Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lessons From Sudoku

The Christmas before I moved to Mexico (and one week before he moved), Ibis and I went home to my parents' house for Christmas and a life-changing event happened: my mom showed me how to play Sudoku. She explained the rules, handed me the book, and I was hooked.

Three months later when I found myself in a houseful of my in-laws, none of whom spoke English, that Sudoku book became my lifeline. Sure, I tried to remember the Spanish I learned in college (it was my minor after all) but for those times when I didn't feel like reading a book but didn't want to stare blankly at my new family, the number game kept me occupied. What's ironic is they all assumed I'm a quiet girl who didn't talk much and really likes numbers. If you know me, you should be laughing right now. Or at the very least, chuckling.

My Spanish eventually improved, then we moved into our own place, but the Sudoku stuck. During one of my trips home I bought an "advanced" book, but only allowed myself to play a couple games per day because I didn't want to finish the book too quickly. As my writing increased, it was shoved onto a shelf.

I pulled it down about a month ago and have started playing a puzzle or two when I'm trying to get my brain to solve something else. During this latest round of edits I had to find answers to questions that previous drafts left unanswered, and I'm a firm believer that when you make your brain focus on something else, your subconscious will present the answer. I was a little nervous I'd have trouble solving the puzzles -- it'd been months since I'd worked on them, after all -- but I jumped right back in.

In the past two days, the puzzles have suddenly gotten more difficult. Where before I could whip through one in less than five minutes, now it's taking me several attempts to finish. They shouldn't be getting harder -- it's an Advanced book and says nothing about harder puzzles towards the end -- but that's what's happening.

The first time I got stumped I was a little dejected. There were still 100 puzzles left (out of about 450) and it upset me to think my fun might be over. But, I forced myself back to it, looked at them from a different angle, and eventually I was able to solve it.

Do you see the lesson yet?

I realized that while the puzzles might be getting more difficult, they weren't beyond my abilities to solve, I just had to rearrange my thinking. If I gave up when things got difficult, I wouldn't finish. I wouldn't reach my goal. But looking at them from a fresh perspective made things so obvious that I couldn't believe I'd had a moment (or twelve) of doubt.

Kind of like with writing. (Or really, any life goal).

If you give up the minute things start to get difficult, you're left with an unfinished book, an unfulfilled dream, a bunch of empty squares. Personally, I love that feeling of accomplishment when I write down the final number. If I can feel that with other goals in my life, I'll do my best to get there.

13 comments:

spyscribbler said...

I love Sudoku! I used to do one every night. Then, on my palm pilot, they have a Sudoku of the Day at five different levels, and I started doing all five every night before bed. Sudoku is the best.

jcaddell said...

Perseverance. That has been a toughie for me. I think self esteem has a profound effect on reaching goals. If I am confident that I can do something perfectly, then I will go for it. If my goal requires a learning curve, I fear that I won't be good enough, and others will judge me on my failures. Its definitely an issue I need to work on.
Thanks for the pep talk. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, I started playing sudoku on facebook but it was too easy. Maybe I should have looked for harder versions, but it was very cheesy.

Melanie Avila said...

Jen! I'm so excited you have a blog!!

It IS tough to stick with something, especially when you don't get it right the first -- or even the second or third -- time. I'm one of those annoying people who most things come easily for, so when I actually get challenged I have to dig deep to keep going.

Melanie's Mom said...

I do the Sudoku puzzles on the Washington Post website every morning. The puzzles get the brain cells moving in the morning! Give the site a try.

Melanie Avila said...

Mom, I'll have to look into that. And yes, I use a pen. :P

Robin said...

OK. I am going to admit this. I bought "Soduku for Dummies", and I still don't really get soduku. How pathetic is that? Don't answer. Please. (Nice little quiet girl who likes her numbers. Hahahaha!)

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, I think that was my first book! Now I have "Sudoku On-The-Go! Advanced 2. I don't know what the two means -- edition or level.

Melanie Avila said...

Wow, I have some serious punctuation issues going on there. And I forgot to LOL at your laughter. :)

EriCan said...

Great Post! I like sudoku (which, by the way, everyone I know mispronounces it- soodoko, sooduko...etc.) I'm okay at it, not great, but I get how to play it. My hubby is great at numbers... me? not so much :)

Great lesson too- never give up.

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, I'm one of those who mispronounces it. :P I had to keep looking at the book to spell it correctly for this post.

Nadine said...

I love sudoku! I usually only play it on planes. It helps the 5 hour flight pass a lot quicker and gives me something to concentrate on. (I don't like flying)

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, I don't like flying either so I'm always either reading or sleeping. Music alone doesn't occupy my mind enough.