Special to the Weekly

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone can bring personal rewards

Posted May 22, 2013, at 9:10 a.m.

It’s been suggested that I must be strong or crazy to spend hundreds of hours supporting most of my 200 pounds of body weight upon the narrow hardness of a bicycle seat.

After consideration, though, my response is always that, although an office chair has more width and greater cushion, it can deliver its own degree of discomfort.

To be sure, biking hundreds of miles per week presents challenges. I’m thankful that my body has been reliable. I’ve suffered no injuries, and I’m not lame enough to have the pain alter my lifestyle. In fact, I was suffering a bit of tightness in my lower back before that trip, but now I feel stronger, rendering it as a non-issue.

Most of my greatest joys and challenges have been mental and emotional. Cyclists I’ve learned from who have biked such distances have alerted anyone who’d listen that most of the battle is internal. However, it’s where I’ve also experienced some of the trip’s greatest benefits.

A couple of weeks ago I arrived at a scheduled stop at a church in Millbrook, NY. The people in charge were kind enough to cook a meal for me and my family, after which I explained my reasons for Spokes and Jokes and how I arrived at the idea. I then enjoyed the opportunity to balance out the hour with some of my comedy and music parodies, which were well received.

After the show, I snacked while speaking to some who were in attendance. One of the ladies said that she felt bad for me when she considered that I had biked more than 60 difficult miles before arriving in barely enough time to shower, eat, and “perform for my supper.”

I understand the sentiment. However, the next morning I was recounting the story to Eric, a new friend from the church who teaches music to children. He suggested that we all “perform for our supper.”

That’s a great point. Although our employment choices offer their own occasional pleasures, our motivations for choosing our occupations are largely to acquire compensation of finances and perceived security.

I’ve held many jobs in my adult life, many that were relatively enjoyable, but others that I suffered through. The negative experiences of the latter were largely born out of my misplacement in organizations that assigned me to tasks that I was neither skilled at nor interested in.

So, although I’m “performing for my supper,” I am doing so by playing to my strengths. I love to meet people, and we’ve been able to stay in the homes of hosts so far from Maine to Virginia, learning about their lives and allowing them to take part in our adventure.

I enjoy biking, although doing so to the degree I am is a much greater challenge. Even still, I’ve met the challenges and have enjoyed the psychological rewards of overcoming difficulty.

I enjoy public speaking and have had many occasions to encourage people to both think and laugh, which is quite rewarding. It’s a special thrill to be enjoyed in that capacity in Maine, but abundantly more rewarding to express myself before strangers in unfamiliar places and hear their validation.

Still, the challenges remain. For some reason, the degree of difficulty increased once I rode into Virginia. I have no idea why this particular state owns the distinction of being the most intimidating yet, but once I got here, I felt very far from my home in Brooks.

To be certain, I was no short drive away from my hometown when I was in the south of Pennsylvania, but I felt quite a bit more lonely and displaced once in Virginia.

There are animals here that can scare and/or kill you, like snakes. Also, people speak differently. Of course, there’s the accent, but there are probably things you should and shouldn’t say based on the culture of the area. As much as I talk, I can be sure that I’ll end up saying something inappropriate.

Also, it’s very hot, and proceeding to Texas is not going to cool me off.

But there will be joys. In fact, thanks to making a connection by Facebook with the friend of a relative of mine, I will be spending my 40th birthday in Cookeville, Tenn. My hosts during that time, although complete strangers before we began communicating online, asked me if I would like a special birthday meal and a cake.

I affirmed that I would.

I could have said no, thinking it the polite thing to do after having already received so much help and support for this trip. However, I try to put myself in the shoes of the one that would offer. For me to deny the request would be to rob her of the blessing of being a blessing to me.

And that’s been another challenge of this trip. It is often too uncomfortable to make our needs known and to accept help from others. Through forcing myself to do so, though, I’ve discovered a greater level of relationship and had my heart changed.

And such reward is worth the nervousness I suffer from speaking in front of unfamiliar crowds. The vision, though, is that when all is said and done, the supper I am performing for will be delivered by a new friend and will be earned in the process of my efforts to live in the manner in which I am equipped.

And will also, hopefully, include dessert.

Chris Quimby is a standup comedian, author and graphic designer who is undertaking an eight-week adventure, Spokes and Jokes, with his family, cycling to Texas with their logistic support and performing in venues en route while staying in the homes of hosts across the nation. The family’s blogs of the mission can be viewed at spokesandjokes.com.

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