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With Gratitude as a Companion

Liz Harrington lived her own version of hell in 2020. (There are so many versions out there!) The year started with a maintenance accident in her home. This required extensive cleaning and remediation. In March she was ill and spent time in intensive care, in the summer she and her siblings sold her recently deceased mother’s cherished home–a building made by her grandfather; the place Liz was brought home as a baby. In the fall she had a car accident.

But she started 2021 with a move to a new condo. This is a big deal to her. Liz is proud of the decision she made and of the actions she took. “I did it. I did it all by myself,” she exults. “It’s the first time I ever made a purchase like this without having to ask anybody for permission.” She shares the space with a gorgeous golden retriever named Lincoln and a sassy parrot named Papi. She is working from home and finding her way through the continued challenges of Covid life.

As the first in my Self-Care Series, I asked about her practices.

What are the healthiest things you consistently do?

Some acts are related to coping with remote work. Liz learned that “you could just slip into instances of getting too comfy in your pajamas all day, or not even brushing your hair . . . but I made a routine for myself. I get up when I would normally get up and take a shower, then come downstairs.” Liz initially tried to manage her tasks from a laptop on the sofa–TV on–but found that distracting and unproductive. She rearranged furniture and set up a desk in her sun room; this reinforced a feeling of structure (and kept Lincoln off of her lap). Keeping routines in stressful times is important.

Being kind to herself is another element of her care. The ongoing job of unpacking and arranging everything in her new home rests entirely on her. There is no help. “I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s not going to be perfect in twenty minutes. I have to go easy on myself–to allow myself to be gentle and easy with myself, and not try to make it a competition with what everybody else has. I have to remember to be thankful and have gratitude, and to do things that I can do.”

Writing and mailing cards is a simple pleasure. Liz also likes to “actually pick up the phone and call people.” Making that connection and hearing someone’s voice brings her joy. In addition, she tries to get out for a walk every day to avoid feeling cooped up and overwhelmed. This has been a sanity saver for me, as well.

When thinking things through: Better alone, or the more the merrier?

“Alone.” She’s used to it. And, “it can get complicated trying to get somebody else’s opinion.” Planning some event in more normal times would be an exception. She offers the example of setting up a surprise party as a group. How fun will it be to be able to do something like that again?

Who is on your side?

First out of her mouth is “I have some really good girlfriends.” The list goes on. “My kids. If I needed anything, they would be here.” With a laugh, but not without sincerity, she includes Lincoln and Papi. Her family is supportive in some ways. But importantly, “I have to have my own back. I have to be by my own side. I don’t have anyone else here. I have me.”

Do you have spiritual practices? What are they?

“I was raised Catholic. In normal times I would go to church, and I do still go to online church. I like the coffee hour, and I get to see some of the people from my church.”

Belief sustains her. “God is there and He is my higher power, and sometimes I think He might have my back.” It’s been over two years since her mother died, but Liz has some voice mail messages she listens to sometimes (including her mom singing happy birthday). She feels her mother’s presence. “I believe in God, I believe in the power of prayer, and I don’t think any of us are alone. I believe I have a spirit guide . . . They’re there and it’s a powerful thing.”

When all else fails, I

” . . . remember that I’m fortunate in a lot of ways. I’ve got three amazing kids. I have a job that I’ve been employed at for nine years.” Liz explains that it’s a tough job–one that requires a lot of legal knowledge. She is not a lawyer. “There’s a lot that I have to be grateful for. There are times when I didn’t allow myself to feel that gratitude.”

She wraps up this thread with “When all else fails, have enough faith, gratitude, and confidence in yourself and things will work out just as they’re supposed to.”

How’s your self care? Would coaching help? Let’s explore that!
Read other posts by Susan McDowell.

November 5, 2021: It saddens me to add Liz’s obituary here. I will miss her.