As a member of the daily newspaper puzzle cult, I enjoy the challenges of solving a variety of word-related brainteasers. And because of this daily routine, I also see puzzle comparisons everywhere I go and in everything I do.
The obvious ones stand out like gold nuggets in a streambed: I am improving my older adult cognition. I surmount mental challenges that are involved in choosing the right word to fit enigmatic clues. Puzzle-solving helps me to start each day with the experience of completing what initially seemed to be an impossible task.
Life lessons come to me while I’m puzzling: How might I apply the intricacies of applied logic in various situations? How could my daily decision-making rely on ambiguous clues? How might I persist in the face of what seems unknowable? How might I order and unscramble lifestyle messes? How can I operate at several levels of meaning? And how can I trust that “Aha!” moments will come?
Sometimes there’s an almost-spiritual quality to puzzle-solving. When I give up, make mistakes or get discombobulated, it’s important to forgive myself for incompetence or impatience. I often find myself empathizing with the puzzle-makers—trying to appreciate the patterns of their creativity. With gratitude, I imagine how much care these word-wizards must have for puzzlers like me—how their life mission benefits us. I trust these gift-givers, certain that they are skilled to the point of near-perfection.
Puzzle-solving helps me in real-life situations. “How’s this moment like a puzzle?” can calm and encourage me when a problem seems unsolvable. Home repair tasks come to mind here! So do other times when I’m at my wits’ end.
Metaphorically or not, life remains a set of puzzles. From my daily encounters with word puzzles, though, that’s a challenge I can meet.