Permission to fail

With the weekend down-time, I’m probably gonna start my next puzzle tomorrow. It was a Christmas gift from my niece, and it ended up having a bit of a joke attached to it. You see, she’d also brought a puzzle to her parent’s house as a traditional Christmas project—yet another one of those shared traditions I’m looking forward to ALL of us enjoying together for Christmas 2021!*

Only the wintry scene on the puzzle itself was not a match for the wintry scene she’d chosen, as represented by the picture on the box.

A completed puzzle sitting in front of the puzzle box it was packaged in. The puzzle box shows a wintry scene with a gazebo among tress, with a single red cardinal ion the foreground. The completed puzzle shows a wintry scene of a snowman standing in front of a wooden fence, surrounded by more than a dozen birds.
It was the multiplicity of birds that gave it away

(I will pause for a quick sidebar to give mad props to anyone able to do a 1,000 piece puzzle without a guide photo…)

So, I was warned that the photo on the outside of my new Springbok puzzle box might or might not end up matching the puzzle inside.

A box for a 1,000-piece Springbok puzzle, showing a picture of a red-and-white striped lighthouse on a grassy bluff, in front of a pink and peach colored sunset sky.

It’s like a bonus mystery with my gift. Fun!

Anyhow, the reason that I’m about to start this puzzle so many days after opening this Christmas gift is that I was slogging through the task of trying to complete the puzzle that I started Christmas Eve after all my culinary victories.

A puzzle beginning to be assembled, sitting on a coffee table in front of a Christmas tree and a TV showing a moment from the Grinch.

This was another one of these “retraining” 500-piece puzzles I got back when I decided I wanted to re-engage in this habit for the rest of my COVID days. Small number of pieces, DisneyWorld Christmas scene: what’s not to love?

A lot, it turns out. Turns out, I’m a puzzle snob.

This DisneyWorld scene was some knock-off brand, and it was amazingly, epically NOT FUN to try and put together. The cardboard was flimsy and the jigsaw cut made all the pieces look almost exactly the same as each other.

An arrangement of puzzle pieces, all the same shape and in slightly different shades of purple and magenta.

Even when I used the colors and visual patterns to figure out what pieces should go with which, there wasn’t that satisfying snap! that usually happens when you get matching pieces in a puzzle fitted together. It’s like none of the pieces really all-the-way fit together, but none of them really all-the-way didn’t fit either.

Turns out that puzzles are one of those things (like creamy peanut butter and OTC analgesic) where I definitively, objectively prefer the name brand.

But I don’t like being a quitter. So I spent a few too many days during that second week of vacation banging my head against the brick wall of this knock-off DisneyWorld puzzle.** Trying to get it done, failing to get it done, making slow and painful and not-enjoyable progress.

And then, after work this past Tuesday, I gave myself a bit of a talking-to. (This is also where being able to talk things through with Mr. Mezzo is so very beneficial to my mental health and quality of life.) It’s a silly epiphany, and a small one, but it’s a useful one for me:

If something I’m doing for fun is not actually fun, I’m allowed to stop doing it.

And yes, there’s nuances here, like when that no-longer-fun project has a group element in it and you have to weigh your commitment to yourself against your commitment to the group. But that’s not even remotely at stake with this damn knock-off jigsaw puzzle. So I took it apart and boxed it up for Goodwill.***

And then a bunch of 21st-century anti-Reconstructionists tried to overthrow the government, and I wasn’t thinking so much about puzzles anymore.

But tomorrow, as a soft on-ramp into the work-week, I’m going to get a small start on my new (name brand!) puzzle. And from the initial unboxing, things look promising:

The lighthouse puzzle box cover described in Picture #2, next to the pile of puzzle pieces. The colors of the puzzle pieces match numerous elements in the box picture, suggesting that this box and puzzle will match each other.

I see sunset pink, and grassy green, and even some red and white stripes to match the lighthouse! Looks like we might have a matching pair!


* Especially since the real power trio in the family is me, my niece, and my BIL. So we’ve all been working without our strongest team.

** Not to be confused with an actual Disney puzzle—since I imagine the officially licensed ones are likely to be with quality brands.

*** Until I needed to unbox it again tonight so I could get photographic evidence of the lousy jigsaw-cut. (Whoops!)


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