Last year my sister sent me a puzzle for my birthday. It was a replica of one of my favorite artists, only - all chopped up and put in a box. Only - to be taken out and put back together again. How silly is that? Yes, puzzles are silly. Only people with absolutely nothing better to do, sit down and slave over little cardboard pieces, turning them this way and that, recreating what was perfectly fine to begin with!
That was my view of puzzles. But, a present is an opportunity for growth, and it was still the middle of COVID lockdown, so I built a clever puzzle-making platform out of cardboard and duct tape and got to work - 750 pieces and three weeks' worth of work.
Fast forward a year. I am hooked on puzzles. Now I send my sister puzzles and ask for them back when she is finished! I stand in the puzzle section of bookstores thinking, "That one may take a month if I really focus. 750? Seven hundred fifty pieces are for newbies! Where is the 1,000 piece section please?!
The puzzle currently on my dining room table combines all the things I like in life. It is a cozy kitchen scene with cheery yellow walls and an avocado green stove, which reminds me of my mother-in-law. A black and white cat perches on the counter, and, unexpectedly, two chickens peck crumbs off a spotless checkerboard floor. A stack of books, some reading glasses, and a vase of colorful flowers grace the blue and white rustic country table. A floor-to-ceiling shelving unit is home to a tidy collection of bowls, canning jars, teacups, and kitchen utensils. Way up high, a plant cascading green tendrils down to the countertop, sits next to a brown wicker picnic basket, just waiting for a summertime outing.
I have been slaving away on this for the last few weeks and have discovered some wonderful life lessons.
Trying to figure out what goes where, without a completed picture as a reference, is really, really hard.
When you get stuck, Stop. Walk Away. Come Back when you are fresh.
A lot of things look like they fit but if you have to force it, they don't fit.
There are many ways things fit together. You may have to try all the wrong ways first. When you get it right, celebrate! Don't waste time beating yourself up for all the ways you got it wrong.
You can look at something for a long, long, LONG time before figuring out how it fits into the bigger picture. Just set it aside, its time will come. For the love of God, don't throw it away!
The manufacture probably, like 100% probably, did not make a mistake, even though you are sure the one piece you need in order to be complete, is missing.
If someone offers to help, let them. They will do it differently. They will mess up all your carefully sorted pieces. They will try things you know won't work; you don't need to tell them. They will find that one piece you knew was lost and their discovery will make you jealous, and also, ridiculously grateful.
When it is finally finished, every piece in its proper place, perfect, admire it for a short time, then put it back in the box. Go out and find another challenge. Resting on your laurels is no way to go through life.
So, the next time you sit down to work on a puzzle, you are probably doing a whole lot more than just putting silly little cardboard pieces together in a way that matches the box. You are being given the chance to contemplate how life is a series of decisions, some right, some wrong, each important in moving towards the goal of creating something satisfying and beautiful.