My mother believes in the intellectual value of doing puzzles. For younger children it teaches patience, perseverance, shape recognition and logic. For older people it is calming, a form of meditation, and an outlet for our modern over thinking brains. Sufficient to say that my childhood was full of puzzles, many of which I absolutely loved – paintings by Monet and Degas, tiny intricate worlds of medieval villages, and baby animals just waiting for their fur to all line up. The practice of working on puzzles framed a part of how my adult mind operates. I am happy to examine a situation, see what the final image ought to be, and then sort through all the pieces. It is so much a part of my thinking that I have been known to deconstruct things when life is too orderly and the image is complete. In this way I have no need for life to be simple, rather I prefer the pieces to be oddly cut, in confusing shapes, with the image obfuscated until assembled.

Puzzles can also instigate frustration and irritation beyond other games. The worst being when one piece is needed and you keep picking up the same wrong piece over and over. I have taken a piece and spun it an illogical number of times to try and fit it into a place. And there is no torture worse than the lingering suspicion that a piece got stolen away by a vacuum, forever thwarting a clean, complete image.

My life at the moment has been a puzzle that I cannot solve. I can’t even find the flat side of all the edge pieces – the frame that holds the rest together. I find two or three pieces that fit together but cannot see if they are part of the top, middle or bottom of the image. I sort some pieces out of the periphery, bringing in some new pieces – and still none of it fits. I am now wondering if these pieces belong to an entirely different puzzle, as if the factory put the pieces of one puzzle and put them into the wrong box. I am out of strategies. In such situations there is only one thing left to do – push away from the table and take some time away from the puzzle.

Starting tomorrow for the next 10 days I am leaving the puzzle on the table. I am not going to try to solve the logistics or problems I have been turning around and around in my head. I am going to disconnect, meditate, get back into my writing routine, turn off all the distractions, hibernate, deliberate, and re-imagine what the final image might be. At this point there is no other way, you can’t just jam the pieces together because the colors match or cut a new hole to make it fit. The puzzle of my life can’t stay stuffed in the corner for too long, but for ten days the thing I am trying to solve cannot be assembled just yet.

to fail or not to fail, what is your response

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