We bit off a little more than we could chew.
And by we, I definitely mean me, because I brought this evil into our home.
For the last three weeks, our kitchen table has been taken over by 1,000 tiny puzzle pieces, eagerly waiting to be reconnected with their brethren.
Three weeks, y’all.
It haunts me at night.
We certainly didn’t go into this thinking it would have taken this long to complete.
As a matter of fact, I was living in a fantasy world when we first started. We had just opened the box, stacks upon stacks of puzzle pieces everywhere, when I looked up and asked:
“So, are we trying to finish this thing tonight?”
Yes, you heard that right.
I thought we would be able to finish in one night.
A 1,000 piece puzzle.
That we started at 8 o’clock that night.
I know, I know. This is who I am as a person, and I’m working on it.
And because we decided to use our kitchen table as HQ, we haven’t been able to sit down and enjoy a meal there since puzzle-gate.
No, we rarely eat at our kitchen table. Yes, that’s beside the point.
Throughout this three-week adventure (read: mistake) that we roped ourselves into, I realized a few things about myself.
For starters – I hate puzzles and I’m never doing this again.
But if you want to dig a little deeper than that, I was also surprised to learn a thing or two along the way.
It’s not going to fit, sweetie.
Have you ever witnessed a toddler playing with a puzzle?
It’s the cutest thing, right? There they are – brows furrowed, head down – intently focusing on the various shapes and colors. And they’re doing good, but just haven’t quite figured out why the red fish won’t fit where the yellow cat should be.
It’s a learning process for them, and you want to see if they can figure it out themselves, so you stand back and watch them attempt for a minute. But when they keep banging the puzzle piece on the board and start flipping tables and throwing things (toddlers can be violent), that’s when you get their attention and gently suggest an alternative.
“It’s not going to fit, sweetie – let’s try another piece!”
So they put down the fish and pick up the cat. Your heart is racing. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.
They move the yellow cat to the correct spot and – voila! Perfect fit.
The crowd goes wild! They’re crying because they are so happy to have finally figured it out. You’re crying because a flying block hit you in the head during their previous fit of rage. It’s a special moment for everyone.
And since they succeeded with that one, you encourage them to keep going!
So they pick up the brown dog and attempt to put it where the white mouse should be.
Annnnd you do it all over again.
Now I’m about 25+ years removed from toddler-ship, so you’d think I would have figured all of this out by now, right? Well, I haven’t, I’m clearly still a child and working on this puzzle has me second-guessing basic geometry. Like, did I go to college?
Far too many times than I’d care to admit, when I have placed a piece in a spot it doesn’t belong, I spend a good 3-4 seconds attempting to beat it into submission.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it doesn’t fit. But it looks like it should be able to fit, and I could probably bend a piece here or cut a piece there to make it so.
But of course, I’m met with the same outcome.
It’s not going to fit, sweetie.
So I put it down and keep looking. It takes a while to look (and I’m still not 100% convinced that I can’t make the other one work), but I keep going.
And sure enough, when I find that one piece that I’ve been searching for – voila! Perfect fit.
What have I learned?
It either fits or it doesn’t. Don’t force it.
I have what I need.
In the first few days of working on puzzle-topia, we (read: I) thought it would be a good idea to take the pieces out of the box, work on them, and then put them back in the box. And in a further attempt to be efficient, I even suggested putting similar colored pieces in the same bags and then putting them back in the box. I don’t like mess, and hundreds of pieces lying on the kitchen table was the very definition of the word. So back in the box they went!
As you can imagine, this was an ill-advised plan that only led to more chaos and confusion.
The boo: Where was that pink and brown piece that I had earlier?
Me: Oh, I put that back in the bag.
TB: Which bag?
So with that, all 1,000 pieces were left on the table for good.
With everything laid out in front of me, organized by color, shape and size (again, this is who I am) it made for an experience that proved to actually be efficient.
Now, when I find myself at a standstill, or in the search for the right piece, I can at least take comfort in knowing that everything I need is right in front of me.
Sometimes, I get anxious and start thinking that the one piece I need somehow fell off the table – or worse – it wasn’t in the box to begin with.
But it’s on that table somewhere. It may take some time to find it, but it’s there.
What have I learned?
Everything I need, I already have.
I’m not doing this alone.
Prior to my complete and utter disdain for all things puzzle related, the boo and I were excited to try one together.
“It will be fun!” we said. An ‘enjoyable’ activity together, we thought.
We clearly also thought that it would be fun to test our marriage and patience because THAT’S NOT WHERE IT GOES, BABE.
Since we started, the majority of our puzzle time has been spent at the table together, trying to tackle this monstrosity one cardboard cut out at a time. But other times, we might find ourselves at the table, working a few pieces here or there by ourselves.
And God help me when I’m working at it alone, because I feel like I might break out in hives and have, on many occasions, just walked away.
This puzzle is an elephant, and I know I’m supposed to eat it one bite at a time, but this thing is overwhelming and I’d rather just starve.
So every time I get worked up, not knowing what to do next, I have to remind myself that I’m not doing this alone. No one is asking me to finish this puzzle by myself.
On the contrary, the boo would be pretty upset if I did, since we agreed we would do it together.
So I stop, take a breath, and then get back to it.
Or I go take a nap. Usually that one.
What have I learned?
I don’t have to figure this out on my own.
I had hoped to publish this post after we had successfully finished the puzzle – complete with a picture of me standing over our finished work with my arms in the air and victory on my face.
But, as it were, I’m pretty sure we will be working on this for the next 3-5 years, so you get what you get.
Attempting to do this puzzle has made me feel like an absolute failure at times, and if I had to do it all over again… I wouldn’t.
But alas, here we are – knee deep in puzzle warfare. It’s not for the faint of heart.
It may take some time, but I can take some comfort in knowing that what’s right will fit, I have everything I need and I don’t have to go at it alone.
So take what I’ve learned and apply it to the next time you find yourself working on a puzzle (which you shouldn’t – have you learned nothing?!) or just living your life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me.
I’ve got to go eat an elephant.