As a joke (with some seriousness), I bought a glass-like impossible puzzle. It’s made of clear acrylic, has eight corners for extra trickiness, and it’s impossible to see which side is “up.” My wife is much better at puzzles than I am, and I thought this might be finally be her match.
After an hour or two of combined work, we had 15 pieces together. It’s hard to even look at it for too long – your eyes don’t know how to focus on the edges and the pieces become a double-vision ghost of themselves.
My best success came from sorting pieces by the way the angles of the edges slanted. It wasn’t very fun to methodically go through each piece, and only mildly satisfying when two pieces snapped into place.
My wife gave in. Even with zero consequences for abandoning, I had a strong urge to push through to the end. It’s a problem to be solved. This drive to solve whatever problem is in front of me makes me a good programmer, but at times like this, the benefit is questionable.
What problems need solving, and which are we working on simply because they’re here in front of us? Which should we allow ourselves, guilt-free, to abandon?
Doing something like a puzzle, that @ghosthoney on TikTok described as, “too much work for a wrinkly version of an image I don’t really care about1,” isn’t inherently worthwhile. If you enjoy it or get satisfaction from it, go for it! But if it feels like a chore, then it’s OK to skip it. Leave the feeling of being a chore for things that are actually chores.
Starting doesn’t mean I need to finish. My friend Jonathan Vieker talks about how it’s better to stop reading a book once you understand the point, rather than slogging through to the end: “we’re best off using that time to read something that will benefit us.” With this in mind, I’m giving in and giving myself permission to simply be,2 and see what I become when I don’t attach my self-worth to my accomplishments.
That said, I won’t be surprised if someday I find myself, pausing with appreciation, as I place the final piece into a wrinkly, transparent rectangle.
- I’m very proud of myself for working that line into this post.
- Trying to, at least.