Which Side Are You On?

IBT 1:8

One week into the new year and there is already so much one can be anxious and/or angry about. But, I promised myself in this new year to focus my mind and my voice on the positive. So, I’m not going to rant and rail about the House ethics debacle. I’m going to instead give a shout-out to all of the citizens who flooded their representatives’ offices with complaints and—lo and behold—got a senseless decision overturned in record speed.

I’m not going to pile on singer Kim Burrell, who sang one of the songs for the film Hidden Figures and was disinvited from Ellen Degeneres’ show after she made homophobic comments. Instead, I’m going to focus on Ellen’s authenticity and her guest musician Pharrell Williams, who is a composer and producer for Hidden Figures. Williams did appear on the show and he spoke eloquently about how we all need to condemn hate speech and how we also need to increase our empathy.

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Pharrell Williams is right. We all get to choose what side we are on. We all get to decide what we are willing to fight for. What we are willing to stand up for. Speak out for. What we as people fundamentally care about.

Fighting FOR something is very different than fighting AGAINST something. It’s a different mentality. It comes from a different place inside of you.

Last year, there was so much attention around what certain people were fighting against. It felt, as I’ve written before, divisive, angry and mean.

When people stand up and say this is what I’m for—when they offer a vision that is hopeful, inclusive, positive, and aspirational—it’s so much more exhilarating.

As we head into this new year, I hope we can each think about what we are FOR, as opposed to what we are against. I know that I want to live in a country that looks at itself as a family. One where we are all seen and accepted, and where everyone is expected to contribute to its greater common good.

And, when we see something we don’t agree with, or something that troubles our hearts or our minds—like that deeply disturbing Facebook video of four young people beating up a mentally disabled man—my hope is that we will stand up and use our voices quickly, efficiently and collectively. Just like my brother Timothy did.

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In this new year, may we each ask ourselves: What am I for? Which side am I on? What do I stand for? How we individually and collectively answer that question will tell us a lot about where we are going in 2017.

What I’m Carrying With Me Into This New Year

IBT 1:1

Happy New Year!

These are the first days of 2017, a whole new year. Amazing, isn’t it?

We have a chance to make this New Year our best year yet — personally, professionally, and politically.

On December 31, I wrote down all of the things I want to bury, burn or just stop bitching about moving forward. I also made a list of all of the positive things in my life that I want to carry with me into 2017.

What I Want to Bury:

That critical voice in my head. I want to remove it once and for all. It’s so judgmental, so boring and so not accurate.

My fear. I want to grab my fear by the you know what. It’s got no place in my life in 2017. Time is running short and fear keeps me running in place. I’m burying it.

Comparisons. Even though I know that absolutely nothing good comes from making comparisons, I’ve still engaged in them. No more.

Control. I’m also letting this go. It doesn’t work anyway. I can’t control what people think, say or do, so I’m getting out of that ridiculous business.

What I Want to Carry With Me into the New Year: 

My gratitude practice. Every morning, I thank God for my faith, my family, my friends and my health. I want to keep doing that.

My meditation practice. I want to get better at this because it makes me better at life.

My mental and physical health. I want to really make them a priority and really set aside time for both. They go together and they both deserve a practice.

My mission. I want to be bolder with my mission in 2017. Two-thirds of all brains diagnosed with Alzheimer’s belong to women and no one knows why. That’s terrifying and unacceptable. I believe I can play a role in getting to the bottom of this, and in doing so, help millions of families. I know I need help doing this, so I’m going to bury my ego and keep reaching out to ask for help, even when I’m told to go away.

My voice. I also want to be bolder with my voice. I’m a journalist, but I’m also a citizen of this great country. I’m so over hearing about how smart Putin is. Like, so over it! I’m over hearing about what sore losers some people are. I want to hear more positive, uplifting messages that move us forward. Not just some of us. Not just women. Not just people of one color. All of us. I don’t care what party you belong to or don’t belong to. I don’t care who you voted for or whether you voted at all. Let’s leave all of that behind us. It was divisive, mean, and detrimental to humanity.

Let’s move forward. Let’s be positive. Let each of us think about how we can move humanity forward — one person and one idea at a time. We all have a role to play. We can all be of service. We can all be a part of elevating our dialogue, our responses and our behaviors.

At The Sunday Paper and MariaShriver.com, we believe that 2017 will be an extraordinary year. We want, as always, for this place to be a positive space. A place where we elevate the ideas and the voices of those who are trying to move humanity forward. That’s our mission and our purpose. We believe that individuals like you can have a positive and direct impact on our personal discourse, our professional discourse and on our political discourse.

This is a new year. It’s a new chance for all of us to use our voices for good. That’s what Architects of Change do — challenge what is, imagine what can be and move humanity forward.

That’s what I’m thinking about. What about you?

 

From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- December 19th   2016

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Finding Your Unique Purpose in the World

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what constitutes a real and meaningful life.

What are the pillars that need to be in place? What has to be clear in our hearts and our minds so that we can not only feel good, but do good in the world as well?

The truth is, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that we are all here on this planet to do good. To fight darkness. To call out injustices. To move humanity forward.

That’s not sweet, soft, or simply a cute slogan. It’s a real hardcore truth and mission, grounded in a firm and passionate belief system. Building a meaningful life is both difficult and simple. I believe you have to be passionate about it and purposeful. Disciplined and focused. You have to check in with yourself regularly and repeatedly.

You have to ask yourself: What is my mission? Am I in alignment? Is my intention clear? How and where do I want to move the needle? What do I want my life to stand for? Who is the company I keep?

Over the course of my own life, I have answered these questions in different ways at different times. As I’ve grown—as I have experienced different life experiences—some things have shifted and some things have stayed the same.

What has never shifted is my belief that I am here for a purpose bigger than myself. I used to be afraid of saying that because I thought it sounded arrogant. But, I’ve come to understand that it’s not arrogant at all. We are all here for a purpose that’s bigger than ourselves. Each one of us is unique. Therefore, our purpose in the world is unique to who we are. I’m not here to be like you, nor are you here to be like me.

Do you know why you are here? Do you know your mission?

A few weeks ago, I shared a Hopi Elder poem that I love. What really keeps resonating with me from that poem is the line, “This is the hour.” This is indeed the hour. I feel that now more than ever. This is the hour to check in with ourselves.

Am I living a meaningful life? Is my home aligned with my work? Are my friends aware of my purpose? Am I really living a life that matters?

Over the Christmas holiday, I am going to take a digital break. I want to get away from all of the noise that I hear on social media and on TV. I want to get away from what feels like one big reality show. I want to spend some time asking myself important life questions so that I can begin the New Year in alignment. At the end of the day, it’s up to me to create a life that is in balance. It’s up to me to know my mission. It’s up to me to decide what matters and who matters. It’s up to me to build the meaningful life I want to live. Life is fragile. I’m aware of that more and more every day.

This is indeed THE HOUR, and I want to make the hour matter. So, I’m going to take a digital break so that I can quiet my mind and focus on what I’m building with the blessed time I have on this Earth.

You can still count on a Sunday Paper next Sunday on Christmas morning. We will celebrate our Architects of Change of the Year, recognizing them for all of the hard work they are doing to move humanity forward. Their work is a gift to me, and to all of us, because they are moving us forward in a conscious, compassionate, and caring manner. The following Sunday on New Year’s Day, we will look ahead together and share inspiring thoughts from our community.

Happy holidays. I hope you have a blessed and safe Christmas and New Year.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- December 12th   2016

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The Problem with fake news

Happy businesswoman reading amagazine at her office during the coffee break.

I grew up in a public family where rumors were a part of life. I don’t know if that’s what led me to my career in journalism, but I do know I was always interested in what was true and what wasn’t.

I understand that what’s true for me and what’s true for you can be different depending on our set of beliefs, how we were raised and our experiences. That said, facts are facts. They don’t lie. That is what is at stake in this spread of “fake news.”

I have begun to encounter it quite a bit in discussions with people I know who say, “Did you see this or that? Did you hear what so and so did? Did you read the latest…?” Often times, I’ll ask,“Where did you get that?” and they don’t know. Or, it’s several sources removed from wherever it originated. Most troubling, it’s often times an exaggeration, a distortion or even a total fabrication without them realizing it until they were told.

This is a dangerous trend, but it’s also an opportunity for all of us to become reporters ourselves and fact-check our sources—be they websites, individuals or social media. We should fact-check ourselves before we spread stories that we can’t corroborate as truth.

Just this week, Pope Francis said misinformation is probably the greatest damage that the media can do. He went on to not only caution the media, but to caution all of us to think twice about the penchant for covering scandals and covering nasty things—even if they are true.

I was also relieved to see President-Elect Trump fire Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s son from his inner circle after he spread an insane rumor about Hillary Clinton. But, it took a violent moment (which occurred because of the fake story) to get everyone’s attention about what he and others were spreading. (Note to the President-Elect: please monitor his father’s Twitter feed as well, as his tweets could be even more dangerous.)

The truth is, it shouldn’t have to go as far as Pizzagate to get our national attention. Rumors and bullying are hurtful. Trust me, I get that. I know they are almost impossible to curtail in this voracious news cycle, but fake news is dangerous to our national reputation, our national justice system and perhaps most importantly, to our national security.

So, before everyone lumps all of the media into a disaster bin, let’s take a beat. Real solid journalism—a journalism of facts, a free journalism—has never been more needed or more important. We all have a chance to support organizations that believe in facts and to support reporters who do their jobs based upon the truth. We all have a role in giving power to truth in our homes, in our social and professional conversations, and in our political discourse. It impacts our judicial system, our political system, our free press, and at the end of the day, who we are as human beings and as Americans.

We can see the world through our own eyes, but we can’t make up our own facts.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. What about you?


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- December 5th   2016

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Why we need time to think and  reflectWoman looking cityscape from the roof of a tall building in Bangkok.

While visiting Sacramento, CA, this week (where I was inducted into California’s Hall of Fame), I had the opportunity to speak with two great public servants. One Democrat. One Republican. Both men who I deeply admire.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and George Shultz (former U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Labor… I mean, wow), are two men who have seen a lot and done even more. They are gracious and generous in sharing words of wisdom.

We had a wonderful conversation about politics (yes, we did). We spoke about our country, our new president-elect, about the value of experience, about the power of words and about the danger of empty threats.

But what struck most during our conversation, and what I wanted to share, was that both of these men spoke to me separately about how important it has been throughout their careers and lives to allocate uninterrupted time in their busy days. Uninterrupted time to think, to be, and to reflect. Both of them went on to explain how difficult it is to safeguard that time, but also how critical it has been to their thinking and their ability to create and lead.

I loved that simple, but profound advice. No matter how busy you are, carve out time in your day to think. To be calm. To reflect. To be present.

I’m grateful that they both mentioned that advice to me right before I went to the Hall of Fame ceremony because it helped me stay present. It helped me stay in the moment. It allowed me to take in what was actually happening in my life at that moment.

As I sat on the stage looking out, I was overcome with gratitude. Gratitude to my parents, gratitude to my family, and gratitude to all who have helped me in my life. There are so many people who have helped me, and who continue to help me in so many ways. Being present also allowed me to take in the love that I felt was, and is, there for me in my life. I didn’t push it away like I might have done in the past. I let it in and it felt beautiful.

It was a moment in my life I will never forget because I was present for it. When I went back to my hotel that night, I made a vow to myself. I promised to create more empty space in my days. More time to think. To dream. To be calm. To just be, so that I can be more present in my own life.

I think we are at a unique moment in our fast-paced, ever-changing world. I think our world needs us all to be more present in it. To be calmer. To be more reflective. More creative.

I think all of us could take a beat before we react to every tweet, every post and every conversation. I think our national discourse and our personal discourses are in need of the same things: Breathing space. Thinking space. Presence.

If we each made an effort to carve that out in our daily lives, I have no doubt that our interactions with one another would be different. I have no doubt that we would see different things, hear different things, and realize different things. I have no doubt that we would show up in our lives in a different way, speak up in a different way and perhaps move our country forward together in the way that we all say we want to do.

So, I’m going to take the advice of two great public servants who have worked across the aisle, and who continue to work to make the world a more conscious, more collaborative, and more caring place. They are men of ideas, men of thought… and busy men who make time to not be busy.

That’s something worth thinking about.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- November 6th  2016

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My Birthday Gift to Myself

Happy Birthday on fondant topped cookie on sprinkles

Today is my birthday. I was born in Chicago, IL, now home to the World Series champions!

The Cubs winning the World Series this week was THE bright spot in what felt like an otherwise dark, depressing week. I’m usually a pretty upbeat person, but I’ve gotta say, this past week—with all the divisiveness, the insanity, the anxiety, and the screaming—well, it got me down.

I actually haven’t been down or nervous this whole campaign season, but this week I have to admit that there was a day when I didn’t even want to leave my house. Everywhere I went, people would say things like, “Oh my God! Have you seen that latest poll? Did you hear what they are saying now? Did you see what that email said? Oh my God! What’s happening? What do you think is going to happen?”

Gosh, people!

In times of crisis and panic, I make an appointment with God. (Yup.) I check in with God daily anyway, but this past week, I checked in several times per day because everyone’s anxiety was spilling over onto me and I don’t care for that (especially since it’s my birthday).

He said (yes I say he!), “Tell the people to breathe.”

I said, “I already wrote about that. It’s not working.”

He said, “Well then tell them to be silent.”

I said, “I wrote about that too, and everyone just keeps screaming. If you don’t believe me, just turn on the TV.”

“God,” I said, “Give me something new. Give me something I haven’t said, because I’ve been writing about breathing and silence and the mystics and the Jesuits and the process of discernment and people still aren’t calm and still aren’t hopeful. They are panicking. What more can I share?”

I got silence. I got nothing.

Not good, I thought. So, I did what any nervous, anxious Catholic would do. I went to my back-up: the Pope.

Yes, when in doubt, I go and check out whatever Pope Francis is riffing about. It’s bound to be interesting. It’s bound to change your perspective.

Lo and behold, this week Pope Francis was talking about the Sermon on the Mount. (He also riffed on the fact that women will never become priests! Lord, I’ll deal with this ridiculous stained glass ceiling another week, after the other ceiling comes crashing down next week.)

But, back to the Sermon on the Mount. The pope has actually added some new, updated challenges/beatitudes for our modern times.

Now before you freak and say, “I’m not Catholic. I don’t believe.” Trust me here. You don’t have to be Catholic to get some solid life lessons from The Sermon on the Mount.

So today on my birthday, my gift to myself (and to you) is to re-read the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” is one. I’m sure there are at least a few beatitudes that will work for you. Read the originals, and also check out how the Pope modernized them (see here).

Then ask yourself, what could/would you add for these turbulent times? What could/would you add that would bring peace to your turbulent mind?

What could/would you add that would make you feel it’s all going to be okay? Because it is all going to be okay.

Just remember: Breathe in. Breathe out. Discern. Decide. Seek silence. Seek peace. And vote! For God’s sake, don’t forget to vote. It’s a gift!

That brings me back to my birthday. On this day, I’m grateful for so many gifts. The gift of my life. The gift of my health. The gift of my faith. The gifts of my friends and family who I know love me. The gift of living in the greatest country on Earth. The gift of my four incredible children and the gift of being able to vote.

Just writing out everything I’m grateful for makes me feel better already, and I’m 61. I’m 61? Oh my God. Now I’m depressed and it has nothing to do with the election.

I’m going back to my room and re-watch the Cubs clinch the title. That will make me forget about my age and the election.

Happy birthday to myself!

From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- October 30th  2016

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Finding Peace in Your Decisions

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In the last few weeks, I've written about the power of silence, the importance of taking a breath, the art of listening, and the mystics (yes, the mystics).

Today, I want to take a page from the Jesuits (yes, the Jesuits). I was educated and deeply shaped by the Catholic sisters and by the Jesuits. Pope Francis is one of the individuals I admire most in the world, not just because he is a Jesuit, but because of the way he walks his talk, lives his life, speaks his mind, and embraces change.

When faced with difficult decisions or life-altering change, the Jesuits have a process to help guide them to the answer. Devised by Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, it’s called the discernment process (see here). The process of discernment walks you through a step-by-step process that's meant to help you come to the decision that is right for you.

The truth is, some of us are better than others at making decisions. Some make snap decisions. Some labor forever, weighing the pros and cons. Some take too many other people’s opinions and feelings into account (that would be me). And some just know how to deliberate, discern and decide.

I share this process of discernment today because so many people I’ve spoken to lately about the election tell me that they are struggling. Struggling to decide. Struggling with whether to vote or not. Struggling with what's right or wrong for them and/or for the country.

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Making big decisions is tough for everyone. So, I thought, why not take a page from the Jesuits and follow the age-old, tried-and-true formula: the process of discernment. I've used it myself, and I’m using it to make other decisions (although not about this election, because I’m very clear about that decision). I’ve found the process illuminating and helpful in times of turbulent change or indecision in my own life.

All of us who have the opportunity to vote for the next president of the United States have a personal decision to make. It can be hard with all of the noise and back and forth to know what to do. All I know is that this great country of ours has always been a melting pot—different religions, races, and political affiliations—living together in pursuit of the common good. It's important at this time to remember that there is a common good, there is common ground, and there are common dreams we all share.

So, before you lose your mind in reaction to someone who is voting differently than you, or who tells you that they’re not voting at all, remember what I wrote about the mystics. The mystics go to a place beyond words. They go to that wordless space, that place within all of us. It is there, they believe, that we all meet our compassionate, loving, honest, non-judgmental selves.

In this final week before Election Day, get quiet and clear about your own decision, your own vote. Get clear about your own process. And if you’re still struggling— if you still feel undecided— check out the Jesuits’ discernment. I share it with the goal of simply helping you to find clarity and peace in these turbulent times.

Discern. Decide. Be at peace with your decision and allow others to be the same.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- October 23rd 2016

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It's Time We Take A Breath

The debates are behind us. The candidates have spoken. The pundits have weighed in. The campaigns that have engulfed us and divided us are in the final stretch.

This is called crunch time. Get-out-the-vote time. Time to double down. Make calls. Find the remaining undecided voters. Hurry, hurry, hurry!

I suggest otherwise. I say, it’s time for all of us to take a breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.

That’s what I’ve learned to do when there is really nothing more to stay. Breathe. No more talking. No more yelling. No more trying to convince your neighbor of this or that. Just breathe.

This, I would argue, is a moment for each of us to ask ourselves how we can be a part of bringing our country together. This is a moment for each of us to think about how we can heal the division in ourselves, in our families, and in our country.

I thought it was interesting that Canada released a video this week reminding Americans of how great we already are. I thought it was worth noting that a letter written by former President George H.W. Bush for Bill Clinton went viral. Why was that?

George H.W. Bush Bill Clinton Letter 3

 

I believe it is because we all long for our leaders to be decent, well-mannered, and classy. We all long for examples of good sportsmanship, good character, and goodness. We want to see it in our leaders because we want to know that it’s within ourselves. The truth is, decent good people are all around us. Good, strong, well-mannered people. People with R’s next to their names, and good people with D’s, and I’s, and G’s.

This week, I hope we all take a breath (a big one). I hope we each take a moment to see ourselves as Healers, because we each have that capability within us. We really do.

Perhaps we could all think about what kind of handwritten letter we might write if we were one of the two presidential candidates. May we take a page from those who have gone before—be it George H.W. Bush, Al Gore or the many, many others. Those who went down to the wire, accepted the will of the people and then rose up as healers.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Get out a piece of paper, breathe in and breathe out, and start writing.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. What about you?


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- October 16th 2016

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The Power of Silence

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There was so much for all of us to think about this past week that it’s almost impossible to single out one thing. It’s almost impossible to know where to start.

My brother Timothy reminded me that the mystics like to speak of a dimension of experience that is “wordless.” He told me that in the wordless space, our truest identity is revealed. He went on to say that at some level, we all exist first in silence, and only after that, in words. He said maybe searching for the right word (as I wrote about last week), or the right thought, is first an invitation to go to a place of no words or no thoughts. Clear your mind of the distraction of words and thoughts, he said, and discover what emerges from that place. Whatever words are likely to emerge will come from your deepest self.

As I sat and tried to clear my mind of all that I heard this past week—from the now infamous hot mic bus video, to the back and forth of the debates, to the screaming on cable TV, to the panic I heard in friends’ voices about the division in our country, to the stories of gloom and doom that bombard us on an hourly basis on social media—this is what I discovered:

I discovered a feeling of hope, a feeling of joy, and a feeling of peace. I found myself feeling inspired by all of the people who used their voices this past week for good. I was especially moved by the multitudes of men who spoke up about what masculinity is and isn’t, and about what it means to them to be a good man. I was inspired by the millions of women who bravely used their voices to recount their own experiences with sexual assault. That gave us a chance to see bravery in real-time and it gave us a window into the prevalence of these kind of experiences.

This was indeed a teachable week. This was a week to be quiet and a week to be heard. It was a week to talk about gender, about manners, about behavior, about what is and isn’t “locker room behavior,” about language, about bullying, about right and wrong. It was also yet another chance to talk about our politics, our divisions, and yes, our common humanity.

It was a week where a female presidential candidate complimented the man on his children, and the man complimented the woman for being a tough fighter, for never giving up or giving in. It was a week of no words, and also of so many using their words to inform and to inspire.

As the week came to a close, we heard speeches telling us that this is indeed our moment and that we are all approaching a day of reckoning. Where do we stand, the speechmakers asked? What do you stand for, they wondered? Can you stand up?

This is indeed a moment for all of us. It is a moment to take a page from the mystics. Go beyond words. Go beyond thoughts. Go beyond politics, fear and rhetoric. Go into your own wordless experience. Be quiet. Be still. Then, and only then, will you know where you stand, what you think, and how you will be able to make sense of what was and what is.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. What about you?


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- October 9th 2016

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Who Do Our Words Reflect, If Not Ourselves?

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“Choosing the right word, and the right word order…could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or idea,” so said Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her new book entitled, “My Own Words.”

Justice Ginsburg is right. Words do matter. The right words. The right order.

As we all know, words have been a “hot topic” this election cycle. They have been thrown around with reckless abandonment. They have stung. They have caused tremendous pain and anguish. They have also become rallying cries, perhaps no more so than in the last 48 hours. 

The poet Maya Angelou once wrote: “People will forget what you said…but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The last 48 hours have made people—men and women—feel everything from outrage and disgust, to embarrassment and shock. 

We’ve all used the wrong words at the wrong time. I know I have. Sometimes I speak without thinking (yes, I do that). Sometimes my tone changes how my words are received. Sometimes I put the words in the wrong order. Sometimes I’m tired and in a rush and I text or e-mail my words, only to discover that they landed in a totally different way than I intended. Sometimes I can’t even find the right words, much less the right order, and that’s from someone who’s a word lover and a wordsmith.

On Saturday, Donald Trump used his words to apologize. He said, “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.” Then who do his words reflect? Who do any of our words reflect, if not ourselves? What I have seen in the last 48 hours are men and women speaking out to repudiate Trump’s words—words that not only disrespect women, but men as well. This is not a political issue. This is a question of whether we want somebody representing us who says their words are not an indication of who they are. (Melania Trump used her words on Saturday to say this: “The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. … I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”)

Finding the right word, or set of words, is a challenge for any of us. But as Maya Angelou said, words make people feel. They can make people feel seen, accepted and understood, or they can make people feel rejected, judged, shamed and embarrassed.

So, in the final few days of this election cycle, it’s not just the candidates who will be “watching their words.” It’s not just the pundits and the journalists and the bloggers who will be measuring their words. We will all be thinking about our words and whether they actually reflect us and what we feel. If they don’t, we need to ask ourselves, “do we know who we are?”

If you find yourself feeling frustrated or exasperated, look to these other words from Justice Ginsburg: “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” In my own words, what does persuade is a vote.

The right words, in the right order. May we all find a way to use them this coming week.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about. What about you?


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- October 2nd 2016

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It's Time We Question Our Beliefs

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The other day I was thinking about how clear everything used to be to me. How sure I was about what I believed. How sure I was about what was right and wrong, true and false, acceptable and not acceptable. The list goes on.

But if you are awake in life (especially in your own), you find yourself asking, is that really so? Is there a different way of perceiving something? A different way of looking at something? Could a long-held belief actually turn out to be wrong?

Our realities and beliefs are shaped by many things—by our parents and our upbringing, by race and neighborhood, by media choices, by our own individual minds and experiences.

Yes, our minds create our realities. That was certainly clear to me this past week as I listened and watched the presidential debates and followed the ensuing reaction to it. Reading social media and listening to the candidates and their surrogates made me more convinced than ever that everyone is living in their own reality.

I wonder what, if anything, can get them or us to change how we view the world. For example, I heard Mike Pence and others say that Donald Trump took command of the debate. I and others experienced something different altogether. And then there was Elon Musk. While many of us were focused on politics, he was simply talking about putting people on Mars like it’s totally normal. Wow.

Mars aside, I was struck by the two starkly different realities that our candidates—yes, they are our candidates—painted of our country and the people in it. I’m struck by that almost daily. Everyone’s different views. Different realities. Different beliefs. I’m not saying mine is right. But I do know that I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to ask myself what beliefs I have today that are no longer accurate—no longer true, valid, helpful or rooted in reality.

I try to ask myself: what am I closed off to, and why? It’s a valuable exercise for any of us to go through.

-Can we really refute climate change if we look at the facts with an open mind?

-Can we really refute that we have a race division in our country if we look at the facts?

-Can we really refute that our nation is divided if we look at the results of the debate? (A newspaper in Arizona endorses Mrs. Clinton and subscriptions get canceled at a record rate.)

-Can we really refute our own bias about the other party?

The list goes on.

Labels divide us. Zip codes divide us. Our beliefs divide us. But, they don’t have to. We must have the courage to ask ourselves if there is any possibility that what we believe could in fact be wrong?

My friend Elizabeth Lesser, who just wrote a book called “Marrow” (and who I’m excited to be speaking with for our Architects of Change Live series), often uses the quote, “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

BAM!

We see things as we are. Campaigns give us a window into who we are and into our divisions. Our anger. Our different realities. Our perceptions. Our assumptions. They give us a window into how our fellow Americans see their lives and see their futures. They give us a window into ourselves. They give us a window into how much healing we all need to get busy doing.

So this week, I hope each of us can open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts and try to see how others see things. I hope each of us can take a beat and consider that there might be some truth in other people’s beliefs or realities. I hope we can each start the business of finding some common ground. Because no matter who wins this election, we are all going to have to challenge what is—what is outside of us and what is inside of us.

We are all going to have to imagine anew if we want to move humanity and our country forward together. Or then again, we can always move to Mars!

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. What about you?


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- September 25th 2016

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Don't Be a Spectator

Pray For Charlotte 1

I can’t tell you how many times I wrote this week’s essay, only to change the topic again and again as the week unfolded. I shifted gears each time the news headlines exploded, leaving me and everyone I spoke to shaking our heads. It seemed that all of us were fixated and obsessing on what was going on out there and didn’t want to talk about anything but.

For some of us, it was speculation about tomorrow’s first of three campaign debates. The anticipation and the buildup remind me of the excitement leading up to the three Ali-Frazier heavyweight fights. Others of us were hyper-focused on Charlotte and Tulsa, anti-police protests, racial injustice. For still others, it was all Brangelina all the time — did he really and did she really and what about the kids?

All these very intense stories sucked the air out of the atmosphere all week long, and I found myself wondering:  What do they all have in common? Well, what they have in common is that they’re all about blowups and conflicts and anger and loss.

And that made me think of the essay I wrote last week, which was about the need for all of us to sometimes just stop and reflect — reflect on what we’re doing, saying, and thinking. Stop the racing and the running and the gossiping and blabbing, turn the focus inward, and start reflecting on our own selves. So I did.

My reflection brought up the empathy I have for Charlotte and for all of us who feel we can and must do better healing our racial divide. Reflection brought up the empathy I have for a very public couple’s children, who are caught in a public nightmare. And the campaign debate? I wish we would all stop obsessing about the knockout we’re hoping we’ll see in this debate and focus instead on what we ourselves are doing to make this country a better one.

It’s easy to sit back in our ringside seats and pontificate. It’s easy to cheer as our “opponent” gets whipped. It’s easy to complain about our election choices. It’s easy to gossip about public people’s marriages. It’s easy to shake our fists as we watch what’s going on in Charlotte and Tulsa. But it’s harder, much harder, to pause and reflect about our own role in our communities, our cities, our country — what we ourselves are doing/saying/thinking to improve things.

Because if you’re sitting on the sidelines as a spectator, you never really know what it’s like in the ring. If you’re an onlooker, you’re not a participant. You have a running commentary unspooling in your head, and you feed it with input from TV and radio and the web and social media. It feels very busy. It feels like you’re “involved.” It feels like you’re taking action. But you’re not. You never make anything different or better. You just wait for the next story to blow up, so you can fix another batch of popcorn, sit back, and watch. Sit back and watch. Me, too.

I’m reflecting on the idea that maybe we’ve become a spectator nation. But you know what? As President Obama said, “Democracy isn’t a spectator sport.” You’ve got to get in the arena!

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. What about you?


 

From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- September 18th 2016

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The Importance of Privacy and Reflection

“I just thought I could keep going forward and power through it, and obviously that didn't work out so well." Those were Hillary Clinton’s words about her decision to keep her pneumonia diagnosis private.

Keep going. Power through it. Those words struck me, as I heard them almost every day from my mother while I was growing up.

Like so many people in my generation, I was raised to believe that powering through was what was expected of you. Winners power through, I was told. The strong power through. Americans power through. And if you are a woman and you jump into “the arena,” my mother said, you better be sure that you are someone who can power through.

Politics aside, anyone who runs for president has got to power through and power on. It takes unimaginable stamina. It takes unimaginable focus—unimaginable resolve—to keep going and keep powering on. In this era of nonstop news, nonstop social media, and nonstop rubbernecking, you'd better be the “powering through” kind of person.

I watched Secretary Clinton’s health story unfold with interest. I watched it unfold as a journalist and as someone whose parent ran for Vice President with George McGovern, and after that, tried to run for president himself.

Two different vantage points. Two very different interests.

One side is protective, trying to balance transparency with the public’s ever-changing right to know. On the other side are journalists, bloggers, and just about everyone else—those who are inquisitive, voracious, and who seem to believe that these days the public has the right to know just about everything, from the big to the little.

So here we are eight weeks out from electing a new president. We demand that this person have incredible stamina and incredible resolve. We want this person to be able to not only look forward and lead us there, but to also be smart enough about the past that we don't repeat past mistakes.

We demand that this person be able to power through anything and everything. We don't want them to complain, to stumble, or much less, faint. (God forbid they faint.)

We want to know absolutely everything about them (and I mean everything). Their health, their finances, their marriages, their friends, their past, their present, their future...

Really? Do you really know everything about your boss? Your kids? Your kids’ teachers? Your partner? Your friends? I admit I don’t, and lots of it isn't my business anyway.

I watched as Secretary Clinton came back onto the trail, on the same day that a big new poll came out calling the election a dead heat. As she took to the microphone, Secretary Clinton again talked about powering through and powering on. She also spoke about how the break had afforded her time for something that campaigns don't normally make room for: reflection. She said that she spent the few days off the trail reflecting on why she was really running and what she really wanted to do if she were to win.

sunday-paper

                                                                         (Image: Hillary Clinton Instagram)

Truth is, we all need time to reflect, to step back and ask ourselves why we do what we do. Are we doing it well? Could we do it better? Why are we here? What are we all really trying to do?

Reflection is critical for leaders. It’s crucial for anyone trying to do anything meaningful in life—whether you are running for president, raising children, trying to launch a start-up, manage a relationship, or be your best self.

Privacy and reflection. Is there room and/or time for either in this tumultuous campaign? For the candidates, their staffs, their families, we the public and the media?

Eight weeks from now we will have a new president of these United States, and we have never been more divided. Perhaps it's not just the candidates who need to reflect on what they are doing. Perhaps all of us need to seek some privacy and reflect on what we are doing, how we got so divided, what each of us might be able to do to change that, and what we’re really hoping for when this thing is over.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- September 11th  2016

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How I Find My Hope for the Future

Find Hope Mountaintop

The moment I came home from dropping my last child off at college, I hiked up a mountain not too far from my home. I climbed up to prove to myself that I could. I climbed up to look at the ocean and to feel the wind whip at my face.

I hiked up to that spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean to breathe. To reflect. To cry. To be. To dig down and find my hope for the future. 

Today, September 11, is a day of reflection. 

Today is a day that changed our country forever and changed the lives of so many of our fellow citizens.

My heart goes out to anyone who lost someone they loved on this day. We all remember where we were and what we felt, but it’s not the same for those who lost someone. Someone who made them feel safe and secure. Someone they called family. For them, this day is different. To them, I say, I’m still so sorry for your loss, your grief and your pain.

Loss. Grief. Pain. It’s all so individual, and yet on a day like today, it’s also collective. 

On this day, I think back to Deena Burnett Bailey, who lost her brave Maria Shriver Deena Burnett Baileyhusband in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93. I remember sitting down with Deena for Dateline NBC just days after that tragic incident. We talked about her husband, her and her children, and how she would move forward.

I reached out to Deena this week to check in on her, and she said that over these past 15 years, she’s learned that loss is best honored by living a happy life rather than an angry one.

“I’ve seen so many people consumed by the loss they suffered on 9/11 that they’ve lost everything… their spirit, their relationships, their finances, their faith, and in some cases, their willingness to live,” she said. “I have raised my daughters to be strong, loving, faithful and happy. I have always maintained that we were lucky to have Tom in our lives as long as we did.  His imprint is strong, and his memory brings smiles and laughter rather than heartache and tears. I’ve said it many times and I mean it. ‘It’s better to be grateful for what we have than consumed by what we have lost.’”  

On this day, we can reflect, pause and say a prayer. But like Deena says, we also must look forward to the week ahead and to our lives ahead.

The key to looking forward—whether you have lost someone you loved, or whether your family has changed in any way—is to have faith and to have hope. It’s what we all need in order to look forward.

No matter where you find yourself on this day, I hope you find your hope, ignite your faith, and believe that you have a purpose, a mission and a ministry.

I hope you know and believe you have a purpose, because you do. All of us do.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about. What about you?


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- August 14th 2016

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Think Twice Before You Call Someone Crazy

My cousin Patrick Kennedy, a mental health advocate, wrote an op-ed this week asking people to stop calling Donald Trump "crazy."

 

He said that using that word, "crazy," in our public discourse demeans those who suffer from real mental health issues and further discourages them from seeking help. He's so right. Words matter. They hurt, they demean, and their effects can last a lifetime.

 

Who among us hasn't been stung by someone disparaging our bodies, or our minds, or our emotional state? I know I have. In fact, I know so many who have been called "crazy" and then adopt the description for themselves, about themselves. The title sticks with people. Effects people. Impacts people. 

 

Mental health is no laughing matter. Neither is name-calling.

 

This election cycle has brought out the worst in many of us. I often see and hear people laughing at Trump/s latest verbal outburst. They mimic and repeat him, and before you know it, it's acceptable. Patrick's article made me stop and think deeply about name calling and particularly about calling anyone "crazy."

 

So, go ahead and disagree with any of the Presidential candidates on all the policy matters you believe or don't believe in, but let's all refrain from the "crazy" word. Not just when it comes to our politics, but most importantly, in our personal relationships — where calling someone we love (or used to love) "crazy" could have devastating consequences to their mental, emotional and/or physical health.

 

I know many amazing women, and even some men, who have been called that in their lives, and it's stuck with them. I'm sure if you've ever experienced it, its stuck with you too.

 

When you're tempted to put down or criticize another, remember one of my favorite quotes:  

 

Be kind.

 

The last thing anyone needs is to have their mental health disparaged. That's what I'm thinking about, what about you?


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- August 7th 2016

maria blog

 

The Power of Empathy

 

Whew, what a week!

 

I don't know about you, but I heard a lot of talking — loud talking — about dumping people, forcing change, embracing change. I heard a lot of back-and-forth about sexual harassment and powerful women. I heard about Wikileaks, gold star parents, demands for apologies and babies.Yes, babies.

 

But what stayed with me and got me thinking were the words of Mr. Khizr Khan, the father of Captain Humayun Khan who rocked the Democratic National Convention and went on to find himself embroiled in a duel of words with the Republican nominee. What struck me most about him, what stayed with me, was his emphasis on the trait of empathy.

 

Empathy.

 

It was a trait he said admired in his own son and it was a trait he was asking others to exhibit. Over the years I've thought a lot about empathy. Who has it, who doesn't? Are you born with it? Can it be taught (studies show it can)?

 

During this volatile political season I think a conversation about empathy is a good one for all of us to have — in our homes, in our workplaces and, most importantly, with ourselves. Mr Khan said repeatedly in the interview I watched that he wasn't looking for an apology from any one person, he was simply looking for empathy.

 

Empathy is different from sympathy. Different from tolerance or even compassion. Empathy is the ability to share someone else's feelings. Feeling that you can understand another person's experiences. In short: To walk in their shoes.

 

I've often written about my own desire to help build a more caring, compassionate, collaborative world. But I've been thinking: To get there we first need to talk about, and yes exhibit, empathy. Or, we won't be able to make our way to the world I'm envisioning. 

 

angel-1106990_1280

 

I have tremendous empathy for Mr. and Mrs. Khan. What they went through, and even what they are going through in this election free-for-all. I also have empathy for all those who are terrified of the change they see unfolding in front of their very eyes. Fear is the underlying emotion behind rage, bullying, lashing out. Fear and powerlessness: Those two things make us all do and say things we might some day come to regret.

 

Change is hard, change is scary, but one thing I've learned in life is when all is said and done, change is a constant — you can't stop it so you'd better learn how to embrace it or you are going to be one highly-anxious, scary, angry person. Our country has changed, and will continue to do so, on a daily basis. Families have changed, business have changed, men and women's roles and outlooks have changed, Democrats have changed and, yes, so have Republicans. 

 

We are not going back. So the question for each of us is: How do we move forward? How do we embrace change? How do we have empathy for those around us who are frightened, confused, angry? How do we move forward with empathy for one another? It is the most important human characteristic we need to help us move humanity forward together.

 

So this week, may we turn down the rhetoric, turn down the volume. May we think about the empathy Mr. Khan implored us all to find in ourselves. May we find it, share it and pass it forward.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- July 31st, 2016

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Stop going low and stay focused on the high road?

shriver

History was made last week.

One of the biggest glass ceilings in our nation was shattered. I hope you take a moment to let that sink in. Because it’s not everyday that you get to see what we saw this past week. In fact, I’ve waited my whole life and my mother never lived to see something she talked about her whole life. So, regardless of your political affiliation, it’s worth taking note of it and honoring it for what it is: A historic moment!

It happened because of grit, determination, perseverance, drive, smarts, hard hard work — years of it — and lots of people coming together to make it happen. In fact, that’s what it takes to get anything great done in life, whether you are a man or (and especially) if you are a woman.

That’s an important lesson to pass onto our children and to remember ourselves: Grit, determination, perseverance and hard work.

For me, as a woman, a mother and someone who works for gender equality, this was an inspiring week. But I’m also aware that millions of Americans didn’t tune into the Democratic National Convention. They didn’t tune in to hear, see, much less to celebrate, this historic milestone. They didn’t tune in because they are already tuned out.

Here’s what they missed: They missed the nation’s first woman nominee of a major party tell the nation — in a speech that laid out all of her actual plans to lead the country if elected — “don’t let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We’re not. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes. We do.”

They missed our nation’s current First Lady give a powerful speech about staying on the high ground when others try to take you to the low ground.

They missed a band of mothers talk about how they continue to mother their children who were lost to violence in our country.

They missed our President remind us that democracy is not a spectators sport and that we can all get into the arena.

They missed an American Muslim father share his and his family’s deep patriotism and the ultimate sacrifice they made for our country.

They missed a former big city mayor, whose been a democrat, a republican, and is now an independent, appeal to independents.

They missed Tim Kaine speak in English, then Spanish. And, thank God, he even mentioned Alzheimer’s.

[Watch Maria Report on a Game-Changing Brain Program for TODAY]

They also missed stories of personal change, of heroism, perseverance and duty. They missed a glimpse into the hearts of people who believe we already live in the greatest nation on earth and they missed a glimpse into the ideas about how to make it greater.

Politics is one of the toughest, roughest business’ on the planet. After two weeks of back-to-back conventions, I’m doubtful that many hearts or minds were changed by what was said or what was heard. And that is a shame. In fact, after I watched speeches from both sides, I was struck by the immediate negative spin put out by the other side.

And so I sit here and reflect, yet again, about what can bridge this deep divide. Is there a speech that could do it? An idea that could do it? A person who could do it? I wish I could say yes, but I’m afraid the next few months will be divisive, ugly and mean-spirited, not united, progressive and open-minded. 

So what are we to do? What can each of us do?

Last Sunday I wrote about ending the blame game that seems to be at the heart of our division. My brother responded by saying that we need to go beyond what I’d written.

Actually, I want to share his words verbatim: “I would even go further: whenever we are divided in any way — from our friends, from ourselves, our first tendency seems always to blame. But the experience of division and tension is always first about ourselves. So learning not to blame isn’t just crucial for our country; it’s also the root of healing in all our relationships.”

He’s right! We can’t heal our politics until we heal our own hearts and minds. We may not be able to heal our societal rifts but  we can be responsible for healing ourselves. We can heal any divisions in our own lives, in our own families, and work out from there.

[3 Keys to Health More Helpful Than ‘Eat Less Sugar and More Vegetables’]

The truth is, if we feel healed, if we feel complete, if we aren’t harboring rage and anger ourselves, then we won’t lash out at someone from another party with a different viewpoint. We might even find ourselves trying to common ground. I know that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Because neither party has it 100 percent right. All of us need to compromise, need to listen, need to be more open. Only then will we be able to stop judging others’ choices. Stop judging who shouldn’t be in our great country. 

Stop going low and stay focused on the high road. It is, after all, the only road that in the end will lead us towards being what we profess to be: the greatest country in the world, The UNITED States of America.

Get in the arena! I’ll meet you there. 


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- July 24th 2016

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To unite our Country, We must end the blame game?

shriver

What an interesting week!

It’s fascinating to watch the political conventions from one’s own living room. It’s a window into a party that few are invited to; a window into a part of our country that one doesn’t always get to see every day.

And that’s good. It’s good to see every slice of this country. It’s important to hear and see who AMERICA is in 2016.

As I’ve said, I think it’s important to listen to people: People you might not agree with; people who have different opinions from you; people who have very different takes on what is happening in our country, to our country, and who’s to blame for it all.

And so my summer of listening continues.

What did I learn from watching the Republican convention? A lot of things.

I learned there is a lot of blame out there, a lot of anger out there, a lot of frustration, a lot of yearning for days gone by, and a lot of fear.

Throughout my life, I’ve known a lot of Republicans–some I’ve liked, some I’ve loved, and some I didn’t get along with at all. (In all honesty, I could say the same about Democrats). And while I may have been raised to see Republicans as the “opponent,” I no longer do.

Because I’ve worked alongside men and women who have an “R” next to their name. I’ve met many Republicans who are bright, compassionate, forward-thinking, and devoted to country.

I’ve long believed that it’s easy to demonize “the other party,” but I’ve learned it’s wrong to do so. It accomplishes nothing. It’s overly simplistic, superficial, and sad.

And this convention actually did make me sad, because it was so much about blame.

It didn’t feel aspirational to me at all. It didn’t feel hopeful. It didn’t feel forward-thinking. It didn’t feel deep or thoughtful. It wasn’t representative of many Republicans I’ve met. And that to me is a shame and a huge missed opportunity.

I hope next week’s Democratic convention will be less about finger-pointing and name-calling. I hope it will be more about what is great about our country and what can be even greater. I hope it will be uplifting and innovative.

[Read Maria Shriver’s latest ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay]

Which brings to mind what an inspiring coach once told me. He said that the key to winning and bringing a team together is not to talk about the other team or the other person. He said the secret is to talk about your hopes, your thoughts, your strengths, your ideas…

I believe in politics, and in life, it’s important to be hopeful, to be aspirational. That doesn’t mean you’re naive or in denial. To me, it means you’re challenging the status quo and imagining what can be.

As I’ve written before, I think we want and need leaders to call on people’s greatness, call on people to join something in a quest that’s bigger than all of us.

Because our country is bigger than all of us, and it can only be greater if all of us find some way to serve it, if all of us find some way to use our own voice to help it heal and unite it. If my experiences in life have taught me anything, it’s that any time you ask someone else to be your voice, you give your power away.

So this coming week, I’m going to watch the Democratic convention with my kids as I did this past week. We will witness history get made. Regardless of your politics, that’s a historic milestone that anyone who is interested in gender equality should celebrate. I know I will, and I do.

But what I really am hoping for is that my children and I will also get to hear an “invitation” that will call us to be a part of our great country, regardless of our political leanings or our gender.

We are a country divided. We all know that. We can all see that. We can all feel that. We all want to live in a safe and secure country where the American dream can be realized by anyone and everyone. The best way to become a country united seems to be to stop the blame-shame game and start the you-are-invited-to-join-us game.

It’s the only one that will help America “win” and win big.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- July 17th 2016

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The Power of Listening?

shriver

Today is a new day. May we all take a moment to pause take a deep breath and move forward with the knowledge that this moment is all we have

I wrote last week about questions and answers. How I had more questions about what was happening in our country than I did answers. I wrote that I wanted to spend the week listening. Listening to friends, listening to strangers, listening to myself. 

And so I did. 

I listened to my friend tell me about the guy who cuts his hair and how angry he was that so few people understood his experience of being a young black man in the United States of America. My friend was shocked at what was simmering underneath the man he thought he knew so well. I listened to another friend whisper about the loneliness, the anxiety and the pressure of her experience as the provider/caretaker for a big extended family. I had no idea. I listened to another talk quietly about how hard it is to grow old in a society that only seems to value youth. I listened to another rail about the state of our politics and scream about the lack of leaders and leadership and everyone’s apathy. 

I listened.

I listened when a well-known actress stepped forward and out of pain and exasperation said she was fed up. Fed up and exhausted with her body being shamed and her womanhood being questioned because she wasn’t a mother. I listened when my daughter Katherine shared what she’d listened to on her Road to Real tour: How hard the average American’s daily life isI listened to our President when he spoke in Dallas…he challenged us to open our hearts and think less about which side of the debate we are on and more about how we can unite the sides. 

[From Sorrow to Triumph: Making Every Moment of Life Sacred]

I listened. And I’m not even sharing the half of what I heard. If I did, it would take you until next Sunday to finish this column.

Everywhere I look we are inundated with news and information about how terrible everything is. We are segregated and divided: By language, by color, by gender, by politics, by zip codes, by technology, by media, by income levels, by age. And yet simultaneously, we are all seeking connection, all seeking some common experience. An experience where we can hear another person say “I hear you.” “I understand.” Or, “Me too.” “You are not alone.” 

I’ve learned this myself while listening when I’m mothering, when I’m reporting, when I’m working with women and with families struggling with Alzheimer’s. When I’ve listened long enough to any of the people I’ve met, or a person I’ve loved, I’ve always found commonality. I’ve always come away thinking ‘We have so much more in common than we think we do. If only we could let down our facades and share our truths.’

In my week of listening, I also listened to myself and I shared what I heard. It’s something I don’t often do.

I shared that I too, often felt disconnected, scared or anxious. That I too, often felt alone in my life experience. I fully understand that my life experience is nothing like the young black man who cuts my friend’s hair — nor any black person’s life experience for that matter. I want and need to do better at understanding that deep divide. I understand that my life experience is nothing like a white man’s or a Latino person’s or a transgender person’s. I need and want to do better understanding what that’s really like.

In fact, my life experience is unlike anyone else’s. And guess what? So is yours!

[Whose Mind Is It Anyway? How to Get Out Of Your Head and Into Your Life]

But what we all share, I believe, is a desire to be understood, to be seen, to matter, to belong. As ourselves, not as our race, or who we may be married to, or what family, religion or group we belong to. We all share a common experience in our humanity. We all fundamentally want someone to listen to us. Listen deeply to who we really are, what we feel, what we are scared of.

I know it’s hard to pause in our daily lives. It’s hard to be quiet and hard to listen. It’s hard to take in other people’s pain, frustration, anger and loneliness without internalizing, feeling attacked or letting our judgements get the best of us. But when you do listen deeply, you realize while our experiences are vastly different, our hearts and desires are not.

At this time, at this moment, I believe we all want leaders who bring us together. Not just with words, but with experiences and actions. We want leaders to listen. To be brave enough to share back so we can get a glimpse into their own humanity, into their own struggles and fears. That’s the beginning of connection, of trust.

[Fixing Broken Family Relationships Can Bring You Healing & Peace]

At this time in our country and our world, what we want and need are leaders to ask us to put our own individual greatness to use. Because we all have greatness within us. What is needed, is for each of us to step forward and offer our own best selves to the world. In our homes, in our schools, in our communities.

These next two weeks of political conventions will challenge many of us. Many will want to scream, protest, judge, even espouse hate.

Let us imagine another way. Imagine if we made a commitment to listen with open minds and open hearts to find the common thread. Imagine. We just might begin to hear some answers. And they might not come from a podium or out of the computer. They might just be right inside of you. Listen.


 

From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- July 10th 2016

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Everywhere I look there are questions?

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Like youthere is a lot that we do not understand, and at this pointlike you, I am demanding answers.

Those are the words of the Baton Rouge police chief about the murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge this week. His words struck me.

“Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand.”

His words captured my feelings about this tragic event and the one that followed in Minneapolis with Philando Castile; and the one that followed in Dallas where five officers; Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith; were killed; and so many other things that transpired this week (or this year, or this decade, or the decades before that). There is so much that so many of us don’t understand, and sadly, the answers that come don’t seem to make it better.

[Listen to Your Heart…And His Too]

As I watched Alton Sterling’s teenage son break down in uncontrollable grief at his mother’s press conference I thought, ‘What answer will heal his pain?’ As I watched the protests on TV and the widening racial divide in our country I wondered, ‘What answers could possibly bring us together?’

Questions. Questions. Everywhere I looked there were, and are, questions. About guns, about black lives, about police officers, about our candidates for President. And ultimately they lead to questions to ourselves about ourselves.

Do black lives matter? Why does this seem to keep happening? What’s at the root of it? What can we do?

[Our Mother/Daughter Relationships Allow Us to Become “Radically Responsible” for Ourselves]

Our answers to these questions, and really all questions, can further the divide or can begin to close it. 

There are times in life when answers aren’t what we need. We just need to listen. Listen without judgement. Listen to the wails, listen to the fear. Listen to the divide. Sometimes when someone is screaming for answers they are really screaming to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be understood. Sometimes there are no answers to our questions large and small. Sometimes demanding answers won’t get us the answers we need.

One week after our nation’s birthday where we celebrated our freedom and our “storied unity,” may we all ask ourselves: how can we do better. How can we use our voices to unite instead of to incite. How can we all be better listeners, better neighbors, better citizens.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Essays]

At times like this I think of this prayer Mother Teresa (who will be canonized in two months’ time) had on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta, almost always attributed to her but actually written by Kent M. Keith. It’s the only answer I can come up with when no answers will do.

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From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- July 4th 2016

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 What Does It Mean To Be Free?

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Happy birthday AMERICA!!!!

I want to reflect today on America. I feel so blessed to be an American. I am so grateful to all those who fought to make this country what it is and who continue to do so. Men and women who fought with their words, their bodies, their minds, their spirits. They had faith in this country and in one another.

Throughout this election season we have heard from everyone running about what needs to be better, what needs to be fixed, what wounds we need to heal, what divisions we need to lessen. 

But on this weekend, I want to pause and and turn down the volume on what’s wrong and turn up the volume on the idea of freedom that this country was built upon. The freedom it still offers and the hope it still promises.

America is great.

The idea of it is great and so is the spirit of it. So on this holiday weekend amidst the fireworks, the barbecues, the parades, may we all take a moment to reflect on the concept of freedom.

What does that mean to each of us? What does that feel like to each of us?

Freedom; America.

That’s what we are celebrating this weekend. Her greatness: past, present and future.

Happy birthday America! I’m proud to be one of your children. To that effect, we have all heard so much lately about the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton written by the extraordinary talent Lin Manuel Miranda. Hamilton was one of our founding fathers who fought, thought and wrote so eloquently about our country, its promise and the price of freedom. As we celebrate America and freedom this day and this weekend, I leave you with his words:

Legacy. What is a legacy?

It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see

I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me

America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me

You let me make a difference

A place where even orphan immigrants

Can leave their fingerprints and rise up

I’m running out of time. I’m running, and my time’s up

Wise up. Eyes up.

America you are indeed a great unfinished symphony. We all are called to leave our fingerprints on you. What an opportunity, what a gift. We are all as Miranda wrote and his character Hamilton says, “Free to take our shot” at creating our legacy here in the land of the free and the brave. Now that’s freedom!! Lucky us!

Happy birthday AMERICA may you have one hell of a new year of life. 


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- June 27th 2016

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 When is it time to move on?

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As I watched the many funerals this past week in Orlando and listened to what family members said about those they loved and lost, I thought about their grief, their loss, their trauma and I also thought about how they will each individually and collectively move on.

When you are in the midst of grief it’s almost impossible to think about “moving on.” In fact, it feels almost disrespectful to do so. But slowly people, even well-intentioned ones, will start saying, “You know, you really should move on. It’s the only way to heal. It’s the only way forward.”

Moving on.

It’s another one of those expressions people toss around that is way harder to do than to say. When a loved one dies, when a chapter closes, when a job ends, when a campaign ends, a kid moves away…We are all told to just “move on.”

[3 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Try]

My mother used to say, “Move along, move along, just hurry up and move along.” It was, I think, her way of not dwelling, not getting stuck. I’m sure it was also her way of staying one step ahead of all those emotions we are all trying to keep under control and under wraps.

I get it. But I, for one, don’t like it when someone tells me to move on (or by the way to relax, or to not eat this or that, or to just stop worrying… maybe I just don’t like it when someone tells me what to do!).

Of course I smile when someone tells me to move on regarding all sorts of things, but inside I’m screaming back, ‘Hello! I would if I could but I can’t so stop telling me to.’

Breathe Maria, breathe.

The truth is moving on comes with time and everyone has their own pace. Rushing moving on isn’t healthy, it’s not fair and it’s not kind. 

[Love Can’t Replace Hate…Only Self-Respect Can]

So, If you haven’t moved on from the loss of someone you love, it’s okay. Be gentle with yourself. If you haven’t moved on from that job you loved and lost, that’s ok too. If you haven’t moved on from that fight with your best friend, take your time, it’s okay. You will. Because sometimes moving on is actually the exact wrong thing to do, as Representative John Lewis and other Democratic members of The House demonstrated this past week. The Senate told them to “move on” but instead they said no way and they sat down. They said, after all the deaths by guns lately, moving on is the wrong thing to do. We need changes and we’re not moving until we get them. And then across the ocean, the British said the exact opposite when they voted to move on from the European Union. It was a move felt round the world.

So this week as I’m thinking about all of these people my message — first and foremost to the families and friends of the Orlando victims, and to anyone getting over something in their lives — is this: take your time. Move on when you are ready and move on only when YOU want to. 

[Read More of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Essays]

Because you will eventually move on and you will move forward. You will find your way. One day, without even realizing it, you will notice that you feel a little lighter, you’re thinking will be a little brighter. You will see your life and the endless possibilities of it in a new, clearer way. Things will just open up. Light will come in and you will wake up. Without even realizing it, you will have moved on in exactly the right way for you.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- June 19th 2016

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 Focusing on Love

Some weeks it’s hard to know exactly what to think.

Ones heart and mind can bounce from anger to grief to confusion to sadness to hope all at once leaving you somewhat at a loss as to what to say, think or write. What can one say after reading the stories that have come out of Orlando? Stories of horror are mixed in with stories of heroism, gratitude and love. What can one say when one sees the images of thousands gathering to pay their respects in Orlando and all over the world? Standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, with women, men, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons.

Witnessing the outpouring of love and courage we saw this week gives me so much hope. But that has been juxtaposed against other images, stories and dialogue from those whose sole purpose seems to be to incite fear and hate. It’s hard not to settle into despair and/or anger. It’s hard not to just scream or stay in a place of rage.

But today, on Father’s Day, I’m choosing to focus on the love. I’m choosing to focus on the stories of heroism, compassion and kindness that I’m reading about. The stories that make me proud to be an American. On this day I’ve been thinking about the role of fathers. This week our President, a father himself, spoke calmly to ease our fears and reassure our nation –– at that moment he was Commander-in-Chief, Consoler-in-Chief and Father-in-Chief. 

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A quote from my father from almost 50 years ago that, sadly, was the perfect response to this week.

Father’s Day obviously makes me think of my own father, whose words from a speech in 1968 were still incredibly resonant this week. My father, like so many fathers, was not only smart, driven and passionate, he was also loving. So, today, I’m focusing on the love that fathers can –– and do -– show to their children and families every day. Fathers and fatherhood are so important in each of our lives. Fathers are needed everyday and everywhere. They raise children who become women and men who can affect our world in so many ways. Children need their love, their strength, their compassion, their time, their acceptance and the safety they can provide with an embrace, a look, a conversation.

I’ll say it again: Fathering is needed everyday and everywhere. On this day, I want to say happy Father’s Day to everyone who is blessed to be a father. Your role is so crucial, so impactful, so important for those you’re a father to and those who witness how you father. 

As we have seen this week, life is so fragile. At times like this we all look for reassurance, we look for safety and security, but that, I have learned, is an illusion.

What isn’t ever an illusion is love. Love is what we can count on. Love is what heals fear. Love is what calms anxious hearts, bodies and minds. Love is a gift each of us have to offer to our fellow human beings. Those who are our children and those who aren’t. Those who are gay or straight. Those who practice one religion or another. When it feels like we have nothing to give or there’s nothing we can do, we each have the ability to offer our love to another.

And so on this Father’s Day, I say to Fathers everywhere: I hope you feel loved, appreciated and accepted. I hope today you can push through whatever walls, whatever fears you may have and express the love you have to give to those around you who so desperately seek it.

In this week, at this time, when it’s hard to know exactly what to think…don’t think, don’t doubt, just feel. Feel the love. Let it in. Let it heal. That’s what love can do, that’s what love does. 

Happy Father’s Day.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- June 12th 2016

maria blog

 The Power of Making History

I grew up hearing 'If your mother had been a man she would have been President.' My mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, grew up among men who ran for President and was married to a man, my father, Sargent Shriver, who also sought our nation's highest office. But she never ran. I have no doubt in my mind that had she had the chance, if she had thought it was something a woman could do, she would have run, won and made a hell of a leader.

 

I grew up believing that history was not just something you read about in books, it was something to be made in one's lifetime.

 

Watching Hillary Clinton make history this week was one of those moments I know I will remember forever. I was happy that in her historic moment she reminded the world of all the women who had gone before her and used their voices, their hearts and their minds to instigate change. She rightfully acknowledged that she stood on their shoulders, but she, herself, also worked tirelessly for decades to make the history that she did this past week happen. 

 

Regardless of your political affiliation, regardless of what you think about politicians in general, it was moving and inspiring to see a woman endure, persevere and triumph like she did to become the first woman in history to become the nominee of a major political party.

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Let's face it, the change business is not easy. It takes drive, energy, tremendous will and passionate desire. It takes guts, toughness, vision and determination. Very few individuals, male or female, will ever make the kind of history that Hilary Clinton did. It was History with a capital H.

 

But I've come to believe that each of us can make history in our own ways. Each of us has the opportunity to take a shot at writing our legacies, and just because it might not be on the scale of someone running for President, doesn't mean it doesn't have importance, meaning or value. A young woman or young man who becomes the first in their family to graduate high school or college makes history in, and for, their family. Someone who starts a business that gives others a job may be making historic change in another person's life. The scientist who toils in a lab for years to discover a cure for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or cancer will make history. A women who walks away from an abusive marriage to save herself and/or her children makes history. Her story and her courage will become part of her family's legend. The young woman in the Stanford rape case that used her voice to speak out for every woman who has been sexually abused made history in her life, her family's lives and the lives of countless women who have felt silenced or shamed after a sexual assault.

 

The list goes on and on.

 

Each of us have a shot. A shot to make history in our own lives and with our lives. I doubt the women at Seneca Falls knew that so many years later they would get a shout out heard around the world. They didn't do what they did for that reason, they did what they did for others. They did what they did so that so many years later a women they never knew could stand up and say "Look how far we have come."

 

That's the best kind of history to make. And it's something each of us has the power to do. Make history in your world...you never know who might end up changing the world because of you.


From Maria Shriver's - Sunday Paper- June 5th 2016

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The Power of Letting Go

I've been thinking a lot lately about letting go: about how easy it is to say and how hard it is to actually do.

It's hard to let go. To let go of things. To let go of attachments. To let go of beliefs that no longer serve you. To let go of old stories. To let go of people. To let go of the way things were. And it's especially hard to let go of children.

It's ironic to me that parenting asks you to be all in all the time. To give love unconditionally. To be totally present and then it tells you -- or makes you -- let go. Just like that; you are asked to let go. It's the cycle -- or circle -- of life. You give your all and if you do your children are supposed to feel loved, secure and independent. Independent enough to go off and live their own lives. And you the parent are supposed to be totally fine with that. You are supposed to wave goodbye with a big smile on your face and feel like you did good.

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Letting go is tough for me. I'm doing it, but I admit I don't like it. No, I don't like it at all. That's my honest feeling and truth. I went to Bed Bath & Beyond again this week (I have now have four dorm rooms and three apartments under my belt). I've been there so many times the manager greeted me cheerfully with jokes of, "Is this it? Is this the last time? The last one?" I smiled as my eyes welled up with tears. My daughter rolled her eyes and told me to "Relax" (FYI I hate being told to relax). She told me, "Just be happy." She reminds me daily that this isn't about me, it's about letting my kids do their own thing. It is, she says, the way it's supposed to be.

Cool.

But I don't like things the way they are supposed to be. No Architect Of Change does. We challenge what is and imagine what can be. But we also have the courage to move forward.

So as I watched my youngest child graduate from high school and walk across the stage out into adulthood, I admit I knew the time had come for me to let go. I knew I had no choice but to do so.

'Let go Maria,' I said to myself. 'Let go.'

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I know I can and will do it. I have faith. Faith in myself and in my kids. I know this new era of life is going to be more unscripted. More wide open. That's both scary and exhilarating. The days will no longer revolve around school schedules. The days will become mine to imagine, mine to create.

 

That also means no more hiding, no more saying 'I can't go here,' 'I can't do this,' because of my kids. I'm free now. Omg!

 

So as Christopher heads off to college I know in my heart I can step back because I know he's got it!! And I know in my heart I do as well.

 

Let go...Let's go!

 

P.S.: I know I'm talking about letting go. This is Phase One. The big "Let Go" with a capital LG will be when I drop Christopher off at college and come home. Brace yourself.


Maria Shriver is igniting Architects of Change and we are excited to share with you her Sunday's Paper, as your dose of Monday Motivation.
For more information on Maria Shriver's work: www.mariashriver.com

 

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