“Getting into the stretch zone is good for you. It helps keep your brain healthy.
It turns out that unless we continue to learn new things, which challenges our brains to create new pathways, they literally begin to atrophy, which may result in dementia, Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.”
-M.J. Ryan, author of "This Year I Will...-
The July trip to Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake had been on my calendar for 6 months now. I was driving up to Toronto with my husband for his continuing-ed course on July 10--then on to Niagara on July 12.
When Son #2 asked me 2 1/2 weeks ago if I wanted to come with him to St. Louis on an apartment hunting expedition on July 10 (his date was unchangeable) I immediately said, "Gee, I'd love to, but Dad & are going to be driving to Toronto on the 10th. Sorry, can't do it!"
But, then I thought about it.
- "Habits are a funny thing. We reach for them mindlessly, setting our brains on auto-pilot and relaxing into the unconscious comfort of familiar routine", according to Janet Rae-Dupree in her article, "Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?"
- Wait--my super independent son wants me to travel with him to a new city--"Hey, we'll have a good time checking out the city," he had said. How often do I get a chance to travel 1-on-1 with my adult kids?
- If I were looking for an apartment in a new city I'd want a second pair of eyes, a second opinion before I signed on the dotted line. Why would he be any different? I needed to read between the lines here.
- If I could fly one way from St. Louis to Toronto (at a reasonable cost) before my husband & I had to drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake I could go to St. Louis with Son #2 and hunt for an apartment.
- New Habits: I can switch gears & change plans. It's possible to take 2 one-way flights on different airlines to get where you want to go & not pay a premium or surcharge. It's possible to change your reservations without a penalty if a seat is available & you're traveling on Southwest Airlines. I'm now a huge fan of Southwest!
Stretching in St. Louis.
- "Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try - the more we step outside our comfort zone -- the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives." Janet Rae-Dupree in "Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?"
- The plan was to stay in a hotel within walking distance or Metro access to any apartment Son #2 would be looking at. No need for a rental car--which was fine by me! I'm used to my own stick-shift Subaru (or my husband's). I don't like driving rental cars--I'm always the navigator when it comes to rental cars--my husband drives.
- The plan changed! We got the rental car. Since son #2 is under 25, I was the driver. Great! At first I couldn't even figure out how to move the seat closer to the steering wheel. I could move that darn seat every which way-up & down-reclining or straight-but not closer to the steering wheel. Before you think I'm a total idiot, understand that my car uses side levers, not hidden buttons to do all that sort of maneuvering. I didn't have "brain pathways" for seat buttons. I do now!
- Forget about the GPS! Since I didn't yet have the "brain pathways" for driving in St. Louis (and a whole interstate is out-of-commission) I decided to spring for the GPS to talk us through the directions. "Easy as pie"--plug in the address for the hotel & away we would go. Not so easy-the hotel had no address--really! I had Son #2 call & find out the address--and there really is no address. But we found it "easy as pie" by following written directions, and Son #2 turned out to be a great navigator. We couldn't even use that darn GPS to get us back to the Rental Agency because their street address isn't in St. Louis, it's in St. Ann. (Their own map had a St. Louis address) And the GPS can only find an address if you have the exact city! After 2 days of driving around St. Louis I was laying down "brain pathways" for getting around, without the help of a GPS. Got the hang of maneuvering around all the gated & blocked streets, the main highways, and I was even starting to like that rental car. Oh--here's another confession--I don't parallel park. Not a good skill to lack in St. Louis if you need to park in the Central West End. Son #2 coached me through this--and I did it! I definitely plan to add parallel parking to my "brain pathways".
- Old habits can rescue you. Glad I kept my old habit of always keeping maps & written directions in the car. I knew from past experience that Airport Car Rental Agencies are notoriously hard to locate, especially when you're stressed for time, trying to make a return flight. Glad I had a back-up plan.
- It's OK to make mistakes. You don't always have to ask for directions. If one thing doesn't work, try another. It's great to have a new travel companion, particularly your grown children, to shake up the status quo & to teach you a few new tricks. Son #2 taught me that you can learn your way around a city (or a campus) by exploring, looking around, discovering things for yourself, allowing yourself to make mistakes and trusting yourself to figure things out. I was starting to relax and enjoy being in the "unknown zone".
- Beware the herd mentality. Make your own decisions. More lessons from Son #2. Just because everyone is moving to one neighborhood doesn't mean it's the best place for you. Do your own research! Know your own priorities & do your own cost-benefit analysis. According to Dawna Markova, author of "The Open Mind", "..to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is alway exploring the many other possibilities".
- Stretching in St. Louis was a success!
Trying out new, awkward and unfamiliar activities--cruising in the STRETCH ZONE---that's where true change can happen. So jump in, make the leap and go for it!