Why Life is Not Like Su Doku

Here is a non-secret fact: I am a nerd and I like puzzles. When I finally gave in and became a smart phone owner about six months ago, the ‘apps’ I fell the hardest for were Word Mole and, of course, Su Doku.

Part of why I like puzzles is the simple fact that I like mental activity. Exercise for my brain. But I also love the satisfaction, the gratified feeling I get when I solve the puzzle. Su Doku is like a massage for my brain because there is a method, a strategy, a set of rules you follow in order to get an expected result. It is a problem with a clear solution, and if you follow a prescribed set of steps, you are fully able to arrive at that solution. If I am smart enough, patient enough, methodical enough, then I will be able to solve the puzzle, and obtain the gratification and peace of mind I am so desperately after. “I did it! I figured it out!” And if I don’t solve the puzzle, it’s because I made a clear misstep – there was one box where I got it wrong, and spoiled everything that came afterward.

Much to my dismay, I am learning that life is nothing like Su Doku.

I am a problem-solver, a figure-things-out-er. I make decisions in much the same way as I play Su Doku. If I have the patience to consider all the options, the consequences, and the desired outcomes, I’ll figure out what my next move should be. I’ve heard friends talk about making a decision and trusting their heart, their gut, or their intuition… and my typical facial expression is pretty similar to how I would react if someone started speaking a Scandinavian language, and expected me to understand what the heck they were saying.

During my first 18 years of life, I did a really great job building my brain to be big and strong, and I took a lot of pride in it. But somehow I skipped over the fact that the majority of my body was below my neck, that I had a heart and hands and stomach and knees, this whole body that could feel things and react to things. And so my feelings and emotions are a bit weaker than my logic, and they don’t always speak loud enough to offer their valuable point of view to the conversation. As for logic, while it’s voice is indeed quite loud, I found out pretty quickly as a young adult that logic didn’t give me the strongest legs to stand on. Shockingly, logic can be pretty un-helpful in a pretty wide array of situations.

Life is not like Su Doku, because life is not a linear set of decisions leading to a single desired outcome. There’s not one method to living that will guarantee your success. The goal of life is not to arrive at the right answer. Life is not a puzzle to be solved. But I often treat it like one.

Someone said to me recently, “Mawi, life is not about ‘figuring it out’ … life is living it.” My seedling of intuition tells me that this is truth, this is wisdom… but I have no idea how to surrender my desire (which feels like need) to figure things out.

The particular season I am in is full of a lot of questions, posed to God and myself.  Questions like “who am I exactly?” “what is it I want?” “where is it I am going?” “what kind of story do I want my life to tell?” “is that the story my life is telling now?”

I’m not going to figure out the answer to those questions. I am not going to arrive at the single correct solution. I am learning that. If I am ever going to experience the kind of life I am after, I am going to have to stop trying to figure life out.

Can I be honest and say that I am still a little frightened of and mystified by the alternative?

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