I'm just coming down from three days of meetings this week, in Rome.
The best word I can think to describe those days?
Dinner the first night was at Campo de' Fiori -- historical site of executions and torture -- in the shadow of the statue of Giordano Bruno. He was burned at the stake for ideas that were "dangerous" and, at the time, heretical.
Maybe that set the tone.
Coffee another day was with a friend of mine, another writer, who these days is having a hard time making ends meet. He said that the flow of his energy for his work, the flow of blood to the heart of it, is slow. Very slow.
It is a very difficult time in Italy, he said.
(Has it ever not been a difficult time in Italy? I wondered.)
After that, the momentum for this metaphor -- of blood and the life-giving energy it is meant to carry -- gained steam.
Over another coffee, a different friend told me about an opportunity... It's a good opportunity, an interesting and challenging one, the kind I normally love. But there would be a lot of drama to it, drama that I know -- because it is a familiar drama -- would sap the iron out of the energy, of the blood, from the opportunity. I left the meeting not yet agreeing to the project, but already feeling anemic.
Can you really feel anemic after only a conversation?
Maybe my imagination was getting the best of me, I thought.
But then there was another meeting, this time with a very strong undercurrent of intrigue. Maybe he was telling me the truth but it was his version of the truth with many (many) sinuous layers of meaning hidden underneath.
As for the metaphor of this meeting?
The blood flow was clotted, hindered by the obstacles of multiplicity. I'd swear his skin seemed more pale, more lifeless, than normal. I left feeling confused. A little bit spooked. And exhausted.
I was rejuvenated, paradoxically, by a conversation with a diplomat. Even though they are extremely difficult things -- women's role in the church, sex trafficking -- they were at least concrete, tangible things and I can take hold of them, and take action, rather than play catch-up to slippery words and motivations.
Another coffee, a final one, was with an amazing woman, who is very young, with a spine of steel for the perfectly contrarian work she is doing. You have a sense, looking at her initially, that she is a lamb surrounded by a pack of wolves.
And guess what? The metaphor is here too. Those wolves think that they could smell her blood in the water. But she has a heart of her own, a powerful pounding one that beats for a mission. She survives. And so does the mission.
Yes, I am still coming down from these three days in Rome.
And I am carrying a question around with me, because I know that Rome can be a Place in the future of my life's story.
The question is whether I have the heart for this, for this Rome?
Do I have the reserves to replenish all this bloodletting?
Yes, I believe I do. I believe my heart can stand it. I believe my heart can shape that way.
The question is whether I want it to.