When I was a kid I spent many hours building puzzles, particularly at Christmas time when my parents gave them to me as presents. They inevitably became a whole family activity. My dad, made a board on which to put large puzzles where they could remain while we worked on them. We came together around the board to build the puzzle as we talked and mused and shared Christmas treats. We participated in quiet family evenings over the holidays when the snow could keep falling as we had no where to go and a puzzle to entice our interest.
The frame of the puzzle was the first goal of the project. We sorted out all of the pieces with straight edges and grouped them by colours and in accordance with picture hints from the box. With the frame in place to guide us, and depending on the number of pieces and the complexity of the puzzle picture, the days ahead were filled with significant time bent over the project. We were drawn to it and enjoyed the ever unfolding story of the picture slowly being revealed.
The goal to see the final result, every piece in its place, was never hurried but rather a gradual process, savoured through shared endeavour. Once done, we took pride in having found the place for each of those small, intricately shaped pieces. Each one somehow went together in perfect unison to create the whole out of so many individual parts. There was satisfaction in the accomplishment and admiration for the pile of pieces being moved from disparate to complimentary.
~ Calm ~
Another aspect of building puzzles that stays with me is the calm they brought to me and my family. I recall the warmth and breath of my mother close at my elbow as we worked in rhythm, sharing the simple joy of engaging in a happy, benign activity. At times we forgot the clock and would look up to see it had grown late and realize that our necks were stiff from our positions and focus. Reluctantly, we would take ourselves to bed. I might easily find my mother the next morning considering a piece in her hand while she waited for the breakfast kettle to boil. And so it would begin, another day scattered with “puzzling” here and there.
~ Life ~
Life, to me, is like a puzzle. The things we experience fit together inside a wider tapestry to make us who we are. Like a completed puzzle, there is a need to step back and take in the larger picture, to appreciate the view of the whole. But we also need to take a closer view of our individual parts that lie within the tapestry.
We are the sum of many experiences, not all of them pretty or desired, yet each one necessary in shaping us. We are complicated. We take time to mature. We have smooth edges that we go to eagerly because they come readily and give us our framework for living. We have weird, unusual edges that are hard to comprehend but in the end reveal the places in us that are the most interesting and often the most satisfying. We evolve into the people we are with time, with attention, with consistent effort and with love.
There are times when we are frustrated by things that do not seem quite right, do not seem to belong or be a part of us. Eventually though, those trialsome parts demonstrate and define our character. They allow us to grow and learn and be patient for what lies ahead. They are the unusual pieces that matter immensely in holding us together.
~ Vision ~
I recently completed a vision board as an activity for my Reinvent Your Life LeanIn Group. Over a number of weeks, I collected pictures and words and ideas to place on my board. Once I had them gathered, I set aside a couple of hours at the kitchen table to create my vision. I put on some lovely music and set about my project, like it was a puzzle. Bit by bit, my vision board took shape as I indulged in the happiness of scissors and paper and a glue stick. I cried a little, smiled a lot and luxuriated my way to the finished product. The vision board is my story. It is my big picture displaying the various elements of me that I honour.
Like a puzzle, the vision board took time and effort and quiet contemplation to create. It is a puzzle though with significant importance and meaning as it relates to my life. The joy in making it resonated with my long held pleasure of seeing a puzzle picture appear. It returned me to the earnest toil of connecting one piece at a time to tell a visual story.
I am in the pieces, the pictures, the shapes and the details. And it serves me well to consider how these many things unite and make up all that is me.
Perhaps the image of a puzzle is most remarkable in that up close we see the individual pieces, while at a distance they appear as a seamless entity. We observe people all the time from a distance. We take them in and form impressions of who they are and what they are like. Yet, it’s only when we get up close and personal that we discover how diverse and beautiful and interesting they are in their many details. Taking time to focus on those details is worth it because afterwards we not only see people differently but as they truly are.