If someone suggested that you spend your free time engaging in an activity that required the skill of a 9 year old, the patience of an 80 year old, dozens of hours, and in the end resulted in nothing of value, would you shudder with excitement and ask “when can I start?”

I would.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of jigsaw puzzles.  And to tell you the truth, I am not sure why.

  • I don’t glue or frame the puzzles when they are done.  I put them back in the box.
  • I don’t compete in any type of puzzling contests. I don’t think they exist.
  • I don’t believe it improves my intelligence or enlightens me in any way. 

It tickles me that I get so much pleasure out of something that serves absolutely no purpose.  Because,  I don’t do ANYTHING unless there is a good reason.  Purpose is key component of my DNA.

But I can sit for hours in silence working on a stupid puzzle. I do maybe three puzzles a year, each one taking a few weeks to complete.  The one I am working on now is a goofy farm scene with a ton of pumpkins.  But I am conquering the pumpkins.  And every piece I snap together gives me a mini-burst of satisfaction.


I am a puzzle purist.  I don’t like puzzles that have a murder mystery attached to them or secret messages within them.  I don’t like puzzles in 3-D or ones that have pieces that are all the same color.  I don’t particularly care what the picture is, but I prefer something that has enough variety that I can gather similar looking pieces and work on sections.  I won’t do a puzzle less than 1000 pieces (too easy) and probably would never tackle one that is 10,000 pieces (too hard).  Jennifer pointed out to me that I am “private puzzler”.  That is, I have no interest in working on puzzles set out at libraries or hotel lobbies.  I puzzle only in the comfort of my own home.

Sometimes Chase helps me which I always allow enjoy.  But Dave and Noah will have nothing to do with the puzzle.  Once long ago when I was nearly finished a 1000 piecer, Dave came into the dining room and offered to “help” with the last 15 pieces.  After my head finished spinning around and I vomited pea soup at him, he wisely retreated.  For some reason, he has never offered to help again.  Go figure.

The year after I graduated from college, my roommate Lisa and I purchased a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle which we worked on for months.  Some of my fondest memories were doing that puzzle and talking about life.  We skipped many a night out because we were so fixated on those little pieces.  I still remember the puzzle vernacular we invented:  I HAVE MAJOR PIECAGE! we would tell each other after finding a strategic missing piece. We finished at the end of the year right before she moved away to go to medical school.  I think it lasted a few days on the table completed before we put it away.  But it wasn’t the end product that meant so much; it was the hours we spent together doing it.

I guess that is why I enjoy the puzzle as an activity.  It slows me down practically to a meditative state, which is always a spectacle to behold.  My family looks on at me like they are watching some sort of zoo animal. I swear I can hear Dave telling the boys:   “Look kids – it’s Mommy!  Look how still she is sitting.  Shhh.  Be quiet.  You might startle her.”

It is the one thing in life I do where I have complete control, no pressure to succeed, but guaranteed success nonetheless.  It’s also an activity where the pieces aren’t constantly moving.  They just lay there on the table, waiting patiently to be found and put in the correct spot.  If only my other “pieces” would do that for me I would be able to move through life in the Zen like trance I achieve when I’m puzzling.

So tell me MoB readers, is there anything you do to slow down, zone out, or chill that is as meaningless and goofy as doing a puzzle?

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