Some believe that stress is a part of our everyday lives.  It is the most common human condition that seems to be taking days, weeks, months, and years off of peoples’ lives.  During a particularly difficult time in my life, I was no different.  I was being bullied at work by my boss.  In a matter of three months I went from doing well, to hearing that nothing I was doing was good enough.  In intimidating fashion, my boss hurled accusations that I was failing my team, my colleagues, and myself.  I would go home and try hard to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  In the morning, as I stood in the mirror preparing to face another day, I continually asked myself, “How did I get here?”  After intense reflection of the person staring back at me, I would answer with a long sigh, eye role and mantra of “they don’t pay me enough for this.”  Then, I would go to work and try to be seen and not heard or better yet, not be seen at all.  Every day began with hope that today would be different; every day ended with that crushing feeling of shame and humiliation.

What I longed for were quiet weekends where the crazy puzzle of work could be put in a box, while my mind unfolded into an actual jigsaw puzzle.  I appreciated the connection of small pieces that, together, developed into a beautiful picture!  For me, the nostalgia of puzzling begins with the smell of the cardboard as I open a new box.  I am captivated the moment the process begins, and soothed by knowing the journey will be long and just what I need.  Separating the edges from the inside pieces is like a game of peek-a-boo; no matter how hard I try there is usually one or two edges that hide among the inside pieces. 

Now the fun begins, putting the frame together.  I liken this part of process to the way I frame any problem I am solving.  The pattern could be intricate or repetitive and, yet, there is a peace that comes in knowing this problem has an ending, unlike the work challenges I was facing.  I hadn’t figured out how to solve that problem yet. 

The best part about the puzzle process is that it comes together one pieces at a time.  I can take it one step at a time.  Each piece goes somewhere and I just have to find out where.  I love the feeling of searching for a piece only to have it appear, almost out of nowhere, right in front of my eyes.  The discovery of the picture becoming more definable and clearer with every placed piece is a wonderful feeling. 

The love I have for puzzles is what has helped me conquer many personal challenges.  The work-place-bully boss proved no different.  Each encounter with the bully was a piece of my professional puzzle picture I was putting together.  Ultimately, the last piece was placed and the picture became crystal clear.  The day the bullying escalated to a new level and was witnessed by colleagues, evoked a similar feeling of knowing the final piece is ready to be placed.  Click.  That final piece interlocked the masterpiece.  It pulled together all the organization, separation, searching, and connecting pieces.  Step back and see the full, beautiful picture come to life.  With the same excitement and sadness that the puzzle is complete, I know there is only one thing left to do, prepare for the next puzzle … the next professional journey.

As I move on to a new puzzle, a new box to open, cardboard to smell and framing to begin, I feel renewed and ready.  A new picture awaits to be discovered, and to reveal the plan to tackle the next challenging problem in my life, one piece at a time.