My four-year-old daughter just schooled me on a puzzle.
To be honest, I’m not spatially oriented at all and hate puzzles.
That said, she gave me a funny look as she corrected me; putting the odd wooden shape where it really goes.
And people are not pictures.
I observe so many people wanting to cram others’ eccentricities and personalities into even smaller packages than a carefully wrapped Christmas gift.
We want so badly for people to fit a certain mold or image that we forget who they really are and what they’re really capable of.
We want so much for a parent, or a child, or a sibling or a friend to fit into the same-sized shape we’ve already seen made—in our imaginations or at another person’s house down the street or on t.v.—that we don’t see who’s right in front of us and in our lives.
In so many ways my daughter reminds me of my husband.
She’s a constant reminder for me that people are not “man” or “woman,” but individuals who think and move and just are a certain way—their own way.
She handed me this tiny wooden shape—the same one I had just set down in the right corner of her brand-new puzzle—and cocked me a look that wordlessly said, “Mom, you seriously have no idea where the hell this goes?”—as I slid the piece back “into place,” where I had already put it, where it belonged, where my brain had wanted it to go.
But it didn’t go there.
She was right, and I realized this a few beats later as I told her what a good job she had done to know that this puzzle piece went “over there,” in the left-hand corner.
More, she reminded me that I’m not always (or even usually) “right” while other people (especially those I love) are “wrong,” simply because we view the world differently; because our pictures are composed of differing landscapes.
We are not pictures of what other people want us to look like.
Some of us marry, and some don’t.
Some of us have and want kids, and others not so much.
Some of us are religious and others shun religion.
Yet this idea of “the other” is left behind completely when we choose to witness and then accept who is right before us, whether I’m choosing to accept and love myself or my child (or my sister or my friend).
We are all truly unique and not meant to be cut down to fit a certain size and shape, because that’s what trying to cram a person into a prefabricated mold does—it cuts them down.
And I don’t want to be a vision, but an artist—I want to create my own canvas with my own wild selection of paints.
I don’t want to be a director, but a performer and a willing participant of the audience.
I want to look upon people with gratitude while they look upon me, thinking, “that’s not what I expected, but she’s beautiful nonetheless.”
And I want to admire the people who make up the pieces of my life so that, much like my daughter’s puzzle, the picture winds up beautiful and absolutely incapable of being whole without the rest of its seemingly mismatched parts.
This article was first published by elephant journal.