“How could anyone not like puzzles?”
That was my daughter’s reaction when I told her I was writing an opinion piece about why puzzles are great. Her words echo my exact thoughts. Either genetically or through living with me for 11 years, she has acquired my intense love of jigsaw puzzles.
It has always been hard for me to explain my addiction. While trying to search for the right words, both of my daughters offered up satisfying. So true: Puzzles are just satisfying.
Why is that? It’s so many things. I love the act of putting it all together. It is fascinating how it can go from a pile of individual pieces to one cohesive picture. There’s a satisfaction gained in working toward a goal and then reaching it. And it’s not just reaching the destination; each day you work on a puzzle, you experience small triumphs: finding that one weird-shaped piece, or finding the connection between two sections you’ve been working on individually.
Puzzles have a way of drawing me (and my family) in. Sometimes we’ll casually mention working on the puzzle for 10 minutes or just getting a few pieces in. It never works out that way. Every single time, 10 minutes turns into 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. I won’t allow myself near the puzzle table (which doubles as a dining room table) if it is almost time to make dinner. There’s a definite possibility we would never eat. I love being so thoroughly engaged that I lose track of time.
Another reason I love puzzles is the connections I make with other people. My husband, daughters, and I routinely gather around the table, exulting when we find the piece we’ve been scouring for, or faking frustration when someone else finds it instead. My extended family actually takes time to ponder where we could fit a puzzle table when we consider vacation rentals in Sea Isle City; we all find ourselves contributing at some point during the week. The librarian at the school where I teach recently incorporated a puzzle table in the library. I have connected with countless students while working there. I can’t walk past the library without trying to get a few pieces in.
Since the coronavirus locked us up in our home, we’ve finished four 1,000-piece puzzles. At a time when the world feels chaotic and uncertain, there is comfort in knowing that, at least in this one small corner of the world, everything has its place and fits together. The predictability of knowing how it will turn out doesn’t hurt, either.
I know there are many people out there who don’t get it. But when 90 minutes feel like 10, the days go by pretty fast. The sense of calm, connection, and accomplishment that puzzles bring us has been especially helpful these days.
And besides, there are way worse things I could be addicted to.