It took me two hours to complete a simple cuboid puzzle yesterday.
My 9 year old sister in law took it apart and asked me to put it back together, and it stumped me. I told her not to tell me the answer, and just sat there for two hours trying to figure it out. My inlaws were playing with my kids so I had no parental responsibilities – just me and this cloud of despair.
What’s wrong with my brain?! I said to my mother in law.
Nothing at all. Was her response. I couldn’t do a puzzle like that. We mothers are just not in the right mindset.
As I puzzled over the puzzle, growing increasingly frustrated, my fingers itched and tingled because I knew I could point at the solution, but it was just tantalisingly inches out of my grasp.
I became determined that I would not stop until I solved it.
It won’t take me all day. I vowed. Impossible. I simply must solve it!
As I slotted the pieces in and out and over each other, I thought about why it was so difficult for me.
Well, firstly, all I do in a day is organise, plan, change nappies, haul babies this way and that, assess moods, feed hungry bellies, clean messes, and then collapse in bed in a heap of exhaustion. I am not solving puzzles, I am organising little lives and keeping small people alive. So my mind is in a different mental mode.
My puzzle brain is rusty, old, replaced by the adrenaline brain.
The brain that makes my heart beat right out of my chest when I hear a loud crash. The brain that detects the slightest variation in a pitch of a child’s cry to determine whether to kick the panic into gear or not. The brain that has existed for four years just for the survival of someone else. Bonded deeply to two little humans, alert to every need, every desire, wholly invested in their safety. Little pieces of my heart traversing the world, and I throw out a net of consciousness around them – that takes all my brain power.
It’s not that I can’t do it, I realised. It’s that I haven’t done it enough recently.
My husband, by contrast, solved it in 3 minutes. But he spends all day puzzling things, finding solutions to complex problems at his place of work. His brain has been puzzling non-stop for years, so he can easily apply his puzzling skills to this simple little puzzle and figure it out.
People are not stupid or dunces, they just haven’t oiled the various parts of their brains which makes them adept at certain things.
I solved the puzzle after two hours.
The solution, as I knew all along, was glaringly obvious and shamefully easy.
And I felt wonderfully elated!