The jigsaw puzzle

I waited for Loureiro, the shoemaker who loves books and wines, to close the door of his shop. Although it was only twelve noon, he had started to work before dawn on that day and had decided to call it a day. The unusual hours of operation of his shop were legendary in the small and charming village located at the foot of the mountain that houses the monastery. We walked on the narrow, winding, cobblestone streets to a restaurant we patronized for lunch and idle conversation, as two good friends who are happy just to be together. When we crossed the square where the restaurant is located, we saw one of the cobbler’s nieces seated on a bench, her face wet with tears. We went to talk to her. She said she was very sad because she believed her marriage was about to end: her relationship with her husband was very difficult. She said this was not what she wanted. Despite living in the same house, each passing day they were farther away one from the other. Loureiro invited her to have lunch with us and talk for a bit. He said that talking at a time like that could be helpful, because when we listen to the reasons that cause our sorrows, the feelings become more and more clear. She accepted the invitation and soon we were settled around a comfortable table far from the hubbub of the street. As soon as our cups were filled with good red wine from the region, the young lady started to rant a litany of complaints about her husband. From his carelessness regarding their love life to the little effort he devoted to the company he worked for. We listened to her with attention and patience, without interruption. At the end, Loureiro and I briefly exchanged looks. Because of our old friendship, that had been enough for me to know what he was thinking. The shoemaker looked at his niece and suggested: “I think you forgot to say something.” The niece said she did not know what her uncle was talking about. He explained: “You forgot to tell us about the qualities of your husband. Otherwise, the marriage would have not lasted so long, and you would not be suffering with the prospect of ending the relationship.” She was a bit embarrassed, but admitted her husband had many virtues. She told us the more relevant ones and the ones she admired the most. Although she remained sad and concerned, her disposition improved a bit. Then, Loureiro said: “Everyone should seek to mature throughout their existence.” The young lady said that, indeed, she thought her husband was quite childish at times. The shoemaker corrected her: “I am not talking about him, that would not be right, considering that he is not here. I am talking about you.” She immediately rebutted by saying she was not a child. The shoemaker nodded in agreement and went further in his explanation: “We do not mature because we become adults, because we come of age chronologically. Maturity is reached on spiritual terms, and for that there is no established age. Maturity is expressed through the whole being, the one who is relentlessly seeking his own essence and who knows and accepts all of his features, good and bad. And who fights the eternal battle for personal improvement. He does not wish to be a mere character, but to create his own personality. He is the one who keeps searching for himself and for the light within. Only this encounter will allow the Harmony and balance necessary to all relationships, whether with himself or with the world.”

“There are other gains. Only by being whole can a person develop all his potential. He will be able to know and enjoy each one of the noble virtues. The starting point is one’s own hardships. Acknowledging it at once makes us more generous to the world. The understanding of one’s difficulties is the seed of humility and compassion, which are essential virtues for one’s encounter with oneself, for the flourishing of other virtues and the understanding of life. In short, one must know oneself in order to appreciate the world. If you don’t know yourself, it is impossible to understand others and be dazzled with the beauty everyone carries within. If you don’t know yourself, the benefits of relationships are lost in the drains of existence.”

“The person who does not know himself is as fragmented as pieces of a disassembled jigsaw puzzle. He feels that pieces do not match, that pieces are missing or are in excess. Each single piece, when separated, yearn for unity, and that is possible only by understanding the whole. You are the whole; the whole is within you, waiting to be assembled. Only when we assemble the pieces we can reflect about the entirety of who we are. The joy of life is matching each one of the pieces of the self in the perfect masterpiece that will be formed when all the pieces are joined together.”

“The fragmented person, who lives in the automation of the many social roles without fully understanding who he is, without having developed a full personality, tends to see in others the flaws that consciously or subconsciously he knows he has but is not willing to tackle. Although he does not admit it, this is deeply bothersome to him. He, then, complains of the other as a way to hide his own difficulties. He ends up not appreciating the good things that exist because he needs to emphasize the bad things. Escaping from oneself is painful, because it establishes the habit of one’s living through the flaws of others, just like in literature vampires yearn for blood in order to survive.”

The niece said her uncle was going too far. She argued that, in her case, it had been hard to live with selfish people, like her husband, who only thought about himself. I waded into the conversation. I said that we should focus on improving our own attitudes rather than insisting in looking for flaws in others. The young woman insisted that her relationship with her husband was very complicated. I reminded her that she could always talk to him, present her ideas in a clear, composed way. However, she did not have the right to demand that he change his behavior. That, only fools do. She could either stay or leave, but the only person she could transform was herself, not anyone else. She should pay more attention in her ideas, feelings and choices.

The young woman considered what I had just said contradictory. She claimed there was nothing more selfish than a self-centered person. I told her there was a difference between being self-centered and setting oneself in motion from one’s core. Of course, believing one is the belly button of the universe is a classic case of selfishness. To be whole is different, it is to set oneself in motion from one’s own essence, source of all light, in concentric waves, propagating good to the ends of the universe. To that end, it is necessary to turn on the light that awaits the being in its depth. Immaturity is just the opposite. By waiting for the universe to move itself in order to satisfy the least of your desires, to deliver your strongest wishes to your door, to make a miracle to make you happy, a person puts away all the power they have. So, do not hold your breath. It means you still have a childish relationship with life. Hence, we demand from others all that we should seek ourselves. Bearing so much weight, relationships become unsustainable. Because we believe, in our flawed thinking, that the blame for our dissatisfaction is not in ourselves but beyond the control of the self, we feel disappointed with others. In fact, it is a useless suffering, that stems from ignorance of who you are and inability to deal with your own self.

Loureiro was disconcerting in his reply: “Only immature people are disappointed.”

Seeing how baffled his niece became, the shoemaker expanded his reasoning: “The other is the other, with his way of being, his pains and pleasures, to the edge of his awareness and the limits of his heart. You can and should set the limits, never impose changes. Transform yourself as a lever of evolution. Always help when someone asks, but do not make that person indebted to you. This is domination, the opposite of freedom and love. In fact, while we are still torn individuals, we are disappointed when someone makes choices that displease us. This means that, deep down, we hold others accountable for our misery. Happiness, love, freedom, peace and dignity form the five healing states called plenitudes. The responsibility for achieving plenitude is yours, mine, is of each one of us, for the simple fact this it is not found anywhere else than in one’s own self. To depend on anyone else to love, to be free, worthy, happy, or to live in peace reveals a fragmented person, an immature individual who does not know yet who he is.”

“Therefore, retrace your steps starting from the pain that bothers you: seek your essence, the feelings and shadows that nurture it; know yourself and become more mature by exercising the virtues; they are life’s instruments. Be accountable for achieving the plenitude and for everything that occurs in your life. Be whole. Have no doubt that you have inside yourself all that you need. Learn, transform yourself, share your best and move on. Be dazzled with maturity, it brings along the shield and the wings!”

I decided to go further on the subject and said that in order to become mature and, therefore, reach the five states that make up plenitude, we have the wonderful tools of virtues available. No one should be the target of our dissatisfactions. This delays our journey. When criticisms and compliments fall over you, bear in mind that the former are not always fair or the latter, sincere. This puts away evil, self-serving fawning, falsehood, lie, victimization, pride, vanity and other shadows. To that end, we must be humble to understand one’s own difficulties, because it is always possible to act differently and better; be sympathetic in understanding the difficulties of others and disregard the offenses leveled at us; be sincere in your relationship with your own self; be honest in dealing with others. Be merciful to always forgive; be sweet to embrace the world with tenderness; be firm with your own purposes; and be loving, of course, because without love you will not reach anywhere. Regardless of the opinion of people, the self moves through the truth of his core; he does not depend on anyone’s authorization to love, be free, happy, worthy and to live in peace.

I said that the mature person is the one who lives his dreams and acts on his gifts, whatever they are. On the other hand, they respect the dreams and gifts of others. Each one is unique, and in this lies the beauty of all; after all, no two histories are alike. By knowing this, the mature person strips himself of the character imposed to him by social conditionings, in order to live life his way, write his own history, cross a path no one else can do for him. The whole self considers his choices sacred. He knows that choices are tools that transform life, and they are the way he has to express his truth. That puts him closer to what is sacred. Only through our choices we are able to evolve. Allowing others to interfere in our choices is the most disrespectful attitude we can have towards ourselves. The same goes regarding the choices of others. It is a matter of respect for the mature person.  When we renounce our choices, we lose our personality, the features that identify us as unique in the universe. We lose the zest for life. On the other hand, interfering in the choices of others is an exercise of domination and lack of respect for their freedom and dignity. It is a sign of immaturity, to not understand the responsibility and power each one has over their own flight.

Loureiro completed my reasoning: “I can only see the beauty of others when I have it in me.”

The meal was served. While we enjoyed the good food of the restaurant, we spoke about other issues. The young woman was aloof and almost didn’t touch her plate; she also remained silent. Before we finished, she asked if we thought that all the flaws she had mentioned regarding her husband were in fact an attempt for her to escape from herself and avoid responsibility over her own life and improving it. No one answered. After some moments of embarrassing silence, the three of us burst out laughing. Then, the young woman said she was married to a good man, winked an eye and said that although he could be better, he was a man with qualities. She excused herself, claiming she had an engagement. I asked if she was going to meet her husband. She cracked a happy, sincere smile and said she was going to be with her husband only in the evening; for the time being, she had work to do, the most important of her life: collect the loose pieces to assemble the jigsaw puzzle of herself. She said she was excited with the challenge and dazzled with the prospect of infinity possibilities that may arise. She felt strong enough to take responsibility over her life. Loureiro smiled and added: “This is the magic.” The young woman kissed her uncle on the cheek, said farewell to me and left. Through the window of the restaurant we saw her walking on the square. She was jumping as if she had springs on her feet.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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