By Sandra Dee Owens
Do you know what motivates you?
Through a series of mental growth spurts, I discovered that adventure is highly motivating for me while telling myself I “should” do something is not.
Below is the true story of one of those mental growth spurts.
In the days and weeks leading to my 50th birthday, I heard my subconscious voice (what I call my “wild voice”), repeat the word “significant” over and over. The tone was pleasantly undemanding and gentle – like a call to attention.
Though attentive to this well-meaning, inner advisor, the ever-present voices, (what I call “the gremlins”) of “should,” “fear,” “later,” “can’t” and “what-if!” had dominated my conscious mind for over four decades – and were a slow habit to break.
Are you in a long-term relationship with “the gremlins”?
I observed that the more attention I gave the gremlins, the stronger they became. Even still, I brushed off the benevolent tap on the shoulder from my wild voice.
Because I was busy listening to the gremlins.
However, my wild voice was persistent, and finally, the day before my 50th birthday, I growled back “Fine, you win! I hear you: There is something significant about this birthday!”
And suddenly, my dismissive annoyance melted, and I saw clearly that I was being given a gift. A gift I could choose to honor – or ignore. Feeling the gremlins diminish ever so slightly, I chose to honor the gift.
Packing my car for a solo trip, I drove across Vermont, New Hampshire into Maine, heading to the coast with a bit of camping gear, a pen and some paper, prepared to begin “that book.” The book I had been thinking about writing . . . since the second grade.
Driving north along the coast, I scouted for seaside campgrounds or a quiet motel. Spotting a row of seven, colorfully animated cottages from a bygone era, I drove down the frost-heaved driveway to the Snow White Motel.
Parking in the vacant lot behind the dirt-filled swimming pool, I hoped the place was still open as I loved the creepy, colorful silence of the place; just right for my writing adventure, I thought.
It took some time to draw the reluctant owner out of his cabin but delightedly, I had the pick of the cottages, and I chose “Happy.”
Setting my pen and paper on the tiny, rickety desk, I prepared to begin writing – tomorrow.
Have you ever wanted to do something, but found yourself procrastinating instead? Have you ever wondered why?
Glancing at the desk the next morning, I felt a mixture of anticipation and . . . procrastination, as I stepped outside to greet the sunrise.
Spotting a teensy tiny two-wheeled bicycle with colorful handlebar streamers, I approached the motel owner and asked if I could borrow it for the day.
He snort-chuckled and asked, “Want me to take the training wheels off?”
“Good idea,” I said.
Riding south along the coast, my knees banging against my chin and chest, I went for a swim, ate scrumptious whole belly clams and nodded up at adult cyclists whizzing past.
At sundown, I pedaled hard up the last hill and turning in at the Snow White Motel sailed over the frost heaves and parked the bike.
I had ridden 22 miles on that tiny bike and was reminded that my style of adventure is rarely comfortable.
“Tomorrow.” I thought glancing sideways at the unmoved pen and paper on the desk as I dropped with giggles onto Happy’s bed.
The next morning, I slid past the desk without looking and standing in the first sunbeams of the day, noticed a worn path to the community lobsterman’s pier. Watching the morning work rituals, I observed a father and son move about their well-rehearsed tasks, engaged in the love-hate banter of a family business.
I approached and told them I was writing a book about experiences and would love to spend a day working on their boat. Hoping to be included, they said yes and showed me how to use the tool for adding rubber bands to the lobster’s claws – hoping for entertainment as I would likely get nipped by the unwieldy, clacking claws of the lobsters they brought up.
As weathered as the coast they worked in, Paul drove the boat while his son Ray manned the ropes and traps with impressive skill and finesse – embedded from childhood no doubt.
At lunch, Paul cut the diesel motor and handed me one of the best sandwiches I had ever had: rock crab on Wonder Bread. I was touched by his generosity and delighted in their tales of nighttime thieving tourists and shuddered at the recounting of lobstering in the brutal cold of a Maine coast winter.
Taxiing through the buoys at the end of the day, Paul and Ray invited me to their home for dinner. Parading their wives and children out to meet me, they sat me down to a mountain of fresh lobster, sweet corn and bowls of hot butter.
Back at the dwarves’ cottage that night, awake with the richness of the day, I realized these men had shared the very best of everything they had with me.
I vowed that Paul and Ray would be in the book I was going to start writing – tomorrow.
And so it went, day after day.
Driving home at the end of the week, I realized I had not written a single word – choosing adventure over writing every time.
But I learned something significant on that trip.
I learned that adventure is highly motivating for me, and telling myself I “should” do something is not.
Back in my jewelry studio, I created individual paper letters, S, H, O, U, L, D, and tossed them on the floor, picked up my broom and swept “SHOULD” out!
Then I wrote/illustrated/published a tiny book about it and repeated it with the book “Fear” after another mental growth spurt a few years later. It felt great to shift my relationship with these powerful gremlins!
This year, in the days and weeks leading to my 60th birthday, I heard my wild voice quietly repeat the word “column,” and this time I listened.
And just like that, Paul and Ray are in the book I am writing – one column at a time.
For more information on Sandra Dee Owens visit sandradeeowens.com.