For the first two weeks of quarantine, our work computer system was limited in how many people could log in remotely at any given time and I struggled with the weird schedule that came with that.
On the Sunday heading into the third week, I decided to pull out a puzzle I’ve had for a while and dumped it onto the dining table.
I’m not fast at puzzles (unless they are super easy). So if I am going to do one, I need to know I will have a chunk of time to work on it and actually get it done because the dining table will be out of commission until the puzzle is finished.
Plus, since puzzles are easy things to work on for a bit and walk away from, it would be a perfect thing for this new work schedule.
So, I dumped the puzzle out and got started, excited to have something different to work on.
Then, not even a couple of hours later, I got an email explaining how the system had been boosted or bolstered (or whatever the right word is for this situation) and we were no longer restricted in when we could log on.
Most of me was happy to hear that. I was glad that I could get back to my regular schedule and, with all the general pandemic weirdness, it was nice to have some kind of normalcy re-established.
But a tiny part of me was not so happy. Ironically, that weekend I had finally gotten myself into a head space that was ready to accept the new schedule. That was what had led to the whole puzzle thing. So that part of me thought, “But the puzzle! I just started the puzzle!!”
Had I gotten the email earlier on Sunday, I wouldn’t have even pulled the puzzle out. There was no way I’d get it done quickly and pack it away any time soon. My dining table was now off limits for an undetermined amount of time. Dang.
Not that I actually use it to eat. But still. I didn’t want the puzzle there until the next millennium and now it very well might be.
I went at it like gangbusters initially and got about half of it done the first week. I picked at it on and off for a while after that and then, when it got too hard (yes, I’m a puzzle wuss) I stopped working on it at all.
And it sat there staring at me, almost taunting me. “You can’t just leave me here. You need to finish me. C’mon! What are you waiting for??”
But I couldn’t. I had no interest in sorting through the bits that were left. The only part of me that wanted to finish it was the part that seemed to believe in some unwritten rule that if you start a puzzle you absolutely have to finish it. Or else.
Now, I had no idea what that “or else” was, but it felt like it would be bad.
So even though the occasional “Just pack it up and put it away” thought would flit into my mind, I would mentally gasp at the audacious horror of the thought and dismiss it immediately: “I can’t!!! I just can’t!!!”
And so, there it sat. Week after week after week.
Then, on May 29, 2 months to the day later from when I pulled it out of the box, I had had enough. I was sick of looking at it. I knew that I wasn’t going to finish it. And I realized it was really silly to leave it there for literally no good reason.
It made me think about how a few years ago I was reading a book that I was absolutely not enjoying at all. Like not even a little bit. I had a similar “rule” in my head then: If you start a book, you have to finish it.
Um…no you don’t.
I remembered that I went through the same process at the time – wanting to give up on it, but also feeling like I couldn’t. As though somehow it wasn’t allowed.
I don’t remember what the book was, but I ultimately realized the foolishness of that thought process and finally put it down and walked away.
And now the puzzle? I had to finish it? Really? Why? Why do I absolutely, unequivocally have to finish this puzzle? What’s the worst that will really happen?
I’ll tell you what will happen: Nothing.
So I packed it up and put it away. Done and dusted!
And boy howdy, I tell you that felt good!
How weird, right? I mean…big deal. Big. Fat. Hairy. Deal. I put a puzzle away.
And yet, there it was. It felt amazing! Liberating!
When I was younger I had the opposite problem – I couldn’t ever finish anything. To an embarrassing extent, actually.
I have worked really hard at overcoming that, or at least becoming much better about it. And it seems that perhaps I have let the pendulum swing a bit too far the other way, so that I couldn’t let myself not finish something even when it really was the smart thing to do.
Maybe, then, I felt so good about it (as small a decision as it was) because it’s another step towards finding balance.
So…if you are in that boat, and in case you are wondering: You don’t have to finish the puzzle. Nope. You don’t. Box it up and put it away.
It’s OK. You are still a good person. 🙂
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