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Something New and Different

You can’t just be you.  You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.

    -Mary Wells Lawrence, 88, advertising executive and first female CEO of a NYSE company

Research indicates marriages, lives, and relationships are enhanced by novelty and learning. We become stagnant and stale if new experiences and ideas are not continually introduced into our lives.  Newness creates excitement and enthusiasm with ourselves and our partners.  Novelty sparks passion – individually and with others.  It improves engagement and connection among couples and causes us to discover new things about our mates.

As human beings, we are wired to seek out security, familiarity and safety.   Known as the comfort zone, events and behaviors outside of this space may cause us to feel anxious or not in control.   For our bodies to grow stronger and change for the better, we need to continually stimulate and challenge our muscles.  It is the same with ourselves and our relationships. To expand personally, we must seek challenges and bring newness into our lives.  Making an effort to learn and try new things enriches our world and creates a feeling of contentment about ourselves.  And that feeling is contagious; it is catching.

In an effort to shake things up a bit for my mind AND body,  I decided to branch out from  my regular, and very predictable, fitness routine.   Since my cycling experience was limited to childhood and vacation-rental coaster bikes,  a spin class fell into the something new and different category.  The class proved to be an intense cardio workout with interval training, fun music, and an upbeat vibe.  I  felt great afterwards.  Not only did I do something beneficial for my heart and body – I did something good for my soul.  The  challenge of the new activity, coupled with the teeniest bit of adventure, produced a feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment.  Although not a large endeavor, I had tried a new thing, a thing I was uncertain about. 

Several weeks after my spinning debut, my husband and I had dinner with our close friends, Kim and David.  The four of us discussed the possibility of planning a trip together.   We all agreed we wanted a fairly active trip – we wanted to be busy, have fun, and learn history along the way.    How about we go on a bike tour?” popped out of my mouth, surprising everyone, most of all myself.  David, an avid cyclist, loved the idea.  If I was game, Kim was too.  My husband, mouth hanging open,  was just trying to figure out who this woman could possibly be.   With everyone in,  we eagerly began planning an adventure  completely out of my comfort zone.

Our tour through the Normandy and Brittany regions of France began with an orientation lunch in a cozy and warm French bistro.  Our Backroads guides, JC and Mark,  issued introductions and safety instructions to our group of 24.  And then it was time to actually get on our bikes for the afternoon ride.  In the pouring rain and dismal weather, things seemed harder than I imagined they would be.  When I admitted I wasn’t familiar with the particular bike or the shoe cages and, in fact, I wasn’t a rider at all,  I caught the look our guides exchanged.   JC and Mark thought I was THAT person – every trip has one.  They cheerfully asked if I might like to ride in the support van until the deluge passed.  NO!!!!! – I did not come 4000 miles to ride in a van.   

Trial and error and sheer grit and determination got me through that first afternoon – and the wonderful days that followed.  As eventual understanding of the bike’s gear system clicked into place for me, I found myself letting go and enjoying the scenery and the incredible experience.  We pedaled alongside fields of poppies and lavender and relaxed in idyllic French villages with coffee and crepes.  We picnicked on the lawns of chateaus occupied by German officers in World War II and walked on Omaha Beach, the D-Day landing site.  We shared cocktails and dinner conversation with our extraordinary guides and touring friends.  Avid cyclists and novice riders like me, our group included an amazingly fit older couple from New Zealand and a NYC physician who could sing every Hamilton tune.  Several had fathers who fought on the battlefields we toured.

American Cemetery- honoring troops who died in Europe in WWII

On the last day, after our final morning ride and lunch at a quaint country farm, the skies opened up again.  Many of our group loaded their bikes and themselves into the support van, finished riding for the day, and the trip. While our husbands continued on in the steady rain, Kim and I debated what to do.  We are good enough friends that we each knew what the other was thinking.   We’ve come this far – we really want to finish.  Surely we can do this.

Mont Saint-Michel

After settling people and equipment in the departing van, Mark, our hero guide, slipped into his rain gear and approached Kim and me, rain dripping off our helmets.  “Hey, I’d love to ride all the way to our hotel this afternoon,” he said.  “May I ride with you two?”   May he?!  Would he?!  Kim, Mark, and I rode the rest of the route that afternoon, all 30 more miles of hills and rain.  He encouraged and coached us all along the route.  “Just up this hill and then we will see a beautiful marina.  Around this corner is a spectacular view.”   Kim and I were concentrating too hard to realize Mark was, in reality, our babysitter.  He knew this ride was uncomfortable and uncertain for us, and he wanted to help us succeed.

The happy – and wet – riders!

We rounded our final corner and pulled into the hotel drive, beaming in the biggest possible way.  The other guides were waiting for us, clapping and cheering.  And there were our husbands, with smiles as big as ours.  Uncomfortable – check.  New and different – check.  Fun and exhilarating – check.  Feel good, feel proud – check.  Kim and I had ventured out of our safe zone and felt absolutely triumphant.   In the words of JC and Mark, “You can never say you are not a rider ever again.”

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“Something New and Different”