My younger daughter and I love to do jigsaw puzzles. We always have one laid out on the table in the living room, and we can usually complete three or four a month. But this fall, a puzzle languished untouched and unfinished week after week. I found random pieces all over the house, carried there by our big white dog’s bushy tail, and those that remained on the table began to collect dust.
Since returning to work, I simply hadn’t had time. I was either catching up where I’d fallen behind the week before, or trying to get ahead so I didn’t lose too much ground in the week to come. It seemed that I rarely had time for the present moment and things like puzzling sessions with Clara.
One morning, as I passed the puzzle table on my way from unloading the dishwasher to filling the washing machine with another basketful, I stopped and picked up a colorful piece and searched for where it might fit. My daughter’s eyes lit up. “Are you going to work on the puzzle?” she asked.
“Just for a minute,” I said, sliding into one of the chairs.
Clara joined me, chatting happily as we quickly refound our puzzling rhythm. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the satisfaction of snapping a piece into place and the pleasure of Clara’s company as we worked together. Even so, every few minutes, I’d feel the pull of my chore list and mutter, “I really have to get up and do the rest of my work.”
Finally, with a resigned sigh, I began to stand up.
“NOOOOO!” exclaimed Clara, as she pulled me back into my seat and planted her lanky ten-year-old body on my lap. “Don’t leave yet.”
I laughed and explained, “I have to get some things done, Miss Clara.”
She turned her head so we were eye to eye. “Mom,” she said with great earnestness, “The world can wait.”
As she turned back to the puzzle, I felt the weight of her words fit my priorities back into place. I snaked an arm around her waist and held her close as I picked up another puzzle piece and hunted for where it belonged.
Since then, I’ve used the phrase “the world can wait” as a means of sorting out my to-do list each day. There are plenty of things in my daily life that seem so important and immediate until I take a closer look. Then, I realize that they can wait, at least a little while longer. Things such as keeping the house picked up at all times, answering each text and email as soon as I receive them, and planning the week ahead to the finest detail. On the flip side, I learned that there are some things that shouldn’t wait at all–a trip to the hospital to visit a dear friend, a couple of hours a week dedicated to writing an essay, or, most importantly, a few minutes each day spent with someone I love working on a jigsaw puzzle.