Jan 072015
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jigsaw puzzle in progress

It is the path not the destination that matters

I enjoy puzzles, especially crossword puzzles, but I like other types of puzzles as well: word games, brain teasers, and jigsaws.

Partway through a recent jigsaw, a friend asked what I was going to do with it when I finished. I know people who have mounted and framed completed jigsaw puzzles. That was not to be the case with this puzzle. I’d borrowed the puzzle from the clubhouse library of the community I am wintering in. When I completed the puzzle, I would take it apart, put it back in the box and return it to the clubhouse.

Although the aim was to master the challenge of completing the puzzle, the exercise was less about the completed puzzle than the effort itself. It was an enjoyable and relaxing activity.

I am a goal-oriented person. a list maker and a planner. Realizing the jigsaw puzzle was more about fun and the process than the finished product was a revelation for me. Goals and dreams are important in life. We should celebrate our achievements and the achievements of friends and family. But we should also be enjoying the path and the steps along the way. More time is spent along that path than basking in the satisfaction of a goal achieved.

This can apply to our lives’ works and dreams and it can apply to how we travel the world in a more literal sense, taking time to appreciate what is around us instead of rushing from landmark to landmark to check them off a bucket list. T.S. Eliot said, “The journey not the arrival matters.” (I think even Eliot would say this doesn’t apply to modern airplane travel.)

Neil Gaiman’s words “Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters” resonate with the writer in me. I suspect many writers have a love-hate relationship with their craft, but it is the joy of writing, the magic of a well-chosen word or phrase and the need to write which gets us through the rejection letters, the lousy first draft and the incessant doubts about our abilities.

At the end of one year and start of another, people often reflect on where they are and where they are going. I am enjoying my journey. The jigsaw experience is a good reminder to savour the moments along the way. Not every moment will be perfect and at times there will be things I need to do that are not so enjoyable. But if what I am doing starts to feel like drudgery more often than not, it may be time to reassess. I may have taken a wrong turn along the way and wound up on someone else’s path or dream. Re-orientation may be necessary.

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end. Ernest Hemmingway.

How do you feel about your journey?

completed jigsaw puzzle

Completed puzzle

starting a new puzzle

and the start of a new one

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  39 Responses to “Journey’s End”

  1. Wow! Now that’s showing a lot of tenacity! While I love all kinds of other games, puzzles have never been a favorite of mine. They frustrate the ever lovin crap outta me:) But though I get frustrated with my chosen life as a writer, I never hate it:) There are days I’ll say that it might not have been fun…but it is always my bliss. I bow to you on the puzzle. Great job!

  2. I can’t think of anything that would be less of an enjoyable journey than completing a jigsaw puzzle or crossword puzzle! But that’s just me. I know people who can’t live without doing the daily New York Times crossword.

  3. I’m a list person too. There is definitely something to be said for enjoying the things that happen along the way.

  4. I love the finished puzzle – my husband and I place a new puzzle on a small table and we will both pick away at it until it’s done. And the Saturday news paper crossword ends up in the bathroom – no reading jokes for us, we do the crossword. You are right about the journey, even with the goals. Once you reach your goal don’t you often feel a bit of a let-down. The fun really was in getting there.

  5. What a beautiful puzzle Donna. I’ve come to puzzles again with my oldest granddaughter who loves them. It was her other grandma who introduced her to them and I get to – enjoy that journey too. I tend to do a LOT of happy dancing at a minimum when I complete a goal. Otherwise, I tend like most people, to just move on right away to the next one.

  6. Agree completely that the journey is important. We have to have fun building up whatever it is. If not, the results will not be great. Anyone forcing him/herself to produce will not get excellent results. By the way, I have to admire you for having th patience with jigsaw puzzles..-)

  7. Oddly, my family has in recent years taken to doing a jigsaw puzzle together when we are on vacation or when we get together for holidays. We are not typical puzzlers, however, as our jigsawing is usually accompanied by lots of beer, loud music and some trash talking about our relative contributions. Once we’ve finished it’s back in the box and no one ever looks at it again.

  8. That puzzle is a beautiful metaphor, Donna. I love puzzles, but never thought about how they are a lot like life. And I agree with the airplane exception to the journey theory. 🙂 Happy new year!

  9. Donna, I took a piece out of your new puzzle and hid it. Enjoy the journey.

    • I had about that a little. You never know if all the pieces are there in a used puzzle. I decided I’d do the puzzle anyway, missing pieces or not. Enjoy your journey too.

  10. Wonderful post Donna and I really like the puzzle analogy. I am also about making the most of the journey and I’m sure that is a big part of the reason I love road trips. When I worked in travel I drove from destination to destination whenever possible, and I also enjoyed taking the train. I confess I’ve never enjoyed crossword puzzles, but I do enjoy a good jigsaw puzzle. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. The journey is definitely more crucial for me. I have been disappointed by destinations as well. Like you, I love to puzzle and use that same puzzler brain (stolen from the Grinch) to blog about cold cases. When puzzling (up to you to know whether I am taking about a puzzle or a case) I may not start at the edges and the corner. I may start in the middle or when one small detail I saw on a cover, a box, in the text. Then I work my way around that. Results: different journey that can be mind opening!

    • I usually start with the outside and work in. I like your idea of starting in the middle sometimes. I will try that next time with a puzzle and in my writing. It would get the mind working in a different way. Thanks.

  12. You are right Donna
    The journey is most important. We must admire the ups and downs and when we will reach our destination, for sure we will be happy but we will value all the lessons that we are learning.
    I also enjoy jigsaw puzzles with my daughter sometimes and I think life is like it, sometimes we put a wrong card and then we have to remove and replace it with right one. Learning through our mistakes always takes us to our destination.
    Thank you for a thought provoking post.

  13. Puzzles are a good analogy on success. You need the same skills for both; never giving up, abstract way at looking at connections and patience.

  14. “Wherever you go, there you are”. I believe we’re always just where we’re supposed to be, otherwise you’re striving and never arriving. It’s funny reading your blog about puzzles. My mom loved jigsaw puzzles and I remember sitting beside her at the designated puzzle table. She never mentioned anything about completing the puzzle, there was never any rush, it was about the time we spent together. I try to look at my days now in the same way, don’t rush, just be in the moment.

  15. I love this! My mother and grandmother are huge puzzle fans. I grew up doing this- spending a week or so sitting at the table with them, putting together a puzzle, admiring it for a few hours (or if my sisters and I insisted, a few days), and then putting it away again. It reminds me of the zen monks who paint with sand. They spend weeks creating beautiful, elaborate mandalas… and then they sweep them away.
    Great post. 🙂

  16. I enjoy doing puzzles with a group. Haven’t done it in years though. I like the idea of being able to borrow one and then return it. It always seems wasteful to me to make one and then abandon it. I enjoy my journeys, complete with unexpected changes of direction.

  17. What a fun perspective! I never thought of puzzle building this way (well, okay, I am too impatient to build a puzzle–bless you!), but it is a wonderful way to view a journey versus a destination. I practice trying to be in the moment when doing certain things…I think this will stick in my mind!

  18. Great analogy. I do believe that the journey is the most important part. Learning from the good and bad experiences will prepare you for the future.

  19. I think it’s the journey that makes the destination worth it. Being able to see what you can accomplish and going through different lessons along the way.

  20. It is only recently that I came to the conclusion that it is the journey that really counts. Once you arrive you have to choose another destination. So it really is the journey that counts. Love the way you used the puzzle to illustrate the point.

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