Renewal Through Disruption

Disruption is good for the soul. In yoga, inversions and backbends can be scary or confusing at that transition point when they flip our perspective, and that’s part of their value. I seek disruption in everything from handstands to migrating across the country seasonally. The process of packing and leaving and resettling and coming back and doing it again never gets easy, but it in itself it does me good. Not just the travel, but the upheaval. The process always reminds how little stuff I really need.

The disruptions we don’t choose are different from the ones we seek. I wonder if I’m unconsciously trying into stay in shape for the unexpected, like keeping air in an emotional spare tire. Fiction centers on disturbances that knock characters’ lives off balance. Love, death, illness, loss, success, relocation, a new neighbor—every story begins with a disturbance. It may end up being the central theme of the story, or it may be the first raindrop in a flood of challenges. Characters’ attempts to handle these shake-ups determine the plot. Some are damaged by the events that up-end their lives. Others are strengthened as well as wounded. As a reader I tend to identify with characters whose resilience is imperfect, people who can handle some difficulties better than others.

One of my favorite mystery series is Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series. Anna can handle the hardships of nature and of law enforcement work in the national parks sometimes better than she can cope with her inner life. She’s tough, and then her flaws and weaknesses make her whole and sympathetic. I root for her to get through all of the obstacles, internal and external. I discovered Barr, as I have many of my favorite mystery writers, through an audiobook I checked out for one my Southeast to Southwest journeys. (I prefer the excitement on the interstate to be fictional, and the trip itself uneventful.)

A few months ago at a party a friend who had just discovered Tolkien said his favorite line by this author was the same one that I had noticed years ago. I’m not sure if it’s in The Hobbit or in The Fellowship of the Ring but the idea stuck with me long after I’d forgotten which book it came from. The narrator’s voice states that the travelers had a nice stay and that there was not much else to say about it, because things that are very pleasant to live through are dull to tell about, but events that are difficult to live through make fascinating stories.

Though I seek a certain level of disruption with my long road trips and annual migrations, I like them best when the most dramatic stories I come back with are the ones I wrote.

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