My Birthday Gift to Myself

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!

About the Author

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Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. Since 2009, Shriver has produced a groundbreaking series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in the American culture and society affecting women today. Shriver was California’s First Lady from 2003 to 2010 and, during that time, she spearheaded what became the nation's premier forum for women, The Women's Conference. Shriver's work is driven by her belief that all of us have the ability to be what she calls Architects of Change -- people who see a problem in their own life or the community around them, then step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to create the solution. Like her page on Facebook or follow her on Instagram.

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