Everyday I talk with patients and families about all sorts of things. Some topics are more important than others and some a bit sillier than others. I like to think that my explanations make sense most of the time and that my sense of humor is funny. But clearly some days my jokes are better than others, and I am thankful for the grace that I receive in a nod of the head and a courtesy laugh – even when my words don’t deserve it.
I may not be the quickest on my feet with clever comebacks, so as a crutch for that, I tend to repeat a few stories more frequently than others. One in particular that I use on occasion is that orthodontic treatment is a lot like a puzzle, and we have to learn how to fit the pieces of your puzzle together in the best way we can.
This puzzle is what I wanted to share with you today.
After Thanksgiving this year, Kim (my wife) and I planned a weekend with a specific activity in mind … absolutely nothing. Yes, we officially scheduled a weekend with our family to do nothing. In case you haven’t realized it yet, you have to schedule nothing these days because there is always something that takes the place of nothing … unless you put nothing down on the calendar.
So we went up the road to Pickwick to do nothing (because if you stay home, you can’t do nothing without running into something that’s not nothing). And even when you do nothing, you still have to do some things. First, we had to eat. So, we did that very well. Next, we watched a few ballgames and a few movies (napped through most of them). And, last but not least, we worked on a one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle … an exercise that taught me much more than I had planned.
As you work a jigsaw puzzle for the first time in a while, I guarantee that several things will happen to you. You will feel a sense of accomplishment that’s rivaled only by an equal, and sometimes greater, sense of frustration. When the pieces fit, you will celebrate. You will pump your fist in the air, proclaim your superior intelligence, and discover an inner arrogance bursting out of your chest. But, when the pieces don’t seem to work, you will look… and look… and look…and when you’ve looked as long as you can look, you will be confident that a piece must be missing. You will blame your children for losing one and even curse the puzzle maker for irresponsibly making an error with the pieces that you were given.
And then, you’ll walk away. (You might even storm away.)
But eventually, you will return to the puzzle. Those same exact pieces will suddenly look different. With an extra twist and a new perspective, the impossible suddenly works. The puzzle maker wasn’t wrong after all, and the pieces that were at one time obviously broken, were now just the right fit. They just needed to be seen from a different point of view.
Our life is a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces that are strange and unusual. Pieces that are unique and special. Some that are obvious and some that are unexpected. And some days, all these pieces just don’t seem to fit. In fact, there are times that we don’t understand why we even have these pieces at all – not knowing what good could ever come from a piece that size, or a piece that shape. We frequently take the wrong puzzle pieces and force them into the wrong space out of pride and frustration. And we are easily tempted to place blame on all the pieces that we don’t understand.
But once we approach our puzzle with patience and in its own time, we will slowly begin to realize that each of those pieces has a purpose. It might require a little flip or a turn or even a different seat at the table before we can see their final place, but, in the end, with just the right outlook, all the pieces will come beautifully together – one needing the next and none complete without the other.
For Christmas this year, do yourself a favor and spend a minute on the board game aisle at the local toy store. Pick up a puzzle to wrap and place under your tree. It will make a good gift. You might even want to give it to yourself. And I will predict that while you work through all the shapes in that box, you will be reminded that regardless of how many pieces in our life that there are to put together, our Puzzle Maker knew all along that each of us have been intentionally and perfectly made.