When I was a kid, my mother introduced me to jigsaw puzzles. Every Holiday season, we would pick out a puzzle and spread it out on the dining room table. We turn over all the pieces right side up, setting aside the border pieces, which we assembled first. Then we would each work on a certain section – the sleigh, Santa’s red suit, his bag of toys, and so on.
This past Thanksgiving, my mother and I put together a puzzle of a cat walking across a log with two sunflowers dipping down from the top of the picture. I put together the flowers first. The brown center and petals in shades of yellow and orange made it easy to differentiate the pieces, and they went together quickly. Then I started to work on the log. It stretched the width of the puzzle and was entirely gray with only tiny flecks of color. I gathered all the gray pieces. I examined the picture on the box and thought about trying to separate them out in smaller groups, only to decide they were too similar. Nothing. Too much gray, too many pieces. Putting puzzles together was a hobby since childhood; I was supposed to be good at this.
I narrowed my focus to where the log met the border and hunted down a fitting piece. Then the next and the next. Small successes, patience making possible the pursuit.
“This will be my new meditation at work,” I decided. “Next time I am feeling impatient, feeling like I should farther along than I am, I will narrow my focus to the next piece.”