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Puzzling Times

I’ve often mentioned my love of jigsaw puzzles. Last night my partner and I finished a 6000 piece jigsaw puzzle representing one of the greatest masterpieces of the seventeenth century, Las Meninas  painted in 1656 by Don Diego de Silva Velazquez and now housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

As we put the last piece into place, my partner and I looked at each other with a twinkle in our eyes as a soft smile spread across both our faces. We stepped back to admire and enjoy the beauty – not just of the picture in front of us – but all the countless hours of quiet attention and effort we had put into piecing it together over the past two years.

And no. It’s not perfect. Our dog chewed on two of the pieces and three others are missing. Suspected ingestion by said canine. But even these imperfections I see with pride. They form part of the story of building this thing together.

What I felt was a wonderful warm sense of achievement and pride. But it was a quiet version of these emotions. A deep, anchoring feeling of satisfaction.

This experience also illustrates the importance of something called “savouring” – the act of stepping back and really being in the moment to enjoy or relish something – whether that be the moment of completion, the sense of achievement, or appreciation of oneself or another for efforts made.

Last night my partner and I sat back and savoured in all of these senses.

We reminisced about the day I opened the box and started sorting the pieces. Something that seemed an insurmountable task at the time. We laughed about the day my partner went to Bunnings to buy the wooden board to put the puzzle one. It was so big he couldn’t fit it in the car so he had to return to the store to have it cut in half. We remembered working on passages of the puzzle where we were convinced that we didn’t have all the pieces.

We also acknowledged one another’s efforts. My partner cracked the hardest parts of the puzzle through his consistent, calm countenance. Something I simply do not posses. Without his efforts the dog would not have formed, and the large monochromatic passages where every piece appears to be the same, would never have unfolded. They are all the result of his patient persistence.

We recognised the team effort too. Because we both have different strengths that we brought to the process. While my partner saw the puzzle in terms of the form and shape of the pieces, I have an acute eye for colour and texture. My close attention to these details meant I was able to sort and organise the pieces. A laborious step essential before any placement of pieces was possible.

So it seems one small project can bring so many meaningful experiences, lessons, insights and of course, rewards and results.

I share this story today because it’s a lovely reminder of the many, varied, and small things we can do to bring calm, channel our focus, and also create some sense of stability and structure, especially when we find ourselves in particularly puzzling times.

In particular, it’s a great example of the power of defining projects and working towards goals.

When we define and then work towards a goal, no matter what that goal is, we create the opportunity for ourselves to feel a sense of progress as well as that wonderful sense of achievement that comes with completing a project, achieving a goal, or working on something in partnership with someone over a period of time.

We are living in puzzling times amidst a pandemic with no easy end in sight. There are few tangibles to give us concrete answers to navigating what are truly unprecedented events for us in our local communities, and as global citizens.

What my puzzle reminds me of, is the importance of finding things to focus on and creating projects to build towards, in spite of the difficulties that surround us.

By creating our own tangible goals and objectives – no matter how small – we are establishing the opportunity to put in place more concrete, actionable strategies that can help us to deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity around us. This also helps to anchor, ground and calms us.

When we identify things that we can focus on and work towards, quietly putting each puzzle piece in its place one at a time, we find ourselves moving forward too, one step at a time.

Strangely enough a picture begins to emerge. One that we’ve created. Our own story.

What picture are you creating?

With gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team