HAS COVID TURNED ME INTO A JIGSAW JUNKIE?

It’s satisfying to fit those pieces together.

What do you do every day to fill up your time? Somedays, I have nothing on my calendar.

Well, that’s not exactly true. It just feels that way.

Being laid off from my part-time job, trying to protect myself from being exposed to COVID by staying home, and so much less contact with my friends and family, life can be very monotonous. Travel is unthinkable. It’s a question of how to remedy this problem of nothing to do before I completely lose sanity.

Being 88 doesn’t help, either!

What does help is reaching back into my childhood and remembering the fun I had doing jigsaw puzzles. Every Spring, I suffered from bronchitis and had to stay in bed. When my mother asked what I needed to make the time go faster, I could have said a book, but I always said a jigsaw puzzle.

I used a removable, flat, slide-out shelf that was part of the kitchen cabinetry. It was a perfect board for a jigsaw puzzle. Mom bought me a puzzle, brought me the shelf, and I was good to go.

I loved the whole set-up. It almost made being sick something to look forward to!

Having something to do has always been my style.

My family moved from one apartment to another for various reasons. And moving was fine with me. Rather than being afraid, I was excited to go to a new school. It held my interest and certainly gave me something to do. Exploring new neighborhoods was fun.

That was except when I was ready to learn long division in third grade and feared that the new school had already finished that unit. Then I’d be in trouble. I was afraid I would never learn long division, and this deficit would haunt my future. Luckily, the new school was about to start the long division unit. Whew!

As I grew up, there was always something new on the horizon. Summertime was reliable when I either went to sleepaway camp or a bungalow colony in the Catskills.

During the rest of the year, there were Jewish Holidays to celebrate, someone’s birthday, homework to hand in, dance recitals, and all sorts of other ventures keeping me busy. I really didn’t have time for jigsaws.

As a newly married woman, my husband and I moved three times in our first two years. You can imagine how busy that made me. By the time we had been married for five years, we had three children under five years old. Not a single empty calendar day in those years.

I thrived on the activity my life presented to me.

It was only when my children got somewhat older and we moved back to the New York City area from Providence, R.I., that I began to search for new pursuits. I was lonely and bored. That’s how I ended up with a Master’s Degree in Experimental Psychology; it was a new pursuit. I had to keep moving.

I tried filling life with shopping, but it wasn’t gripping enough!

Shopping is fun and can fill up lots of calendar days. But it requires lots of money. Doing jigsaws seemed, at that point, a total waste of time, and I never even thought about them. So, instead, I got a job.

My next project was to divorce my first husband. That was an experience I never would want to repeat, no matter how bored I became.

Time went on. I changed jobs, changed husbands, changed where I lived.

My second husband and I built a Berkshire vacation home in Massachusetts. There was plenty to do during the construction phase, and it was exciting to watch it take shape. It was on a lake and beautiful both on the inside and from the outside. Its tranquility was only interrupted by the sound of other people's jet skis darted around our waterfront. We eventually reinvented that sound to become part of the lake environment, and it was OK.

We spent a lot of time at this house, and after I finished the daily weeding of my garden, I needed something to do.

Our bedroom had three windows overlooking the lake. We set up a portable table in front of the windows and did (no surprise, here) jigsaw puzzles on it. We either examined their shape or matched their color. When we found a piece that fit, it was divine. Hours flew by, as did our life together. Sadly, he passed away a few years after we sold the house.

I remained in the apartment we shared, but eventually, two years ago, I moved from that three-bedroom apartment to my current two-bedroom space in the same building. Mostly my friends and family couldn’t believe I had the interest and energy to do this. After all, I was 86 at the time and, trust me, moving is a hard job. But, I needed a new activity, and I had plenty of help from my kids, now grown, and their support was empowering.

And now…

I have settled into my new space, am unemployed, single, old, and with nothing to do. Just a few months ago, I had great activities that I loved doing: working, acting classes, flute lessons, play reading, classes at Bergen Community College for seniors, N.J. Symphony concert series, and social times with friends and family, all now gone due to Covid-19.

Oh, no! COVID is spoiling my precious remaining time on earth.

I began to be aware of feeling very sorry for myself. Instead of continuing along that path, I tried to think of fun things to do while remaining in my apartment. Yes, I’m sure you guessed it.

I started doing jigsaw puzzles again.

I buy the 1000 piece puzzles from Amazon. It’s fun selecting which to do next. I lay them out on my dining room table. These days no one comes to dinner, so it’s the perfect spot.

I’ve learned by reviewing my life until now that if something goes wrong in my existence, it’s up to me to fix it. My happiness is dependent on MY actions, and, for me, jigsaw puzzles seem to be the perfect vehicle. Yours may be something entirely different. Who cares if I have become a JIGSAW JUNKY?

I believe it’s a benefit for everyone to take responsibility for their lives. Joy and excitement are available to us at whatever level we can handle — each of us chooses how to hang out in our lives. There are no rehearsals for how we live each day. Do-overs don’t exist.

In May 2021, I celebrated my 89th B’day, and have been writing a blog each week for the past year. I learned more about myself than I expected. What a journey!