Taking Life by the Moment
By Lori LoCicero
When COVID hit, and lockdowns sent us all inside without an end in sight, it felt strangely familiar to me. I’d never quarantined or lived through a pandemic, but the emotions it stirred reminded me of the year I spent locked inside my house and mind after my husband died of pancreatic cancer.
After my personal loss, I was clueless about how to go on when my entire world had seemingly stopped while everyone else’s seemed to go on as normal. Staying close to home became a coping mechanism. Blocking the outside world allowed space to process my inner turmoil.
With COVID, however, everyone’s world had suddenly stopped too. What was once predictable and routine became a chaotic mess of hoarding flour, rice, and toilet paper while scrambling to make sense of a topsy-turvy existence. During my days and months of grief, I learned plenty of coping skills to help me travel these unfamiliar roads. I was thankful to have these skills when the pandemic hit and dropped me (and everyone else) into unknown territories devoid of maps.
My go-to skill in this situation: Take life by the moment.
The origin of this skill began in the confines of my yard. I am fortunate to live on a corner lot where my yard wraps around my house back to where a somewhat dilapidated detached garage built in the 1940s still stands. Various fruit trees in different stages of growth and bloom adorn my yard. One plum, an apricot, two guava, and a pathetic little avocado tree that I don’t believe has ever produced any fruit, give my yard personality. The lemon tree is the oldest in the yard, with large, thorny branches outstretched and filled year-round with tart yellow fruit. Like most things I don’t pay too much attention to, these trees out my window had become just that, trees outside my window.
I knew if I could get myself to be in the moment, it would help me to get out of my head where thoughts of doom and gloom brewed.
During my grieving days, I spent hours exploring this small plot of land, watching leaves move in the trees and spiders spinning their intricate webs. The more details that captured my attention and took my thoughts away from the pain, the better I felt. I knew if I could get myself to be in the moment, it would help me to get out of my head where thoughts of doom and gloom brewed.
“Take this moment,” I reminded myself when L.A. county was ordered to shelter-in-place, “get out there and explore.” At the first signs of a sinking depression, I grabbed my camera and began capturing and appreciating the smallest details of my yard. I couldn’t control what was happening with the pandemic raging in the outside world, but I could value and nourish what was going on in mine. Looking through the macro lens, I discovered organized trails of ants winding up branches to overripe fruits, bright pops of color from flowers no bigger than peas, and dozens of aging caterpillar cocoons left behind on the eves. There were succulents I didn’t recall now growing under rose bushes that I most certainly did as they had been lovingly planted there by my late husband, Joe. And butterflies with yellow and black tiger-striped wings, danced and fluttered around while following me on my quest.
Donning a mask and braving the world, I ventured out my gate and into the neighborhood. Houses and yards I’d passed thousands of times on daily walks became treasure troves of fantastic finds.
I took moments every day to step out of my head and into my backyard, each time discovering something new. While the bigger world had stopped, these tiny ones went on. So could I. Donning a mask and braving the world, I ventured out my gate and into the neighborhood. Houses and yards I’d passed thousands of times on daily walks became treasure troves of fantastic finds.
Then I heard the greatest of rewards from my teenage daughter’s mouth, “Hey Mom, can I join you on your next photo walk?”
She had been trapped, too. Online learning, random YouTube videos and watching The Office series in its entirety for the fifth time had taken up most of her days. Hungry for something new and either intrigued by my recent photos now serving as a revolving screensaver on our TV or tired of me asking if she wanted to walk, she spoke up. I was elated. I have a wonderful relationship with my 15 going on 16 year old…but she is 15 going on 16, and mother-daughter relationships at that juncture in life are challenging and tumultuous at best regardless of pasts. Add to that being stuck in a house 24/7 together, and bets are on as to how things will play out and who will survive.
“Yes, of course,” was my immediate and enthusiastic answer. So, we walked. We also talked, which was somewhat rare, aside from the brief “what’s for dinner” or “where are my black leggings” conversations during the initial months of the pandemic. Together we explored – block by block, flower by flower, moment by moment. We added iPhone photography with various filters to our growing photo files. We ventured to our neighboring industrial “mini-city” where architectural offices, empty of the millennials now forced to work from home, sat amongst parks and water structures. We created games of finding nature’s palette one hue at a time, discovering a variety of subtle shades in the petals of flowers, the bark of trees, and the feathers of ducks. This added both variety and friendly competition to the mix. Our walks became an excursion. We looked forward to our mother-daughter expeditions brightening our days. We found an outlet, an activity, and a never-ending exploration of the world in which we lived but never really saw.
Without the catalyst of being locked down during COVID, I wonder if I would have spent this much quality time with my daughter in the precious years left before she leaves for college.
Without the catalyst of being locked down during COVID, I wonder if I would have spent this much quality time with my daughter in the precious years left before she leaves for college. I also question whether she would have been as receptive to the idea. I do know we both cherish these times together and have vowed to continue our nature walks in the years to come.
My lifetime, like the span of this pandemic, won’t last forever. I acknowledge this and have learned from these trying times that life can change in an instant. I will often need to adapt. Adapting during this time has been a powerful reminder that finding shared joy sometimes requires little more than finding the time…and taking life by the moment.
About the Writer
Lori LoCicero, Bucket Age 30, is the co-creator of The Death Deck and the author of Mind Savvy: The Art of Clear Thinking for Business Success. She’s also a creative storyteller who combines her personal stories of loss with her innate sense of humor to write about life and talk about death. You can find additional writings and ramblings by Lori at thedeathdeck.com and lorilocicero.com.
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