Solve a puzzle, solve a problem.

Bridget - Long Beach, California
Entered on March 2, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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When I was a child, I did not dread having time-out as a punishment. I did not mind if my mother put me to bed early or made me skip dessert. What my siblings and I feared much more than that was what my mother called “harmony puzzles.” Whenever my siblings and I would fight, she would make us all sit down together and do a puzzle. While this may not sound bad to you, it was torture for us. We only had a few puzzles, and the only one I liked, the Aladdin puzzle, was missing a piece right in the middle, which always killed me. I hated that we wasted time on something that would never be complete. We would get in each other’s way as we scrambled to put the puzzle together as fast as possible, just so we could go back to whatever it was that we were doing. We would barely talk, and we would not solve our fight. I couldn’t wait until my mom would realize that this tactic didn’t’ work, and we could finally stop doing the damn puzzles.

Finally, one day my mother stopped making us do these puzzles. We started receiving more normal punishments, such as cleaning, not being allowed to watch TV, and having to stay inside while our friends played. I began to miss the days when all I would have to do is simply put together a few pieces and have a feeble conversation with my brother or sister. The older we grew, the more we forgot about those puzzles. They just remained at the bottom of our closet in the hallway, gathering dust. I wrote puzzles out of my life, for I assumed they would bore me and that I would never enjoy them. I was wrong. It started whenever I would go to my best friend’s house. Her mother would buy puzzles in a hope that the whole family would do it together. Every time I would go over to her house, we would end up spending hours working on those puzzles. Slowly, I began to realize I found them relaxing, even fun.

Years later in high school, I discovered that not only do I enjoy puzzles, I honestly loved them. When I casually mentioned this to my friend’s mom, she started always having a puzzle at their house whenever I came over. Sometimes we would actually cancel our plans for the night because we would get too immersed in a puzzle. All our friends would laugh at us for this, but we did not care. We were able to just sit down and talk about anything while doing our puzzle. It was a nice break. The same thing happened at college; a friend in my dorm was sent a puzzle by his parents during final’s week, and I saw him putting it together in his room. I sat with him for 3 hours and we finished it, and I was more relaxed than I had been the entire week. I was able to gather my thoughts, calm down, and enjoy myself.

I finally see what my mother was doing with her “harmony puzzles.” When my siblings and I would fight, she thought it would be a good way to just relax, talk, and forget about what had happened. This is now how I see puzzles, as a way to escape and do something that involves very little thinking about your day, your job, or school. As bizarre as it sounds, I believe that puzzles can help people see their lives more clearly.