Friday, January 04, 2008

Life is a Jigsaw Puzzle

Blogging as Half-Baked Metaphor

I like to spend the week between Christmas and New Year's doing jigsaw puzzles. My husband disapproves of this practice, and actually this tension between us has been escalating over the three or four years that I've been doing it. He maintains that it's a waste of time, and shouldn't I really be cleaning the house or something, whereas I take the attitude that I like it and if the only time I do it is this one week, then really, WTF? Get out of my face. I actually got in his face this year by declaring this to be jigsaw puzzle week, making the dining room table off-limits, and working on jigsaw puzzles in there (note the plural) alone or with whatever child happened to feel like working on their own jigsaw puzzle of the appropriate level. And I'm talking 9-10 hour days here, although of course I would cook meals and do other family-support stuff now and then.

The last day of the week turned into a speed jigsaw-puzzle event, because we really do like to have the table clear for a candlelight family dinner on New Year's Eve. At this point, Ziad got enlisted his father's help, which was when we learned that Nabil dislikes jigsaw puzzles because they are (gasp!)difficult.

I personally can't see how a doing a jigsaw puzzle is any more a waste of time than watching television. In fact, I think I could make a good case for most television watching as being a much bigger waste of time. I also can see, though, how someone who goes to work all day and deals with various kinds of stress and mental challenges might not really want to come home and do it some more for relaxation. Because really, when you stare at those little pieces of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, lying all loose and disconnected all over the table, it's a somewhat daunting. I admit it, I feel overwhelmed. And all those times when you're looking for that one piece that will finish the part you're working on, and you just can't find it? Frustrating, for sure.

Here's the part that I find interesting, though. My version of jigsaw-solving does not allow for looking at the cover of the box. I like to piece the puzzle together by looking for patterns in the pieces and working out the design elements until there is enough solved that it's easy to fit in the remaining pieces just by process of elimination. The feeling of accomplishment when the puzzle has been solved is tremendous. Which is where the metaphor comes in. The jigsaw puzzle is a huge, complicated problem, but if I focus on the pieces of it I can understand, I can eventually get enough of a foothold to solve the whole problem. And I totally believe that my life is like that. Problems that seem insoluble can be dealt with, if only I focus on the parts I can deal with, and work outwards from there. Having faith that the problem can be solved is probably the most important part of finding the solution. And it's only taken me 50 years or so to figure this out.

There are caveats, of course. I'm not sure that this sunny outlook could really be maintained in Baghdad or Sudan. Luckily for me, I live in a peaceful, prosperous country, I have a stable family and a support network, I've been educated well, and I always have as much food and rest as I want. I don't think it's possible to stress enough how fortunate all but the most unfortunate Americans are compared with most of the rest of the world's population. And I think that for all of us, taking a good clear look at our lives and letting ourselves move, however slowly, toward the life that we choose and away from the life that we stumble into, will always bear fruit.


Blogger Lesley said...

I like working on jigsaw puzzles! Usually I work on them while watching TV. For me, it's like, "No, I'm not wasting time watching TV, see I'm working on this puzzle too!"

Although- I DO need the picture on the box. I don't think I'd even attempt a puzzle if there was no picture.

11:00 AM  
Blogger zelda said...

Great blog. One of your finest. I think jigaw puzzling is very good use of time.

I've never even considered not using the box top.

9:18 AM  

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