With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
My wife and I do puzzles. Our most challenging jigsaw was a 3000 piece of the Savannah, replete with animals and Maasai warrior. We completed it after a brain-draining couple of weeks this year. Most of the pieces with varying shades of white and yellow, or red and orange, made it quite an ordeal at times.
What made it so difficult was how easily some pieces fit in wrong places. And I’m not talking about pieces that could possibly fit if you worked it in. These pieces locked right in and we were on to another piece not giving it another thought.
Towards the end, it was clear that a certain incomplete section did not have the necessary color scheme to appropriately fit. Given the size of the puzzle and how many times puzzle pieces were shifted from box to box I was resigned to the idea we were missing pieces.
It didn’t make sense. The puzzle’s cover showed a complete lion’s mane but we had a spot where the mane simply disappeared and then reappeared.
Suddenly, after a six-hour session ending just before 2am, we were done.
For a couple of days it sat on the dining table, completed, but with puzzlement over how it looked.
On the weekend, after deciding the puzzle’s fate, I propped the completed 32 x 48 picture and my bride got her camera. From far away it was magnificent. A great Savannah sunset scene. Up close, those perfectly fitting pieces were a distracting eye-sore.
I removed the pieces, four of them, shaking my head at the incongruity. My eyes carefully scanned the rest of the puzzle and soon alighted upon another four set section of sunset that also perfectly fit but was off color-wise.
I removed those pieces. And exchanging them, everything made sense again. In fact, I noticed it was actually a six-set that needed to be exchanged.
Truly done, I propped it up and she took the picture. Then we disassembled the puzzle.
I never gave it much thought but I have often worked on the New York Times Sunday crossword and acrostic falling into the same trap. A word or set of letters seem to fit perfectly and that word helps me to answer other questions only to have been the wrong word setting me off down a distracting path of incorrect responses.
In life maybe there is no perfect fit, only close approximations, and we make do with that, forming a generally decent looking picture.
He lived a good life. Had a solid job in business or manufacturing or some trade. Made enough money to support his wife and children. Spent time with them on the weekend. She worked as well, though because of the children did not carry her career as far as she would have liked. They wanted children and made the necessary adjustments. They went on a vacation every couple of years. The children grew up in a loving, stable household, went to college, and eventually followed the similar path of their parents. Their parents continued to work. More than before, where it seemed more like work, as they neared retirement. And they reflected on their 60 plus years and their accomplishments. Now that things were slowing down at the end of their career could they safely check off what they wanted to do, who they wanted to be?
The pieces look fine without too much thought. It’s only upon scrutiny do we become circumspect.
My life does not accept the troubling mismatch. In fact, I can be an obsessive striver at times, not giving my mind an inch until a project is finished. I may not be the grand creator of projects but like a pit bull’s jaws I’m locked in on a given task until I’m satisfied.
When I was young I was interested in “a good life”. The events of my teenage years changed it to “a life of unknown struggle”. Whenever I start to get settled, it immediately becomes restlessness because it isn’t really what I wanted at all.
I think about Junior in George Armitage’s film Miami Blues and his frustrated statement paraphrased “I can have anything I want, the problem is I don’t know what I want.” His doomed sociopath can make everything happen but will never be satisfied. There are things I want to do but have been unwilling to put in enough effort to achieve them. If it was someone else’s dream, I could work on it, fashion it into what it would look like if it were my dream and complete it. I’d be laughing.
One huge issue is the Internet. I have a lot of free time and do not spend it wisely. I could find a way to harness the time I have with the many benefits the Internet can offer but not until I break the bad pattern of mindless Internet scrolling.
I think energy is a major factor. When I’m at work, I get such inspired ideas for writing. I get home and it’s a world of minimal clothing and even more minimal creative juices. I’m just flat out tired. More energy will give me more ideas and more motivation.
I ponder this train of thought. From the incorrect pieces to a self-stunted existence. And the time I have left. When I get into this self-awareness it puts me more in touch with my “struggle”. There is a mountain of potential within me. I just haven’t figured out how it may be tapped.
The pieces in my life fit, but when I think about it something doesn’t look right.