Life is a Puzzle

My husband and I were first introduced to puzzles just last year at a friend's cabin in Tahoe. It was just the two of us, a last minute decision to drive up the mountains for a quiet weekend.

In between our usual activities whenever we're up there - watching movies, cooking, reading, going to the beach - we found ourselves reaching for a box under the coffee table. It was a puzzle, one of many stacked on top of each other. Our friends love puzzles and they always have a foldable table somewhere with a puzzle in progress.

The photo on the box was what caught our attention. It was a beautiful Western scene - a campfire, an old wagon with wild animals and desert plants strewn all over. We unboxed the pieces on the large dining table and got to work. It was a thousand pieces and just flipping them colored side up took awhile. Next, we started to group the pieces by color. It was a slow start but an hour or so into it, we were hooked (in an unexpected sort of way).

You'd never think of me/us as puzzle people. I've worked on some as a child but as I grew older I lost interest, dismissing it as a boring activity. But nothing could be further from the truth. The way it engages your mind, your memory, your patience, your was pretty addicting.

You have to take breaks, many of them. It's almost impossible to finish a thousand piece set in one go. We worked on it for hours, mostly in silence, our heads down, glancing often at the photo on the box or the print we taped on the back of a chair, working separately on different sections but as a team to piece the whole thing together.

We called it a wrap late in the evening, surprised by the amount of time we spent on it. The following day, after a quick trip to the beach, we were back at it. Hours go by interrupted only by our grumbling stomachs begging for something to eat. We were more than halfway to completing it when it was time for bed.

The next morning, I awoke to find my husband already working on it with a steaming cup of coffee. I joined him and spent the entire morning working together until it was time to leave. On the way home, we talked about how fun that was - in a peaceful, mentally stimulating way. We've worked on more puzzles since, sometimes even bringing one with us when we go on a long vacation.

Aside from the brain and memory stimulation, I love how it trains your patience, how you work as a team, the literal and visual work in progress you go back to to add another piece and another until the final reveal.

It's a lot like life. There are times when you try so many pieces to fill a spot but nothing ever seems to fit. And there are times when you're on a roll and every piece you grab you instinctively know where to place.

It's not something you can hurry and force yourself to the finish line. You have to sit there, be patient and try different pieces until you figure out where they belong. Like every experience in life, none of the pieces are without reason. Each has a purpose, a place in the canvas that is your life. Sometimes, you know exactly where it goes (the reason behind it) and sometimes you question and rack your brain not knowing which part of the bigger picture it belongs to, until after some time, sometimes a really long time, when you finally do.

It's a tedious activity - most of the time you feel lost and overwhelmed. But there are moments of flow, when you feel you're in the zone and have figured it out, only to get stuck again in another section and the cycle repeats itself.

There's also something about working together, building something beautiful with someone out of what appears to be a mess in the beginning. You can take turns when the other feels tired, work on different parts of the whole and help each other when your fresh eyes turn to what the other is working on and see something they overlooked because they were deeply buried in the chaos. You keep at it, together. Time goes by, a long time. But at some point, if you just stick to it and never give up, you're bound to see how all those pieces beautifully come together.


This is one of the articles to be published in next month's newsletter. If you enjoyed this and would like to read the rest, click here.

To piecing a life worth looking back to,
A Life Well Lived