Just One Piece of the Puzzle

Close-up photo of a dark brown puzzle piece sitting on top of a wet, foggy pane of glass.
Photo by Modnar at Morguefile.com.

There are people working on a puzzle. They are contributing pieces to the whole picture so that they can look at it together.

There is also a person who is tightly holding on to a puzzle piece they’ve found. It is all they’re aware of, all they can see. They won’t contribute to the larger puzzle. They don’t even know there is a larger puzzle. They are exclusively focused on their own piece—holding it up to the sun, examining it through a magnifying glass, not looking away for even a second. They obsess over it like it’s the only thing of its kind in the world.

How do you reach this person?

They won’t bring their piece to the puzzle. They won’t even acknowledge that there is a puzzle. They think their one piece is all there is, and they’re sitting in their corner yelling, “Look what I have! Pay attention to me!”

The other people say, “Yes, we know. We see you. We know you have a piece. The puzzle is made up of a bunch of pieces. If you come over here then you’ll be able to see the others, and you might find the spot where yours fits. Why not come take a look?”

They don’t. They won’t. They think their piece is the whole picture, and they won’t listen to anyone else. They won’t even look where the others are pointing.

What can you do in this situation? How do you work with someone who won’t work with you? How do you show a person who is tightly gripping a single piece that it does, in fact, belong to an entire puzzle? That person’s world would grow a hundred times over if they would just acknowledge the existence of the rest of the puzzle, and the puzzle cannot be completed without their piece. Their contribution is necessary, and they won’t make it.

These kinds of situations come up a lot. I myself am guilty of having been the single-minded puzzle piece holder before, though I’ve always come around eventually. But what about the people who don’t come around? How do you illuminate the puzzle for them? How do you show them that, while their piece matters and is important, it’s a part of a larger whole?

Published by Sage Pantony

Sage Pantony is a writer, poet, and zinester. They write about gender, sexuality, mental health, trauma, creativity, and the best ways to cook eggs. They are the author of several zines, including a trilogy about transitioning as a non-binary person. Sage’s work has appeared in publications such as Coven Poetry, Idle Ink, and The Varsity. They currently reside in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal with their pet dinosaur, Peter.

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