Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stretch Situations

I discovered Sudoku puzzles about six years back, and have been addicted to them ever since. There are days (many more days than I would like to admit) when the newspapers are unread, and would be untouched, except for the marks made by my pen on the puzzle page. I always finished the puzzles marked “Easy”, almost always completed the ones marked “Medium”, and almost never finished the “Hard”. That is how it had been when I first started solving Sudoku puzzles, and that is how it remained half a decade later
There were days when I would tell myself that no matter what, I will finish the “Hard” puzzles. There would be all kinds of marks on the paper, sometimes, I would run myself into a corner, and start afresh with a new grid, but I almost never completed the “Hard” puzzles.

Then, about a month back, I bought a book called “Holiday Suduko”. There were puzzles marked “Easy”, “Medium” and “Hard”, and there were some marked “Fiendish”. When I struggled with the “Hard” ones, there was no way I could even attempt the “Fiendish”, but no points for guessing which ones I started with!
Those “Fiendish” Sudoku puzzles consumed my existence. Forget writing, even reading disappeared from my life. I poured over those puzzles every minute I could- on crowded trains, while preparing meals, while waiting for the school bus. I even tried doing them while playing football with the kids!
I was singularly unsuccessful in solving them on my own, but allowed myself to ‘peek at the solution’ when I was sure that there was no way I could go on without doing so. The first few puzzles were done that way, and by the fifth or sixth ones, I could get by with peeking a single number. Then, suddenly, it all fell into place, and I completed my first “Fiendish” puzzle. Then the second one, and then the third. They never became easy to solve, and all of them required that one magical moment of clarity which often came only after hours of effort, but they could be done.
And now, the “Hard” puzzles have become as easy as the “Easy” ones once used to be.

Isn’t it the same in almost everything? You delude yourself into believing you can’t do something, but after a few hours, or days, or weeks in a Stretch situation, you find that what you thought couldn’t be done actually becomes almost effortless. I’ve seen it in running, I’ve seen it with Sudoku. Have you seen it with anything else?


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9 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Sudoku is definitely addictive! Practice makes perfect!

dipali said...

I don't do Sudoku but my husband does, and I think that is all he looks for in our various newspapers. I was addicted to The Hindu crossword, until the Internet took over my life!
Yes, i could spend the whole day puzzling out words and would be thrilled when they clicked.
Also, as an absolutely untrained listener of Hindustani music, I have had great aha moments if I can correctly figure out a raga on the radio. (Before Worldspace died on us)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Debra - it is, isn't it?

@ Dipali - I know exactly what you mean. The thrill when things suddenly fall into place. The thrill when you finally identify what has been plaguing you.

Mason Canyon said...

Sudoku is one of those things that I thought I'd never try, but when I did I enjoyed it. I haven't been doing them very long so I'm just up to the medium level. I have tried a couple of the hard but had to go back to my medium. I enjoy the challenge. You're right, sometimes things we think are hard just fall in place the next time we try.

Ann Elle Altman said...

It's not something I really live by. I never put anything out of my league...well, except sports. So, nothing mental. If someone has cracked it, so can I. Of course, I haven't tackled the fiendish sodoku puzzle yet.

ann

Jan Morrison said...

I don't do Sudoku but I know what you mean - and it is beyond words to describe. It is when the pattern becomes clear - the missing piece revealed and the struggle ceases. Yay! I love it.

Watery Tart said...

At our house Mr. Tart has fits if I touch the paper before he does the crossword, but then he always passes the Sudoku to me. The number thing, oddly, turns off the stress of my day, freeing me to write. I don't know that ours are marked... some are easy, and some are hard, but there is no official rating...

You are EXACTLY right though, that we can have mental blocks, and I like that you were willing to 'cheat' in order to learn the process, and then could proceed on your own--there is a lesson there. Some things we need a little help to figure out, and that's okay, because once we DO, then we can fly on our own. (Writing has a lot of steps like that)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

LOL! I start every day with a Sudoku puzzle! I can do the hard ones and occasionally attempt the fiendish.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Mason - if you stretch yourself a couple of times, it may just start to fall into place.

@ Ann - somehow, I thought you would love Sudoku too - try it.

@ Jan - it is incredible when things fall into place, isn't it?

@ Tami - I do remember you mentioning somewhere you do the puzzle before starting to write! And quite often, we do need to "cheat" a bit before we can finally get it - as long as we are honest about it, I guess it is okay.

@ Diane - I loved that you have blogged about Stretch situations over at Helen's site today!

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