Puzzle Queen

San Diego, Ca //

Evelyn is my roommate. She’s 91 years old but she still wants to ride a hot air balloon someday.

When I moved in a few weeks ago, her 500-piece Christmas puzzle was still mostly disassembled and she told me it would probably take a couple of months for her to complete it. In the spirit of Christmas, however, I told her we would have to team up so that it could be done by the holiday.

Evelyn goes for a daily walk, sometimes two, and I’ll often join her. Otherwise, her daily life is mostly quiet and routine. When we walk, I ask her questions about her life. She’s traveled, raised a family, and overall lived “a wonderful life” as she tells me. The secret, she said, was always seeking change. Because of that I was pretty sure she’d take the bait on a challenge for her otherwise slow-going puzzle.

We’ve had a few good puzzling sessions together, but it’s mostly been her project that I’ve joined over quick meals or work breaks. Earlier this week she spent 9 hours in a single day at it.

Tonight I got home past her usual bedtime to find her standing over her table – “You’re just in time! There are a few pieces left.” Turns out we lost a few pieces on the way, but our mission was accomplished.

Turns out that puzzling can be quite cathardic.

If you look at a single piece, it’s nearly impossible and may be daunting to imagine the bigger picture. In fact the harder we look at a single piece, the more difficult and often frustrating the task becomes. But if we can look across the many segments and instead of seeing them individually we search out patterns, things become far more clear and we gain direction to the masterpiece. Sometimes you’ll be certain about a connection, only to realize the pieces don’t fit at all. Sometimes the connections happen quickly and easily, and other times it takes agonizingly long just to fit one piece. Sometimes the process is organized, with similar patterns stacked together and sometimes the connections are spontaneous. The countless permutations by which to complete the task may be overwhelming but if you know the big picture and you keep the vision board in front of you, every piece will find its place – just in time.

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