So, I need a project. In all my fretting over what grad school was going to be like, I never fretted about being bored. (Which is the problem with fretting, anyway. Whatever you're fretting over is rarely what you SHOULD be fretting over, and even though I KNOW THIS, I fret anyway. AHEM.) It never occurred to me that I'd be wandering around wondering what to do with myself. I have my television, a giant stack of magazines, books, exercise and HELLO, I have THE INTERNET. And I even HAVE a project - about nine thousand things to learn to improve next year's Blathering website. (DORK!)
But Phillip goes to school at night, or he's doing homework downstairs, and I'm sitting on the couch not feeling my TV or my magazines or even (I'M SORRY!) the internet. I feel purposeless. Blah.
I started thinking about writing. I realized NaNoWriMo was around the corner. I thought, "Hmm?"
On Saturday I attended a Catherine of Siena Institute workshop called Called and Gifted. It was like career counseling for churchy people. What are we good at? What do we like to do? What things do we do that make us happy? Add up your scores and figure out what committee to join!
Okay, so not QUITE like that, although there was definitely some adding up of scores. No, most of it was sitting in these TERRIBLY uncomfortable metal chairs and listening - being taught, really - by the coolest priest I've ever had the pleasure to hear. And yes, I just used "coolest" and "priest" in the same sentence.
Dudes, this guy? Was like your favorite college campus minister (for those of us who HAD a favorite campus minister) in a Roman collar. This priest could hang with any of the [many, many] fabulous speakers I got to hear during my four years in Protestant youth culture; I'd even say he'd be near the top. He was probably in his mid-thirties and had the most worldly way of speaking... and I know that probably doesn't sound like a compliment to some of you, but BELIEVE ME. It was so refreshing. So appealing and CLEAR. Maybe I just haven't been around younger priests, but I WAS sitting behind two seminarians and even they, I think, were enthralled with (and possibly intimidated by) this guy. I'm awful at repeating other people's stories (I'm awful at MY OWN stories) so you'll just have to trust me that he was hilarious, but appropriately hilarious. Entertaining but with meaning. You know? It's not like you ever forgot he was a priest. And for a while I thought maybe he just appealed to my generation, but he made all 130 participants laugh in unison, and when I was leaving an old Filipino lady sidled over to me and said, "Usually I fall asleep, but not today!"
It was exciting and inspiring and such a blessing to hear him speak. And not just because the lady next to me referred to him as Father What A Waste. [The priest's gifts, as determined by a layperson in the second-to-last row: Leadership, Teaching, Evangelization, Using Snark in a Priestly Fashion.]
My "Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory" (SIGH) (I wish it wasn't so... BUSINESSY) (I mean, doesn't that name just BUG?) was, at first, not much of a surprise. I've taken enough personality tests (and lived enough LIFE) to know that I would get a running start, tackle The Gift Of Administration and kick all other would-be claimers as far away as possible.
But Administration was only my second highest score. My first highest score was Writing.
I know, I know that sounds like I Am The Best Writer etc. though I should think it's obvious that's not the case. It's more like... the potential to USE writing to glorify God. At least, that's how I thought of it. And that's why it was a surprise to me, because I have never really used writing in that way. I write the occasional churchy post and sometimes I write something that elicits a thank you email or two, but mostly I write because IT JUST COMES OUT. (Side note: long time friend said something like, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I just don't think I could... WRITE that much about my LIFE." To which I said, "ARE YOU CALLING ME A NARCISSIST?" Sniff! No, I knew what she meant. She meant, although she might not have realized it herself, that she is not a writer.) [Her gifts as determined by her old friend: Administration, Knowledge, Teaching, Leadership, Picking Out Way Cool Glasses.] But anyway, I was never one of those earnest girls who journalled (I have many journals, but they are all about boys, none of whom are named Jesus) and have never entertained the thought of writing as a ministry. A blurb about St. Anthony for the bulletin on his feast day? A reflection on the Gospel reading for the top of the worship aid? NO THANKS.
The presenter said we have the gift if, when we use it, we are energized, we feel we've found our "place", we are fruitful and effective without struggle, we experience joyful satisfaction and we are in the minority (meaning, as a possible example, that I am alone among most of my real life friends in wanting to write about my life every single day on the internet.)
I was hemming and hawing about writing as a gift, a spiritual gift, when I heard the priest say something about experimenting. Trying it out. Seeing what happens. And NaNoWriMo popped into my head again.
So I'm gonna. I'm not going to try writing something churchy, or something that *I* think would glorify God, I'm just going to write. If it's a gift then it can't help but glorify him anyway. I'm not entirely sure how teenage romance (I KNOW, HOW EMBARRASSING, you should see my father slinking away, hiding his face in shame, all "Why can't she just pound out a good sci-fi novel? If she'd only just READ the books I keep RECOMMENDING, she'd SEE THE SCI-FI LIGHT!") will glorify The Almighty, but that's all I've got right now. Unless you want to read about a SAHM with a husband in school and two kids fighting over their respective pumpkins OH WAIT. You're already reading that.
I am under NO impression that I am going to actually WRITE A FREAKING NOVEL. I am doing this to 1) attempt to get in the habit of writing (NOT FOR THE BLOG) every day and 2) stomp my inner editor to a bloody pulp. I swear, I have been writing the first 10 pages of a novel for A YEAR. I really love what my yay-you've-joined-NaNoWriMo email said: ...your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is
possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. And oh yeah, 3) experiment with this gift idea.
And while I'm not sure how much I will be writing here (my guess: probably just as much, if not more, hello procrastination!), I hope to have your support. I told some friends last night I was going to do this (that's another thing the email recommends, because potential humiliation is a great motivator) and they were super supportive and way more excited than I expected them to be. But they are also not writers. They don't have blogs. They don't spend free time dreaming up characters. They don't have file folders full of unfinished drafts and 10 page starts. I do. I bet some of you do too. And I am going to need you to dry my tears and mix me drinks. Deal?
My Spiritual Gifts Inventory didn't exactly help me figure out what to do at CHURCH, however. It did give me some language to describe my sometimes still-conflicted thoughts about the Non-Denominational College Fellowship (the institution valued some gifts over others! or maybe they wanted everyone to have the same kind of gifts! or that these were the best gifts! why else would they threaten hellfire when I didn't want to invite my Goth neighbor to the barbecue!] [well, not HELLFIRE] [you know what I'm talking about!]) I still don't know about NOW, though. No magic answer! Boo! Although, and this is true, I did have a flash forward of myself chairing the Yearly Ginormous Fundraiser Organizational Committee meeting at the Catholic school and my next thought was REALLY, GOD? THAT'S WHAT'S IN STORE FOR ME? BECAUSE I QUIT.
[My gifts, as determined by The Inventory: Writing, Administration, Intercessory Prayer, Hospitality. Not Discernment of Spirits, which, if you must know, was a MAJOR BUMMER.] [And also, I forgot, The Gift Of Parenthetical Statements.]