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Wide Awake: Taking the Plunge
I’m going to. Really, I am. (Pretty sure.) 
By Marianne Aleardi

I’m cold all the time. It doesn’t even have to be winter. I can be in the car with a coat and gloves on, and Joe will open the windows because he’s hot. I’ve even started taking a blanket with me to restaurants to put over my legs, because I’m tired of being cold all the time. So I am the last person you would find at a Polar Bear Plunge. 

But when you are reading this, which will be after Jan. 1, I will have taken the plunge or, at least, I believe I will have. What is scary is that, because I’m making the claim in this column, I have to do it. I’m putting the words out into the universe, so there’s no turning back.  

So at noon on New Year’s Day, I will be on the beach in Atlantic City, running into the ocean to help raise money for Special Olympics. And while I’m happy to support a great cause, that’s not why I’m doing it. 

I recently heard former newscaster Lu Ann Cahn speak at a Burlington County Chamber event, and that night at dinner I said to Joe, “I heard a speaker today who changed my life.” 

It was true. Lu Ann talked about feeling “stuck,” because she was doing the same thing over and over, and just wasn’t feeling the joy. I get that. I was thinking it was a part of aging, that you just get complacent because you’re accustomed to certain things – you have the same morning routine, you see the same people every day, you go to the same restaurants, and sometimes, you order the same thing at those restaurants. It gets kind of monotonous. 

Lu Ann challenged herself to do something new every day for a year and she wrote a book about it – I won’t be doing that. But I thought I could benefit if I did something on Day 1 of 2019 that would spark a change in my life, zap my brain into thinking, “Hmmm…maybe there’s a lot more excitement left to experience.” And maybe when my brain thinks that, I’ll start stepping outside of my comfort zone. Maybe I’ll do something I’ve never done before like learn Spanish, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe I’ll get really crazy and go to a new restaurant and order something I’ve never ordered before. The options are endless.  

Of course, I have to push aside the fear. I remember watching the plunge covered on the news in years past and thinking these people were crazy. I couldn’t imagine why freezing adults would run into the ocean in the winter. It seemed incomprehensible.  

But if I think about it too much, I start to doubt myself. Sometimes, I try to imagine standing on the sand being super cold and then running into the water. I try to take myself there in my mind – to see it, to feel it. I have found doing that is not a good idea. It’s terrible to imagine, so I make myself stop. I have decided my plan of action is to not think. Just keep going: put my bathing suit on, get in the car, drive to the shore, head to the beach, run in the water when the whistle blows. Don’t stop to think at any point.  

Joe is coming with me to take the plunge also, but he doesn’t have strong reservations like I do. Of course, he wears jeans and a T-shirt in 60 degree weather. And he frequently says, “It’s not cold,” which I find incredibly annoying.  

Lu Ann took the plunge to start her year of firsts. (You’ll learn more about her experience in next month’s issue.) She said that when she came out of the water she couldn’t get over how happy she felt, and that surprised her. Taking the plunge got her year off to a great start.  

So I’m going for it. I’m starting off 2019 with proof that life is challenging and exhilarating and rewarding and fun. I’m terrified and already cold, but I’ll be there.  

I’ll post on Instagram after I make the plunge (once my fingers defrost), so if you want to see if I really had the nerve, look for me @mariannealeardi. 

January 2019
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