I don’t play games. I’m a pretty reluctant participant to those ice breaking activities we all experience in professional development, the days we head back to school in the fall, and now even on the ever-constant Zoom meetings. And I don’t own any jigzaw puzzles.
At least I didn’t. Until last week when the constant sameness of the stay-at-home, work-at-home, play-at-home routine drove me in search of novelty–in the form of a jigsaw puzzle.
As a disclaimer, I did play games as a kid. I did puzzles as a kid. My own children played games and put puzzles together. But game playing, as a family activity–as an adult activity is really not a part of my everyday life.
But there was a puzzle to purchasing a puzzle. They are obviously in demand right now. Amazon is delivering puzzles in July. Target had none in stock. But I did find one that I could order online at Barnes and Noble and pick up in the store near my house. My husband thought I was crazy when I came home with the puzzle–but he’s a good sport so we cleared some space on the table (we each have a table as our home offices) and opened the box.
There’s something oddly soothing about looking through hundreds of tiny interlocking pieces in search of a straight edge. It’s both mindless and intentional. Stimulating and calming. Purposeful and aimless. We found ourselves shifting roles, one of us searching, one of us building and then trading. Patterns began to emerge and all those bits of color, pieces of words, and abstract shapes began to take on meaning and become recognizable as parts of a bigger whole.
I’m looking for that same sense of recognition to make sense of the disparate pieces that now constitute work and life during a global pandemic. Shutting down and sheltering in place has been scary and stressful, but began with a sense of temporary. As we stretch into the third month and looking to the future feels like looking into the brand new box of a 1000 random pieces, “normal” and whole feels so far away.
It was hard to grasp finishing the school year without being face to face with my students. It’s harder still to imagine starting a new school year meeting my students through a computer screen. Or teaching students in shifts and keeping them at arm’s length. And maybe hardest of all, just not knowing what the next day, the next week, the next month will mean for all of us as we navigate so much unknown…with the threat of disease and death attached to all we don’t know.
So for now, I’m making sense of jigsaw puzzles while I am not able to make sense of the world. We finished that first puzzle today, enjoying the satisfaction of setting those final pieces into place to complete the picture.
New puzzles have been ordered and we’ll take this one apart tomorrow, careful to make sure that all the pieces get back into the box. And we’ll offer it up to family and friends, giving someone else a chance to make sense of 1,000 pieces.
In these puzzling time, I’ll be doing some more puzzling.
We (I) started a 1,000 piece puzzle at the start of the lockdown (and like you, never really did jigsaw puzzles but, like you, thought this would be a good time), and ten weeks later, we’re still working on it (mostly my wife and I, but one of our kids helps now and then) and we are getting close. So close. So close in fact, that we blew through one self-imposed deadline (if we don’t finish by *****, we’re putting it back in the box) but kept on going.
Maybe this will be the week you finish! We ordered a new one…
The world is a puzzle in which we search for connections that help us make sense of the not just the big picture, but of each part adjacent to us. In case you run out of puzzles:
Online Jigsaw Puzzle Planet
One of My Kitty Outside
Wow, what a powerful piece of writing. A puzzle is a fantastic metaphor for what we’re going through–so much time is spent looking for the thing that makes it all make sense. Thank you for sharing this.
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“There’s something oddly soothing about looking through hundreds of tiny interlocking pieces in search of a straight edge. It’s both mindless and intentional. Stimulating and calming. Purposeful and aimless.”
I found myself riveted while reading your piece. I think because there are those rare times when you can say, wow, this person knows exactly what I would say, but more precisely, and more beautifully.