Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Puzzle Parable

I started a correspondence writing course in 1996.  I am on Assignment 5.  I would complete an assignment, and then promptly disappear for a few years.  Somehow, the school would find me (even when my family couldn't) and it would always be at a time when I felt I could (and needed to) revisit that part of me that wanted to take and complete the course.

I have always loved puzzles.  Recently Samurai and to a lesser extent Abacus have taken an interest in completing puzzles with me.  They love the 50 piece ones because they are easily solvable within their attention span.  Samurai will stick it out through the 100 piece ones and with 250 pieces she is happy to do the framing (edge pieces) and then wander off during the middle but excitedly come back to help complete the final stages.

When I was young I used to do a lot of 500-1000 piece puzzles.  I would often complete the same puzzles over and over again.  Samurai and I started a 500 piece puzzle but it was too difficult for her and she lost all interest once we completed the framing.  It is, indeed, a difficult puzzle.  I have been sticking with it over the past week or so, finding a few pieces here and there amid the hustle and bustle of my daily life.

This morning I thought Nexen was going to be awake for a while so I got-up to start my day only to find he had fallen back asleep.  So I sat with him as Samurai and Abacus slept upstairs (yesterday morning I was admonished by Abacus, "If you wake me up and I don't get my morning sleep I'm going to be grumpy all day and it's going to be your fault.") and I worked on the puzzle.  I had become frustrated with it over the past few days as it would take such a long time just to find a single piece that fit and I was starting to feel discouraged by it.  But this morning a lot of pieces started to fall into place quickly.  And I began to think...

The children get discouraged by the puzzles with the large piece count because it is very hard to visualize them all fitting together and making the picture on the box.  Even I, knowing it will all fit together in the end, find myself feeling as though it's impossible at times.  As you are piecing things together you may go back to the same piece, over and over, just knowing it will fit right here...somewhere...but there are a few pieces you have to find first in order for it to fit.  Some pieces seem so much like they are a perfect fit but no, they are just the tiniest bit off and no matter how hard you try, you just cannot make it work in that particular place.

This moment of reflection, combined with some sage advice from my dear friend Ibby ("Your brain is only designed to handle two problems at a time.  You are trying to make decisions based on future circumstances which are impossible to even know or understand at this point.  Just ask if you can handle _____ right now.  That's the only problem you need to worry about right now."), made me realize that I know what the picture on the box of my life looks like.  It's the most beautiful thing anyone has ever seen.  It's full of light and love and all the right people in all the right places.  It is filled with happiness and joy.  

It seems impossible at times that this picture will ever come together, based on the pieces that I thought fit but never did, in the place that I thought.  I would get lost in the darkness of the shadows and forget that so much of the picture is filled with beauty and brightness.  But today I realized that as long as I keep trying, I will complete more and more of that beautiful picture.  I realized that sometimes, it will even be easy.  I realized that it's okay that I can't find a way to fit some of the pieces yet, even though they are very important.  Eventually, I will have completed enough that I will be able to fit those important pieces into the puzzle.  I just need to keep working on it.

I haven't given-up on my little 500 piece puzzle.  And it is, in fact, getting a little easier.  I will not give-up on the puzzle that is my life.  And maybe, this is the beginning of it getting a little easier.  

Oh yes, as for the writing course.  The end result of the course is supposedly a work ready for publication.  When I think of the fact that I am supposed to write a piece for publication, it terrifies me.  I lose sight of the fact I just need to take one step at a time and feel that completing the course is impossible.  Taking still another lesson away from this morning's puzzle work, I'm going to complete Assignment 5.  

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