This past weekend was one where the days were cloudy, the skies brought periods of rain and at our house, my wife took both Saturday and Sunday to recharge herself; feeling spent and mentally exhausted. And so it was, while I planted flower bulbs and got some things done outside in preparation for the snows to come, my wife sat inside and worked on a puzzle. Coming in and out of the house both days, I watched her; sorting the pieces, finding some that fit, lots of trial and error, and with the picture on the box as an ongoing reference, eventual success.
It struck me as I watched her for a few minutes that here was an analogy of life really. We’re all trying to piece things together. However, the more I thought about it, (because this is just what I do), the more I realized there’s quite a difference. Puzzles almost always include a vivid picture of what the finished jigsaw puzzle will look like, and like her, I suspect most people who work on them use it as a reference.
Now for you and me, life doesn’t come with a complete picture of what we’re working on. Nor do we conveniently get all the pieces at the start. And for the very unfortunate, there might even be the odd piece missing; one that didn’t come with the box or one we lost at some point, making the finished puzzle incomplete.
I tend to think that it’s a good thing that we don’t all have blueprints and the complete picture as we start out in life. I mean, when you go into the store with the intent of buying a puzzle, you put some thought into what you’re after. While you might want a landscape, someone else is after a floral arrangement, another person a collection of animals, maybe a seaside beach crammed with vacationers etc. Life on the other hand? We craft our destiny and were we shown the picture of our lives with clarity as a child, we might not like the end result we’re working toward.
Here’s another thing; we evolve. When we start out we often think we’ve got some idea of what we want to be and it changes doesn’t it? I mean, we seldom anymore decide at 14 what we want to be and retire at 65 or so and look back at a single job or career. No, we change. We start off with an idea in mind, perhaps get some education related to the end goal, then a chance encounter sparks a new interest. We may change our major if we’re in school, return to take on some new learning, or use our transferable skills to compete for a job we’d previously not known about or had much interest in. Suddenly, we’re down some new occupational path, and this can be it for life or we have a second change of heart and take on another job. Guess what? We might have 8 various jobs and 3 career changes by the time we’re done with work.
So imagine buying a puzzle where you opened up the box and only found a piece or two. Every now and then, you’d arrive home and find the odd piece at your doorstep. No picture for reference, no clue as to how many puzzle pieces you’ll need to complete the picture. The emerging picture wouldn’t necessarily be all about your work either. No, you might have personal tragedies, major triumphs, moments of anger, failure, shame, exhilaration, success, happiness and sorrow.
I suppose we all work on a puzzle in this respect. The interesting thing is that when we look at ourselves, we often see a very different picture than the one that others see when they look at us. We might view ourselves as troubled, insecure, doubtful and unsure and be surprised to find that all the while someone else sees us as having it all together, happy and content. “Ha!” we think … “if you could see my world through my eyes!”
So how many pieces do we get that we have to put together? Nobody knows. Some lives are shorter or longer than others. Some are filled with adventures and travel, others with mountains of another kind climbed, fraught with heartaches and some with ultimate success. We work on ours every day; sometimes getting pieces that shed some light on a theme and others that are confusing and we’re not sure how they fit; they just don’t appear to be us.
No, we may not know the final picture, but we do get a huge say in what the finished puzzle looks like. The actions we take, based on the thoughts we think, the chance encounters and exposure to new things and people that come and go in our lives; these all contribute to what we piece together.
Thing is, there’s no do-over. You don’t get to take the puzzle back and start with a new one. You do get to create a new image within the overall puzzle though, and that image is entirely one of your choice; to make it what you will.
So, what do you want your finished puzzle to look like? You’re working on it today you know. It’s often confusing, the not knowing, the stress, the lack of clarity, but it sure feels good to do a section and see it come together.