Puzzles

The first thing I do, after I open the box, is to sort all of the pieces into two piles: border pieces and non-border pieces. Simple, yet somehow I always seem to miss a few. Then, I set all the non-border pieces aside, and work on assembling that border. There is a comfort in knowing that in the end all the pieces you need are there and everything will fit together.

Unless you got it from a thrift store, in which case, there will probably be a few pieces missing, as well as a couple from a different puzzle entirely. But that’s life–very few things fit just right. You learn to make do with a few pieces that have more wiggle than they should. And some that are outright gone.

Since my mom passed away, I don’t do many puzzles. It was mainly a special activity that my mom and I shared. She tried to instill the same love of puzzles in my sister, but it didn’t stick. My sister would get frustrated after a few pieces and wander off. The cat, on the other hand, always enjoyed puzzles (mostly the “lying on top of the pieces you’re working on” part).

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My mom’s favourite type of puzzle is called a “mystery puzzle”. A mystery puzzle has a design that is completely unknown to the puzzle-assemblers, then at the end, there’s a story to read and a mystery to solve based on the “clues” in the puzzle. I never really cared for the story part. Maybe it’s because mystery stories were never my thing. Maybe it’s because solving the mystery was always really hard. Regardless, eventually we just stopped trying to do the stories and focussed on the puzzles.

I haven’t done a mystery puzzle since my mom passed, but even when I do non-mystery puzzles, I avoid looking at the box. Some people call this crazy or strange or too hard. For me, it’s just the way you do it. In fact, looking at the box feels like cheating. I don’t need to look at the box to know that the next puzzle piece is going to have a continuation of the same pattern that’s on the current piece. I don’t need to look at the box to know that similar patterns tend to be grouped together.

It’s all about the puzzle. It’s all about feeling that satisfying connection between two perfectly matched pieces. Each one is a success. Each larger group is an even bigger success. That last puzzle piece is near perfection. But, then, once the whole thing is assembled, the allure is gone. It’s time to rip it up and put it away. Not many things in life are better in pieces than they are as a whole.

I sat down yesterday to do the first puzzle I’d worked on in a long time. I didn’t even know I wanted to do one until I saw one in the random hobby store where we’d stopped. But I realized quickly that it was exactly what my heart craved. As I sat to do that familiar sorting of pieces, I felt a sense of calm and reassurance. My mind slowed, my focus sharpened. Each time I felt that satisfying connection between two pieces, I was a bit more connected to all those puzzles with my mom, all those years ago.

Life is so much simpler when you know all the pieces are there and they’ll all fit together in the end. But, maybe it’s not so bad when a few of them are absent or wiggle. It certainly makes it more of a pain challenge.

Capturing the Memories

This last weekend, I visited the place I will get married in just 47 days. It is a place that has a lot of meaning for my family, and I have a lot of wonderful memories there. It is the place that I feel my mother the strongest–which is one of the main reasons we chose to get married there. That, and it is beautiful.

Being there, as wonderful as it is, is a bit of a tease. I feel just that much closer to my mother, but she is still untouchable. As the wedding draws closer, I feel the desperate need to find things that remind me of her, to capture her memory. Slowly, I begin to realize that no matter how many things I gather that remind me of her in one place, it will never be enough.

I have questions. Questions that can only be answered by her. People tell me that she would love my partner, that she would be so happy for me, and that she, in the end, wouldn’t care what I do with my last name. But I want to hear it from her. I want to know, with certainty, that she would, indeed, be excited for this wedding. Because I don’t know. And it is hurting my heart.

I’ve been told to look inwards, because her memory is as much alive within me as anyone else. I’ve looked. Maybe I am doing it wrong, but all I have found is scattered memories and sadness. There is not enough there for me to answer my questions. I have hope that one day those memories will coalesce into something solid. But I cannot escape the possibility the memories will simply become more vague, and this is as solid as it ever gets.

So I need help. For those of you who knew my mother, please help me capture her memory by sending me your favourite memory/memories of her. For everyone, have you ever successfully captured a lost loved one’s memory? Or is this an impossible task?

Mother-less Awareness Day

There are a few “holidays” where it’s awesome if you can participate, but unpleasant if you can’t. For instance, Valentine’s Day. I was not one of those people who gracefully ignored it during my single days. I jumped on board the train that called it “Single’s Awareness Day”. Because that’s what it does, it makes you aware of the fact that you don’t have this person that the world is telling you that you should.

Multiply this by about 1000, and that is how I feel about Mother’s Day. It, and all the advertisements leading up to it, serve as constant reminders that my mother is not around. They make me extremely aware of this piece that I am missing, that I know I should have, and in my dreams, sometimes, I still have.

It would be easy to say, “well, why don’t you just ignore it?”. That requires that I stop checking my emails, listening to the radio, watching tv, walking by bus stops, going into stores, taking transit, glancing at fliers, looking at etsy, scrolling through pinterest….So maybe, if I just stayed at home for the 2 weeks leading up to it, and didn’t touch the internet or television or radio, maybe then, I could avoid it. (In reality, I would go insane in a few days, if I tried to do that–who wouldn’t?)

I hope, one day, I will be able to honour my mom, and her memory, with all these reminders. And instead of reminding me of the loss, it will remind me of all the wonderful times we had together. But for now, it hurts. Every reminder hurts.

I think it’s easy to forget, on the other side, how painful this is for some people. So I guess this is my plea: If you know someone who lost their mom or dad, be cognizant of how difficult Mother’s or Father’s day might be for that person. That’s it. Just keep it in mind.

Thank you for reading! I will do my best to have a happier, craftier post up next!

The Post I’ve Been Putting Off

There is a post that I’ve started writing at least twice now. I have two drafts that I will probably never publish because I couldn’t bring myself to do something that personal. But I feel like a blog is about sharing bits of one’s self, in crafty form or otherwise. And there is a large piece of myself that I want to share that I mentioned in my previous post.

My mom passed away from cancer almost 3 years ago. In reality, I think it was the drugs that killed her, although if they hadn’t, the cancer would’ve gotten her eventually. You see, it was brain cancer, a kind that rarely gives into the drugs. And cancer treatments are just so brutal…after brain surgery, and two rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, her body just couldn’t keep fighting.

How has this affected my life? It has been hell. I can’t even describe to you how terrible it has been. As she was diagnosed, as she slipped into illness, when she passed away, my world got smaller and smaller until I was barely functioning. It was all I could do to get up each morning and go to work and pretend my life was somewhat normal.

My friends tried to help, but they couldn’t reach me. My whole world had fallen apart and if I let anyone in, I wouldn’t be able to keep going. Nonetheless, I resented them, when they gave up and stopped fighting to try and get in. Some never gave up on me though. And those friends are the real ones that I will be forever grateful for. They’re the ones who kept me going, although they probably felt helpless.

Now, years later, I still take some measure of pride in being able to act so normal that people never suspect the giant hole in my heart. This comes with a downside, however. People forget, and they say things, and it hurts. It’s not their fault, though, it’s mine. My mother was a wonderful person. It kills me that she’s not around to meet my fiance, watch me get married, help me plan the wedding. That shouldn’t be something I try to hide, I have every right to cry and hurt.

But I’m scared. If I put my biggest weakness on display, someone could hurt me with it. Easily. So I’m trying to take the big step and trust. And maybe, just maybe, it will help that hole in my heart heal over a bit.

Have you ever lost someone who was intrinsic to your life? If you have or are going to get married, how did you or do you plan to include their memory in the proceedings?

Why I Will Never Be a Mrs.

We’re in the middle of a move and nearly all of my craft and baking accoutrements are packed away. Bereft of material for a blog post, I am left with only one option: sharing one of my own personal viewpoints. So, I present you with:

Mrs. vs Ms.

It comes down to equality (not feminism!). If a man is a Mr. when he comes of age, why is a woman only a Mrs. when she gets married? Is a woman lesser if she never gets married? I don’t think so. I would expect my friends and colleagues to respect me equally whether I am married or not. So why is the distinction necessary?

The truth is, about a year ago, I stopped filling in Miss as my “salutation” and began choosing “Ms” instead. As a self-sufficient woman in my mid-twenties, I don’t really qualify as a “Miss” anymore. I’m old. Not ancient, but definitely getting up there. I have “life experience”, and I want people to treat me like I do, not just because I am or am not married.

The weirdest part is that this issue was always something my mom was vehement on. She was a feminist at heart, so I always thought she was being a bit overzealous and brushed it off. But as I approach marriage myself, I find myself understanding more and more her point of view. And embracing it. Truth be told, I don’t know if I would if she was still with us. It’s funny how we fight becoming our parents when they’re alive, but when they’re gone, we struggle to capture their essence in a permanent way.

So when I get married, no matter what my last name becomes, I will be a Ms. And before I get married, I will still be a Ms. Because I deserve to be judged by more than my marital status.