Sudoku to Solitaire to ?

sudokuAbout 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?


9 responses to “Sudoku to Solitaire to ?

  1. The way you think and analyze things, including retirement, really interests me.

    I am studying you and wonder why I am not so introspective about retirement.

    Used to be the lead analyst on a staff of 13 with 5 being new the year before I retired (just two years ago). I know how to analyze and write and present findings, etc. I really wonder why analyzing retirement is not something I do.

    I must be missing something.
    Anyway, safe home!

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Maybe, Imani, you were lucky and were able to leave this analysis behind. Me? It’s an avocation as much as anything. I just like to understand things. I can’t, however, count the number of times I’ve been told to stop thinking and analyzing things so much. A woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.

  2. you write very well and the things you write about are things everyone thinks about whether they are approaching retirement or already there. keep it up!

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Thanks for the encouragement Bonnie. Doesn’t matter what stage of life we’re in, I think; having someone encourage us makes a huge difference.

  3. Sharon Griffin

    Tell me that you can’t routinely solve the National Post Saturday Sudoku in minutes, or that you’ve completed the Mensa Sudoko books with ease.

    Sudoku was a lifesaver for me when my Mom was battling cancer, and I was spending a lot of hours in hospital, and when we were waiting for my daughter-in-law to get a liver transplant. I’d never done one before that, thinking I was a non-math type, but I needed a distraction in the hospital, and when I was being “pure” and not drinking wine or eating fats to prepare my liver as a possible donor (fortunately, she got a younger, healthier offer).

    I guess I now have a “sentimental” attachment to Sudoku’s, even if it doesn’t take me a long time to solve them. Something about “lifesavers” that create an emotional attachment that you don’t want to abandon. Maybe some irrational thought that as long as I continue to do them, my daughter-in-law will continue to be strong.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      I think you’re onto something here Sharon. There is a level of magical thinking that most of have, I believe; I, too, think that if Sudoku gets me through something hard it’s going to continue to serve that function for me.

  4. Jeannie in PA

    The best news is that those New York Times crosswords that are really hard — too hard to finish — are the ones that help one’s brain the most. It is all about pushing into uncharted territory!

    All my life I have been somewhat ashamed to be a jack of all trades, master at none. All I really want is the thrill of trying something new, getting good at it…and then I am bored and need to find the next new thing. But tonight I think there are a lot of us out there who have broad interests, high curiosity and no need to master.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Jeannie, I wonder whether it’s the freedom – at our level of maturity (note that I don’t say age) – to not feel that we have to prove anything to anyone else … or even to ourselves … any more.

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