When life swirls around me and what I thought I knew doesn’t make sense any longer, when my plans get tossed into the air or my tears drip down, when there’s nothing left to grasp on to, I often turn to sudoku.
Sudoku makes sense. 9 times 9 squares. 9 numbers, 9 times. If I pay attention, the pattern will unfold and everything will settle into its proper place.
For an easy sudoku, I like to complete the patterns in my head as best I can, pushing myself to solve the puzzle in numerical order – so I enter all the 9s last – or square by square, holding a corner back until the end. I like to see how much I can solve before I need to start filling things in. Some days it’s more than others.
An easy sudoku has it’s place, but my real sanctuary is the hard ones. I might glance through one of these grids quickly at first, but inevitably I settle down to the rhythm of the pattern – if this can only go here then that can’t go there. If these numbers appear three times in this row then that square must be… yes! Got one. My brain settles in as I fill tiny squares with tiny indicators of possible solutions. Entering one thing means carefully tidying up all the possibilities that no longer exist. If I’m careful I will discover every number’s inevitable space.
In sudoku, attention to detail means that everything will end up where it belongs because everything has a place. 20 minutes after I start, I’ll place the last number – hopefully a nine – in the 81st square and no matter what else is happening, I am able to breathe a little more easily.
When all else fails, sudoku solves everything.