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I have a weird habit of trying to philosophize while playing games by myself.  I find that my mind often starts looking for messages or meaning in the games I play.  These are always good lessons and the one I’ve learned playing Sudoku was good enough I wanted to share.

Most days our campus paper publishes a Sudoku puzzle.  I like to do these puzzles.  Remember I have OCD so it’s not just a fun little thing I do.  It’s not hard for me to become obsessed and stuck.   This, I know, happens to everyone – more the stuck part than the obsessed part.

There was a time when I had to finish a puzzle.  Sometimes it would take days because I’d erase and start over.  I’d get frustrated.  The papers would start to stack up adding to my anxiety.  How was I going to do all these puzzles?  Laugh – because it’s funny but it’s a problem that many people don’t realize they have.  I could step back and say – wait a minute, it’s just a puzzle but it’s not always that easy to see what the problem is.

And the solution was far harder than you would think.  It’s not a matter of giving up but changing the rules.  Before, I thought I had to finish each puzzle.  There was no room for failure nor for giving up.  I can’t tell you how I realized that it was ridiculous.

One problem with our little paper is they never print the solution.  There is no help for the answer like there is when my boys buy me a Sudoku book.  If it gets desperate, I check the answers.  Sometimes I have made a little mistake and can correct it (I try very hard not to cheat to finish the puzzle).  But what can I do when there is nowhere to go.  I can erase the puzzle and start over.  Most times my mistakes are simple – I put a number in the wrong box because I wasn’t paying attention (you can’t believe how many times I think I am in one section only to find I’m next to it).

So I can’t give up, I can’t ask for help so I remain stuck.  Until I learned to give myself an out.  When I have stared at the puzzle for several minutes without adding anything new, I am allowed to call it as finished as I can and let it go.  I’m allowed to quit because it’s too hard.  I’m allowed to guess and see if that gets me to the end.  I’m allowed to make mistakes.

Okay so how does that make any difference in the rest of my life – well we all have projects that we do that are just not going to happen the way we want them to.  I make a craft that completely failed – oops.  I don’t fight with it until it’s perfect.  I let it go.  I take what I can from it – what did I learn?  (With Sudoku, I feel every puzzle gives my brain a little exercise so the finishing is not as important.)  If I plan a party and a dish fails, okay – I let it go and come up with another plan.  I always learn something in the process.

I have learned to let go which is a lesson that I have to keep reminding myself I have already learned.  It’s okay to fail and to give up.  I haven’t given up my daily Sudoku.  I still have a strong passion for brain puzzles.  But I don’t stress over each one.

Life is full of lessons so which one will choose to learn?