One of the gifts I received this Christmas was a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of Betty Boop. I’ve always been a Betty Boop fan and collector, and I love doing jigsaw puzzles. One of my fond childhood memories is of sitting at a card table set up in the living room, working on jigsaw puzzles with my mom, dad, and sisters.

I started the Betty Boop puzzle on the weekend after New Year’s Day, setting it up in our family room and working on it while watching television in the evening, or for a few minutes here and there during the day. I had to laugh when the instructor of a class I was taking the following week mentioned jigsaw puzzles while she was making a point about planning and organizing. She, too, used to do puzzles with her family, and talked about how they started each puzzle by separating the pieces into different piles, based on colors and patterns, before actually starting to put it together.

We did it a little differently, but with the same premise. After dumping the pieces out on a table, we spread them out and turned them all right-side-up, separating the edge pieces from the others. Then we’d put the frame together. Once that was done, we’d look back at the picture on the box to see what the puzzle would look like when it was finished, and then we’d each start working on different sections, gathering up the pieces that looked like they belonged together. Gradually, bigger sections would come together, and it always felt good when we could get them anchored to the border that was already in place. The most satisfying of all was putting in the last piece, and my sisters and I often hid one puzzle piece from each other in an attempt to be the person who got to put the last piece in place.

As I worked on my Betty Boop puzzle, it occurred to me that my life feels like a jigsaw puzzle right now. I don’t mean that it seems to be in a thousand pieces, but rather that a lot of things I’ve been doing and working on are starting to come together – in a very satisfying way.

I’ve finished the manuscript of the book about my trip to Uganda, and it’s in the hands of some readers who are giving me feedback. I’m developing a workshop out of the things I’ve learned and taught while coaching others and helping them to find the buried treasure in their lives. Classes I’ve taken and events I’ve attended, even since the beginning of the year, are helping me to build an online presence and do a better job of connecting with the people I can most effectively serve. And new opportunities are opening up that support my ongoing work in Uganda.

Actually, when I list everything together in one place like that, it does sound like my life is made up of a thousand different pieces. And I imagine that’s true for all of us. There are so many different aspects of what we do, and so many details. Sometimes it’s hard to see how or where they fit together, and there are times when it seems that they never will.

But gradually, piece by piece, they do come together.

The jigsaw puzzle I’ve been working on features Betty Boop in three different poses, wearing different outfits, and with a different-colored background in each one. Once I had the frame put together, I worked on one section at a time. I’d keep going until I got each section finished or until I needed to take a break from that one and work on a different section for a while. Eventually, it all came together, and I didn’t even need to hide a piece of the puzzle in order to enjoy the satisfaction of putting the last one in place.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could see the landscape of our lives the way we can look at the picture on a jigsaw puzzle box, and then fit the pieces together to complete the picture? Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Still, it’s reassuring to know that there is a big picture. And as long as we keep working at it, one section at a time, it will come together eventually, just as it’s meant to. When it does, we can step back, see how things have fallen into place, and enjoy a sense of satisfaction. We can admire our work and our accomplishments, and take pride and pleasure in a job well-done.

And decide which puzzle we want to work on next.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on January 23, 2014.

©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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