How a Puzzle Changed my Outlook on Life


When I was a kid I got a tangram puzzle and booklet with over 100 puzzle shapes to solve. Over the course of several days I worked on those puzzles in all of my free moments. It was so satisfying.

Now I’m an adult and I don’t have time for such childish things.

People doing a puzzle

This weekend my eyes were reopened and I had to let go of false teachings about how I “should” spend my time. Here’s what happened:

I had an unopened jigsaw puzzle that I’d purchased four years earlier. I’d done so after my future mother-in-law (FMIL) told me the stories of the puzzles hanging on her wall. She’d created them with loved ones who had passed — there was such joy in her stories. I wanted that joy so I too bought a jigsaw puzzle.

I waited for the perfect time to start the puzzle but it never came.

My fiancé wasn’t the least bit interested in putting together this puzzle with me and I don’t have kids so why in the world would I spend time on a puzzle? I didn’t have a good reason. I couldn’t imagine getting enough benefit from working on puzzle. It seemed like a waste of time and I put it away.

I’ve become so adept at maximizing my investments and hedging my “bets” in life that I expect I need to always know the value of any investment I make in time or money. I can sometimes get anxious over this, not wanting to regret a choice. What I had forgotten was that there is value in doing something purely for the enjoyment without any other expectations.

So this past weekend I pulled out that puzzle on a Friday afternoon — when I “should” have been working.

Something unexpected and beautiful happened over the course of that weekend. Magic.

That weekend our moms were visiting us for a wedding weekend activities. Yet, the best part of that weekend for me was that puzzle. It became our center, drawing us together throughout the days. We’d wake in the morning and add a few pieces as we talked about what we were doing that day. As we passed by the kitchen table to make tea, we’d linger to see if we could find just one more piece that fit.

We were all participating, sometimes playing side by side, other times collaborating. When we’d get a piece in we’d squeal with delight and eagerly look to see if the piece just placed unlocked any secrets of the puzzle. We were in the moment and pure.

I was seeing the magic I’d longed for happen right before my eyes. 

Our moms had already gone home before my fiancé and I finished the puzzle. By this time, we’d created a routine around it — a few pieces in the morning before work and at least one piece each before we went to bed. When we finished the puzzle it was obvious that we’d get another one right away. Now there will always be an puzzle in progress at our house, open to participation from all visitors.

And just like that, a tradition was created.

The puzzle weekend will stick with me. I think about it a lot and it’s inspired me to make sure I add more activities into my daily life that are purely for the fun of it. I won’t ever think that childish things are a waste of time again.

Now, where are those coloring books that my friends got me for my birthday?