For a good part of the last 10 days I struggled over a cryptogram.
Not unexpected though.
The ones in the last grouping of the puzzle book are usually toughies.
This one was driving me ever closer to the brink of peeking at the answers.
My early cryptogram days flashed to mind.
Before falling in love with cryptograms years ago, my relationship was more hate-hate.
Solving these dang things was beyond my brain grade.
Sure, a single letter is either A or I.
Es are popular.
Double letters have few options.
But beyond that, every three letter combinations looked like “the.”
Then I met the Puzzle Master.
The secrets of cryptogram solving were revealed.
There were patterns to look for – that or else, people, you & your, ing or ion endings.
Along with using process of elimination and spotting probable combinations.
Off to the races I went.
Hate-hate transformed into love-love-love.
Except for this dang puzzle.
Okay, it’s not the only one that’s given me trouble or caused me to peek.
For whatever reason, I wasn’t willing to give up on this one – yet.
Best guessing at a letter or word wasn’t working.
Getting out of the never-ending cycle of scan – give up – guess – fill in – erase – give up seemed hopeless.
The page wearing thin from all the erasing.
All the patterns and tricks were failing me.
If that crucial first word that everything hinged on wasn’t becoming clear, then what?
Something needed to change.
Try something different.
From sheer exasperation (and perhaps a very minor tantrum) there was only one thing left to do.
Approach from the opposite end – dive into muddled up messy.
No more neat, start over with a clean slate.
Erasing was setting me back, not helping.
Fill in letters, even if phrases like “frozen rooms” looked silly.
Use the same letter twice.
Look for new patterns.
The tried and true ones weren’t proving useful.
Oh wait a second.
There’s a three letter word following a string of comma separated words.
Last items in lists are preceded by “and.”
Three letters to work with.
How would they fill in?
The new letters were scribbled into place over top others.
New words began to form.
More letters of the code revealed themselves.
“Frozen rooms” turned into “flower looms” – which made total sense when “garden” appeared earlier in the sentence.
Finally, with a huge sigh of relief and a big smile, I declared DONE!
The chuckle followed quickly.
The bigger picture lessons weren’t hard to miss.
What worked before isn’t guaranteed to work now.
When something isn’t working, stop trying to make it work. Step back, listen, observe.
Make room for what else you know that you’ve overlooked or forgotten.
See with different eyes. Approach from an entirely new angle, even if it seems silly.
Embrace and leverage the impermanence of pencil. Writing in stone and pen cause severe cases of “right the first time-itis.”
Get messy. And stay in the mess. Tidiness is not clarity. Messiness is not confusion.
Make mistakes – on purpose.
Don’t be embarrassed to look like you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t. But you will.
Laugh. Just because. It changes everything.
Same lessons dressed up in a different pair of pants.
Nothing new really.
Except they’re timeless and timely.
As all wise reminders are.
If they’re appearing I’m growing.
Or about to stretch more.
What have you learned from going in circles?
feel free to share