Life is a Puzzle

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Life is like a puzzle, with all its loops and sockets, edges and corners. Colorful and shiny on the surface, gray and drab underneath. Deceiving you in an artful way. At times complex, misshapen, or crumbling from decay.               

A good amount of trickery and problem-solving can tempt you to abandon it for a while, moving through the day-to-day, going about your business, seeing through the corner of your eye the pieces and parts calling out to you, “Hey, over here! I need some attention.” You forget what you were working on, striving for. The thing that will fill you up inside.

            Your passion summons you with brazen assurance, “So, take a chance, will you? Sacrifice those long-standing convictions that don’t serve you, except to lead you down a path of uncertainty and self-doubt. Beliefs that zap your confidence, your enthusiasm. Your inner voice misleading you, a superego looking over your shoulder, watching your every move, having you solve the puzzle their way, not yours.”

            You see, in order to do life or to work a puzzle, you’ll need some structure. A solid foundation to provide support when you need it. A starting place. Ambition. Discipline. And perseverance. But the best part is, you get to make your own rules. According to your timeline.

             So, begin with some preparation. You can’t expect all the pieces to merely fall into place, swirling around you with the slightest breeze, looking for the right fit, magically landing in a place of destiny. No. You must collect the pieces, make a plan, and use tactics to decide your next move. You’ll find missing pieces along the way that will help you reach the finish line. 

Here are some tips and tricks:

  • Turn all the pieces right side up so images are clear, visible. See the light. Show your colors. Be honest with yourself. The truth is right in front of you if you look for it. 
  • Begin with the border. If it’s a little rough around the edges, don’t worry. You can smooth things out with some tender loving care. Then work toward the center, safeguarding the innermost parts, the most vulnerable, the heart. 
  • Look for patterns in your life or puzzle. Do you see clear lines and connections that lead you to your purpose? If not, draw them. Be creative. Design it yourself. Afterall, you own it.
  • If life or the puzzle becomes too challenging, categorize the elements. Sort through the clutter. Focus on the pieces that bring you joy. Those that move you. The ones that give you peace. And when you need some help, ask for it.
  • If you feel defeated and you’re ready to give up, look at it from a different perspective. Step away. Take a break. Try something new. But never give in. 

A puzzle is a game you can win on your own. Alone. So is life. It can make you crazy at times. You might talk to yourself while you’re in the midst of it. Or lose sleep, thinking about how you’ll get through it. Imagining what you might have done differently, though you tried every angle. 

Before you know it, a scene will develop, with colors and shapes like you’ve never seen. The image is well-crafted. Exquisite. Delight in what you’ve accomplished. Share it with someone.

But be cautious. Life and the puzzle are fragile. What you’ve built can fall apart at any moment. If it’s unsalvageable, start over. Take a different path. Make a new plan. Then find the glue that will hold it together. 

Author: Leslie J. Cox

Leslie Cox is a writer of creative non-fiction, focusing on personal essay and memoir. Her essay “My Favorite Chair” was a runner up in the WOW! Women on Writing Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest, and she published two essays in “Her Vase” in 2020. Her essay "Distracted" appeared in the Pure Slush anthology: "Love, Lifespan," and she has enjoyed contributing to guest blogs and book reviews. Prior to semi-retiring from health care administration in 2019, Leslie wrote and published trade articles and a guidebook for health care professionals for HCPro. When she’s not writing, Leslie tutors students K-12 in the craft of writing, and that fills her up!

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