The last time I was addicted to Sudoku was during a period of unemployment in 2005. I would spend between 2-3 (or 5) hours each day working away at those things. I’d go to Kinkos to enlarge and copy off multiple pages of the same grid. That way I could solve in layers. Eventually, my compulsion faded and I went on to the next thing. Back then it was writing.
For the last month or so, I’ve carried my book of Ken-Kens around the apartment with me. Ken-Ken is like Sudoku only with more clues. Discovered in a NY Times on a plane to Phoenix last month, these puzzles have given me hours of focused concentration. More importantly, they get solved. I solve them. It’s not like a lot of life where it can often feel as if no matter how hard we try, the solution keeps moving father away.
When a puzzle gets to the point where the one pictured here is, I start thinking thoughts like, “Keep working at it.” There are more errors than correct entries, the scribbles begin overtaking the little boxes, the possibilities seem too endless. So I think, “Ruth, you can’t see it now, but there’s a solution. Don’t quit. You’ll solve this thing.” And usually, I do. I yell to Andy, “Yay! I solved ANOTHER ONE! I’m SO smart!”
It’s the kind of satisfaction that rarely comes along in the real world. Lately I got to thinking about why I latched on to the puzzles in this season of my life. What am I trying to work out? What needs solving?
I found out last week that my division at work is being “reorganized” (translation: shut down). I’m back on the job market. The news came as a relief. I can put the puzzles down. This time I’ll hop straight to writing.