share it all with and i am ever optimistic. if not, i shall continue to enjoy my way though life as is ) happy new year to you and jose, catilin -

    • Thanks!

      I love the tone of your blog…It sounds as though you’re in a good place and enjoying your life in many ways. SO crossing my fingers for a lovely partner for you as well.

  3. As usual, I’m working hard at work, at school, and in my writing career. I also got into the study abroad trip to Europe to study World War II in May, and I cannot wait (or get enough scholarship). Plus I might have another book ready for publication in a couple of months, and despite feeling a little under the weather right now, I’m not doing too bad.

    • Europe! That’s fantastic. Congrats. I did an 8-month journalism fellowship in Paris when I was 25 and it forever (for the better) changed my life. Great news.

      • Thank you! I’ll make sure to learn a lot and take plenty of photos. I’m going to make sure the experience sticks with me no matter what.

      • Europe. Just the word makes me sigh with envy. I have no doubt it will be amazing.

      • I can’t wait to see it! A lot of ideas for stories I have take place in Europe, and a few around the time period I’ll be studying. Going there will be great reference.

      • Take a lot of photos for reference as well.

      • Oh, I plan to. I’ll be posting some of them on my blog in late May.

      • Where exactly will you be going? And doing what when you’re there?

      • I’ll be in England, France, and Germany for a little over 3 weeks in May for an intensive study of World War II in those areas. We’ll also be visiting other famous sites (I’m told the Globe Theater is a destination) and we’ll have a chance to explore on our own, so I plan on hitting up some museums, landmarks and a police box next to a railway station while I’m over there.

      • Hard to squeeze that much into three weeks. But it sounds amazing. It would be really interesting (if possible) to interview some WWII survivors firsthand.

      • We might just get to. I’d love to talk to them about some of their experiences.
        Until I leave though, there’s a lot to prepare. I’m taking four classes this semester in prep for the trip, and I’ve got to go to certain seminars and workshops for it. I’m applying for a couple of scholarships, and I’m putting in extra hours at work too! It’s going to be a long slog but if it all works out it’ll be the experience of a lifetime.

      • One of the most important things, for me, about being a reporter is seeing these things firsthand — and being able to share them with others who never will.

        Nothing could possibly have prepared me for seeing the Canadian graves in Normandy. I wept for hours. I had no idea what an impact that would have on me…Jose took me there.

        Here’s the post I wrote about it.

        http://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/thanking-wwii-veterans-in-a-wet-normandy-field/

      • I think we might actually be visiting these graves and others when we cover Normandy and D-Day. Thanks Caitlin. I might show this to my instructor when he gets back to campus.

      • Feel free…

        The graves are powerfully moving. The Canadian cemetery is not filled with white crosses — but white arched stones, each one etched with a maple leaf. The place is also marked with a grove of maple trees. That made it much more personal and resonant. We were there in November and the ground was carpeted with maple leaves — not a sight I expected to find there.

      • I bet. I’ll make sure to take some photos of it and send them to you, okay?

  4. Thanks for the great post. I envy you as a writer because you live in NYC and get to go places and work on different things. For me, writing is a very lonely proposition because I don’t need to do many interviews–just years of sifting, planning, and coming up with solutions. I can’t wait to get out and do something else. BTW, I looked at your rug that you got from Pier 1: Do Not Put in Washing Machine. It says dry clean only. I have had many of these rugs and one machine washing turned them into rugs of a different color bad enough that I keep them in the basement for emergency uses.

    • I enjoy living near NYC — never in it — but it’s very expensive here — $10 in tolls plus $25-50 for parking for one day’s amusement there — which adds pressure to my worklife. I have to grind out a lot of copy just to stay even, let alone make fun money.

      We have run our rug through the machine a few times. No one is going to dry clean it! It looks just fine after being washed.

  5. Reading this put a smile on my face! I love hearing when deserving, hardworking people, such as yourself, justly find themselves in a happy place. Cheers to what hopefully will be a good — even better — year for you!

  6. Good luck and best wishes. Your conservative friend. Larry lol

  7. I’m glad that things are going well for you. :)

    After a tumultuous, stressful year in 2012 which involved taking a year’s leave of absence from studying for my degree, 2013 was better and I am back on my feet. And I am back at university, in my second year now. It is hard work (I have exams next week and I am busy studying for those) but I love it.

    I hope that 2014 is a great year! Happy New Year’s Eve.

    • Sorry to hear that…better to have un-focused from school for a while and come back to it ready to work hard and get your money’s worth from it. My brother did the same when his mother was dying, and graduated later and has a very good job.

      Best of luck with those exams! I still (geek) remember several of my exam questions, decades later. Trauma! :-)

      Happy 2014 to you…

  8. You definitely deserve a bit of a plateau. 2013 was a year of accomplishing big changes, I’m hoping 2014 will see the next phase of some of those changes playing out successfully. I’m pretty optimistic about it1

  9. I’m so glad the drama in your life has cooled and you can just enjoy it. It sounds like you and Jose have set up a great little happy nest to enjoy. Close to the city so you can enjoy what city life has to offer and then you can retreat to the calm to recharge. I have a whole list of things I want to work on this year and just wrote about them yesterday. It’s kind of exciting to actually have a plan! Happy New Year!

    • Thanks! It does feel odd to not have to freak out over….something. I find myself sleeping more than usual…maybe feeling under-stimulated?

      I like our spot. We can enjoy the city but it’s always cooler and calmer out here, as you say.

      Best of luck with your plan!

  10. I really enjoy your posts, Caitlin, and the way you always end with a question for the reader. Continued success and unobstructed views from your well deserved perch in 2014 … Keith

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