By Tracey Lemming
In our lives, there will be times when we lose pieces of our puzzle. We know that our world won’t ever be the same again. One by one, we put the pieces back together. But, it looks different. Maybe we add in pieces that we didn’t know we had and take more out along the way. Do we give up because it won’t look like the version that we expected when we started? Or do we keep going and create a new puzzle with missing and imperfect pieces?
When I spent 4 months in Indiana during COVID-19, my Mom and I put together a few puzzles. It was an activity that I enjoyed, but hadn’t done in quite awhile (beside a rainy beach day in vacation mode). Seldom did I allow myself the time and space just to enjoy simply putting together a puzzle. The first one was 1,000 pieces and a Fall leaves scene. At first, it was overwhelming. So many pieces, and they all looked alike! But, as we kept going, it got easier, and it was easier to differentiate between the leaves on the trees from the leaves on the ground. It took patience, presence, and perseverance. Throughout the process, it was fun to find the pieces that fit together. The second puzzle that we decided to tackle was already together when we saw it, but it was missing a piece. We chose to tear it apart and put it back together anyway. Knowing that it was missing a piece didn’t make the activity any less enjoyable. We could have decided that it wasn’t worth our time and energy knowing that it wouldn’t be perfect when it was finished, but had we chosen to not try, we would have missed out on the joy that was still there in the puzzle.
The last few months have left many of us unsure of what path to take, what piece to hold and put down. We can’t quite see over the horizon. Mountains are in the way that weren’t there before. It’s all unknown. Plans that we had were suddenly changed, and we have the choice to surrender to what is, or to fight for what we knew before. Unfortunately, we can’t go back. This life as we knew it is completely changed. Whether you have suffered the loss of a loved one, a job, or an every day activity, it’s okay to take the time to mourn your loss. Giving yourself the time and space to grieve your loss is one of those “self-care” activities that is easy to bypass, but I believe that it’s important to fully heal. Your loss is yours, and mine is mine, but collectively we can show compassion for one another. No one knows the magnitude of your grief but you. No one knows how many pieces are missing from your puzzle, and no one knows what you may find when you begin looking for new pieces.
I would love to go back to a time when all my loved ones were still here to see the sun rise each morning. I would love to be able to hug my Uncle Steve, my Grandma Fellure, and my Dad. I will see many sunrises and sunsets without them, which feels so unbearable at times. If I could only go back 2 years, or 14 months, or just 8 months, maybe things could be different. But, I choose to keep going. I choose to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. Doing my best to honor my loved ones by sharing their stories and sharing mine. Knowing that the puzzle will look different than expected when it’s complete, and that’s okay. There will be pieces added and removed along the way. But, there will also be a lot of love and joy in the journey. We all get the choice to decide where we go from here. Will you give up on it all, or will you continue to put together your imperfect pieces?