Thursday, November 26, 2020

Pesach was a three-day Yom Tov this year…AND in the middle of quarantine. I was filled with anxiety. It would just be me and my husband: no kids, no guests, no shul (read: no distractions). I am one of those people for whom the last hour of Shabbos feels like an eternity. Three days? How would I manage being cooped up with no distractions for three days?! I was absolutely dreading it.

The night before the library closed for quarantine, I took out about 20 books. I also ordered some new games. Anything to make the time go by faster. I had not done jigsaw puzzles for many years, but I always enjoyed them so I ordered several. Of course I also bought lots of yummy, unhealthy treats that I would normally never have in the house.

Then, as if to top off my anxiety, my oven broke. I only had two crock pots to cook in, one of which was accidentally unplugged on the first night by a person who prefers to remain nameless (wink wink). So the food situation was not looking so good either. My husband and I are total foodies, and food is our favorite pleasure and distraction (as anyone who has seen our waistlines can attest to). So we even had a talk about how we had to be extra nice and considerate of each other so we did not go totally crazy.


Anxiety anxiety anxiety. You get the picture. I felt like I was going to be in prison.

In the end, those three days turned out to be a lot better than we feared. They were actually okay—much to my surprise. I still do not quite understand how that happened. A modern-day miracle in my book.

But the jigsaw puzzles really helped pass the time.

You can work on them for a little bit and then come back to them. You can do them for hours. You can do them alone or with someone. You can do them and have a conversation. They can totally absorb your attention. You feel such a sense of satisfaction when you find a piece that fits.

I realized that I not only enjoyed them, I had some profound realizations while working on them. Here are the three biggest life lessons I’ve (re)learned from working on puzzles. Of course, I have learned and forgotten these lessons many times over, but in doing the puzzles I learned them in a very concrete way.

1. Many times I was looking and looking and looking for a piece and could not find it. The next morning I casually walked over to the puzzle and the right piece just jumped out at me.

LESSON: Take a break—very often, a solution will come to you when you are not trying so hard.

2. Sometimes I tried very hard to find the right piece with no results. Other times I was sure a piece was missing or lost. Of course it wasn’t; I JUST COULDN’T SEE IT. But I found that if I turned some of the pieces around or looked at the puzzle from a different angle, it all fit into place. Sometimes I would change my seat at the table to literally see things from a different angle.

LESSON: Look at things from a different angle than the one you into which you are habitually locked. Very often, a solution will jump out at you. It can all come together.

3. After spending many hours working on these puzzles, I would get into bed at night and not be able to sleep. When I closed my eyes, I could see all the pieces in my head moving and turning around, like they were dancing in space. In those moments, I so clearly saw the value of trying a different perspective, and how by doing so things could fit together in new ways. In the morning I would always find I could make progress.

LESSON: If you cannot find the solution right away, keep at it. Do not give up.

So if you’re looking for a fun Shabbos and Yom Tov activity that’s great for the whole family, why not give puzzles a try? Your kids can also learn these lessons in a very real way. It’s definitely better than trying to tell them and getting an eye roll in return, because, after all, what do you know! Springbok makes the best puzzles. (I have no stock in Springbok, but I probably should because I am buying so many of their puzzles.)

P.S. Last night I was working on one puzzle and could not find anything. This morning I found about 6 pieces in 30 seconds. See what can happen when you take a break and let a new thought pattern reveal itself?

Jewel Safren is an LCSW with decades of experience helping her clients get to the root cause of their emotional struggles while maintaining stability in their personal lives. Jewel lives in Fair Lawn with her hubby, and uses her frequent flyer miles to visit her four kids and four grandkids. Jewel can be contacted at (973) 464-8556 or [email protected]