Life not entirely devoid of surprises

Remember the old cliché about insanity - doing something over and over again, but expecting a different outcome? That's, frankly, kind of the way I've been behaving for the past year. Same stuff, different day, so to speak. To my distress, I've become accustomed to the monotony, my capacity for surprise dulled into complacency and cynicism.

Nothing new happens. Notre Dame had an undefeated season, only to get crushed in their final game. Again. Someone with a name that sounds like "Rom Rady" led his team to victory in the Super Bowl. Again.

These days, other than the inevitable arrival of bad news, we have lost the element of surprise.

Surprises don't have to be earth-shaking or life-changing; they can come when you finish a book you thought would be merely alright, but then later you can't get the characters out of your mind. "The Orphan Master's Son" recently did this for me.

I thoroughly surprised myself, almost a decade after the show ended, and against my better judgment, by watching the complete "Breaking Bad" series over the past several months. The show is the antithesis of programs I like. It's aggressively masculine and gritty. The humor is outlandishly dark. And yet, as the final episodes closed the complex narrative arc of this story, I stared open-mouthed at the television, marveling at the Shakespearean scope of inevitable tragedy unfolding, tears in my eyes. It was quite a jolt.

When I watched the inauguration, I found myself mesmerized by the sight and sound of a tiny, young poet, like a bright yellow bird, her elegant, fluid gestures as much a part of the poetry as her incandescent words. Another joyful surprise.

If you drive north on Pima Road in Scottsdale, and then turn east onto Dynamite Boulevard, there's a view that will take your breath away. Suddenly, the floor of the valley shifts a bit, and the snow-capped (at least in the winter) peaks of the McDowell Mountains come into view. There's something off-kilter about seeing snow and saguaros simultaneously; it displaces you. And for a few seconds you're not sure whether you've been magically transported to Middle Earth or Mid-World. Enchantment feels like a very real thing and possibilities are endless once again.

As I scurry along on the hamster wheel of pandemic existence, these little surprises give me hope. There may be nothing new under the sun, but our capacity for joy is ever-renewing. The world still has plenty left to show me. And I'd be insane not to give it a chance.

- Susan O'Byrne is a

contributing columnist.

Readers can email her at

[email protected].