Today I finished a jigsaw puzzle that our family had been working on for a considerable amount of time. It was a project that lasted, at a minimum, over two years, and it may have taken as many as 4. None of us actually remember when we first started putting it together. It became a fixture in our home. It was started on the dining room table, but it had to be moved to a card table once a holiday rolled around. The card table was sometimes in the kitchen and sometimes in the living room, depending on our entertainment schedule. At times the puzzle was ignored for months on end, and at other times (usually during big snow storms), it became the center of family activity. At some point, we all contributed to the project.
Just about a week ago, I decided that it was time to break the puzzle apart. It was 95% complete, and it was clear that pieces were missing. We had all lost interest, and we were getting the house ready to entertain for another family event. But, when I tried to break it apart, I just couldn’t do it. It seemed wrong to give up on something that had been in progress for so long and was almost complete. I rationalized that we had tried to finish it time and time again, and that we were at a stalemate. If I didn’t break it apart, it would probably stay on that card table, being moved from room to room, until we ultimately sold the house. However, as is most typical, the rational side of my personality lost, and I again moved the card table, puzzle intact.
I’m not exactly sure from where my desire to finish this puzzle came, but it most likely had something to do with sentimentality. The puzzle is a picture of Times Square at night, showing all the hustle and bustle that is the heart of New York City. I bought this puzzle as a family Christmas gift after we had visited on vacation. We stayed in the middle of Times Square and thoroughly enjoyed all the area had to offer. The puzzle reminded me of the fun we had. Additionally, I treasure the family time we shared putting the puzzle together. But no matter what the cause of my dedication to the project, the puzzle had survived another holiday.
Maybe it was my subconscious getting the better of me, but last night I sat down at the card table and began working on the puzzle. To my surprise, and delight, the pieces were easily going into place. In just under 45 minutes, it was almost complete. I probably would have finished the whole thing, but hunger took over and I made dinner instead. However, my first task this morning was to work on the puzzle. In 20 minutes, the seemingly endless project was finally finished. I was probably more excited than was warranted, but it was gratifying to know that we hadn’t given up.
As I moved on with my day, the puzzle stayed with me. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I reflected on the lessons it taught me. Of course, the most obvious is that perseverance pays off. I realize that this can be attributed to almost every successful endeavor, most of which are far more important than putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But, it showed me that not giving up on the little things could be as important as not giving up on the big stuff. The little things, the day-to-day stuff in our lives are what define our lives. Seeing the little things through, like eating well and exercising, lay the foundation for the bigger things, such as running a marathon or beating a disease. The other thing that struck me is that we almost gave up on the puzzle because we knew there were a few missing pieces. In reality, the missing pieces had little impact on the final product. We thought those missing pieces might make it too difficult to actually finish the task. Looking back, they were just an excuse to give up. How many times have I done that on something that really mattered? So often we all focus on what we’re missing instead of on what we have, and that point of view can jade our outlook, limiting what we pursue. It’s like saying that if you’re short you can’t play basketball or that if you’re tall you can’t do gymnastics. We all know that there are other attributes besides height, or lack of it, that make an athlete successful. Focusing on the negative will never help you achieve your dreams.
So maybe I’m waxing way too philosophical about a 1000 piece puzzle of the city that never sleeps. But then again, maybe I’m not. In either case, the card table has been disassembled and put away. And for those of you who are wondering about the puzzle, I bought puzzle glue. It’s now glued together and hanging in the finished part of the basement as a tribute to family time, perseverance, and the ability accomplish a goal despite a few missing pieces.