Tania Luna: How Mary Poppins Secretly Shaped My Life

Tania Luna
photo: Zack DeZun

Tania Luna is the co-author (with her business partner Leeann Renninger) of Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected, a book about the positive benefits that can come when you don’t know what’s going to happen next—and how you can cultivate the potential to be surprised in your professional and personal life. (And, too, how to delightfully surprise others; there’s some lessons in here that I’ll be doing my best to incorporate into this site and other projects in the future…)

For this Beatrice guest essay, Luna tells us about a time that she was recently surprised by a book… and about the deeper, underlying principle of surprise she recognized in its pages.

Recently, I decided to stay away from fiction. That sentence sent a chill down my spine, but it’s true. I am an obsessive story reader (I’m also an obsessive chocolate eater and workaholic, but that’s a different conversation). As a kid, I used to skip school to finish a novel. As an adult, I’ve postponed meetings and missed more train stops than I can count just to soak up a few more chapters. My life had gotten so busy that I decided to stick to nonfiction. The resolution worked reasonably well. That is, until I glanced up at my bookshelf one night. Before I knew it, I snatched up a book, and in my hands I held the soft, worn pages of Mary Poppins.

When I was a child, my grandmother made me a swing from a broken lawn chair that she suspended from the ceiling. I would hang in the middle of the room, kicking my legs in and out, as she read me Mary Poppins. I looked at the book in my now grownup hands, and I could remember my grandmother’s voice, the way she’d clear her throat, the rustling of the pages, the swing pressing into my thighs, the way the lamp light danced in her reading glasses. But I couldn’t recall the story. My fiction ban notwithstanding, I decided that a quick dip into a children’s book couldn’t hurt my productivity all that much.

I was wrong, of course. As soon as I read the words “Chapter I, East Wind,” I was transported to P.L. Travers’s strange, whimsical world, and I didn’t come back up for air again until there were no words left to read. From beginning to end, Mary Poppins filled me with surprise.


5 April 2015 | guest authors |