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Jigsaw Puzzle




Recently I bought a jigsaw puzzle for the first time in many years. It was a beautiful picture of several hot air balloons as they soared over the canyons of New Mexico. I always pick out the edges and complete that part of the puzzle first working my way inward until finished. After a few hours I was done except for one piece I couldn’t find. Tediously searching through the 1000 little parts I got really frustrated. I was certain it was lost or never put in the box in the first place. I could see other pieces of the puzzle and where they might belong but I couldn’t move on. I had to find that edge. I went through the box piece by piece until I had moved every one to another box. It wasn’t there. Finally, I was so rattled I decided to take a break and go for a walk.


As I was strolling through the winding path adjacent to the river, my mind automatically began to focus on the beauty surrounding me. Settling down a bit, I thought about that puzzle and how I got so upset over one missing piece. Then it hit me like a brick. That’s exactly what I do in my life. The tendency to focus on the one or two things that aren’t coming together can derail me in a heartbeat. When that happens, it’s like I have tunnel vision and can only see what’s missing. There will be so many beautiful pieces to my life puzzle but my attention is focused elsewhere.


What if I worked on that puzzle and left that missing piece alone? I decided to give it a try even though it gave me a little anxiety. What if I put all of that effort into the puzzle and it wasn’t complete? I walked back to the house and sat down with my puzzle and relaxed. Slowly, I began to fit the balloons together and place them inside the almost complete edges. It was really beautiful and I enjoyed the process. The missing piece was practically invisible to the picture as a whole.


When I was about halfway through, I reached in the box and pulled out a small red piece thinking it would fit above the basket on a balloon. When I looked down, I saw it had a tiny straight edge that was barely noticeable. Could it be? I slipped it between the two edges and it was a perfect fit.


Situations in my life have been very similar to this in a lot of ways. When I can let go of something that is causing me stress and pain, or if I can accept something as being the way God intended, I can find peace and serenity in the moment. Often, those “missing pieces” work out better than I planned when I quit trying to force and control the outcome. My job is to do the footwork and leave the results up to my Higher Power.


I know it’s cliché and overused at times but one of the best ways to accomplish this is to write a gratitude list every day. When I put pen to paper, it always amazes me after I’m done. There are so many blessings and gifts in my life. If I’m focused and obsessed with a couple of things that aren’t going my way or that I’m struggling to accept or change, I can redirect my thinking by writing out a gratitude list. It forces me to acknowledge and pay attention to all the good that is mine today.


None of us are “complete” in the sense that everything in our lives is perfect. We wouldn’t be human if that were the case. Learning to live with our imperfections is a big step toward gaining humility and acceptance. Today I will focus on the blessings in my life. I will write out a gratitude list and acknowledge that the missing pieces aren’t really noticeable when looking at my life as a whole. When I can do this, I find that things usually come together much better anyway.

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