Are You Living a Life That Beckons You Forward?


I don’t know about you but some weeks are just better than others.

When they are I try to take stock. What was it about this day or this week that made me happy? What was it that got me thinking in a positive direction? What was it that made me excited or energized?

Truthfully, it usually comes down to passion meeting purpose meeting people that make me see my life and it’s potential in a brighter way. This past week I got to meet and interview a true Architect of Change: 31-year-old Elizabeth Holmes. She’s getting a lot of attention for being the youngest self-made female billionaire, but that misses who she really is: A young Architect of Change who is determined to revolutionize health care as we know it by putting power into the hands of the patients and making blood work preventative and affordable. She inspired me with her passion, her dedication to her mission, her work ethic and her beautiful generosity of spirit.

[Studying the Mother-Daughter Relationship: What the Mother Project Found]

I also got to interview another Architect of Change, Anne-Marie Slaughter, who is trying to shift the conversation around women, men, work and family. So many people came to hear her speak and to ask questions as to how they could be a part of the change we want to see in the world. There was a feeling of joint purpose. People felt informed, inspired and ignited. I loved that feeling and I admire her intelligence and her commitment to making our society better for working families.

I also had friends over for dinner, which made me feel connected and less alone. My daughter came over as well with her friend and caught me up on her life and her upcoming special that airs this Wednesday, October 14, on ABC Family, I hope you watch!!! Seeing her happy made me happy. Knowing that each of my kids are feeling good about their lives, that they have a strong, centered friend group makes me feel good in my heart and soul.

[Beauty by Decade: A Makeup Artists’ Tips for Aging Skin]

This week was a good one. Knowing what makes me feel good is important because it challenges me to try to align my passion with my purpose. It reminds me how important it is to have positive people in my life. People who get me thinking, who get me laughing, who get me…

Do you know what makes a good day for you? Do you feel as though your passions are aligned with your purpose?Do you surround yourself with people who see you? Who like you? Who get you?

If not, take one step forward towards trying to answer one of those questions. Spend some time thinking about what gets you going, what makes you feel loved. Reach out – perhaps to a friend you haven’t seen or haven’t spoken to in awhile. I did that too this week and the result was sweet for both of us.

[Watch Maria Shriver in Conversation with 31-Year-Old Billionaire Elizabeth Holmes]

To be honest I also cried this week. I shed a few tears when someone brought up my youngest son graduating and leaving me an empty nester. I know that’s it’s months away but it highlighted to me that I have to work to do on this area of my life. I need to get ok with it so that he feels good about leaving and I feel ok about letting him go.

I’m also a month away from starting a new decade in life. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I’d be lying if I said I’m thrilled about the big 60. I’m not thrilled, but I do know that I’m lucky. I’m lucky to have my health. I’m lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who get me and who encourage me to celebrate this gift of life.

I feel blessed this week and I’ve been thinking that I wanted to share what I’ve learned with the hope that you, too, will find the answer to what makes your day a good one, what makes your week a bright one and what makes you feel positive about the life in front of you. Because that’s what we all need: A life that beckons us forward. One where we can feel seen, where we can feel like the true Architects of Change that we, in fact, already are.

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

Passion + purpose + positive people. That’s what makes my day, my week, my life. #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]

How to Own Your Messy Life


“All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from.”

Those aren’t my words, although they very well could be. Those were the words of Pope Francis to the prisoners he met in Philadelphia last weekend before he left our country. I was struck by those words. By the boldness of them. By the honesty, the vulnerability and by the humility of them.

They gave me a small insight into Pope Francis’ personal life. Into his own pain. Into his empathy. How powerful it is to know that even the Pope feels he needs to be cleansed and purified?

The truth is, none of us get through this journey of life without needing to be cleansed and/or purified, without making mistakes. All of us make decisions, say things and do things that we are not proud of.

[Read the full Faith Series with Essays from David Gregory, Panache Desai, Pema Chödrön]

I don’t know about you, but I found common ground with the Pope when he said that, and I’m sure, like the prisoners in that room, I found relief when I heard him say we could all be cleansed … forgiven. That we all deserve mercy.

We can all start over. Those in prison and those in a prison of their own thoughts and beliefs. All we have to do is ask for it. There is no better time than now to step forward, to put our mistakes behind us, ask to be cleansed and to move forward with faith. It’s not embarrassing to admit you need cleansing. I tell myself, my kids, my friends, anyone I know, that it’s brave! Really brave.

It’s brave to face your mistakes and move forward past the things that break us down or hold us back. 

[7 Ways to Demonstrate the Strong Confidence That’s Already In You]

My daughter Katherine does these videos for InStyle magazine (they are great) and one of her most popular posts was about how to do a messy bun.

It got me thinking. Not about how to do a messy bun because she already taught me how to do one, but about how to live a messy life and show others that you can survive, even thrive, through the mess. When we try to do it all, balance everything, we can end up dropping a plate. Things go amiss in all of our lives.

What if everyone admitted that they were living, or had been living, a messy life and got through it? They were cleansed, came out the other side and were ok. In fact, they were more than ok, they were grateful for the mess. They lived to tell about it. They wore their mess well?

[Join Maria Shriver, Anne-Marie Slaughter & Ann Romney for October’s Architect of Change Conversation Series]

It seems like so many people I meet are struggling with the demands of modern life. Struggling to keep it together in their homes, with their kids, at work or in their roles as caretakers of aging parents. They don’t want anyone to know how hard it is mainly because they don’t feel like anyone else would understand or is also struggling. They don’t want anyone to know their life is messy and they don’t even know they can be cleansed.

The key point I think the Pope is getting at is that we are all in need of forgiveness. We are all deserving of mercy and we can all move forward.

My daughter wears her messy bun with pride and I’m living my messy life the same way. Complete with the knowledge that I’m not alone, that I can – and have been – cleansed and can move forward with freedom, with strength, with love.

[Find all of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Essays Here]

Life is messy. It rarely goes the way we plan and we so often allow it to knock us down, depress us, make us feel that we are screw ups –which we are not.  Instead of pretending life is not messy, let’s own it, give voice to it and wear it the same way we would wear a great new outfit or a great messy bun: With strength, class and a healthy dose of sass. Spread the word & #PassItForward

PS: Speaking of spreading the word,  I want to thank all the people who were brave enough to write about faith, religion, belief in’s Faith SeriesWhat I learned from them is that faith is personal, that it comes in all shapes sizes, often it defies description and language, but that it get us through.

[Image via Pixabay]

I Don’t Want to Go Back to The Way It Was Before Pope Francis Visited America


I don’t really know where to start. 

Pope Francis has had a dramatic impact on my life this past week. It’s almost hard to put into words.

I got into journalism long ago because I wanted to tell stories that inspired people. Stories that moved people. I’ve covered a lot of big events in my career, interviewed a lot of people, but covering Pope Francis’ visit to America has got to be the highlight.

No, I didn’t get to interview him. I didn’t even get to meet him, but it didn’t actually matter because his words met my heart and ignited my spirit. I felt them deep in my soul. Every sermon, every speech moved me further, moved me deeper. Some I’ve read and reread 10 times. His presence and his words at the 9/11 memorial brought me to tears.

[Watch all of Maria’s NBC reporting on the Papal Visit]

The NBC studio in which I sat was silent. Everyone was transfixed as he spoke about pain, the power of love and remembrance. I listened to the prayer of St. Francis and the Beatitudes. I watched as leaders of so many different faiths stood up beside him and spoke their truths. And I reflected about how I was living my own life and I thought about all the people in it and I thought about their lives.

When the Pope spoke to the Congress about the Golden Rule I thought about that message and how I was living it. When he urged us to all go out and be of service like Mary had been, I took an internal inventory. In fact, this whole week made me take a internal inventory of everything in my life.

It made me reassess power, success, joy, money. I thought about the culture of care and the culture of waste. I thought deeply about those on the margins that this Pope urges us to reach out to.

He pushes us to open our eyes and our hearts to our neighbors that live so close, yet also so far away. He urged us to enable real men and real women to escape from extreme poverty. He said we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.

“Dignified agents of ones destiny.”

I love that. Each of us have the ability to be dignified agents of our own destiny. 

[Read essay’s on faith from Melinda Gates, Deepak Chopra, Pema Chödrön and more]

The Pope pushed us to realize that we are all sharing a common home. One that we must care for, respect, love, and honor. He said all of this and more, so much more. I feel in love with this man. With the way he spoke, with the wisdom he shared, with the gentle — but strong and clear — way he asked each of us for more.

I believe deeply that the world is yearning to be good, to be better and do better than we currently are. I believe in the goodness of people. I believe in their kindness. I saw it everywhere I went this week following this Pope. I believe everyone felt he was speaking to them and so they felt validated, felt, seen. Everyone felt understood. It was healing.

We all share a common desire to be understood, to be loved, to be accepted, to be treated like we matter. You don’t have to meet a great leader to be transformed by them. A great leader ignites your heart. A great leader makes you want to be a better person. A great leader reaches out, listens, feels your pain and works to make it bearable.

“Pray for me,” Pope Francis said to people he met along his way and then he said “To those who don’t believe, I hope you wish me well.”

I hope that we all dig down and find the strength to wish each other well. It’s so simple. It’s so profound. It’s so Pope Francis.

[Read all of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking essays here]

In Philadelphia, Pope Francis told the story of Pennsylvania native Saint Katharine Drexel going to Pope Leo XIII, telling him the challenges of her community and the Pope said to her: “What about you? What are you going to do?” The question made her think about her own contribution to the church and changed her life.

“What about you?” resonates with me as I look onward. What about you? What can we all do to foster what the Pope has been saying. What can we do to make our communities better, kinder, more compassionate and caring? What can we each do to foster our common home?

I hope that we don’t go back to talking to each other in belittling ways. I hope we make this visit matter. I hope we let it transform us for the better. I don’t want to go back to the way it was before Pope Francis came to America. I know I can’t go back. I know I’m going forward differently because of him.

I pray for this man. I wish him well and I thank him. Thank him for leading with humility, with simplicity, with empathy, with love.

I’ll be praying for him and praying for you. Please also pray for me. Amen. #PassItForward.

[Image via Pixabay]

Reflecting on The Power of Faith


At church the other day my Pastor said something that really got my attention: “It’s in the darkness,” he said, “that faith sees best.”

Faith sees best in the darkness. I liked that because I have known it to be true. It is in our darkest moments when our faith gets tested. When we rail against God doubt her or his existence. When anger or grief can drain our faith out. It’s in the those dark moments when it’s easy to throw in the towel that a light can go off.

[How’s Your Faith? By David Gregory]

It’s when our faith get tested that we find out if we have any. It’s when we learn how to surrender, let go, give in, that our faith can take over. People talk about the power of their faith, they talk about how it strengthens them, how they have lost it and then how its found its way back.

I’m fascinated by that. Intrigued by people’s experiences with faith so I ask lots of people questions about how they have it, how they have sustained it.

[Looking Ahead to Pope Francis’ US Visit]

I ask about faith in others because I know that I need it in my own life. And I ask because the people I admire most have a deep faith and it keeps them living their lives from a place of love.

For the next few weeks in honor of Pope Francis’ visit we are publishing some amazing pieces about faith from all sorts of people of different faiths who have had different life journeys with different stories to tell. They will be, I hope, illuminating and inspiring.

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

I have faith you will find nuggets’ of wisdom that will ignite not just your minds but also your hearts. Faith is something you can cultivate, it’s something you feel. So for the next two weeks, let’s cultivate our faiths — no matter the ideology or creed — together. And tell me about your own faith. How you found it, how you’ve kept it or if you’ve lost it. As always, #PassItForward

Go Outside! Respect The Power of Nature


“Go outside and play.” I heard that a lot growing up.

Never realizing how lucky I really was to actually be able to go outside and play in the fresh air, in nature.

Nature heals. It feeds you. Nature provides a place to breathe, to reconnect with yourself, with your higher power, or as I like to say, with God.

[5 Ways to Strengthen Your Inner Will]

When political leaders and/or activists talk about climate change, what’s behind that is nature. The air, the sea, the mountains, our food, our water, our ability to go outside, to play, to breathe, to ride with the wind at our back.

I did that this weekend. I rode for Best Buddies. I rode for friendship. I rode out of love for my brother and the program he built to help people with intellectual disabilities get jobs and get friendsI rode for people who have felt lonely. I rode for people who can’t ride.

And as I rode down the amazing California coast I realized I was also riding for me. Because riding my bike outside makes me feel at peace.

[The Power of Friendship: read Maria’s Friendship ‘I’ve Been Thinking’]

At peace with myself, at peace with nature. It makes me feel blessed to be able to ride when so many others can’t. It makes me feel a part of something when so many others feel isolated and alone. And it reminds me how important nature and play are in one’s life.

More and more I hear stories of people who got up and left their fancy high-paying high-stress jobs to live a different life. More often than not they go outside of concrete jungles into nature. To live, to breathe, to feel a sense of peace. 

Being in nature is a powerful experience. Being a part of a team, a family, is an even more powerful feeling. It’s not just people with an intellectual disability who feel shut out. I meet elderly people all the time who talk of being isolated, who talk of being alone. They reminisce about when they were young and could go out and play and have full lives that made them feel loved, seen, accepted and valuable.

[How One Woman Lives Positively (And Still Scuba Dives!) in the Face of Her Early-Onset Alzheimers Diagnosis]

Today, if you can, please go out and play. If you can, breathe fresh air, sit in the grass, drink in the beauty. If you know someone older, reach out and take them out. Out into nature. Out into beauty. Out into the open field of life.

That’s where we all feel free. #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Friendship: Our Real-Life Lifesavers


When I was a child, Labor Day weekend meant the end of summer and going back to school. It was a downer.

Now, school actually starts before Labor Day, but I no longer look at summer ending as a downer because, for me, summer can be a state of mind that I can choose to continue or slowly let fade into the beauty and glory of fall.

I like that way of thinking better than feeling like the joy of summer is moving behind me. So on this Labor Day weekend, what I’m thinking about is how to power forward into the fall. How to embrace its potential, its beauty, its colors. I’m thinking about how I can support my youngest child as he starts his senior year of high school and I’m thinking about how to support myself.

Yes, I just wrote that!! Because I’m mindful that my march toward an empty nest has begun.

[Overwhelmed? How to Achieve Clarity in 4 Main Areas of Your Life]

So I’m supporting myself by focusing on my friends instead of all of Christopher’s college applications, his ACT scores or his homework (that’s not entirely true but I’m trying).

Going into this weekend I feel joyful first and foremost because next weekend I’m going on a bike ride down the gorgeous California coast with my friends who’ve joined me for years on Team Maria riding to benefit Best Buddies: a program that provides friendship and jobs to people with intellectual disabilities.

I believe deep in my heart that friendships are lifesavers. They hold you in the difficult times, they celebrate you in the good times, they show up for you when you call and they often — thank God — show up even when you don’t call.

[Do You Know What Type of Archetype You Are?]

As I tell my kids: friendships also take work. Like anything precious, you must pay attention to them and treat them with love, kindness, respect and care. When they hit a rough patch, try to take that opportunity to dig in and make the relationship stronger, deeper, better.

Sometimes, however, friendships do (or need to) fade away. That can be painful. But it’s also ok. It’s a part of our life’s journey and, in fact, it can make space for someone new to step in and up.

What I have learned along the way is this: Friends should be those who bring out the best in you. Friends are those who are loyal and loving to you. They are people who are not jealous of you. They are those who want your light to shine. They are people who are strong enough to tell you the truth, even when you might not want to hear it. And they listen. Often times over and over again without saying a word.

[7 Techniques for Boosting Your Confidence]

What I look for in a friend is someone who is consistent and constant. Who makes me laugh. Invites me out. And is also willing to stay in with me when I don’t feel like going anywhere. I have friendships that I made in the first grade, in high school, in college, in my journalism career. I share friends with my brothers and cousins.

People have told me before that you don’t make new friends later in life. I know that not to be true. I’ve made friends as an adult that nourish me, support me and help me in ways I never imagined. And my children have brought new friends into my life that are young, fun, vibrant, curious and oh-so funny. In fact, I may now have more friends 25-and-younger than I do my own age!!

The Best Buddies ride is one of my favorite weekends because it brings me close to my friends, my tribe, my extended family. I love when they join me, as they are not only showing me they care about me, but they are also speaking up for the concept of friendship for everyone.

[Watch Maria and Nancy O’Dell Talk Best Buddies on Entertainment Tonight]

Each of us has a team of friends. There are different roles on that team and each one is important for different reasons. In fact, the team wouldn’t be what it is if they didn’t all show up.

Friendships sustain, nourish, support and provide. They are labors of love. I’ve written before about the different types of love that are out there in the world. It is friendships that provide sustaining love, the kind you feel deep in your soul. The kind that makes you feel like every day is a summer day.

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

To all my friends: Thank you. Thank you for the love, the support, the laughs, the hugs. Thank you for the time you have given to me and give to me. Let’s ride like the wind this upcoming weekend. And let’s toast friendship, it is truly a gift from God. #PassItForward

My End of Summer Goal: Working on My ‘Intestinal Fortitude’


A while ago a friend of mine was going through… shall we say… a “boatload” of stuff. I marveled at how well he seemed to navigate the twists and turns that life throws at us. So, I asked him his secret. I am always in search of insight into how people manage to survive, and even thrive, in the midst of jaw-dropping stuff.

He said, quite simply, “I have great intestinal fortitude.”

“Intestinal fortitude”. 

I hadn’t heard that expression before, but I’ve thought a lot about it since. How do you get great intestinal fortitude? What exactly is it? And how do you cultivate, strengthen and keep it?

[Pema Chödrön on the Role of The Spirit When Facing Illness, Pain or Aging]

He went on to explain that his faith was at the root of the fortitude. And it had been built up in small acts along the path of his life. It was directly connected to his own personal values: Knowing who he was, what he believed in and that there is a power greater than him at work in his life. Those things allowed him to come back to himself, back to his foundation, whenever life shook him to his core.

Now that’s power!!

People with intestinal fortitude are calm in storms. They exude a steady, strong, stable energy. The kind of energy you want to be around, follow and or cultivate within yourself.

I’ve been thinking about that as I’ve been watching the news, the Presidential race, and just driving around — where people too often tell you to “F off,” where they scream at you and/or give you the finger.

[To My Daughters: The Words You Choose Are More Powerful Than You Can Ever Imagine]

I’ve been thinking that what we all need is some of that intestinal fortitude.

Those three Americans on the train in France have it in spades. I was watching a film the other day about Mother Teresa and she had it in spades. So do the many parents of special needs kids that I’ve met. And so many of the men and women caring for loved ones who are sick and struggling. So do all four of my girlfriends who lost their husbands this summer. So does my girlfriend Nancy, who’s fighting against f-ing cancer. Nancy is a “Wow” when it comes to intestinal fortitude. She wakes up to the Big C every day. She digs down deep in herself, finds her intestinal fortitude and every single day she slaps cancer back even when it slaps her down.

These people, and so many more like them, go through life with a steady, strong integrity. They don’t rage at people or call them names, bully or belittle them. They walk through life with a strength that is captivating.

[Beating Cancer for a Big Comeback in Life — With Strength, Positivity and Pearls]

I don’t know about you, but the world feels unsteady to me.

I look at the stock market. I look at a young reporter with her whole future in front of her, a young cameraman with the same, who are gunned down on live TV and then I watch as the assailant tweets it out on social media and I say ‘What the _?!’ We seem to be at war with our police officers who are supposed to be our protectors. What the _?! I watch people scream at each other on TV — and not just on reality shows — and I say, ‘What the _??’ Someone running for President of the United States calls a female reporter a “bimbo” and people laugh, and I think, ‘What is happening?’

What is happening? To our culture, our politics, our world?

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays here]

As summer comes a close, I’m going to focus once again on strengthening my own intestinal fortitude, cultivating my own faith, so I can stay strong, stay centered, stay focused on the blessings instead of getting drawn into all the hysteria that gets all the attention. That way when someone calls me or someone I love a ‘bimbo,’ a ‘baby’ or maybe even a ‘babe’ (ha!), I want to be ready to respond.

I want to respond, not with anger or weakness, but from a place of intestinal fortitude — that’s where the love is, that’s where the strength is, that’s where true power lives. #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]

What Would You Wait For?


At dinner the other night my daughter said to me, “You know how you tell me I have to work my way up? No one does that anymore. Our generation isn’t waiting. We just go for it and why not? Everywhere we look people our age are making millions starting their own businesses, doing their own thing. We are in a hurry.”

I waited until she was finished. “Ok,” I said, “where are you rushing to, might I ask?”

She looked at me said, “I don’t know, but I do know that I’m not going to do what you did.”

[10 Teens Share 10 Tips for Ending Bullying and Self-Hate]

I get it. Everyone everywhere is in a rush. A rush to come up with the next Facebook, Uber or Google. In a rush to post, tweet, Instagram and Snapchat. In a rush to know it first, see it first, post it first. Everyone seems to have FOMO. Yes, FOMO: Fear of missing out.

No one — and I mean no one — wants to wait for anything or anyone. Need a car? Uber. Need food? Postmates. Need an answer? Google. Need a date? Swipe right.

You know the list goes on and on. So when I say to my kids, “Wait. Wait. It will happen, it will come, you will see.” They look at me like I’m from Mars.

What I do know is there is power in waiting. I know this because I used to be in a hurry. I grew up in a family that believed waiting was a waste of time. I went into a profession that valued and rewarded speed. I too was in a hurry, so much so that I over-scheduled myself, my kids, my life.

[The 1 Key to Improving Your Long-Term Memory]

When you are over-scheduled and rushing you are impatient, insensitive and invisible to your own life. You don’t have time for anything or anyone and nor do those around you.

Everyone I know is busy. Their to do lists are jammed packed. They are on e mail. They’re on the phone. They are posting. They are rushing from thing to thing, place to place, event to event. Barely able to take a beat, breath, much less stop to think, reflect, imagine or dream.

A while ago I was talking with a wise friend and I was saying “I’m in such a hurry to get this, do that.” And she said “…Where are you rushing to? Where are you in such a hurry to get to?”

That stopped me. Where, in fact, was I rushing to? What was I in such a hurry to do?

She went on, “Maria, you must learn to wait.”

Wait? Why? For what?

[5 Ways to Get Your Groove Back and Make a Fresh Start]

“You must learn that there is power in waiting. Waiting requires strength. Waiting requires maturity. Waiting requires self-respect and self-restraint. Sometimes waiting is the only thing we can do to truly see ourselves clearly. Sometimes the best thing we can do is wait. Wait to see. Wait to give an opinion. Wait to make up our minds. Wait to see what we really need. Sometimes waiting is the most important thing we can do.

And so lately, I’ve been doing a lot of waiting. And I’ve discovered some amazing things. As I’ve been letting my kids know that I’m happy to wait, it has reduced their anxiety. Waiting to give my opinion about something has allowed me to make better decisions and say smarter things. Waiting has enabled me to see, to feel to experience more of my life. Waiting has allowed me to discover that I admire people who have patience. I respect people who have the courage to take time out to reflect, stop and wait until they are certain.

Waiting has allowed me to be kinder to myself. It has allowed me to be kinder to others, which has, in turn, made me feel better about my own life. In waiting I’ve learned that waiting is anything but passive, it’s very deliberate, very intentional.

[Watch: One Man Making a Difference Through his Pizza Parlor]

In waiting I’ve learned that I have friends who will wait with me. I’ve learned that I am blessed by people who will wait for me to figure it out. Who will wait for me to unfold. Who will wait until I finish doing what I’m doing no matter how small it is. That has been a huge reveal to me and for me.

We wait for those we love. Starting with ourselves.

Wait for yourself to be ready.
Wait for yourself to be clear.
Wait for yourself to know.
And wait to see who will wait with you.

It will reveal a lot to you about who you are, what you value and who values you. Sometimes waiting is the most revealing thing we can do.

[Read more ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay’s from Maria]

There is a great Hopi poem that I have framed in my office. It says: “We are the ones we have been waiting for!”

In waiting you will more than likely discover you are the one you have been waiting for. From there you can create a tribe. Build a life. Find a passion. And then when the moment is right, go for it.

So the next time someone pushes you to say something or decide something and you don’t feel ready, Have the courage to say, “I’m waiting.” #PassItForward

[Image via]

Motherhood: Why Do We Still Feel Like It’s Not Enough?

Dedication Of The Rose Kennedy Greenway

This past week was the anniversary of my mother’s passing.

On that day I posted a comment regarding her and I said, “If you have your mom, hug her tight. Call her. Tell her you love her. If necessary, make peace with her. Thank her, honor her, laugh with her. No moment like now.”

I said that there isn’t a moment where I don’t miss my mother.

[Watch ‘The Gift My Mother Gave Me’ from Maria]

I was so moved (and I said so), and further humbled and awed by the comments that flooded into my social community. Individuals by the thousands started posting about their own mothers. How much they missed them if they were gone. How much they admired them, loved them, were shaped by them, were who they were because of them. The stories, pictures and comments really made me smile, tear up, shake my head in understanding, connect, empathize and step back and think.

And this is what I thought: Wow isn’t it interesting that women still doubt the importance of motherhood? Still think that they aren’t interesting enough at a dinner (or wherever) if they are “just a mother.” We all — and I include myself here — think we have to do something else besides being a mother to matter in the world.

Yes, I know the vast majority of mothers work outside the home because they have to, but I still feel, even in 2015, those of us who are mothers still don’t lead with that role when we are out and about. We still feel in many ways as if we are not doing enough by simply being a mother, so we supplement with things and jobs that we think will make us more interesting, will make us feel more worthy, worthwhile interesting, valuable.

I thought a lot about that as I read through all the comments. People rarely mentioned what their mothers did out in the big wide world. Over and over they mentioned their mother’s laughter, their untiring spirit, their strength, their humor, their support, their love.

[6 Tips for Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in a Self-Absorbed World]

Once again — it is love that makes people feel worthy. It is love that gives people their confidence. It is the love that people miss when their mothers are gone. It is the love they remember.

Motherhood is the most powerful job in the world. Those aren’t just words, they are the truth. Talk to any person — really talk to them, intimately, quietly, patiently — and you will hear about their mother. The good they did, and yes the neglect they felt will many times come out too. But what struck me this week was all the good being shared. All the love, all the ‘I owe her’, all the pain at the loss of ones mother.mariaeunice

My entire life I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to survive if something happened to my mother. I really was afraid that I wouldn’t be ok if she weren’t here. And on many a day since she has gone I’ve wondered whether I was, in fact, “ok.” Or whether I would ever be “ok” again. It has been hard for me. She left a void. But for one day last week, I felt like a part of a tribe, a group, a community of others who loved their mothers and who miss them deeply.

[Watch clips from the 30 for 30 “Brave In the Attempt” on Eunice Kennedy Shriver]

I loved reading the stories and the comments. They made me feel full. They made me remember what my mother said to me: “It’s fine for you to go out and become a journalist, get married, do well. But never, for one minute, forget that being a mother will be your greatest achievement and your greatest legacy. Never think that role is beneath you. Never doubt its importance. You are shaping an individual and that individual will go out and touch another individual.” And so on and so forth.

I’m blessed to be a mother. I was blessed by my mother, and her mother, and I have been supported and loved by so many mothers (some of whom never had biological children, but who still know how to mother in a beautiful way) since I lost my own.

Motherhood: it’s 24 hours a day on the frontlines of humanity. The most powerful, awe-inspiring, legacy-creating, impact-job on the planet. It’s better than an Emmy, an Oscar, a Tony, a best-selling whatever and money in the bank. Period. End of story.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays here]

If you don’t believe me, go read the comments on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Mothers are what make countries and people great. I know fathers do too, but this week I’m talking about mothers and honoring the legacy of mine. #PassItForward

What I’ve Learned to Deserve


Growing up, my parents never spoke to me about what we, I, or anyone “deserved.” They spoke to me a lot about expectations. They were very clear with what they expected of me and from me. They expected me to work hard, they expected me to help others — especially those struggling on the margins. They expected me to be tough, hard-working, well-read, smart.

They sent me to work in impoverished parts of the world so I would “realize how lucky I was and not complain.” They expected me to go to church every week. To be honest. To help my brothers, my cousins, my community. They expected me to hold my head up and to walk forward no matter what.

They expected me to stand up when they walked into the room; something I did until their dying days. And to not disrespect them. The list of their expectations goes on and on.

[Watch the First Clips of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver 30 for 30 “Brave in the Attempt”]

Somewhere along the line their expectations slowly became my own, but over time another word crept into my life. Slowly at first, even timidly, I would say. For me, the word felt foreign, maybe even embarrassing.

It was “deserve.”

To think you “deserve something” when others have so little felt arrogant. As in, “Who do you think you are?”

But I’ve come to understand that there is power in ‘deserve.’ What you deserve can have nothing to do with material possessions and everything to do with how you see yourself and how you want to be treated — by yourself and others. I’ve come to understand that expectations can be directly tied to ‘deserve’ and I’ve come to understand that if you lead with your ‘deserve’ other things just naturally fall away. Including some expectations.

For example: If you are a hard worker, you deserve to be appreciated and respected. By yourself and those you work with. That’s not asking too much. If you work a lot you deserve to rest. My parents wouldn’t like me saying that, but it’s true. Resting your body and your mind isn’t being lazy, it’s smart. You and your body deserve to rest so you can be healthy, emotionally and physically.

[Resilience: The Greatest Gift a Parent Can Give Their Children]

You deserve to be treated kindly by your friends, family and significant others. As I say to my kids over and over: your siblings deserve your respect. And as I say to their friends: so do I. So stand up when I come in the room, look me in the eye when you talk to me and don’t you dare text at the dinner table. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that if we don’t treat ourselves as if we deserve these things it’s hard for others to see that they’re important to us.

So what do you deserve? That’s up to you. I can only answer with what I have come to believe I deserve.

I deserve to be happy. Much of that is in my control, but just knowing that I deserve it has helped me become happier. I deserve to be treated kindly and respectfully. And that starts with how I treat me.

I deserve to rest or take breaks. That’s why I’m going to Cape Cod for a few days. I’m actually on the plane writing so I don’t have to do it while I’m there. I’m not yet at the place where I can say I deserve a really long vacation, but I’m working towards that ‘deserve.’

Yes, I am and I’m no longer embarrassed to admit it: I deserve to live in a safe place. I deserve to have my boundaries respected. I deserve to love and be loved. I deserve the right to dream again. Yes I do. Dreams are not just for twenty-something’s, dreams are for us all at any age. I deserve to grieve in the manner that works for me. If that’s longer than others, so be it. I deserve to have people around me who lift me up, want the best for me, tell me the truth. I deserve to take time for myself. If that’s to read, rest, go out to lunch with friends, so be it.

[Feeding Your Brain: 6 Foods to Find and Eat]

I deserve to laugh as much as I want. I deserve forgiveness. We all make mistakes, do dumb things and so often the hardest person to forgive is one’s self. We often forgive others quicker than we forgive ourselves. Start with yourself and work out from there, and once again, do it in your time. You deserve that.

I deserve to not know. That’s right, I deserve to be unsure or uncertain of how I feel about something or someone. Until I know. I deserve to express my opinions, and I don’t deserve (nor, by the way, does anyone else) deserve to be attacked for what they say, for who they are, for what they believe. I deserve the right to change my beliefs once I’ve seen they hurt me or hold me down, or when I discover a better way.

The list can go on and it can grow and change. In fact I expect it to. I hope it will.

[12 Ways to Remove the Roadblocks to Loving Yourself]

I write all this because I want you to think about your own ‘deserve’. I hope you will allow space in your life and your mind to have this conversation with yourself way earlier than I had it with myself. It’s not selfish or arrogant. It’s kind and loving of yourself and to yourself.

This thing called life is a magical journey. I’ve found it rarely makes sense. It’s filled with uncertainty, joy, struggle, surprises and disappointments and rewards. It’s rarely fair. Rarely, if ever, clean and neat. You deserve to design it the way it works for you and then redesign it if you need to.

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

That’s what I have come to expect. That’s what I’ve learned I deserve.

Now go have a great day. You deserve it!! #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]