A Radiant Nature
Story by Diane McMahon
Photography by Amy March, Coastline Imagery
Liz Clist is the author of The Spiritual Revelations of a Career Woman: The Truth About My Life. The title is intriguing and revealing, but no more so than the woman herself. Before I met Liz, I spent an intense Friday night reading her book cover to cover. After we met, I spent an intense night reflecting on the multiple facets that form this woman.
The atmosphere that surrounds Liz and the environment she has created is radiant. She greets me at her front door and I enter a space infused with energy, light and vitality. The view outside (the reason she and her husband Todd bought the lot) directs the eye to sculptural live oaks that frame the marsh. Inside, the collection of glass sculptures from renowned American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly is brilliantly lit, creating the impression the pieces have an internal light source. They are a metaphor for Liz: beautiful, multi-faceted and illuminated from within.
She may have spent much of her adulthood as a successful career woman, but Liz has the soul and vision of an artist—an artist with a wide streak of perfectionism. Apologizing for a minute streak on her glass table, where we sit down to talk, she laughs at her obsessiveness. She admits to a tendency “to want to control things” which she works on “controlling.” Her excuse is she has a highly developed sense of “aesthetics.” We laugh, acknowledging that perfectionism is one of those pernicious forms of self-punishing egotism that can impede spiritual growth. “It’s a lifelong process.” Liz’s deep laugh has the humor of self-knowledge and self-acceptance. She says, “I learned that “fear” means there is no God; “perfectionism” means there is no compassion.”
As a natural interviewer who honed her talent while writing her book and talking with hundreds of career women about their own spiritual development, Liz is not accustomed to being the interviewee. I’m required to remind her, “Liz, this isn’t about me,” as she adroitly turns a question back on me. There is no sense that she’s stonewalling or evasive. She’s just tremendously curious and interested.
This curiosity and insatiable desire to learn have always been parts of who she is. Her role model was her grandmother, a banker in the 1930s, who became President of the American Institute of Banking. Raised with no sense of limitation and a “penchant for introspection,” Liz got her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She pursued a high-powered career in business marketing, becoming the president of her professional association. She later worked for Marriott, where she met and then married Todd Clist on July 29, 1989. Liz says she has always had an intuitive sense of who she is and who she wanted to be. She describes herself as “destiny driven” and explains that she has generally trusted her gut instincts to lead her forward.
Her marriage to Todd—a recent widower and father of two at the time—required some major adjustments. Liz was instantly a mother—for the first time—to Todd’s teenage son and daughter. She also quit her job to stay at home for the next year. She started a consulting company and became fascinated “with the link between certain values and both personal and business success.” By the spring of 1994 she was signed up for the Masters of Art Interdisciplinary Studies program entitled “Culture, Ideas and Values” offered at George Mason University in Northern Virginia. Ideas for her book began germinating there.
Her book is the result of years of research and study. While studying the world’s great religious and philosophical traditions she discovered “her wisdom within” as she deepened her personal spirituality and clarified the contours of her personal faith.
“It is a continual practice to listen to my core, but’s that where I find my deepest faith.” For me, faith has two synonyms: hope and trust. I hope that there is an ultimate meaning to life and trust that the Source of the universe is good…Faith also helps remind me of my place in the bigger scheme of things… To have this faith in a higher power requires humility and surrender. After spending most of my adult years putting faith in my personal ability to succeed in the workplace, cherishing my tough independence and believing in my individual strength to survive, being humble is a great test for my faithfulness. To move beyond the limited view of myself as “What I do for a living” can be frightening without faith. My spiritual journey is like the cup of dirt containing the unseen seed of my spiritual essence…Being truthful is the “miracle grow” that continues to cultivate my seed. (Excerpted from Clist’ book)
Liz’s faith is concretely expressed in her commitments to service, community and philanthropy. Here in Hilton Head she serves on the board of the Technical College of the Lowcountry Foundation, which has raised more than two million dollars of private sector donations for student scholarships and educational enhancements. She is also on the board of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. She started “Women in Philanthropy,” part of the Community Foundation, 11 years ago. It has provided over a million dollars in designated grants.
Perhaps the hallmark of a person with a strong spiritual core—someone brave enough to wrestle with the truth of her life—is that all parts, positive and negative, are free to come to light. Maybe that’s the source of radiance.
Afterthoughts: Liz called me next morning with “thoughts while showering.” We’d discussed that humans have four parts: body; mind; emotions; spirit. The goal is to achieve balance. That morning she amended herself. “You can’t always achieve balance. But you can achieve awareness.” This woman never stops thinking.
Relationship: Her marriage is a 25-year love affair.