"I'm almost home," I croaked to my mother, pausing at a stop sign in the cold, dark evening before accelerating toward my house. I pulled in the garage, assuring her that I would take medicine and drink lots of fluids and stay nice and warm. I paused to cough when I emerged from my Jeep, grinning when Chienne emerged from her dog door in a flurry of ecstatic whimpers and wiggles.
"I'll call tomorrow," I promised Mom, repeated that I loved her and disconnected so I could crouch for kisses and cuddles. "Hi, pretty girl," I whispered, hesitant to strain my voice. "I missed you."
The trip, while mostly pleasant, could also be called mostly pointless. I found myself following a boss up the concourse we'd descended only 26 hours before. We passed the same little restaurant where I'd eaten a very nice pasta salad and carried the same bags, albeit filled now with a change of dirty clothes rather than clean.
"It was a good meeting," my travel buddy commented and, after asking him to repeat it because I can't hear anything, I nodded my general agreement. The flights had been timely, the commutes with moderate traffic and the conversations had been lively and interesting.
Apart from the pressured air torturing my poor ears, I had coughed and blown my nose through half a box of tissues I took from the hotel. I slept poorly last night, waking myself with winces of pain from a stuffy head and achy muscles. I had to clear my throat before answering questions and offering comments during a Very High Profile meeting.
The one insight I found worthwhile was that I'd desperately wanted to work with pharma when in grad school and for part of my post-doc. I would have battled someone to the death with merely a spoon for a weapon in order to meet that group of people. Then I would have been too terrified of making a bad impression to say much of anything, avoiding the opportunity to make a good one.
I was unguarded yesterday, charming and smart and effortlessly gracing them with exactly the impression I wanted. And even through the discomfort of this cold, I felt professionally pleased. If only I could apply the same concept to personal situations. I find myself obsessing over every moment - wondering if I did something repulsive or said something offensive or made a poor decision. I'm exhausting myself, trying to sort out how to encourage men to do what I want them to do, and the worry weighted me on the flight back last night.
I always love returning home after a trip though, so my spirits lifted as I had a late snack, showered and cuddled with Chienne before nuzzling into my pillows and falling asleep. When I woke after midnight, I rolled over and coughed, finally sitting on the edge of my bed to let my legs dangle as I tried to catch my breath. I frowned at myself when I realized my mood was descending to match my physical state, so I came downstairs.
After a couple attempts at distraction - a book, blogs - I shrugged and reached for the bigger of the two laptops that sit beside my loveseat and began to respond to email that had accumulated during my short trip. My brain engaged, feeling busy and useful and, finally, happy. I worked for about an hour - answering questions, sending material, confirming details and approving documents.
"Now all you need it to get married and have children," my travel buddy noted as I drove him back to his car at the office. I'd told him how much I loved my job - how settled and accomplished I was in this role and how I was eager (but not too eager - I like where I am) for new opportunities. "You're great at your job. Your family is a few hours away. You're young and pretty and smart."
I nodded in amused agreement.
"That's the reason I started dating," I told him, reminding myself at the same time. "I'm very happy with my life in general. So any rejections or disappointments or worries should be quite bearable when put into context."
And, sometime near 2AM, it felt like that piece fit neatly into the overall puzzle again. I'm fine. I'm happy. And whatever happens from here - be it sexy or sad - will, at the very least, be interesting.
"I think I'll stay here," I told Mom when she called to check on me this morning. "I do want to see you, but I also feel like crap," I paused to cough and fetch a Halls. "So it'll be good to rest and catch up on work and cook chicken rather than turkey and just settle a bit."
"That's fine, princess," she replied, for she calls me that sometimes though it is mostly reserved for the tinier females of the family. "It's crowded here with Brother and his girlfriend, the girls, your dad, the cat named after a car. You and Chienne would add more confusion and if you're not up for it, it's better to avoid it."
"Agreed," I decided contentedly. And so today I'll take phone calls and devise an interesting menu for tomorrow. I'll shop for a few groceries and pack for my upcoming trip and sleep and bathe and settle. And I'll be properly thankful for the opportunity.