I like themes. They help me focus. It would seem many people are the same. I’ve noticed a lot of social media updates this week from people saying ‘this is the year of…’ in light of some resolution or goal for 2017.
Yeah, themes…we love them.
This has become a really popular thing for people to do over the past few years. In part I guess it comes from a healthy acknowledgement: you can do anything (within reason) but you can’t do everything. Identifying a theme provides a hook upon which to hang decisions, opportunities, and attention.
Last year was the first time I stood at the front end and actively considered a theme for the next 12 months. I decided 2016 would be defined by: Health, Community, and Turning Pro. I wanted to get fit, be a more active member of the communities to which I belong, and commit wholeheartedly to building my business.
As I made my goals for 2017 I looked back at the past 12 months and one word dwarfed the theme: loss. 2016 was a year of loss. There were sad losses (people) and there were happy losses (weight), but the year was defined by this word. Both on a personal level and in the broader world.
The Year of Jigsaw
Standing at the front end of a new year there are many things that feel scattered. The word on my mind is ‘Jigsaw’ (as in the puzzle). There are all sorts of pieces on the ground. Frustrating ones (our landlord is selling up so we have to find somewhere new to live…and actually move house) and exciting ones (new music to release and gigging for the first time in more than two years).
It struck me that both these themes are not just my themes. They are somewhat universal. There has been a real shared sense both in the theme of loss through 2016 and also the feeling that 2017 is about picking up the pieces. Highly Sensitive People naturally absorb the mood of a room. We also respond to the mood of an unconscious culture.
A Shared Theme…
If 2016 was about confusion, chaos and a sense of ‘WTF is going on?’, then 2017 is the canvas where we can start painting our response. I have heard from HSP and introverted gentle rebels who have felt overwhelmed by paralysis over what is going on in our world. But they are searching their ability to respond to that niggle within to bring a bit of love and hope back into the room.
They are standing in front of the fragmented and shattered pieces of hurting world and saying ‘no, I won’t just shrink back and let chaos reign, we are worth so much more than this’. There is uncertainty. The pieces are still strewn about the floor, but they are focussed on finding those all important corners and building the picture.
This the Year of ‘Jigsaw’.
Maybe it’s a jigsaw for you on a personal level. It is for me. There are many pieces strewn about that I want to bring together. But it’s also the Year of Jigsaw for all of us. It’s the year we start finding the pieces, picking them up and putting them together.
Have you ever done a big jigsaw puzzle?
They can be pretty daunting. Overwhelming in fact. 1000 pieces, 5000 pieces, 10,000 pieces. When they’re spread out on the table you have no idea what to do. It feels like an insurmountable challenge. A waste of time. You might be feeling that way about the world right now. I have been. But hey, there was once a 551,232 piece jigsaw completed.
That’s the world record.
Can you imagine? Where on earth do you start with that? What size was the box?
Apparently “it took the students in Vietnam 17 hours to first break up the 3,132 sections, each containing 176 pieces, into which the jigsaw puzzle had been divided, and then re-assemble them to create the puzzle.”
But jigsaw feels like a pretty apt metaphor for life and the world right now:
1. Scattered and Chaotic Pieces
First of all you need to gather the pieces. Break them up and spread them out. This is both a point of enthusiasm (you’re not bored yet) but also overwhelm (look at all the pieces!)
Life is fragmented, scattered and chaotic. Acknowledging that is the first part of the puzzle.
2. You Can’t Build a Large Jigsaw In One Go
It can take years to build a jigsaw puzzle. One of the largest commercial puzzles, 32,000 pieces takes 900 hours to complete, which is nearly half a year of fully committed 8 hour work days (no weekends!) This is long game stuff.
We can’t expect to build our life in one sitting. It takes intention and time. Piece by piece the picture grows. Some days it doesn’t feel like anything is changing, but gradually it is.
3. You Can’t Succeed Without Making Mistakes
Failure is a vital part of succeeding in the creation of a jigsaw puzzle. You have to be willing to try things to see if they fit. And you have to be willing to admit when they don’t rather than trying to force them.
It takes discipline and practice to give yourself permission to put down a piece and try something else somewhere else but progress relies on it. Hold lightly to the piece you try and be ready to say ‘the time is not yet’ when you can’t find the right place.
4. The See Subtle Tones Over Time
The longer you sit with a jigsaw puzzle the more acquainted you become with the colours, shapes and tones of the pieces. You begin to recognise the specific areas that pieces belong to simply because your sensitivity becomes tuned in. This kind of intuition makes the process faster and habitual.
As you pick up pieces you are able to group them in certain areas ready to be assembled. Life’s decision-making and our responses to the things that come our way become easier to deal with the more we feel the broader picture.
5. Every Piece Has a Place
It doesn’t always feel like it but each and every piece has its place in the bigger picture. No piece stands alone. Each one carries meaning because it is interconnected as a part in the big whole.
Our lives are interwoven moments, experiences and people. Everything is connected in some way and even the most chaotic or seemingly random events are pieces with potential in the picture.
We can only concentrate on placing one piece at a time. As daunting as the big picture may seem, it is made by addressing a single piece, one by one.
6. You Don’t Have to Shoot in the Dark
You don’t just start throwing pieces down in the hope that they will somehow just fit together in the right order. We all know that a puzzle could never do that. We need strategy and purpose.
Start with the corners. There are only four pieces with two straight edges. Then find the edges of the picture, and so on. We can identify the corner pieces of our lives and build with vision from that starting point.
The rest begins to fall into place as we go.
It’s an appropriate metaphor for this year. It feels appropriate for me personally and us collectively. The world right now. Fragmented pieces are all around us. Uncertainty and challenges that lay on the ground.
But there is hope, and like a jigsaw as we begin picking up the pieces one by one, trying, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, we will make progress towards that big picture. Of hope. Truth. Something better.
Over to You:
Have you ever felt like you’re standing in front of a fragmented jigsaw puzzle in your life? Please leave your response in the comments below, I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this.