spilled puzzles

If you’re half-done with a jigsaw puzzle and flip the table it’s on, what happens?

Does it perfectly shatter, every piece perfectly freed from its neighbors, ready to begin again? Unlikely. You’d end up with a sad crumple of a puzzle: many of the pieces still somewhat connected, but likely to continue crumbling as you try to pick it up, sections cleaving.

You have a new project: How to move the remaining bits back onto the table, delicately un-crumpling, salvaging what you can. Can you account for all the pieces? Did you even have them all to begin with? Does it matter right now?

Life is a 1000 piece puzzle, but we only have 980 pieces or so and they’re not all from the right puzzle.

Micah Haun, 2005

I feel like I’ve spent the last year and nine months picking chunks of puzzle off the floor. Cataloging and evaluating. Mourning what was. Walking away from the mess for long stretches. Trying to remember what I thought the puzzle was supposed to look like. Did it ever resemble that?

I don’t know.

Life isn’t an ordinary puzzle. It keeps expanding, and you often need to cut pieces yourself. When I’m feeling clever and powerful, I make connections in unexpected ways. When I’m drained and beaten, I keep tapping at the same ill-fitting piece, wishing it worked there. I wondered if I would have the energy to do the former anymore.

This week, I feel like I leveled the table and got the rest of the remaining puzzle off the floor. A chunk I’d put near the middle is gone forever. But I can finally see how things might fit together again. I might even try something clever.