When I was little, my sisters and I would lie on the floor putting together Disney puzzles. We had scenes from Snow White, 101 Dalmatians, a sparkly Cinderella one, and my personal favourite: The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
As we got older, a few things changed. The pictures on the puzzle box transitioned from cartoons to images of nature, and we stopped lying on the floor and upgraded to the table instead. But we kept doing puzzles.
The puzzle making hasn’t stopped. And that’s got me thinking of a metaphor. It’s very likely that you’ve heard it before but this is the first time it’s popped into my head and so I’m going to write about it. Here it goes:
My life is a never ending game of turning over puzzle pieces, trying to find their place in a sea of already overturned pieces.
Some pieces I find easily, sliding them in without any effort. It’s as though I know exactly where they belong just from feeling their shape in my fingers…a jagged edge, a smooth rim, a rounded corner.
Other pieces require concentration and focus, maybe even tears, groans of frustration, or cries of “can someone please help me!?” I might sit at my puzzle for days, weeks, even months, trying to jam a certain piece in because I desperately want it to fit, even if, deep down, I know that it doesn’t.
Some pieces other people find for me, helpfully handing them over across the table or subtly leaving them apart from the rest so that I can easily find them for myself.
And some pieces are lost. Falling off the table, slipping into cracks on the floor or between the cushions of the couch, never to be recovered.
Sometimes, I don’t even realize that pieces are falling into place until I take a step back and suddenly see that a picture has come together. And then, it’s like everything makes sense. Life is no longer a chaos of overturned puzzle pieces, or a perplexing mess on the table. Instead, it’s this organized array of shades that match, and shapes that fit so well together it’s almost impossible to imagine that there was once a point when I felt so overwhelmed by the hundreds of scattered pieces before me.
At the end of it all, when I’m looking at the finished product of my puzzle, I hope I remember the people that helped me finish it. I hope my eyes glide over the missing spaces without feeling incomplete or wanting. I hope I remember the hard parts that left me pulling at my hair, and the easy parts that felt like I was on top of the world, and I hope that I feel proud of it.
Image by Krystyna Pangilinan