Puzzling Over My Life

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Lynn and I began working on jigsaw puzzles over the winter months and found a renewed enjoyment of the activity. After supper each night, we would retire to the living room where we had set up two card tables – one for the puzzle and one for the pieces – and we would dedicate ourselves to reassembling the puzzle to form the same picture that appeared on the puzzle box.

The background playlist for the evening might be music, a television show, our own happy chatter – and sometimes rapt silence as we concentrated on the task at hand. It was incredibly fun no matter what else was going on around us or what else we did at the time.

One night, as I walked silently around the table searching for one, very specific piece, it occurred to me that solving puzzles is a lot like deciphering our lives. I had so much fun that night discovering analogies along with puzzle pieces that I thought I might share with you.

First, there’s that overwhelming feeling of confusion as I look at the chaos that is a newly opened box of puzzle pieces! I’ve felt that way about situations that were going on in my life before: starting on a big, complicated project; procrastinating on another task until it looks huge from the outside; resolving conflicts between people who seem unwilling to budge on their beliefs. It can look daunting from the outside but I pick up one piece, then another and another. I sort out all my pieces and start looking for the edges, the corners – a place to start. I put one foot in front of the other and then I begin to solve the puzzle one piece at a time - much the way we do life issues. We break it down, sort it out and put it together. Eventually, if we are persistent, it gets done.

Second, I thought about the quests that I have been on in my life: the search for a partner, a job, a spiritual center, a calling and how looking for puzzle pieces is a lot like those same life explorations. I’ve gotten so far along in the puzzle that it’s beginning to take shape. I see the picture. I have this jumble of pieces scattered around and I’m looking for this one, single, very specific piece. It’s this shape, has this mark on this side and this color on that side and there’s only one – but it looks like every other piece in the pile I have to choose from! I try this one, but no. That one… and no. Oh, found it! It’s got to work – I know it – I’ll make it work. It’s too close not to be the right one. But, alas, it is not the right one. Deep down, I knew it all along and the puzzle is not going to work if I leave that piece there.

I’ve done this in my life, too: stayed in relationships that didn’t work because it seemed like they should work; stayed in wrong jobs too long because they seemed like they should be right or because I thought there wasn’t anything else out there that would work. But in the back of my mind, intuition knew that I was going to have to make a change if I wanted to live the life I was here for. I had to keep looking for that right puzzle piece knowing that it was out there and that the whole puzzle was going to work out when the components fit together as they were designed. The blessing is that with each wrong piece I tried, I knew a little bit more about what the right piece was going to look like when I found it. Each one of those wrong pieces was a sign pointing me in the direction to the whereabouts of exactly the piece, or person, or spiritual center or calling that is the perfect fit. And just the same as it is easy to tell that it’s the right puzzle piece – it slides right into place, it’s easy and it matches just right – it’s the same in life situations. It slides into place easily and it works with everything around it.

Thank you, Life! Have fun!

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