Due to a mixture of various mental health issues, I’m prone to bouts of panic-induced chest pains and chronic shoulder tightness — and that’s on a good day. So, to comfort myself, I’ve been developing a wellness toolkit over the last 7 years. Now my kit consists of both physical and metaphorical things, such as candles, puzzles, crayons, a box of breathing techniques, mindfulness exercises, and yoga asanas.
But even the most carefully crafted kit could not have prepared me for the coronavirus outbreak. Weeks into physical distancing, nothing in my collection was working against my heightened and near constant anxiety. Then, on a day when my house felt particularly small and my breath kept catching in my throat, I remembered that practicing mindfulness outdoors was an option I hadn’t yet utilized.
My dog, Genghis, and I headed into the yard, with no goal other than to note five things I saw, five things I heard, five things I felt. Then breathe and repeat. I was listing my fourth visual observation, a small dandelion in the grass, when I noticed something else in the greenery.
A four-leaf clover.
I hadn’t hunted for four-leaf clovers since I was little, but here was one, just waiting for me to pluck it for my own.
The wonder this little weed inspired took my mind off of the stress of lost jobs, stay-at-home orders, and perpetual fear of falling ill for a little while. It gave me the same thrill of riding bikes with my dad and the warmth of pulling a tiny chair in front of our oven while my mom baked cookies.
The next day, I went back out with Genghis again and ran my fingers over a patch of clovers. To my surprise, I came up with another. And the next day, another.
I am careful with my clovers. I wrap them in wax paper and place them between the pages of my favorite books. When I have a large enough group, I stick them in my bullet journal, displaying them like art and so I can look back on this time and find memories that won’t all make my head spin.
When my mother was young, my dad told me, she had been able to simply pluck four-leaf clovers from the ground, too. He had never been able to find them. But the joy was so infectious, it inspired him to search for his own anyway. I still remember the day he did, when he and I went out together, and not 2 minutes later, he was shoving his own four-leaf clover in my face, looking positively delighted.
Perhaps finding clovers felt impossible before because I was never really looking for them. But I’m not looking for luck right now. I am looking for a brief respite from the constant barrage of anxious news reports and unrealistic expectations for my productivity during this time.
As a person who spends a lot of time in my head worrying, thinking, and daydreaming, thoughts of how cool the dewy grass feels on my fingers in the morning or the lovely bright yellow of the new little flowers that have popped up next to the clover patch is just what I need to catch my breath and occupy my overactive mind for a minute or 2.
And it has not only given me something to look forward to every day, it has created physical reminders of what I did when I needed to catch my breath, and, how even in the time of COVID-19, I found some peace and quiet.