Three nights ago, I started putting together the pieces of a puzzle. If you think I’m about to go all metaphorical here, you are incorrect. The fact is, there has been a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle sitting on a shelf of my coffee table for near to six months. I bought it after completing a 500 piece puzzle for the first time. I felt proud of myself, competent, and above all nerdy when, on a Saturday night, I put the 500th piece into place. I stood up and nearly knocked over my tea with my victory dance.
I wanted to mimic that feeling, and so I bought a 1000 piece. Then I got busy with work, went on vacation, the holidays came and went. There was never a good time to start this puzzle journey. But a few nights ago I was home and there was nothing to do. The apartment was clean. The dishes were done. I didn’t have any laundry. And I pulled out the puzzle box.
The concept of a puzzle is really interesting to me. The old adage is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? Well, I tend to think that if it ain’t broke, don’t break it. Taking a very fine landscape photo and smashing it into a thousand pieces just to rebuild it? It seems redundant. So what attracts me to it, then? I am mildly obsessed with “bringing order to chaos”, a catchphrase coined by my boss. Case in point, this puzzle. I didn’t realize that a jigsaw puzzle gets exponentially harder for every extra piece it has. I also didn’t realize that there could be strategy involved. Instead, I had thought that the net natural step after completing a 500 piece was to commit to a 1000 piece. It is way more difficult than I had expected, but the challenge to recreate the ideal on the cover of the box has kept me hovering over my dinner table, muttering incoherently and squinting, for three nights in a row.
And when I’m not doing the puzzle, I’m thinking about it. Which is how I came to realize that there are larger lessons I can take away from this (other than that I’m getting mind-ninja’d by tiny pieces of glossy cardboard). First, if I do my chores as they need to be done, there is time to relax and do, amongst other things, puzzles. Anybody who has run a household is saying, “Well. Duh.” But for me, this was a little bit of a revelation. Second, I would trade many a Saturday night out in order to accomplish something at home. I like to go out with my friends and I hate feeling like I missed out on something fun. But I didn’t take a nap or stay on Facebook for hours on end – it felt totally worth it.
Finally, and the greatest thing I’m taking away from this 1000 piece journey to self-knowledge is that taking baby steps doesn’t mean I’m a baby. The more I work on this current puzzle, the more I think that perhaps I should have done a bunch of 500 piece puzzles first. I mean, it’s not a race. I doubt Congress will suddenly decree that 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles are illegal, so what was my rush? I do that a lot, I think that because I did something once, I deserve to move onto the next, more difficult challenge. As if there’s not enough time in the world to get things done. I don’t want to be lackadaisical or destructively laissez-faire, but there’s something to be said for taking one’s time with the things in this life that are enjoyable. I don’t believe that realization is baby-ish at all.