Tag Archives: time

Legos and Crossword Puzzles

28 Nov

There is an immense sense of comfort and satisfaction that comes from doing something well. Such is the case for me, with crossword puzzles, and for my 7-year-old son, with Lego sets. In both situations, there is a system to be followed in reaching the final outcome. The beauty of both is in following the system, improving upon it each time, and reaching the solution.

As my son is soon to find, and I have been finding for years now, this is a feeling that few things in life bring to us. I can think of a handful for me, and the crossword puzzle is one. Writing is on the list. Knitting is another. There is a fourth–ahem–not to be discussed in this forum, and if you are of age and do not know of it, I am sorry.

Some people describe this feeling as being “in the zone” or “flow.” As a writer, I am there when my shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingertips are making a linear connection between my brain and the laptop screen. Words are coming from I don’t know where, and they keep pumping out in a way that makes good sense. When I am knitting, particularly on circular needles, I enter into this meditative state that is just as much about the means as the end.

With the crossword, it’s similar. I have a repeatable process that I use when doing crosswords. Start with the first few across, skip to the first few down, then go from end to start crisscrossing the downs and acrosses. This is my personal “flair,” my way of doing crosswords that’s like nobody else’s. If I were eating a cob of corn, it would be starting with the first few kernels of the first row, going to the other side of the cob, and meeting up somewhere in between.

For my son, the pinnacle of flowdom is completing Lego sets of the $10 or less variety, particularly those with a knight or adventure theme. His system involves opening up the packages, depositing all small parts into separate plastic containers in front of him at the kitchen table or on the floor of his room, and alternately reading the directions and winging the assembly process on his own. Interruption during assembly is not recommended. Any disruption results in a growl, or “get out,” or being chased away. He is very protective of his process, and I understand that. I do the same things when interrupted during my crossword. My husband has learned this.

The practical matter here is in finding more opportunities to be productive while being “in the zone.” Athletes do this (but what can they do when they no longer compete?). Maybe my son will apply his mechanical skills as an engineer or scientist some day.  The fine art in finding more time to practice our “art” is to have a good excuse for doing it–which can involve making money from the process and its outcome, but can also involve other positive byproducts. Finding a way to capitalize on that thrill of the chase, the sense of anticipation that comes from building up to something better than we’ve done before–this is the ultimate. It’s the difference between obsessive-compulsive disorder and happiness.

…to know better

13 Oct

Since I turned 40 last year, presumably I am old enough to know better about certain things. I have come to a point in my life where people typically look backward and forward, thinking, “Holy crap, is this it?” and, “Please God, let me use my time wisely from here on out.” In that spirit, I am starting this blog. From my position in midlife, I am certainly experienced enough to share some of my thoughts, in a way that can hopefully make a difference for my own process and perhaps others’.

Looking backward, I have a sense of clarity about the mistakes that I’ve made along the way, which is a success of sorts. Here’s a classic: On my first day in 10th grade, I rode a new bus to school. At the end of the day, I did not remember the number of the bus and got on the wrong one. I rode the bus all the way to the last stop on the route and got off, as if I lived at that bus-stop. Well, I did not live there, or anywhere close to there, but I got off anyway. And I walked all the way home, on an 80-degree day in late August, wearing a brand-new Express wool sweater that had to be trotted out on the first day of school. I still have that sweater. And I remember how hot I was walking those five miles home. I was too embarrassed to say anything to the bus driver, who would have dropped me at my house without complaint, since my house was on the way back to the high school.

When I was younger, I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of people. To an extent, I have not changed. But that flaw has been tempered a bit, thank goodness. I would not walk those five miles again today. Part of the change involves a more keen awareness of time on this planet, and not wanting to waste time in trying to look like I didn’t make a mistake about something.

Seeing my children grow up, time is flying by so quickly that I can hear it whizzing past. Sometimes I look back on my day and think of how much time I spent on the computer, not doing anything tangibly interactive or creative. As I pivot from my backward view of the past 40 years to a forward view of the next 40, I am making a more concerted effort to spend time with the people I love, doing the things that I love, in settings that make me happy.

Proust began writing A la Recherche du Temps Perdu when he was 38. The timing was no mistake, a significant turning point for many people. The seven volumes of this work discuss themes of memory, flashback and creation of “art” that makes a difference. I am making an effort to read it through in French, as a fitting sendoff for my next 40 years–during which I hope to use my time more wisely, even if it means not saving face.