I made some progress, but some things I couldn’t do well. Were they really daisies? Or were they actually bits of yellowish grass? Were these white pieces clouds? Or were they part of the whitewashed wood of the cabin in the center of the meadow?
By grouping the pieces by shape, I made a little more progress. I assembled the clouds, the dirt road and the watering can, and parts of the cabin. Still, I wasn’t sure where I was going. Was it pieces of wood, or the gardener’s brown robe? Were they roses or reddish branches on a tree? The next evening, or early in the morning, I gave up. The puzzle got the better of me. I had to change tactics again.
The same has happened in my life. When I was 28, I went out with my business school mates and started a Masters of Fine Arts program. For 18 months I worked hard on a short story collection. Halfway through my class, I took a drama writing class and realized I had a talent for it.
In writing my play, I often threw in the towel. I called my friends and classmates, who all supported me as I tried to pursue a creative career, and told them I was quitting. I considered contacting a consulting firm that recruited me more times than I would like to admit.
Life contains an infinite number of parts, many of which do not fit in the final image. Life has no corners or edges; there is no limit, no frame to contain or comfort you. And life doesn’t come in a box with a photo of the finished job on it. You have decided to complete it without knowing if you will succeed, or what it will look like if you do.
In life, I feel like I ran down a dark alley. Until recently, I lived at home; I have no life partner and little to show for my five plus years of education in creative writing. I’m 32 and already way behind my peers (and younger sisters) in terms of career success, and still don’t really know what to do with my life. Sometimes I’m so lost that I go in the shower and cry. Still, something keeps me going. The moment I admitted I was lost with the puzzle, something unlocked: a piece that I thought was flat turned out not to be. Another room, when turned, was the fireplace above the log cabin. Every time I thought I had to quit, I found a way, a place for one more piece, a way to continue.
I hope the same is true in life: if I continue, as with this puzzle, I will look back one day and find that although I have fought mightily against self-blame and doubt, I made a beautiful pattern. After all, isn’t that the point of puzzles? We wouldn’t complete a puzzle of just four pieces; that would be boring. If life were simple, straightforward, we wouldn’t even try. We live, although we fight against him, for the conflict, the struggle, the sense of not awareness. Stories, novels, plays that ask more questions than they answer are what endures.