Little Pieces, Big Picture

Mosaic CloseupToday I listened to a speaker that likened our lives to a beautiful mosaic. In the midst of our everyday decision making, problem solving, advice giving, comfort seeking lives, we are pressed up closely to the mosaic, which is made up of all the events of our lives. We see only the small section of the mosaic that is directly before as us we wonder how the events and challenges we are working with today can ever fit harmoniously in with the tiny bits and pieces we see in front of us.

Of course, we all know that we must step back from a mosaic to view its image. When we do that, we no longer see the individual chips and pieces but rather the beautiful overall image created by the sum of the pieces. Yet even knowing this, stepping back from one’s own life to glimpse the big picture is so much easier said than done. The everyday happenings that demand our attention keep our noses firmly pressed against the small section of the mosaic on which we must focus today.

Some time ago I wrote a post about my crazy-strong desire to be able to play a musical instrument coupled with my complete inability to do so. Sometimes when I listen to the radio, the beauty of the music or words or both is so powerful and the disappointment that I cannot play or sing so strong that I have to turn it off.

mosaic purple flowerRecently, I went to the hospital because of a sudden blinding pain running down my left arm from my shoulder to the tips of my fingers. Eventually the fingers of my hand became numb and lost feeling. Doctors diagnosed degenerative joint disease of the spine causing the branch of nerves that runs from the spine down the left arm to be pinched between the bony vertebra of the spine and the disc. With treatment that included injecting a steroid into the root of the nerve where it branches from the spine, the worst of the pain is gone but I am left with a constant painful tingling and lack of feeling in the index finger and thumb of my left hand. Whenever I touch anything, be it the keys of a keyboard or even the running water when I wash my hands, I feel a buzzing jolt similar to when a leg or arm has fallen asleep, as we say, and is inadvertently knocked up against something. Of course the doctors cannot say for certain what will happen, but this condition frequently recurs and often progresses over time as the discs continue to degenerate. There is no known cure.

Now, in light of this condition, my inability to play an instrument begins to seem like a blessing. I cannot image having such a wonderful gift and developing it over years of practice only to suddenly lose it. Further, I now consider myself fortunate to have been given the desire to play because it led me to take music lessons with my sons, something I very much enjoyed. Finally, the big picture emerges. At long last I realize that I did gain something valuable from a lack of ability that caused me so much consternation over the years.

Does this mean I am now at peace with my everyday challenges knowing that they all contribute perfectly to the mosaic that is my life? Not at all. I have this insight for a moment, but soon it will be gone again. In the very near future I will again find myself with my nose pressed up against the mosaic, studying the interplay of the many tiny pieces in my search for direction. I comfort myself by thinking that having seen the big picture this once, the next time I may see it more readily. Perhaps, in time, I will come to know that the link between my current struggles and the good that comes from them is always there, whether I see it or not.

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