Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Are you puzzled?

I have never been good at puzzles!  They require stillness, patience, and other skills that I do not claim as mine. Having said that, I have been in the mood to put puzzles together lately.  I guess that it's just another one of the surprising changes and rearranges that are happening as I'm moving through life.

One of my favorite memories is of a dear Great Aunt.  I met her when I was 5 years old.  She had been widowed in her 30's.  She was pregnant at the time.  Counting her new babe she was left with 6 children to raise alone.  Somehow she managed to raise strong, remarkable human beings.

On my first visit she gave me a beautifully hand pieced quilt for my doll.  I still treasure that intricate little quilt.  I probably will frame it and put it on my wall at some point.

Aunt Leone put together puzzles.  She had puzzled lots and lots of puzzles.  After she finished, she could not bear to pull the puzzle apart and put it away to put together again at a later time.  So she would modge podge the puzzle, and frame it, and up on her wall it would go.  At the wise age of 5 I did not understand why she would do that.  I mean, it's fun to do the same puzzle over and over, right?

Now I understand.  At this age...when the past seems more comfortable than the present or future, when time becomes more precious, I too have a hard time putting a puzzle together only to take it apart when I'm finished.

Life has many puzzles for us to solve.  There is the puzzle, "Do I get a college education?  What college would I attend?  What major do I wish to pursue?  Will I date?  What type of person do I wish to marry?  Where would we choose to live?  Will I have children...on and on endless decisions puzzle our minds as we move through life.

When my husband attended Law School, and I worked as Executive Secretary of Finance, at the liberal arts college attached to my husbands law school, and we had two beautiful small daughters, I frequently would comment how happy I would be when he finished his schooling.  I wanted to quit my job and just focus on him, raising our girls, and THEN I would be happy.

My sweetie stated one day, "If you wait to be happy at some mysterious point in the future, you're going to miss the happiness that you could have, RIGHT NOW!"  He was right.  Even in the hectic time of him getting his J.D degree, and me working fulltime, and raising our beautiful kiddos, there was much happiness to be had.

We made wonderful friends that I stay connected with all these years later.  Nyle grew intellectually.  I grew in job skills.  Our girls grew as they watched their parents achieve worthwhile goals.  It WAS a time of great happiness.

Sometimes however, it was easy to forget to choose that happiness.  Did you notice the key word in that statement...CHOOSE?  Most of the time in life happiness is a conscious choice that we can make.  We CAN be happy IN SPITE of any struggles that we face.

Our family motto is "Happy not Crappy."  That refers to this idea.  We can choose to be happy even in negative life situations.  Hard is not necessarily BAD.  Often in hard times there are kernels of joy to be discovered.

Life can be easily compared to a giant puzzle.  Each step of the way is like putting pieces together in that puzzle.  I believe that when we have finished this life, when we've done the best that we could do, we'll be thrilled to look at the overall picture of the puzzle.  Even the hard times, the struggles will lend texture and shading to that marvelous picture. 

Some of the lessons that I have been reminded of as I have been puzzling are:

1.  If a piece doesn't fit one way, try it the other three.  I have been pleasantly surprised how many times just looking at the piece from a different perspective will help me find the position where it goes in the puzzle.

2.  If you find yourself frustrated and not finding the pieces you need, quit working on that part for awhile.  Find a simpler part to tackle until you've calmed again and are ready to tackle that trickier part.

3.  When you start putting together the pieces you can't see the whole picture of how it will fit.

4.  Each piece is separate.  A piece of cardstock/cardboard cut out that will fit in some mysterious part of the puzzle.

5.  Each piece is attractive alone, but MORE attractive and stronger when they have been connected.

6.  When you see the entire finished puzzle you can look at it and think, "Oh, that's why that piece fits there, and this other piece fits there.  It all makes sense. 

7.  There is a framework that goes around the edge of the puzzle.  This frame anchors every other piece of the puzzle as you put it together.

8.  There is not a single only way to approach puzzling.  Some folks like to choose the exterior pieces and put them together first.  Some prefer to put them together matching colors and working out towards the exterior.  Some group the pieces by color.  Each way can result in a completed, lovely puzzle.

There are so many opportunities for newness in this life.  Every morning can be new!  Every week, month, and year offers a chance to change and grow.  For some of us, every decade can bring growth.  In the creation of your puzzle be aware that we CAN overcome the past.  We CAN choose to leave behind mistakes, and foolishness.  We can improve and grow.

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