Assembling jigsaw puzzles has been a lifelong recreation for me.
As a child, I remember the excitement of getting a brand new puzzle. What a treasure! It was, I often thought this might have been how God felt at the beginning of creation: how will I create order out of all this? No matter what, ALL these pieces WILL fit together and when they do, it will be a beautiful picture. If everyone could think of their individual lives as a piece within the gigantic jigsaw puzzle of Life, perhaps world peace could be achieved.
Yes, even as a child, I was a deep thinker.
Putting a puzzle together with others has always been entertaining. I remember my dearly loved “Aunt” Katherine and “Uncle” Tucker – cousins of my Dad who lived next door to my grandmother. They were the easiest relatives to visit as they always had a puzzle underway on a table upstairs and always welcomed help assembling it. Instead of watching tv at night, they’d head on up to the puzzle table. It was such fun being at that table. Each found piece was celebrated with much fanfare – you felt so loved with every contribution you made. And if you could help find one of the pieces they were looking for, you were momentarily beheld as a genius!
When they would finish each puzzle, they’d spread shellac over it and hang it up on the walls, which were covered with their own handiwork: completed jigsaw puzzles of places they found inspiring, things that made them laugh, works of “heart” lovingly assembled one piece at a time, side by side, in love.
As a young adult dealing with relationship challenges and the amazing roller coaster of life “on my own” for the first time, a high school friend of mine and I would get together for an overnight visit at one of our apartments a couple of times a year. We took turns finding a challenging 500 piece puzzle, then have dinner and get to “work” until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. The next morning we’d get up early to finish our creation first thing, often while or even before we were eating breakfast! There was something healing about creating order out of disorder that left us feeling hopeful about our own lives. Gently, as we worked side by side, we’d arrive at insights about our lives along the way. Maybe these pieces are not meant to go together no matter how hard I try to jam them, perhaps like the boyfriend who had me in tears more often than not. Look how easily these two pieces fit together, perhaps I don’t have to “try” so hard to “make” everything “fit” in my life.
Assembling puzzles always left me with metaphors to apply in life; perhaps it’s why my friend and I always referred to our get togethers as “Puzzle Therapy” time!
Puzzles often occupied us when my folks used to come to visit. In their retirement, Mom and Dad enjoyed assembling puzzles gifted to them focusing on their interests. Dad loved stamps and Mom loves pictures of beautiful foreign places they either visited or wanted to visit. I remember one puzzle I gave them of postage stamps that had an irregular border and 4 extra pieces! They STILL loved me even after the challenge of assembling it. (Or, as Dad put it, the seemingly unending nightmare!) They lovingly took several photos of that puzzle to celebrate their accomplishment before disassembling it and putting it back in the box.
One visit back East stands out in my mind when we rented a house in the mountains for a week. My daughter was 8 years old at the time. Mom brought along a 750 piece puzzle for us to work on. The grandparents had their own floor in the house and we spread out the puzzle on the coffee table in the living room. Dad and my husband went to work on the border, Mom and my daughter sorted the pieces by color and area and I just started in on assembling. I loved that we could all be involved in one activity, to the extent we wanted, for as long as we wanted. It wasn’t long before he and Dad would pick up something to read or discuss and Mom and I and my daughter got to work on the inside of the puzzle. Even at 8 years old, she held her own at puzzle assembly and eagerly worked beside us for long periods of time.
So what have I learned about life from puzzles?
- Everything can be accomplished one piece at a time.
- In the big picture of life, this difficult (to find) piece will someday be a dim memory.
- Allowing everyone their own time and space at the table is essential for healthy relationships.
- Every success can be celebrated along the way!
- Sometimes you need to step back and take a look at the big picture to find the piece (peace) you need.
- You have a choice as to how you want to honor your accomplishment: hang it on the wall, take a photo, have a completion party, or box it up and pass it on to Goodwill – there is no good or bad here, just choices!
- In life there are pieces (people) that fit together more easily than others, find them and cherish them.
- Unlike puzzles, the “big picture” of life is always changing, don’t expect it to ever be “complete” and enjoy all you can along the way…
Subscribe to our site and get access to a free printable reminder of “puzzle therapy lessons”! You’ll also get access to other useful and encouraging tips and tricks and subscriber benefits, as well as our periodic newsletter “Since we talked last…”
What about you? Are you a puzzle person? Any other lessons you can come up with from putting puzzles together? You can find life lessons everywhere you look if you look with an open heart! We’d love you to share some of yours in the comments below…