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Turning Point column by Beth Irvine

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Don’t we all solve the questions of life using our own perspective and priorities? This really became clear to me a couple of weekends ago when some friends came over for the evening. The mums opted to put a jigsaw puzzle together while the little ones played Hungry Hippo (noisy, I know, but entertaining for them). Before long, we knew we had two different types of puzzle-builders.

We both dump out the puzzle, root for the edge pieces first and fit that together. We part company when it comes time to deal with the rest of the pieces. One type of puzzle builder (she) likes to scrape the unmatched pieces back into the box; another type (me) goes to a lot of trouble to find a board to build puzzles on, a board big enough to hold all the pieces of a 1000-piecer, facing up and spread out. The box has only two uses as far as I’m concerned: one is to store the puzzle when it’s not being used and the other is to show an example of what the picture will be like when all the pieces have been put in order.

She fits pieces according to shape, rummaging through the box to find the right contours, which she then slips into place. She never looks at the picture on the box. Me, I collect the pieces with similar colours and patterns and locate them according to the picture.  

Using either method, the puzzle can be completed. Both, then, are valuable concepts. Don’t you find that it’s a little challenging to work on it together, though? It’s difficult to feel the shapes when the pieces are all spread out, but it’s impossible to see the colours when the pieces are piled in a box. Happily, it took the entire visit to line up the borders and we didn’t arrive at any dispute.

This, then, is my view on how puzzle building reveals problem-solving perspectives. When people are solving life’s little puzzles, some like to hide their messes in the box (or drawers and cupboards) and deal with them one piece at a time; others like to get a really good look at the entire mess and try to recognize a pattern amongst all the pieces. As you probably guessed, the mess is spread over all available surfaces in our home.

Putting the Christmas things away, I do it with true conservator spirit and care, just like putting a jigsaw together. Often, I open a cupboard to stash one more thing and am awed by the order I see therein, so at odds with the rest of the house. When the door is closed, no one but me suspects the organization that lurks inside. 


The button-on suspenders? Try the back left-hand corner of the costume closet in the spare room. If it’s the latest phone bill you’re looking for, it’s somewhere in the 43 pounds of loose paper on my desk! It’s all in the perspective and priorities.

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