Putting together life’s puzzle

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Forrest Gump said life is like a box of chocolates, but it is more like a jigsaw puzzle. Where this idea came from is a mystery, but that is what occurred to me.

When I was a kid, I discovered jigsaw puzzles. I started out with simple ones, the ones with 100 or 200 pieces. Maybe a picture of a kitten or a puppy emerged as the pieces came together.

The first puzzles were easier because the pieces were larger and looked different with distinctly different colors. It was clear which one went where. Then I got older and graduated to more difficult puzzles, ones with 1,000 pieces, some so much alike that it took time and trial and error to find the right fit.

There might be brown earth in the picture and jigsaw pieces that were only a slightly different shape or shade of the color that I needed to make that part of the picture come together.

I might try 10 different shapes in one spot before I found the one that fit. And, even as a child, I quickly learned I couldn’t force the wrong piece into a place it didn’t belong because the finished product would not come together by trying to force a fit.

That meant I had to be patient and I had to know when to let one piece go and try another one. Sometimes, I spent hours trying to complete one tiny section, but I found going slowly and taking my time brought it together perfectly.

As I remembered the card table sitting in one corner of the living room holding a partly assembled puzzle, the idea that life is like a jigsaw puzzle hit me.

I am here doing my best to assemble the picture of my life from the different people and situations that are scattered around me. Even if it isn’t always a pleasant picture, when we are kids, there are fewer people and experiences making up that picture. So there are fewer pieces to our puzzle.

However, as we get older the puzzle gets harder, possibly because we drag pieces from our childhood puzzle with us thinking we have to hold on to them to make our adult picture come together. Then we start adding people, situations, opinions, and experiences to the box from which we choose pieces and 100 pieces becomes 10,000 pieces.

More times than I can count I held onto an experience or a relationship thinking I could make it fit into my puzzle when it obviously wouldn‘t. How much time I wasted trying to make a fit when it was clear I had the wrong piece for that part of my picture and it was time to let it go.

And, just like working on a jigsaw puzzle, sometimes I need to walk away and take a breath because too much focus only makes it harder to find the right fit. That’s the nice thing about jigsaw puzzles and about life, as long as the card table sits in the corner and as long as I have breath and good sense, I have a chance to try and to try again until I find the piece that fits perfectly.

So maybe I’ll revise what Forrest said. Life is like a jigsaw puzzle and if I’m lucky, I’ll get to enjoy a box of chocolates while I piece it together.