6/12-To Puzzle or Not Puzzle

June 12, 2017

Sometimes symbolism taps you on the shoulder; sometimes it slaps you right in the face.


Jaimie has gotten really into puzzles recently. Like the jigsaw kind. 


Here’s what happened: about a month ago, on a Saturday afternoon, we were at Goodwill, just, you know…browsing. I asked her what she wanted to do later that night and out of the blue she said, “I want to do a puzzle.” 


“A puzzle?” I said. 


“Yes,” she replied. 


I pressed further. “Like the jigsaw kind?”


“Yes,” she said, “the jigsaw kind. Doesn’t that sound relaxing?”


Next thing you know we were at Target, in the puzzle aisle. The puzzle she bought was attractive picture of Cinque Terre in Italy, separated into 2000 pieces. She got home that night, opened it up, and I haven’t had access to my kitchen table since. 


I hadn’t thought about puzzles since I was a kid. I seem to remember having one that was a farm scene and I had to put the chicken in the chicken shaped hole and cow in the cow shaped one. I guess it really wasn’t a puzzle, just more of an exercise in recognizing shapes. I kept it until I was about 17. 


For Jaime, these puzzles have become a highlight of her day. She likes it so much she’s turned the word into a gerund. On the way back from Charleston I asked her if she was excited about getting home and she said, “I’m excited about puzzling.” 


With everything going on in our lives I understand the appeal of taking something broken and putting it back together. I understand sitting by the window, with a coffee, and making sense of the chaos. It’s the same drive that compelled her to be on WebMD for weeks on end when I was first diagnosed, staying up all night reading medical journals and coming up with lists of questions for the doctors. It’s why she has calendars all around the the house, and a perfectly organized notebook with all of my lab results, medical bills, and appointments, all in separate sections with their own color coded tabs. It’s how she figured out something was seriously wrong with me while ER doctors were still writing me prescriptions for Pepcid. 


I say that sometimes it’s easier to be the person going through cancer than to watch someone you love deal with it. Sure my world was thrown upside down, but I have doctors to make that easier. She went from having a boyfriend who had stomach cramps to having a boyfriend who had cancer in a span of six weeks. And everyone is so supportive of me. They send me cards and well wishes and she’s the one who has to work longer hours and lay next to me as I sweat through the night. She makes the soup and deals with me while my brain is foggy. 


Back when I was teaching I liked to start my Intro to Theatre class by trying to define the word “art.” I believe that art is a human's attempt to make sense of the world. It’s what I did with my stand up, it’s what I do with my plays, and it’s what I try and do with this blog. Make sense of this completely chaotic and unknowable thing called life. Sometimes that art makes its way into a stage or a canvass or a screen. Sometimes it makes its way onto a wall. Which is where we hung the Cinque Terre puzzle when she was through with it. It hangs over our couch. A reminder that chaos is usually the prelude to something beautiful. Be it a painting, a symphony, or a 2000 piece puzzle of Cinque Terre. 



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