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  • Writer's pictureEmily Hankins

Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles are deeply satisfying. So many little pieces and with enough diligence all the little pieces come together and we see the bigger picture. It slowly unfolds before us. It is very formulaic and pleasing in its perfection. No matter who builds it, how they build it, where or why they build it, they end up with the same pleasing picture.

I was taught at an early age that the easiest way to build a puzzle was to start with the frame. The corners and edges are easy to find, and come together quickly. Once you have the frame, the rest falls into place.

I sometimes find myself thinking back to around 3-4 years BC(Before Children). Hubby and I were way into puzzles. I had learned early on in our relationships that we could not work on a puzzle together. He was a bit of a puzzle genius. He could glance at any piece laid out on our felt puzzle board, and know exactly where it should go. He could finish a large 1000 piecer in one night! Plus, he did not follow the "puzzle rules"! He did not lay out the pieces by color, by shape, by category. He didn't even care if the frame was built!

We quickly adopted our separate but equal puzzle approach. He worked on his, I worked on mine. Side by side. Simple, easy, happy.

About the same time I started building puzzles, I began arranging my adult life.

I built a lovely frame...

The City, The House, The Job.

I sorted the right pieces into tidy little piles...

The Hubby, The Kids, The Friends, The Activities


Why din't the pieces fit together?

I checked the box... the picture looked right and none of the pieces were hiding.

I looked at the frame... it looked perfect.

But things were still not fitting together.

I started comparing my puzzle and my puzzling skills to everyone else and everyone else's puzzles.

Like my Hubby, they seemed to be easily glancing at pieces and throwing them together with unnerving speed and ease.

My highly competitive side was roaring.

My highly impatient side was weeping.

Together their discontent created a new monster...jealousy.

This new monster was fed on a steady diet of Social Media and grew quickly.

"What the hell! Why is it so easy for everyone else! Why do they have that house? Why do they have that vacation? Why do they have that career? Why are they all so damn beautiful?"

Why didn't my puzzle pieces fit together like theirs!!!

I didn't see the picture on every piece.

How did they build their puzzles in just one night.

In a fit of jealous discontent I took my frame apart and I slowly began looking for a new way to arrange their pieces.

Smaller house?

Different job?

New city?

But the pieces didn't go. They didn't work. What the fuck?!

The more I tried the put the right pieces in the right places, fewer and fewer fit.

I began waiting for someone else to build my frame.

I started asking for advice on how to build it.

I invited other people to come build my frame. MY frame!

But these never worked... My puzzle was still as confusing, overwhelming, and discouraging as ever.

One day while walking by the puzzle table, I spotted for the first time a very odd piece. I knew it would not fit MY puzzle, so why was it sitting there? This was not a part of the puzzle...this was not one of the pieces... but out of desperation, I gave it a try. It quickly and satisfyingly snapped together with another piece!

Something similar happened again... when I wan't really looking or thinking about that damn puzzle there lay another unique and unexpected piece. It fit too!

Slowly these odd pieces started showing up. Popping up in new places and at weird times.

These new pieces were different. They were beautiful and weird and all mine. AND they worked.

They didn't create the picture on the box, I'm still not sure they make a picture at all. At least not one I expected. But they sure are beautiful. They fit.

As I put these odd pieces together I realize that maybe there is no frame for my puzzle. No perfect box that everything fits into or that guides my building. My puzzle may end up being long, skinny, short, fat, big, small, or shaped like an Ewok. Who knows!?

Maybe the beauty of my puzzle is that it does not have an exact number of pieces or a picture on a box to follow. The only guidance I have is to wait, to watch, and to trust. I will find my pieces, and slowly and careful fit them together without referencing any one else's puzzle or process.

Hubby and I still work on puzzles from time to time. We still use the separate but equal puzzle approach. He works on his, I work on mine. Each our own thing. Side by side. Simple, easy, happy.

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