What are pattern interrupts?
Pattern interrupts come in many shapes and sizes.
- Vacation / War
- Newborn / Newly deceased
- House in flames / House under construction
- Debilitating / Empowering
- Fresh spring breeze / Fierce hurricane winds
Pattern interrupts heal or batter our emotional, physical, and financial well-being. They can be the cure or the hard stop. Or both. They can feel good, bad, or in between, but they’re almost always uncomfortable.
An intentional well-timed pattern interrupt is great for untethering from a habit or dull pattern. I’ve used them for overcoming writer’s block, developing healthier routines, and exploring new things.
My current pattern interrupt is Ida. I never love a hurricane, but I don’t always hate them because a pattern interrupt can be interesting, if uncomfortable.
This time I wasn’t in the mood.
Collectively, we have not yet emerged from the giant pattern interrupt of 2020, the pandemic. My family is in a pattern interrupt as my mom is slowly swallowed by Alzheimer’s. I’m in a personal pattern interrupt as I seek balance in the author vs. editor routines.
I wasn’t in the mood because I’m tired from all the interruptions, imposed and intentional.
I’m tired but I’m one of the lucky ones.
The big limbs fell next to my house, not on it. The rains bathed my home, they didn’t fill it. We have a generator and gas for it and we have a gas stove and water heater.
We are the lucky ones.
What is interrupted then? Some of same things we experienced in 2020. Empty shelves or closed groceries. Lines for gas and food. Inconvenience. The hurricane brings extra. Extra inconvenience, extra discomfort. Hot uncomfortable homes with damp surfaces and thick air. Spotty or broken phone and internet services. The morning breeze offers a little peace, but that peace is tempered by the 100dB hum of the 100 generators in earshot.
We’re lucky, but we’re tired.
Things we carry
For hurricane interruptions, most of the things we cling to require a generator.
Here, one cord leads from the generator to the kitchen, where I power the refrigerator and coffeemaker. I have coffee in the morning, salads for lunch, and a cool glass of wine when the sun goes down.
Another cord leads to our office, where I power the computers, a lamp, and my phone charger. I write and work, look up synonyms and post to social media. I wanted to stay connected and I am, because the generator powers our devices, and my phone sits full time on the charger to keep up with hot spot duties.
Things we create
Sometimes we develop a new routine to blast the interruption. During Covid, I devised my own pattern interrupt against the pattern interrupt, a new daily routine to prioritize my writer. This routine was my 2020 takeaway: morning pages, morning readings, and soul before soup, that is, creative writing before clocking in for work.
One week before Ida hit, I embarked on a new weekly routine designed to interrupt some blasé patterns and a daily exercise routine to interrupt… well, the spread of thighs. I worried Ida would smash it, but here I am today, blogging because its B-day. Yesterday I queried. It was Q-day. And I’ve biked or walked every day.
Pattern interrupts —intentional or imposed— can teach us a lot about ourselves. Harnessed they can be empowering. When I look back on some of my interruptions —new house, marriage, graduations, children, divorce, moves, vacations, illness, deaths—, I didn’t always go through them with my mind wide open. I wasn’t mindful about what I carried through them and mostly I didn’t create a intentional pattern interrupts of my own in answer to the situation.
I’d like to believe we come out on the other side with something we carried through, something we created, whether we are aware or not.
I’m better at mindful choices now.
- What do I pack in that little bag to carry through the pattern interrupt?
- What will I take away, learn or change about myself?
I wasn’t in the mood for Ida, but I paid attention.
- What did I carry through Ida? Coffee, empowering routines, and connections.
- What did I take away? I’m not sure yet, but as I pull on my biking shorts, I think the takeaway might be “I can do anything I set my mind to.”
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021
I love your practice of interrupting patterns and seeing events as such. I’m also grateful you and your family are safe. I lived through Hurricane Ivan… and I’ll never be in the mood for another one. In fact, I tear up every time I think about it.
Thanks, Jane. Hurricanes can be life-altering.
I had never heard of the term pattern interrupts, but was familiar with the concept. Even happy events can produce their own stress (think “wedding”). And it doesn’t need to be something big, like Ida. Just the other day, a power failure (caused by a raccoon’s encounter with a transformer) put some 10,000 people in my area, including my household, in the dark for several hours. No hurricane, no wind, just a now-deceased raccoon and a lot of inconvenience for humans. Lesson? Don’t take the after-dinner hours for granted. And keep your flashlights at the ready.