Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle

During our family's very busy Christmas week, as we attended different gatherings, took a trip to Lethbridge to see Lee's parents, celebrated a 24th birthday, and wished for warmer weather, what I really wanted to do (besides what I was doing) was to put on my pink fuzzy jammies, make some tea, and set a jigsaw puzzle. It's an indulgence I allow myself every Christmas, one of those ME time things that fit with the 2018 Word of the Year, now that I think about it.

Sunday night
I had to wait until January 2nd to get at it this year, and it was worth the wait. This year's puzzle was of a painting of an Italian restaurant corner. It was a brain buster, the kind where you can't even set the edge pieces because they're shaped so strangely that you simply can't separate them all from the inner pieces. And I was never quite sure of the shape of a piece (or pieces) to fill a space until I'd set the ones around it. I'm not sure I would have finished the puzzle without Suzanna's help.

Puzzling is not a steady pastime for me -- it's a once a year thing because it's so time intensive, and my attention span flags due to many competing interests during Christmas break. For the first week, I felt like I was doing well to set ten pieces a day... after all the sorting of similar colours, there was lots of just sitting and looking, trying a piece in a spot, trying a different piece, then picking up the first one, turning it sideways or upside down, and discovering that perhaps it actually did fit in the first place. It was progressing so slowly that I was tempted to put it back in the box after a few days. But then Suzanna set all the tables, and we were committed. Even so, it wasn't until Sunday night that I began to feel like we had it licked!

Last night
At the same time as it's brain-taxing, I find puzzling completely relaxing. My mind is on the puzzle pieces, yes, but there is also room for reflection, conversation or background music. And there's gotta be something addictive about setting a puzzle piece in the right place. Last night I sat at the table saying to myself, "I should go to bed, but I just have to find one piece to fill that space there," "oh, and one more there," "and this one should be really obvious," until it was almost midnight! I wonder what part of the brain lights up when pieces fit. I suspect someone has already done an interesting MRI study!

When you think about it, setting a puzzle is a rather silly way to spend several hours of this one amazing life I've been given. There's nothing permanent to show for it. But maybe that's part of the point. We human beings have a way of thinking that our lives and our possessions will always be there, even though the Psalmist says:
Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone --
as though we had never been here. (Psalm 103: 15-16, New Living Translation)
And I might add, we are like a puzzle that is set, dismantled, and gone!

Setting a puzzle isn't a bad metaphor for life. It takes a while to sort things out, to put things in place, and to get things right. Pieces don't always go where we expect them to, and occasionally, one goes missing. Some pieces set together long before we understand how they fit into the whole. But if we keep at it, eventually we see our big picture, imperfect though it is.

All done!
My one puzzle of 2018 is finished. Suzanna and I gave each other a high five as she put in the last piece this afternoon, and we felt that sense of satisfaction that comes from completing a challenge, even though it was a rather frivolous one. I am very aware that there are many people in this world who simply don't have the luxury of time to set a puzzle like this one, and I thought of them, too, and offered a little prayer for them to have a bit of ME time too.

Now I can take down the card table, put the living room back in order and get on with the usual January activities -- work for L'Arche board and school council meetings coming up soon, a pile of books that I should read, an afghan that needs to be finished, ordering seeds -- and planning this year's garden!

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