About a year and a half ago I started ‘doing’ Sudoku. Initially I “took it up” because I’d noticed that I wasn’t remembering things as easily as I used to (you know, when I was younger). Then I read this one day: “While we cannot control many of the changes that occur to our aging brain, research has found that only 35 percent of how you age is determined by genetics, the rest is determined by your lifestyle, environment, and other factors, many of which you can control and change. For instance, constant exercise of our mind helps you through the aging process by minimizing its effects. Like exercising our muscles to maintain a healthy body, we must exercise our brains to maintain a healthy mind.” Sudoku didn’t come easily to me; it’s just not the way my mind works naturally … and this made it seem like an even more important challenge somehow.
I really began doing Sudoku on a visit to my sister Fran’s. Fran is an amazing crossword puzzle person, something that I absolutely have no talent for. Indeed, each week David makes a copy of the crossword from the New York Times and emails it to Fran. She’d also done some Sudoku, so she was my first tutor – giving me some hints about how she approaches each new puzzle. There’s a pile of Sudoku books on my bedside table; for a long time each day ended with solving a puzzle or two. Days often started that way too. I carried pocket-size Sudoku’s in my purse. Then I got an electronic Sudoku game, and ultimately I downloaded it into my iPhone. I even had many interesting conversations with my methematician friends about Sudoku, looking for patterns and equations. And then…once I was able to solve even most of the devilishly hard puzzles…I started losing interest.
That’s when I started playing Solitaire on the iPhone. Now Solitaire is basically a pretty boring game to play. One day, while playing, I realized that what intrigued me was trying to figure out if there was a pattern to Solitaire. That was the same thing that hooked me on Sudoku. I like to see the patterns in things. I like to find the beauty in the logic. So far I haven’t been able to figure out the pattern in Solitaire … so if you know it perhaps you’d like to pass that along.
Meanwhile, I think there’s something worth paying attention to here. I like to try out new things. I like to try to figure them out. The joy – the most fun – is in that part of playing for me. The figuring it out part. And so, in retirement as in games, I think I’d like to just settle into the joy of figuring it out. I don’t have to focus so much on the end as I do on the process. That’s the part I like the most anyhow. Pinckney J. Harman, in the James Arthur Lecture on the Evolution of the Human Brain in 1956, said that: “It is not unreasonable to expect that man’s (I’m sure he meant women’s too but in 1956 there was less awareness about sexist language) brain will continue to study itself so long as Homo sapiens shall last.” I’m thinking he was right. So I’ll keep on watching and thinking about this whole retirement process even as I live it day to day.
What’s wrong with that? Wonder what it will be next?