What with all the things going on in my life, I have fallen back on the comfort of puzzles. I can pick up a box with and interesting picture, open it and scatter all the pieces onto the table.

They don’t look like the picture. They are chaos and upside-down beige cardboard at first. The pieces are fragments of wildly unfamiliar and also impossibly the same shapes and images. I start to sort them and make sense of it.

In the world outside the puzzle box, I’ve experienced a rise in the number of disappointments and betrayals. I could give in to negativity and lose hope. There is certainly enough evidence to support pessimism. And yet, I will not resign myself to hopelessness.

So, the puzzles, with their promise of restoring order and even beauty from chaos are a way to fight back.

I flip all the pieces so their colors show. I touch them and look them over to get the sense of how this will work out.

What things do I know for sure? The one single straight edge is something I can rely on, that’s a place to start. The edges of the puzzle is a guarantee that I’m going in the right direction.

And yet…from the very beginning there is a battle.

How can this piece fit? Maybe this puzzle has the wrong pieces.


Is something missing? The box was sealed but…

Maybe there was a problem and this time things won’t come together.

All the time I sort and look and fit the pieces together I am still doubting.

Did a piece fall and on the floor and get eaten by the dog?

WHERE is that one piece that has to have purple in it? I don’t see any piece with purple. This is the one the dog ate; I just know it.

I’ve put a few together now. Once, a piece was eaten by the dog. I know because I found that soggy chewed piece, rescued it and put it back together. It was funny looking, but it was complete at the end.

It’s a pendulum swing, between victories and despair. Every piece that slides into place is a satisfying payoff. And so quickly when I search for the next piece it can swing to the despair.

Putting that puzzle together is talking myself into faith every second. And as I practice faith and action in this small flat world that fits in a box, I am building the same for the larger world.

It will work. Things will come together. Have faith, and trust.

read the room

As much as I would like to be perfect, I am far from it. I have my proclivities and my blind spots. Unfortunately, I’m not always aware of which is which. I think I’m getting better at seeing which is which. I don’t know what I’m blind to, until I have a throbbing pain slam into me.

I have a lot going on in my head. The running conversation spills easily into my writing—my blog has been around for 20 years, and this weekly wonder newsletter for more than ten. I’m not short on thoughts.

Thing is, I am so busy listening to myself, I’m not so good at hearing what others might have to say. There is a saying “Read the room.”

Ah. The room and all the people in it have something for me. It seems I need to clear out a space in my head and give some attention to what is happening around me.

This doesn’t always come easy. I love to talk with other people, but when my mind is full it’s hard for me to set aside what I’m thinking about and make room for what others need from me.

And they don’t always even tell me. I have to sharpen up and look for signs. Are they tired? Are they excited? I have to be aware of what is happening in the minds and hearts of others.

With all the noise in my own head, I can easily overlook what’s happening for other people.

I’m getting ready for a job interview on Thursday. Wish me luck! I would love to be picked and I am flashing back to job interviews that have gone very poorly in the past. There was this one interview I finally got, and I was so nervous and desperate. I got on the call and tripped all over myself, barreling down on that poor hiring manager like a runaway freight train.

I hope I’ve learned a couple things since.

Take a breath

It’s not all about me.

Pain is slow

Do you know how Winnie-the-Pooh gets down the stairs?

Being unhappy and in pain makes it hard to think of another way to do things.

Christopher Robin takes Winnie by the right foot and he bumps his head down the stairs banging his head at every step. Between bumps he tries to think of a better way.

Pooh is a very simple bear, and the banging means he never comes up with a better idea.

AA Milne is a genius. When life comes at me, I can’t think about much else but the onslaught.

Pain and unhappiness have the consequence of making me stupid. How unfair! Just when I need my wits about me the most I am beset with distractions. 

In my martial arts class, the Sensei will set up a challenge for us to see if we can retain our skills under stress

Close your eyes and spin around for 30 seconds. Now run across the room and open a combination lock. Can you do it fast enough to get away from an attacker?

And the stress of doing it under pressure makes it even harder!

I am not at my best right now. That’s the reality. The stress of knowing that I have the capacity to do better, be more clever and less clumsy makes me perform even worse.

That’s feedback loop I prefer to break. Just like when I’m dizzy and fumbling with that combination lock, I have to take a breath, remember where I am and have some patience with myself.

Senseis also say:

Slow is Smooth

Smooth is fast

I am not either. But If I concentrate on being smooth I am more likely to get faster. Or at least make forward progress. Fast is a goal too far.

But….what about us?

“When people show you who they are, believe them.” 

–       Maya Angelou

Since I got fired almost two weeks ago, I’ve been taking stock. This is familiar and painful territory. I have a strong urge to talk it through with friends. I am really missing one friend in particular, another professional woman my age that understood what it was like in the office.

I loved talking with her. In my mind, she got it. It was helpful to have a solid mutual understanding of what it was like in these kind of career moments.

It hurts to get fired—to get the chair pulled out from me as I was pouring my heart and soul into the job.


I’m not? But can’t you see how I’ve been making everything come together? Can’t you tell how I’m doing exactly what is needed?


Ouch. I set the phaser of my face to “professional” and try to appear stone cold as I wrap up whatever last things must be done. Fill the box, hand over the hardware.

It turns out this job was not what I wanted either, categorically. Because they didn’t want my best. And I only do my best. They—this one and all the others which fired me before—were not what I thought and hoped they were.

I saw the signs. I knew this was coming. I hoped that I could blast though and prove how valuable I was.

I can fix it! Just give me a chance!

It turn out it doesn’t work that way.

I wish I could talk to my friend about it. We used to call every week. Well, almost every week. I would text to try to make a time to talk every week. Sometimes she would answer back. Sometimes she wouldn’t. I forgave her, she was busy. And a couple weeks passed without talking.

Until one day she stopped communicating altogether.


I tried connecting again.

Like a punch to the gut, it became clear my role to was to pack up whatever remnants I had left in this relationship up and leave in a dignified way. The door is locked.

Just like after getting fired I can look back and see the things I chose to overlook. I have blind spots—things I disregard on purpose. I want things to work. I want these positions—relationships—to be different from what they are.

People are complicated; situations have many facets. But a few things are always true:
– I don’t know everything
– Everything is not about me

When it comes to a cooperation, or a collaboration, between people it takes both sides. I can’t do all of the work for both sides. It takes agreement. In that two-way signal, interruptions can come into either path.

It’s not just about me, and I won’t know what is about me and what isn’t. In the world of ignorance, my best hope it to dust off and keep moving past it. Wondering what I might have done differently is of limited use.

These different people told me who they are. I’d best believe them and get on to the next thing.