"I'm thinking of going to Rome for my birthday," I announced over lunch, satisfied nearly to smugness when my friends ceased nibbling dim sum and looked at me with surprise.
"Why?" PrettyHair finally asked. "Does the local team need to see you? Customer visits?"
I smiled and took a sip of jasmine tea before shaking my head. "I'm thinking of going for fun. Staying at an elegant hotel, wandering the streets and staring at fountains and buildings, drinking Prosecco and eating nothing but Italian food."
They stared at me for another moment (Sibling's husband took the opportunity to send a wink my way) and then Sibling and PrettyHair immediately began their campaign of strong support for such a trip. They have ideas of where I should stay and what I should see. And January might be a bit cold, but, oh, Katie likes the cold so it will be fine. And I could shop for shoes! Rome really is amazing - full of atmosphere to experience - and it's really a fabulous idea for turning 32!
I have been trying - quite hard, actually, so feel free to offer encouragement and congratulations - to nudge at the boundaries of my comfort zone. I am a creature of routine and relaxation in my spare time, but I'm taking stock of what I'd like in relation to where I am in my life and realizing the landscape almost sparkles with opportunity. I feel like I'm heading toward a spiritual peak on my continuous religious oscillation, my prayers coming a bit more easily of late. My family is good, though Mom is struggling with her breathing right now, and they will be coming for a visit this week. I'm nearly giddy with the thought of having my house invaded with noise and clutter and happy giggles and whining pleas. I am, quite frankly, amazing at my job, having achieved that delightful state where I'm comfortable enough to take chances and can watch people grin when I offer something insightful or witty during meetings. I'm liked. I know fascinating people and - due to being rather happy - am able to focus past what happens in my brain to what's happening in theirs.
To that end, when invited on a road trip, I happily accepted this time. Chicago isn't an impossible day trip from where I have my house, but I've always thought it more trouble than worthwhile. I'd have to get up early and wear something other than pajamas - perhaps even curl my hair. I wouldn't get my mid-day nap that I treasure on Saturdays and I wouldn't be able to putter with cleaning and catching up with work and running errands. And I enjoy that quiet after the constant conversation that consumes my professional life. Still, I told myself when Sibling issued the invitation, there was a tug of 'I'd like to do that' so I steeled myself against laziness and asked when and where we were meeting. (But I'm still Katie so I asked if I could not drive.)
I ended up curled in the backseat of a rented sedan and we chatted about dating and butterflies and overall compatibility. About small businesses and large companies and how it feels when you work at something and realize it actually made a difference for someone - solved a problem, offered an opportunity, helped them understand something that had been previously confusing. It was lively and lovely and though I was a bit 'Dude - what the hell?' about the length of the drive and the volume of traffic, I reminded myself to relax and succeeded at least a little bit.
We had dim sum in Chinatown, my repeated glares at the dumplings that dared escape my clumsy control of my chopsticks resulting in a fork being placed by my plate. I wondered briefly if I should be insulted, shrugged and happily speared my bit of shrimp and cilantro yumminess with my western utensil. We wandered around before piling back in the car and heading downtown where I complimented Sibling's husband for his driving skills and talent at finding street parking. He grinned at me and Sibling patted his arm affectionately, making me smile.
We walked and snapped photos, admiring the scarlet trees in Millennium Park and clustering together to take self-portraits in front of the jellybean sculpture (which fascinates me no matter how many times I see it). Standing before it, surrounded by friends, I blinked at the distorted reflection and wondered with some degree of shock when I stopped thinking I was ugly.
"How odd," I mused silently, cocking my head and watching my reflection do the same. "But how wonderful," I decided after a moment, smiling a bit harder when my reflection's lips curved, and tucking my hand through PrettyHair's arm in happy affection for my friends. We had churros (how I love the churro - all crunchy and sweet and delicious) and shopped at CB2 before beginning the lengthy drive home. I yawned in the back seat, listening to Sibling speak in foreign languages on her cell phone as I sifted through my thoughts and thought of the pictures I'd taken. I won't lie - I fretted over several issues and made faces in the darkness as I puzzled through situations that made my stomach hurt a little. Growing boundaries is important, but it results in a feeling of niggling discomfort for me. I need to pause and assess and see if I'm comfortable with the additional space.
Reminding myself that there was no pressure and that I could always nap on Sunday after church, I relaxed until we arrived at Pretty Hair's house where our respective cars waited, gathered my pretty purchases and waved affectionately before climbing in my Jeep and heading home. Before I drifted to sleep, Chienne behind my knees, I decided that in addition to my Sunday nap, I was also going to price flights to Rome. And see if I could quantify a cost that matches personal progress.