By Sandra Dee Owens
I am a 60-year-old hippie artist – in a casual relationship with discipline.
Running a high-quality, custom jewelry business for 40 years in the small, rural state of Vermont is very challenging, meaningful – and rich in personal freedom.
Fortunately, my husband Bill has managed our finances so well, that weeks before COVID-19 took over the world, we achieved a financial goal of zero debt.
But our business, like everyone else’s, took a major hit during the pandemic as engagement and wedding ring dreams took a backseat to a crisis – understandably so.
As it felt indecent to do otherwise, I did not send out a single advertisement, email campaign or social media post from March through May – and watched our biggest sales season slip by silently.
During these unprecedented months, my subconscious voice, (I call it my wild voice), quietly repeated the word “column” day after day. Unsure of the meaning at first, I trusted my inner advisor, and soon realized I was being shown something important – the pathway I had been searching for for so long.
For nearly 10 years I had been trying to write the book “Funology,” but it proved to be overwhelmingly big, complex, and, frankly, boring.
But now I had something I had not had before: time.
Time normally used to run our business.
So I took some time to consider my assets. What did I already have that would help me reach my goal of sharing “Funology”?
- A bit of writing/self-publishing experience (two tiny books)
- Bullseye determination
- Pen and paper
What prevented me from reaching this goal?
As a 36-year “disciple” of Funology (my wellness-lifestyle methodosophy (methodology + philosophy), I knew that simply telling myself I should be disciplined would not work. This standard approach to behavioral change had never worked for me since it lacked my “Trifecta of Motivation” – Adventure + Outdoors + Movement.
When considering any personal challenge – in this case gaining enough discipline to write a book one column at a time – I knew the best solution for me would be found experientially.
So, I took a job as an attendant at a state park. The first 40-hours-a-week job I’ve ever had, and one that typically attracts high school and college students during summer break. Nonetheless, I was outdoors and moving, with a daily schedule to adhere to, so I viewed the job as getting paid to take a class in discipline.
I lasted five days.
The first day I realized that an eight-hour shift is four hours too long. The morning flew by pleasantly, but by lunchtime I was ready to get on my scooter and jet.
Each day I embraced the newfound discipline of preparing for work and enjoyed the youthful, positive energy of the crew and leaders and hearing their college and career dreams as we cleaned the bathrooms, swept cobwebs, raked campsites and shoveled ash from the fire pits.
But the state-mandated, COVID-19 cleaning protocol meant each eight-hour shift was spent mostly deep cleaning the bathrooms, showers, grills and all touchpoints with multiple spray chemicals that did not pair well with a brewing lung infection that worsened with each shift.
After five days of trying to find a workaround to save my lungs, the crew leaders and I realized I could not safely continue, and, sadly, I handed in my navy green T-shirt at week’s end.
But in those five days, I got what I needed.
Experiencing the routines of a job, I felt a subtle shift in my relationship with discipline and, taking advantage of it, began a new ritual. Rising at 6 a.m., I putzed around the house and yard until 7 a.m., then set a timer for one hour and one minute.
Walking straight to my computer, I sat down . . . and wrote.
When the timer went off, I pushed my chair back and walked away.
I had gained the perfect amount of discipline I needed: one hour’s worth.
This daily ritual is delightfully short, pleasant and productive. In other words – sustainable.
The essence of Funology!
Joining in, my husband now heads to his computer to work on our deadly boring taxes and accounting – one easy hour at a time.
We both love the mental roominess—where all the shoulds, have tos and procrastination used to live.
Why the extra one minute on the timer?
This is our commute time, both ways.
Sandra Dee Owens is a custom engagement and wedding ring designer in the lower Champlain Valley of Benson, Vermont who is writing her book on Funology one column at a time.