Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fitting the Puzzle

“There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Of all virtues a human can have, patience is certainly one I never mastered. For that reason mostly, I’ve never been a fan of jigsaw puzzles. Last night we decided to have fast food for dinner, and my daughter found a puzzle as prize in her happy meal bag. As soon as we got home, she opened the small bag and poured the puzzle pieces onto the table. Then, she looked at me with big, disarming eyes and said: “Mom, can you help me with this?”

I was trapped. With dad still at work and teenage brothers busy talking on the phone and playing on the computer, I could see no way out. I drew a silent deep breath and tried my best to smile excitedly, while my daughter, oblivious to the truth painted on my face, gingerly got the pieces ready.

Finding the corner pieces was the easy part; next – I remember hearing from my husband once, while he worked on one of the wretched things with one of the children – we had to find the “outside” pieces with straight sides. Check. After a little while we identified those pieces too. Now the real fun was about to start…fitting the middle pieces that always appear to go everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Since the visual skills of my five-year-old daughter are with no doubt superior to mine – and also because with a good compliment I could buy my way out of puzzle-hell - I encouraged her to try on her own. Not only was my idea a sudden burst of geniality getting me out of a hot spot, but watching my daughter solve the puzzle from a distance also taught me a thing or two about the way we fit, or don’t seem to, in the greater puzzle of life.

The first thing she did was to rotate the pieces to see if they would interlock with the ones already laid out. When more than one piece seemed to fit, she matched colors at the edges to discern the right one from the wrong ones.

A thought suddenly fluttered through my mind…could it be that when we feel we don’t fit we are just not properly “rotated” and are looking at things from the wrong direction? Surely, if we turned the puzzle pieces facing the other way they would no longer fit. Similarly, we often look at things from a faulty perspective; we can’t find our place, or look around to see lack of acceptance and judgment, because our focus is on what doesn’t matter. If we have to give a speech, write a piece, or introduce ourselves to the world, we worry more about what others are expecting to see than about what we have to offer. Someone once said that if we center our thoughts on what we are doing rather than on what others might think of it, then we will create something we can be proud of that will probably be favorably accepted by others.

Her second approach was also enlightening. We are, many times, given clues to help us ease into situations, but we often ignore them because our arrogance gets in the way. “This is the way I am,” I’ve heard someone say before, “if they can’t take me the way I am it’s their loss.” Well, it very well would be, if the person voicing out their unmoving position was content and not at all bothered by exclusion and social rejection. Everyone should be confident enough to be honest about who they are, but if what they show the world causes them to suffer, maybe a little adjustment or toning down is in order; expecting others to accept our dark side with open arms is no less pompous than forcing a people to say they love their dictator.

Each of us has a place in the greater scheme of things, and all of us are here to serve a purpose, whether our role is apparent or masked. Just a few days ago, I read somewhere that Hitler and the Dalai Lama were great teachers because they both moved people to compassion from opposite sides of the board. Even if it is a hard concept to swallow, I deeply believe that statement hides a great truth.

We might never find out what our purpose is, and maybe it is not even important we know. What IS important is that we recognize our value is much higher in the greater scheme of things than we will ever be able to perceive from our point of perspective.