I bought a 750 piece puzzle. I opened the box last night and spilled the pieces on the table. 750 tiny pieces. Each with its own individual shape. Some lying upside down. Some flat on top of each other. Some still connected. And I started to take them apart and sort them out. One by one. I turned them over. Disconnected the connected pieces. Pulled out the ones with the straight edges and placed them to the side. I placed darker green by medium green next to lighter green. And I stepped back and looked at them all lying there, exposed, naked, lonely. This is what it feels like when you realize your life is really a discombobulated messy group of tiny pieces.
One big hodgepodge of disconnected pieces that are all mine. These pieces are my pieces. My emotions. My pains. My joys. My divorce. My losses. My wins. My children. My sleepless nights. My job. My expectations. My heart. My friends. My family. My, my, my… when I look at all of it laying there, fear and love hit me at the exact same time. I am exposed but I see the potential for beauty.
So I pick up a piece hold it in my hand. And I think about where it belongs, examine the shape of its edges and the hue of its colors, and where it might fit with the other pieces. Not as a pile of messy disconnected pieces, but as a potential group of pieces that will at some point fit together. I try it out with a few other pieces. Nope, not that one. This group over here? Nope. Maybe I need to look a little bit more. Nope. This piece has potential. I know it goes in this puzzle. It came with the box for God sake. However, at this moment, this piece, this crazy piece, DOESN’T SEEM TO FIT ANYWHERE. So I put it down and hope. Hope keeps me from not going crazy over this annoying piece that is screaming at me, telling me it hates me, and that it refuses to be a part of this puzzle. Hope brings peace and comfort that pieces that seem disconnected in this moment will be connected. Because, dammit, I will finish this puzzle at some point. And then I remember to look at the cover of the box.
You know, the cover where the complete picture of the puzzle is there already put in perfect order. It helps guide you when you can’t figure out if your piece should go at the top or the bottom. It helps you to look at the “big picture” when all you can see is a pile of rubble. And I couldn’t help but think what would happen if I didn’t have the cover of the box with the answer key. Because most of the time, that is what I feel like. I am blindly looking for clues on each piece of my life, trying to give it a context, and looking to fit it together with something else. I am putting these pieces together and have no idea what the outcome will look like. What if I am connecting them wrong? What if I have the bottom piece placed incorrectly when it should be with a top piece? What if that piece that looks like a mountain is really a fish? What if this isn’t even my freaking piece….maybe it belongs to someone else’s puzzle!
But I can’t let the fear of these disconnected and messy pieces stop me. I can’t let fear of not having the big picture beautifully laid out in front of me stop me. Because maybe I’m supposed to design my own box cover. Because in real life, who gets an answer key anyway? Life is purposefully designed this way because we are supposed to be wide open and vulnerable. We aren’t really hiding our pieces from others anyway. They can see them, you know. But it is when we make a decision, we DECIDE to show other people our pieces, that our puzzle comes together a little more quickly. We show them that one piece we have been studying for hours, and they say, “Oh, hey, this one goes here” and quickly put it in its exact place. And then, it’s connected. And our puzzle starts coming together a little more quickly, but it is still one piece at a time.