NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn beat the blahs by trying something new every day

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Television news reporter LuAnn Kahn walks the Ben Franklin Bridge. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn was all too familiar with feelings of despair.

  • Cahn vowed she would do something new every day during the year 2010.
  • Her new book on recharging your life comes out in November.

A LONE WOMAN stood in the middle of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge one frigid January day, looking down at the Delaware River.

Something seemed off to a police officer bicycling past, so he followed the woman. But this wasn't some troubled soul looking for a quick way out.

It was NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn.

And although Cahn, then 53, was all too familiar with feelings of despair, she wasn't suicidal. In fact, she was outside on that cold afternoon because she had been in a funk and had come up with a clever way to get herself out of it: She would do something new every day during the year 2010.

She did just that, blogging about it and writing a book, I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Every Day, which comes out in November.

Her task that blustery January day was to walk across the 8,300-foot-long span connecting New Jersey with Philadelphia. Even though she'd been in Philadelphia since 1987, she'd never done it. When that concerned policeman approached her, Cahn had been looking around, admiring the view.

"The irony was that I could never have been more in life at that moment, and he thought I was about to check out," Cahn recalled laughing.

We all get down sometimes, especially at this time of year when the days start to get shorter and old man winter starts to head in our direction.

In Cahn's case, the Columbus, Ohio, native had been feeling short-tempered and, well, stuck. The economy was in recession. Cahn was balking at technological changes taking place at work. She'd been at Channel 10 since she moved here. But the 1978 University of Georgia graduate was feeling old and out of touch.

"It probably wasn't clinical depression. I wasn't taking any drugs, and I wasn't seeing anybody," she recalled. "I was angry and just felt really stressed. I'm usually a positive person. I usually have a good outlook on life. I was coming home every day and kicking the walls."

"You know how it was: Co-workers were leaving, technology was changing and I didn't want to adapt," Cahn added. "I don't know if you call it depression. I just call it stuck and angry."

Whatever it's called, Cahn knew she couldn't afford mentally or physically to stay in that dark place for long.

Besides, she had so much to be thankful about.

Outwardly, Cahn had it all - a great job, a stable marriage, a beautiful daughter and a home in Bala Cynwyd. Not only that, she'd survived three major health challenges, starting at age 33 when doctors removed her large intestine because of ulcerative colitis.

Two years later, she beat breast cancer, undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy, during which she lost most of her hair. Cahn won an Emmy for her 1992 report "Breast Cancer: My Personal Story."

At 45, doctors discovered she had kidney cancer and removed a kidney and a rib. She recovered from that, too.

But in 2009, she fell into an emotional slump, and she couldn't get out of it.

"Days, weeks and months were going by and I wasn't appreciating and enjoying them," she wrote in I Dare Me. "I didn't want to get out of bed. I also knew being stressed and unhappy for that long wasn't good for my head or my health."

If you've ever been down as Cahn was, you know it's not easy to snap out of it. It was her daughter, Alexa Houser, who suggested she try some new adventures and blog about it.

Cahn wasn't sure what a blog was. But she listened. And decided to try something.

She kicked off 2010 on Jan. 1 with a polar-bear plunge, jumping into the ocean wearing only a swimsuit. That was huge - she's not much of an ocean swimmer.

Cahn can't skate well, either, but that didn't stop her from auditioning to be one of the Philly Roller Girls. She didn't make the team, but she had fun trying.

Some things she tried were small, like talking with a stranger in Rittenhouse Square. Others took more nerve, such as the time she slid down the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art after a huge snowstorm.

With her daughter's help, Cahn started that blog, oneyearoffirsts.com. She also reported about some of her adventures on Channel 10.

Slowly, she got her mojo back.

"Listen, if you are happy in your life and satisfied and feel like you are doing wonderful things, then great. God bless you," Cahn told me. "But I think a lot of us, at some point in our lives, get stuck. And that's where I was. I got stuck. I was very unhappy being stuck. And I kept waiting for someone to come along and unstick me."

That somebody was herself.

"This was self-therapy. I didn't know where it was going to go, but I had to do something," she said. "It really was transformational."

The day I met up with her, the blahs were behind her. She was perky and upbeat. As we chatted, Cahn and I walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge. It was the second time for her but a first for me. And let me tell you, making your way across the elevated pedestrian walkways that are even higher than the roadway is a totally different experience from driving the bridge.

I won't front. After we made it to the dizzying top of the span, my fear of heights kicked in. Yes, the view was magnificent, but I wasn't going any farther.

But standing there in the middle of that bridge, gazing at Camden and then back at Philly, I got Cahn's message: Try new things. You'll be glad you did.

 


On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

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