Life is like a great big puzzle.

I was doing a puzzle this morning (3D Hogwarts, an early birthday gift from my sweet husband) and thinking about how much I love puzzles. Particularly the 3D ones. And I was thinking about the metaphor they make of life, and enjoying that too. (I did a Lord of the Rings puzzle over the weekend—the Citadel of Minas Tirith, for those who want to know—and now Harry Potter. The fact that I’m geeking out over puzzle metaphors probably shouldn’t shock anyone at this point.)

The specific thing I enjoy is sorting out chaos. You start with pieces that all look the same and where some people might get overwhelmed, I see a challenge that excites me. I don’t necessarily love the first step of sorting, but I do it because of what it leads to. And I always find as I look at piece after piece, patterns inevitably emerge. And the feeling of identifying the patterns stirs a unique thrill in me.

Yes, I’m a thrill-seeker whose object of desire is puzzles.

***

My sister and I played Guess Who the other day. For fun, for nostalgia. The categorization theme is similar in that game. The winning strategy is to ask questions that can confirm or eliminate a detail that, hopefully, breaks the big task of choosing the right one out of twenty-some into something manageable.

I was thinking of this as I was sorting pieces. The puzzle comes with 850 of them. I started sorting into three piles of roof pieces, building pieces and ground pieces. Tossing the red dot pieces that are a waste product of printing. After that, you’re still left with hundreds in each pile, but when they’re grouped you can identify more nuanced patterns. Shapes and colors and details that you didn’t even notice before. But now they jump out, begging to be sorted, their commonalities found and put together into something with more meaning.

I think the reason I like 3D puzzles most is that they feel like lots of puzzles in one. I already finished the ground layer, and I get the satisfaction of finishing section by section as I work. Then, at the very end, all the sections themselves become a new puzzle to construct into something tangible. The satisfaction at the end is somewhat akin to a symphony. Different parts coming together to make something new, and the harmony vibrates at a deeper level than any of the individual parts might. Look at what I made! Yes, I agree it kicks ass. Feels good.

Life’s like that, don’t you think? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the chaos of seeing all the pieces around you. I must confess, lately I’ve been paralyzed by the sight of it all more often than I’d like to admit. That feeling of standing in the middle of piles and piles of pieces that you know can fit together, but right now they don’t, and the dissonance rattles your nerves. For a person who actually likes that kind of challenge, it sometimes feels like I might drown in metaphorical puzzle pieces.

I usually come around to remembering that instead of experiencing sheer panic and overwhelm, I can choose to dig in. Remain calm. Identify some themes and start sorting. Even though I don’t like that part very much, it’s worth it because after that, things really start coming together. And *that’s* the part I like.

Sometimes all you can muster is the energy to sort between what you need and what’s waste. But it’s a start, and it’s an invitation to the more subtle themes to show themselves.

—-

A friend passed away yesterday. She was older, but it still came as a surprise to those who loved her. No one was ready. She’d been in the midst of planning a new chapter of life with her husband, moving closer to children and grandchildren. And then, gone.

It seems like every time we lose someone, I remember again that none of us are here to stay, and the pain of that knowledge is fresh as if it’s never happened before. My innate desire and fulfillment in sorting chaos into order short circuits sometimes when I get scared of mortality. Mine and yours. Sucks the fun right out of it. What if we don’t get to finish putting it together, what if we are asked to leave before the big finish? What if we don’t get to experience the symphony of all the parts fitting together vibrating through our cells?

I’m pretty sure it’s worth it. I’m pretty sure it comes around to faith. Faith that your pieces will be picked up by someone else if you have to leave. Faith that the labors over your part of the puzzle will have mattered.

It’s a lot of thoughts I’m having over a Harry Potter puzzle, is all I’m saying.

I’m pretty sure the puzzle matters.

Cats help.

Cats help.