Sometimes, Quitting is a Good Thing

Sometimes, quitting is the smart thing to do. I was given a really difficult jigsaw puzzle for Christmas from someone who knows I like puzzles to be challenging. I started the project with optimism and enthusiasm, and the first day of sorting and setting up looked like this:


I had found the edge pieces and I was closing in on the black pieces. Eventually this would look like the beautiful poinsettia on the cover of the box. I was certain I was up to the task.

For the next several days I would periodically spend time at the table and look for pieces to place. On a good day, I would find three. This was not turning out as I had hoped.

After twelve days, the puzzle looked like this:


I had found all the black and dark red pieces, and fitted together most of the blackest pieces, but the rest were just too similar. Finding pieces to fit was a bit like winning the lottery, and each one brought on a “Woo hoo!” But, finding one or two pieces a day on a thousand-piece puzzle is disappointing.  Even knowing that the number of unplaced pieces would gradually decline, thus making the odds of finding one greater each day, was not enough to inspire me.

It has always been my practice to try to finish what I start, no matter how dreary or difficult the task. I like to finish reading books, even bad books, and I always finish jigsaw puzzles. I have the feeling that if I don’t finish them, it is a personal failing and I would feel guilty if I didn’t.  It’s not clear to me why I feel this way because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t something I was taught as a child. No, this is a burden I have placed upon myself, and it is really counterproductive sometimes.

So, I quit the puzzle. Gave up. Poured it back into its box and assigned it to the pile of miscellany destined for the thrift store. I know what you are thinking. ”Wow. She’s a quitter, I never would have guessed!” But, you would be wrong. It has taken me a long time to realize that some jigsaw puzzles just aren’t worth the headache.

They are a bit like some relationships, really. You know the ones I mean. The relationships that make you miserable but you think the fault must be yours. So, you keep on trying to be a better partner, to understand and forgive the other person’s shortcomings, and to put up with insults and injuries. After all, you made a commitment. You promised to stay together and you keep your promises. Until you just can’t do it any more and you leave.

You feel guilty for a little while and ashamed that you have let yourself down.  Then one day you realize that you feel so much better now that you aren’t trying to achieve the impossible any more. You feel good about yourself. You wonder why you didn’t give up on that frustrating and demoralizing relationship much, much sooner.

Then you put that impossible challenge back in its box and assign it to the thrift store of life. Maybe someone else can make it work. That would be fine. You have better things to do.

Now my table looks like this:


I started a new puzzle, with much better chances of success. It has more variations in colour and the finished picture will be of a street scene full of life and energy. Ah yes. Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do. That’s the only way you’ll get another chance at success.

(Any parallels to my first and second marriages are entirely coincidental.)



  1. OMG, I love this! You and I seem to have so much in common. I hesitate as I might be doing wishful thinking. Anyhow Brava On the blog entry and I have not forgotten coffee, just no wheels yet!

    Sent from my iPad


  2. I must admit, I have never been one for jigsaw puzzles which is why the only one I managed to complete had only two pieces and although it took a bit of ”jiggling” to make them fit they seemed okay.
    Any parallels to my marriage are also entirely coincidental. 😉

  3. You said “I know what you’re thinking”, but you didn’t know, because what I was thinking was “Way to go Anne!” It takes more courage in my mind to “quit” than to spend time on something that doesn’t merit the time and effort it takes to complete. I am impressed. I’m learning to do the same, but like you might have, I’ve decided if I quit, then I must be a quitter…when in reality, quitting some things means we’re smart. I think when we see others do it we are in awe, but when we do it we think we’re flawed in some way.

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