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Meet Oscar the Life Coach


It’s the end of the year, and rather than Mom and me practicing our medal poses, Mom is observing our underachievement by being even more lazy than usual. Mom is usually a very well trained human: she wakes up at 4am every day so that I can take her for a run before work; she eats her vegetables at every meal; she reads over 100 books a year and only watches TV on weekends. But for the past couple of weeks, Mom has fallen off the self-discipline wagon and I’m afraid that if we don’t go back to our routine soon, she may not remember how to get out of her chair.

What all-consuming addiction has taken over her life and turned her from a “working breed” to someone who does nothing but watch daytime TV reruns on Youtube until deep into the night? I’m talking about the dangerous and highly addictive world of JIGSAW PUZZLES!

Perhaps you don’t believe me that jigsaw puzzles can ruin a person’s life, but puzzles are a slippery slope I have watched Mom spiral out of control with those little pieces. It started innocently enough with a new puzzle on Christmas Eve. It was a special occasion, after all. She was just going to take all the pieces out of the box and set them out face-up, and then she was going to go to bed. But then she just wanted to put together all of the edge pieces. At midnight she started in on the middle section. Our run the next morning was short and boring, because Mom had spent all of her ambition on her puzzle and running was “more effort than she felt like putting in right now.”

That night she was up even later trying to finish the puzzle. She kept chasing the dragon of “just one more piece.” For hours at a time she tried piece after piece, searching for “the big one” that would bring large sections together. The next morning we woke up after sunrise for the first time in my life, and Mom didn’t even want to run at all. So we hiked.

By the day after Christmas, Mom had finished her puzzle. But one puzzle just wasn’t enough. On the way home from our hike, the monkey was back on Mom’s back. Even though she knew that it was a bad place to go at this time of year, Mom went to the WalMart on the day after Christmas to satisfy her jones and buy another puzzle. This was a photographic puzzle, and so it was even harder and less satisfying than the collage puzzle that she had done before. Even though this was a cheaper puzzle and the pieces didn’t snap together with the same burst of satisfaction as the other puzzle, Mom didn’t care anymore. She was just chasing the high of clicking in that next piece.

It didn’t take long before Mom was doing her puzzle as soon as she got out of bed int he morning. We would wake up with enough time to run, but instead Mom  would start staring at her puzzle as soon as she got out of bed. Over an hour later it was way too late to run, and she was still at the table, trying to finish the sky. Eventually I did take her to work, but she could think about nothing but her puzzle all day, and counted the minutes before she could go home and finish the sky. Maybe when the sky was finished, THAT’s when she’d be able to get control over her life.

Day after day Mom came home just planning to put together “just a few pieces to relax and take the edge off.” Before long a week of puzzles had passed, and Mom had only taken me on one short run and no walks.

This morning Mom and I woke up late again. She had been staring at the puzzle until just a few hours before sunrise. I went over and checked the puzzle and found that it was completely finished… except for one last piece. “Mom, what did you do with the last puzzle piece?” I asked.

“I lost it!” she howled, crawling on the ground and looking under furniture. “I will be a slave to this puzzle forever!!!”

“But can’t you be satisfied with the other 749 pieces that you put together?”

Then Mom had a breakthrough. “This puzzle is ruining my life! I can’t live like this anymore! I’ve had it! Oscar, I need you to be my life coach. I can’t do this alone…”

Many of you have been asking me if I will be doing this challenge again next year. Mom didn’t want to, because she wanted to “run less” and worried that I wouldn’t have as many interesting things to talk about. But here was my first life lesson for Mom as her Life Coach: Sometimes the running is not the goal, sometimes the running is just how you get to a different goal. There are people in the group who are training for marathongs and try-atha-longs, but there are also plenty of people who are walking or running away from an old version of themselves that they don’t want to be anymore. Some people use the challenge because they’ve had too many cheese-filled Kongs and they need to lose weight; or because they’re lonely and bored sitting in their houses all day and they want to get out and play; or whatever jigsaw puzzle addiction is keeping them from being the best version of themselves. There are so many good reasons to run and lessons that can be learned from running. So as part of her puzzle addiction recovery program, Mom agreed to me up for the challenge again next year (this time we’ll be counting our miles as a team).

For those of you who won’t be doing the challenge next year, you can still benefit from my life coaching by either following my Facebook fan page and/or reading the posts from my blog ( See you out there!

-Oscar the Life Coach


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