Martha Beck in maroon Harvard sweatshirt sitting at a table by a big window

So last Christmas I bought a jigsaw puzzle for my family. It was fun—a nice center point where we could gather and chat.

I do that almost every year, but after this holiday was over, I bought another puzzle. Then a couple more. Then half a dozen. I spent about a month tucking puzzles into our closets and shelves like some kind of manic, jigsaw-obsessed squirrel.

Then, of course, it happened. You know what I mean. THE APOCALYPSE.

About a week into the national lockdown, I got a random email from someone in a nearby neighborhood association. The writer was looking for ANYONE who had a jigsaw puzzle they could POSSIBLY spare.

The writer sounded desperate. I imagined haggard young parents trying to work from home as their pent-up children pounded each other with plungers and climbed the living room curtains around them.

The only thing that puzzled me (ha ha) was that this lovely neighbor wasn’t buying jigsaws online. The things are everywhere, and often very cheap.

I looked online…and found THERE WAS SCARCELY A JIGSAW PUZZLE TO BE HAD IN ALL THE LAND! The things were all sold out. I saw exactly one still in stock, and the price had been jacked up so high you’d think the thing was made of recreational drugs.

It was a chilling moment.

Years from now, when I tell the story of this pandemic, I can’t say I was a heroic health-care worker or grocery store clerk. But I can say I was the weird lady with an enormous supply of jigsaw puzzles who would leave them out on her driveway and let her social-distancing neighbors come nab them.

Joking aside, I really do wonder why I felt so compelled to buy so many puzzles right before a global lockdown. Maybe we can glimpse bits of the future, or maybe The Force is trying to prep us for difficult times. I don’t know. It’s a puzzle. Ha ha.

Whatever your situation, look for the little hints of magic glittering at the corners of your own life. They may or may not mean anything, but noticing them can make things a tiny bit easier, even when they’re very hard.