Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What the Heck Am I Doing?

Writers question themselves. It’s an occupational hazard. There have been times, since starting this blog, when I’ve questioned why. The whole writing about my Catholic life thing, which began for me 18 months ago, has been a bike ride on a winding road with pot holes. I’m never sure whether the detour I just took isn’t a dead end.

In August 2009, I started my first blog, “Why I Am Catholic.” My intention was pure, and the purity lasted weeks, not months. My intention was to explain, primarily for my loved ones and close friends, why I had converted and why, now that I was a Catholic, I was particularly happy. The problem was, once you've run through your top 50 reasons for being a Catholic, you start making stuff up.

It got harder and harder to do that. My eyes strayed from the prize. When Frank Weathers happened along and seemed willing to shoulder part of the load, I welcomed him with a long sigh of relief. Three months later, the two of us welcomed Allison Salerno. Another three months on, I was up against a deadline for the biggest paid writing project of my life and I stopped writing for the blog. After I had made my deadline, I didn’t resume the blog. Frank and Allison carried on, with success, and I am happy for them and for what I started.

By that time, midsummer 2010, Communion and Liberation (CL) was becoming central to my Catholic life. I was invited to write for a CL blog, Cahiers Péguy, and another one, Il Sussidiario. This was enjoyable. I even provided a couple of articles for the official CL magazine, Traces, and hope to provide others. So why break off in this new direction, a solo act once again? Why go it alone when the first time I got sidetracked and when now I have enjoyed the companionship of other CL bloggers and writers at Cahiers and Il Suss?

Writing is a solitary pursuit. It is a way of taking responsibility for one’s choices, for one’s judgments—ultimately for one’s faith, wherever one places that. Writing is often lonely, sometimes frightening, and always there’s the nagging fear of being exposed, of being a phony, of being caught in a trap of one’s own making. Some writers go plumb crazy, although only my wife worries about that for me.

Writing takes chutzpah, a perhaps unreasonable gumption, a damn-the-torpedoes, I'm-gonna-write-this-no-matter-what mentality. There are many things I want to write before I’m called away, and the only way to begin doing that is to start writing stuff now, lots of it, and to stop worrying and wondering how I’m fitting into a group effort.

Contributing periodically to a group blog, I felt hemmed in, a bull in a china shop. Having my own blog permits me to snort and paw the earth and knock stuff over—without compensation, but also without restraint. Launching into blogging eighteen months ago freed something in me, gave me permission to begin writing stuff that’s close to my heart. Now I’m going to keep doing that, or so it seems to me now, as long as God gives me the strength, through the loneliness, through the fears, and especially through the nights when I wake up at 3 o’clock wondering, What the heck am I doing?

What I’m doing, I guess, is trying to make sense of my life and of CL and of the one in the context of the other, and in the process to make my faith not a label I pin on my lapel with self-satisfaction but something lived, thought about, and communicated, daily and often.

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