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Dreams, Puzzles and Parenting: how I learned to become a dreamer, inspired by jigsaw puzzles!
I have been reflecting a lot on dreams lately. Not the sleeping kind, but the big vision and hopes you have in life. I have never been much of a dreamer. I never wanted to be a princess or an astronaut. I didn’t dream of my wedding day or my dream job. Dreams felt out of reach and beyond my control. Instead I stuck with attainable goals, things I knew if I used enough drive and elbow grease I could make happen. Lately, though I have been exploring the concept of fulfilling a dream. This is because as a parent coach, I ask my clients to dream about how they want things to change with their children. It’s not hard for parents to envision kids who have a perfect balance of on-screen and off-screen activities, who jump right up off the couch to help you unload the groceries and when asked, “How was your day?” give you a detailed synopsis of what they did and how it made them feel. I ask my clients to paint this picture because dreaming of a preferred future is an essential part of the change process.
By their nature, dreams are often deep, transitional states that can seem out of reach. Putting them in writing or on a vision board helps. The concept is that the dream works towards you while you work towards it. I took this on faith, but my pragmatic brain had a hard time coming to terms with what seemed like a “magical process”. I had never heard of “letting go” as part of making dreams come true. But I have seen it work over and over again with my clients. Dreams don’t become a reality without hard work and determination, but there is something to this release of the vision that is a part of the recipe. Recently I had an experience that brought it home for me. And in a most unlikely moment.
Since the pandemic started my husband and I have been doing jigsaw puzzles. I love the orderly goal oriented, instant gratification and meditative nature of puzzles. On the outside of the box is the image, complete. Inside all the small steps towards making that vision a reality. It takes time, commitment and intention sitting down each day to make it happen. Doing a puzzle is a lot like building a dream. As I was working on a challenging puzzle, last week, I was sure that we would never be able to complete it. Instead of giving up I turned my attention to one corner area, deciding to take it one small step at at a time. Eventually I fit enough pieces together for the image begin to emerge and I felt hopeful that we could complete it. I resonated with the process as similar to asking my clients to paint the full picture of what they want to change, but then identifying one corner, one set of small steps, to start on. It was so cool to make that connection. And then it got even better.
When I’m puzzling there is always that part in the process when I encounter a moment where I can’t find one stubborn piece. Frustrated and convinced that the piece is missing I move on letting it remain empty, when BAM! the elusive piece emerges. I recognize it instantly and place it with great satisfaction into the puzzle. The last time this happened to me a light bulb went off . This was exactly what it meant to hold the dream in your mind but also to let it go. Your brain is still holding the dream, just like it’s holding the shape, size and color of that missing puzzle piece. This experience embodied for me the possibility of holding to a dream in your mind while also letting it go. It’s almost as if you can’t even find that piece UNTIL you’ve released it.
Watching my clients do this dance each day has truly inspired me and for the first time I also have a dream I am pursuing. I have chosen a tough 1000 piece puzzle. It’s a beautiful image, one that I have been designing for the last few years. I have it up on a vision board displayed where I can see it everyday, BUT I have also let it go. With determination and drive, I fit pieces together one at a time, knowing that even when I can’t find that one stubborn piece, it’s working it’s way towards me. And when I finally find it and fit the last piece in the puzzle, there it is, the complete image all put together. I step back and look at what I have accomplished, a testament to my hard work and a reflection of my dream meeting me halfway there. Maybe it’s really about giving up control or maybe it’s magic, but either way I believe!
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Jenny Michaelson is a PCI,
Writing Contributor at: