by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM  Ireland  21.02.2022

jigsawsI am now in my seventies and in recent years I have found myself drawn again to doing jigsaw puzzles.  I think it began when I had a period of forced inactivity from work due to medical reasons.  But no matter how I started, I am now well and truly hooked!  After our evening meal I usually go to the table with another two or three Sisters and spend an enjoyable hour piecing a puzzle together.

Each one has a different technique.  One holds the picture in her left hand while picking up pieces with her right hand.  One bends over so close to the table you think she is going to move the pieces with her nose!  Another likes to use a magnifying glass.  I like to sort the pieces out, colour by colour and I don’t pay much attention to the picture unless I am totally stuck.

Recently I have been thinking about why I like doing jigsaws.  They say they are great for mental health, reduce stress and release dopamine.  I know there was a great upsurge of doing jigsaws during the Covid 19 pandemic.  People did need to de-stress!  But I have been wondering about something else.  It is about our psychological health and development through the process of aging.  As we get older our store of memories becomes large.  There is so much to remember and to try and find interconnection and meaning in all our experiences.  The borders of a jigsaw remind me of the boundaries around my own life.  I was born in a certain year and will die in another.  I have lived in certain countries, visited others, and have worked with people of different cultures than my own.  I have been blessed with many good friends and co-workers.  There are people I admire, who I learnt from, who showed me great kindness.  Over the years my immediate family of brothers and sisters has expanded with their spouses, children and grandchildren.  I have lived in different communities of Sisters in various countries and from different nationalities. Each day I have new experiences, meet new situations and seek to find meaning in all of this.  I think the quiet working of the jigsaw creates its own magic.  We do it as a small group and enjoy the company but in essence it is solitary work.  Each one begins to understand the pattern of her own life with the sorting and selecting.  We are piecing together our memories and finding meaning and depth.  It is a work of integration.