Jigsaw puzzles fascinate me.
In elementary school and junior high, my classmates very much enjoyed staying on trend playing the latest and greatest video and computers games. I, on the other hand, had other interests in mind. Nope, not the world of Pokemon cards (although I’ll admit, that was a thing at one point), but I would ask my parents to buy me puzzles. I didn’t want just any ordinary puzzle though. I specifically only wanted 1000-piece Thomas Kinkade puzzles. Nerdy as it sounds and if I’m being totally honest, it really became a little bit of an addiction, especially in my seventh grade year when I became severely ill and had to be home-schooled for most of it. For years, I had tried to analyze and hash out what drew me in, why I only wanted to build those exclusive puzzles and would refuse to succumb to anything else. Maybe it was because of all the colors—the glowing highlights and saturated pastels intricately plaited onto the canvases. Maybe it was Kinkade’s placement of idyllic settings in his works—lighthouses, stone cottages, rivers, streams, woods, and floral gardens. Maybe it was the crazed chaos happening in my life and immersing myself within this meticulous activity ushered in a glimpse of peace. Perhaps, it was the combination of all those things, which resulted in the formation of something so beautifully striking. Regardless of the motivation, there was something about those painted puzzle prints that captivated me time and time again. But as I became more charmed, I learned that Kinkade’s artwork actually also fell under the bucolic category, meaning that an artist employs assorted methods, taking something that is pretty multifaceted and embeds it into a simpler context.
Cravings of simplicity are so real, but it is never really that simple.
It’s not that simple because you don’t get to choose the kind of environment you are raised up in. You do not get to choose whether you are rich or poor, or whether your parents decide they want to get a divorce or remain together. You don’t get to choose if you grow up around a household of alcoholics or substance abusers. And you sure don’t get to make decisions about being plague by diseases because your immune system is giving up on you. So I say that it is never really that simple because we are humans living very real and complex lives in a nothing but broken world. And, there are a lot of situations we fall into during our lifetime that are astoundingly complex, because again, large letters of brokenness spell out our names in lights.
We were also intricately created that way—complex, I mean. Our brains are complex. Our DNA is complex. Our innermost organs that help keep us alive function together complexly so we are able to live. I’ve heard people say thousands of times that us, humans, are the ones who create the labyrinths in our lives, and although this sometimes proves to be true, it still does not negate the fact that life can be a 1000-piece puzzle and we’re just searching to find the missing parts to fill in the empty spaces.
I thought I knew how to fill in the empty spaces.
I had tactically derived a formula. They were called plans. I thought I was the smartest little cookie, and had it all figured out. I had a very particular puzzle-putting-together routine. One. Cautiously slice the four edges of the 8×8-cubed box filled with the tiny jigsaw pieces with an X-acto knife. Two. Carefully detach the top cover from the bottom cover. Three. Sift the pieces to remove excess cardboard shavings from the actual parts. Four. Sort through and separate the corners from the edges from the middles. Then, I would start building the frame. And when that was finished, I would proceed to group colors and textures together so I could complete the rest of the picture. This so-called strategy allowed me to move on quickly through each puzzle so I could proceed to the next one on my to-do list. I would even offer myself time restraints. Two hours for the lower right hand portion. Thirty minutes to build the cottage. You know… #LIFEGOALS.
MISSING: Puzzle piece.
This whole planning thing, the whole strategically lay our your life step by step because that’s how you become a successful individual—It works until you realize the missing piece of the puzzle is an actual missing piece, and there is no way you’re going to locate it because it fails to exist.
The first time it happened, my mind was absolutely boggled. I had gone through my little routine to section out the puzzle, and when I got to the end, I was missing some parts. WHAT?! I just couldn’t comprehend that the box came lacking. Like, how could life play games and screw with me that way—hand me lemon juice not lemonade, divorced parents, a hundred sports injuries, a restraining order on my sister’s ex-husband, and a grandmother who leaves farewell messages in a voicemail because she was going through an attempt. How could life hand me something absolutely crazy and incomplete like that? Unguaranteed? Messy? I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t wrap my brain around it sometimes. It just doesn’t make sense, and it’ll shake you the heck up because you’ll try to uncover the answers. I have devoted a lot of time, and mental and emotional energy processing through, with efforts to tear apart life events just so I could understand better all its happenings.
There’s this inexorable grind to try to figure out this life thing until you grasp that life is not a puzzle.
It is not a puzzle. There is no formula. It is not a mystery that can be solved by your humanness, or your human hands. It is not a race. It is not a competition. And you sure as hell will never ever ever ever figure it out completely. So stop trying.
We’re immersed in a culture that shouts at us to be bigger and better, stronger and faster than the person standing next to us. Be center. Be sparkling and loud. Scream into the microphone with all your might and opinions just to prove that you matter, that you are worthy. We’re all just looking to be known. To be seen. To find purpose and to quiet the silly voices in our heads that tell us we are accidents. We are no accidents, and our lives are not accidents.
YOU MATTER. AND YOU. ARE. WORTHY.
Accepting that will be the greatest life favoring you will treat yourself to. And as we all journey and learn to do accept those truths, it’ll result to be even grander and sweeter than ice cream and dark chocolate and wine, combined.
Reminder to self: Stop trying to finish the puzzle.
Because when I try to look for the pieces to finish it, I forget to breathe. I spend endless amounts of energy pushing myself, and then I get into these modes where I’m trying to someway validate that I have something to offer to this world. So I keep myself as busy and productive as my schedule permits me to be, and maybe a little more. Truth is: It’s really because I let the pressure of liars deceive me, muttering about how I am hardcore falling behind. I’m afraid that everyone in my circles or at my age, seems to accomplishing their puzzles little by little—pursuing PhD’s, buying property, popping out babies, building up their 401Ks and IRAs and investing in stocks. Like they’re about to set that last jigsaw piece in its place, and I’m still looking for the corner pieces so it’s possible for me to link the edges.
I was watching snippets of videos friends were sending me one morning of Taylor Swift. In one of them, she was giving this amazing speech about how we get so caught up comparing ourselves to each other that we somehow forget how to be us. I don’t care what anyone thinks. That woman is a boss and when she preaches, she preaches and she’s inspiring.
“When you start comparing yourselves to other people, please change the channel to something else. When it comes to how we see ourselves, other people are really mean but WE are really mean to ourselves. And so, it’s easy to get confused […]”
You are not going nowhere, just because you haven’t gotten where you want to go yet.
And, you are not the opinion of somebody who doesn’t know you.
You are your own definition of beautiful and worthwhile. You are someone who is wiser because you have miss-stepped or made the mistakes. You are somebody who stood up this morning despite the hard things going on in your life. So when you start feeling like you are not extraordinary or unique, or that don’t have anything significant to say, remember that it is not always about the puzzle and trying to complete it in its perfect entirety. Sometimes, it’s just about getting on with things and taking baby steps to evolve and move onward.
I’m still trying to build the frame. I don’t have it all figured out, if I have even begun to figure anything out at all. I’m just trying to wake up in the morning and claim the small victories. Because sometimes, you get big credit just for waking up and getting out of bed. And just that, is progress.
Photo Source: Juliann Cheryl