The Power of Gratitude

Maria Shriver Power of Gratitude

I said it last year, and I’ll say it again this year: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. In fact, Thanksgiving week is my favorite week of the year.

To me, even the few days before it and afterwards feel different than the rest of the year. People seem to be in better moods.

Work takes on a slower tempo. My kids get along better, and they are excited to see friends who come back home for the holidays.

Thanksgiving is about family, food, friends and yes, I know, football. Lots of football! But above all else, to me this holiday is all about gratitude.

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I believe strongly in the power of gratitude. And the research backs that up. It shows that if you can have a daily practice of gratitude, you will in turn be a happier, more hopeful person. Some people are lucky enough to be born grateful, happy and optimistic. But most of us have to work at staying positive, and I’ve found that the best way to do that is by having a gratitude practice.

So every morning when I open my eyes, and before my feet touch the ground, I thank God for the gift of my life. I give thanks for my health, my family, my friends and for the country I’m lucky enough to live in. I’ve found It makes for a better day, and in turn, I believe, a better life.

I seek out people who have a gratitude practice. I love talking, listening and learning from them. They just look at the world through a bright lens. They bounce back faster. They are more joyful. They know and feel that they have a good thing going. And they do.

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The truth is, you can never be gratfeul enough or kind enough. So it’s worth seeking out people who are like this and asking them about their practices, their principles and how they put those into action.

One of my holiday practices is to go to our church and serve Thanksgiving meals. This tradition always makes me feel tied to my community, and it reminds me how blessed I am. The people who wait in line for food and clothing are always so grateful, so humble. Many are there year after year. They remember you and are so happy to see you. It makes me feel happy.

Their reaction to getting a new pair of socks, a plate of hot food and some new clothes always makes me stop, check in with myself and express gratitude. To these people, to my church, to my community.

The power of gratitude.

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

It can turn a bad day into a good one.  It can make you look at  your life in a different way. It can make the difference in how thankful you are, not just during the holidays, but every day.

Happy Thanksgiving. And thank you for allowing me into your Sundays.

That’s what I’ve Been Thinking this holiday week, how about you?


I’m Thinking Out Beyond — Meet Me There?


It’s been a couple of weeks now since I turned 60 years young and I’m still basking in the glow of all the love and support I received. I’m choosing to focus on that instead of what I read in the news or see on TV because those stories are only making me feel fearful, scared and powerless. So instead, I’m making a conscious effort to focus on what makes me feel strong and hopeful in my life. I know I’m lucky to be the age that I am. Not everyone makes it to this age, so I’m choosing to see it as the gift that it is. I’m blessed to be alive. Blessed to be standing here on the eve of Thanksgiving, blessed to be standing out in what I call The Open Field. The mystic Rumi described it as a place “out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing.”

To me it’s that and more. To me The Open Field is within me but I also visualize it as a destination. It is a place metaphorically “out beyond.” Out beyond harsh judgements, out beyond shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, hate. It’s in my heart and in my mind. And it’s a place I think we, as a world, desperately need to gather in.

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I have learned that you have to be brave to step out into The Open Field because it’s filled with people who are!! It takes bravery to be accepting, peaceful, kind & loving. The Open Field is filled with Architects of Change, “Conscious Idealists” who followed Robert Frost’s advice and took the road less traveled. And for them, that has made all the difference.

Architects of Change are using their voices and their lives in pursuit of the common good. They are the ones I want to learn from, the ones I want to listen to, the ones I want to grow young with, evolve with, the ones I want to be like. 

I want to think out beyond what is and think about what can be. I want to be part of a society and culture that values people of all genders and honors those who work on the frontlines of humanity and rewards those who are socially conscious and who seek to build a more compassionate world for all. That’s what it means to be what I call a “conscious idealist,” and that’s what I want to be and who I want to be around. 

As I stand here looking out and looking ahead, both in the short-term and in the long-term towards the rest of my life, I think of all the Architects of Change who helped me get to the place I am today. Some have passed on. Some have moved on through and some stand here right next to me. I’m deeply grateful to them all.

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I’m deeply grateful for, and to, my family. They have held me up when the sea got rough and they have encouraged me forward with love and laughter. I hope you have family that does that for you. And if you don’t, go about creating one for yourself that does.

Which brings me to my deep gratitude to my friends and for my faith. I have relied heavily on both in my life. I’m deeply grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned, the easy ones and the painful ones. Because they have all brought me here. To this place I’m in right now.

It’s taken me a long time to get here. I made mistakes along the way. I haven’t always liked me or liked the way I treated others. I have failed, but I always got back up. I’ve made amends and I’ve carried on. Ive learned that life is rarely black and white. I’m not going to say it’s Fifty Shades of Grey… I’m just going to say it’s grey, alright? 😉

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The secret — if there is one — is to know yourself deeply and communicate who you are. Calmly, clearly and confidently. Check in with yourself as often as you can because you will change along the journey. I know I have. Pause, pray and ask for help as often as you need to, so that you can get to where you want to go. And while you are traveling along the bumpy, broken road called life, remember to be kind. Because everyone else is traveling too, dealing with their own stuff stuff that can often be unimaginable.

What a gift 60 is. I feel both peaceful and powerful at this age. I feel blessed and happy. Not the kind of happy you get at Disneyland, the kind you have deep in your soul and all I want to do is #PassItForward and share it — with people my age, people way younger and people that are older and wiser.

So, today, with Thanksgiving upon us — which by the way is my favorite holiday cause it’s about food, family and gratitude — I look forward, I see and feel joy. When I close my eyes I see laughter, I see friends and family. I see people who want to make a positive impact in the world, as do I. I see people who want others to stand in the light because there is plenty of light for us all.

And what I have learned over my 60 years is that all of this is within my grasp. It’s actually all within me.

What a revelation that is. Everything I need is within me… Wow.

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

Happy Thanksgiving. That’s what I’ve Been Thinking, how about you?

[Image via Pixabay]

As We Pray For Paris, Remember You Are Blessed


All week long I’d been thinking about how blessed I was to have my beautiful birthday last week. I have been feeling the love all week and, in fact, I wrote a whole blog about it to share today.

But just this moment I’m hearing about Paris. Hearing about all the lives lost. And it’s all I can think about. My heart goes out to all of the families who are in such unimaginable grief at this moment. I can’t even imagine the pain.

They are in shock, as are all the good people in the world. 

At this moment, may we all stop and join our arms around these families. May we form a circle of prayer and support. May we tap into the love that exists in all of us and send it out to crush this hate that exists in the world.

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The world is a scary place. We all want to feel safe.  We need it. Tragedies like this make us want to stay home. We seek safety from the unknown.

Moments like this remind me how fragile life truly is. If you are blessed to wake up today, give thanks. Give thanks to those you love and who love you back. Be kind, because none of us truly know what is going on in other people’s lives.

That person you are rude to today might have lost a family member in Paris. That person you beep your horn at today because they aren’t moving as fast as you want, may be terribly sick or they may be struggling to make ends meet and scared about the future.

Just be kind.

If it’s your birthday today, make a big deal about it. Don’t just celebrate landmark birthdays, celebrate every birthday. In fact, find something to celebrate today, right now, as you read this.

We are blessed.

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Those who were in the stadium in Paris may have been blessed, but they weren’t lucky. Those who just thought they were going to have a nice Friday night dinner weren’t granted the luxury.

Life is fragile. It’s a gift. As are the people around you.

My heart is with the families and their unspeakable grief. But it’s also with all those good people who are showing love, opening their homes and their hearts to total strangers. There are so many more good people than bad in the world. May we not let a incident like this close our hearts, may we not let it make us prejudiced and judgmental.

May the tragedy in Paris help us to be more loving. May it ignite us to work for — and towards — peace. May it make us want to be even kinder to one another and to ourselves.

Good trumps evil. Love conquers hate. Every time. Be on the side of good. #PassItForward

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

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

[Image via Pixabay]

Finding Love After Love in my Next Decade


As you know, I’ve been thinking about turning 60. Actually, I celebrated my birthday on Friday, so I guess now I’m thinking about being 60 (!).

Ten years ago when I turned 50, a good friend gave me a framed poem, Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love.” At the time, and for years after, I didn’t know what to make of it. What it was supposed to be saying to me, guiding me to, helping me with?

But, days after the beginning of my seventh decade on earth, I can say with all clarity, that I know now. That this poem exactly reflects where I am and where I’m going. I am feasting on my life. And I wanted to share it with all of you today.




The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

∼Derek Walcott

 That’s what I’ve been thinking this week. Now#PassItForward and tell me, what are you thinking?


60 Life Lessons for My Birthday


I’ve been thinking about birthdays…especially mine as it’s this week!!! In our family birthdays are a big deal. There is always a homemade cake, balloons, cards, a fun celebration of the gift of life.

The truth is, I love any excuse to have a party and I especially love to celebrate others. But it’s always been a bit harder for me to celebrate myself; it pushes me outside my comfort zone. But with the encouragement of my friends and family, I’m changing that. I’m allowing myself to be celebrated…even writing that feels weird…but I’m going with it and going for it!

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So as I stand on the cusp of a new decade, I’m focusing on all the gifts in my life and on all the lessons I’ve learned throughout my life. I’m happy to say I’m looking forward to the next frontier, even though I admit I don’t really have a master plan for what that entails like I did when I turned 30…that’s okay though, because since then I’ve learned that life interrupts the best of plans.

Friends and family die without warning. You can end up disappointing yourself and others. People you counted on don’t come through, but then again — total strangers can also show up and guide you to places you never imagined. Life is indeed a magical mystery.

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So in its honor, here are 60 life lessons I’ve learned along my journey. I shared some of them with my kids this New Years, whereupon they burst into tears and asked me if I was dying. Lordy Moses.

I share them with you now in the hope that they might help you on your own journey to live more authentically, to live more of life without judgement of yourself and/or others, so that when the time comes for you to go, you have fewer regrets about what you didn’t do and more pride in what you did.

[Watch Maria Shriver’s Architect of Change Conversation with Ann Romney]

  1. There is nothing about life that’s predicable, so stop trying to predict it.
  2. Find every excuse you can to celebrate it.
  3. Love the age you are and stop wishing you were a different one.
  4. Stop worrying about what others think. It’s a huge waste of your time.
  5. Stop wondering if God is listening, just have faith He/She is.
  6. Be grateful to anyone who has ever loved you or tried to love you. I know I am.
  7. Know that shit will happen in life. You think you will not be able to withstand, but you can and you will.
  8. Be kind to your body, it will be with you for life.
  9. Believe me when I tell you: diets are a waste of time. I’ve tried them all.
  10. Don’t believe people who tell you they can eat anything and still be so skinny! They are fibbing.
  11. Moderate everything but laughing.
  12. Don’t be scared to be a parent, trust your heart.
  13. Make friends with your children’s friends. They’ll make you laugh and give you valuable intel.
  14. Keep a pair of clothes from high school. Not to check if you can still fit in them but for the memories they hold.
  15. Hold your children over and over again and then let someone hold you.
  16. Get smart about money as early as possible.
  17. Save money from every paycheck.
  18. Buy comfortable sheets, you’ll spend a lot of time in them.
  19. Know that no matter how smart you are, you cannot change someone else.
  20. Stay out of other people’s business. Dealing with your own is a full-time job.
  21. Be kind, cause everyone is struggling.
  22. Don’t engage in gossip, it always bites you in the ass.
  23. Don’t mistake gifts for love.
  24. Stay in connection with your childhood friends and introduce them to your grownup friends. Make yours a generous tribe that’s connected not only to you, but to each other.
  25. Spend time alone when you are young so it won’t scare you when you are older.
  26. Write thank you notes to people for their time and their wisdom. See both as a gift.
  27. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. And at least once, look into someone’s eyes for five minutes straight. You will learn something.
  28. Sit down to family dinner every night. If you can’t do it every night, make Sunday night family night.
  29. Play games with your kids (my favorites are Capture the Flag and Uno).
  30. Give your kids a Get-Out-Of-School pass to use for a special day with you.
  31. Keep an open table and an open mind.
  32. Be of service.
  33. Travel with your kids. It will broaden their horizons and strengthen their bonds.
  34. Don’t assume anyone is better than you or you are better than anyone else.
  35. Don’t ever sit out of an election. You have the gift of living in a country where every vote matters. Use yours.
  36. Learn how to turn off the critical voice in your head as early as possible.
  37. Every year write down your regrets then burn them and leave them where they belong: In the ashes.
  38. Listen to your gut. It knows more than anyone else you are asking for advice.
  39. Practice prayer/meditation. It will keep you in check with yourself.
  40. Never think your work life is more important than your family.
  41. Don’t think bad stuff won’t happen to you. Learn how to push through. Head up, shoulders back.
  42. Don’t allow anyone to shame you.
  43. Get good at forgiveness. You will need to practice it throughout life.
  44. Know that forgiving doesn’t mean going back to what was. It means going forward with love. You get to decide what that looks like.
  45. If you want forgiveness, ask for it.
  46. Get good at letting go.
  47. Don’t expect people to be perfect. You are not…neither are they.
  48. Learn how to communicate in your own home. If you can’t find your voice get help.
  49. Don’t think that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
  50. Therapy isn’t a waste of time. It can save a friendship, a marriage, your life.
  51. If you marry and it comes to an end, don’t let anyone tell you you have failed. Be grateful for the love you had, the memories you made, the lessons you learned.
  52. If you have a pity party, make it short and then move on.
  53. Don’t see yourself as a victim, see yourself as brave.
  54. Be brave enough to write your own story … and then rewrite it.
  55. Be brave enough to try love after you heart has been broken.
  56. Spend time in nature, it calms your mind.
  57. Spend time around people who see you, who celebrate you, who want the best for you.
  58. Stay connected to your siblings and don’t come between them and their partners. My four brothers are my past, my present and my future … and I like all of their wives.
  59. Take care of your parents when they age, it’s a privilege.
  60. Have faith that your best days are ahead of you. That your next frontier will be your most fulfilling time. And that you deserve to be seen as good enough just the way you are.


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

[Image via Pixabay]


The Power of Time: How Will Your Spend It?


I’ve been thinking about time.

I was struck this week by Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to run for PresidentI was struck by the idea that he said he was “out of time” to launch a winning campaign.

I know Joe Biden and I deeply admire him, as a man, as a husband, a father and a public servant. His words got me thinking a lot about time. In our society that is so rushed, so fast, people are always saying “I don’t have any time to do this.” Or, “I ran out of time to do that.” I’ve said it myself more times than I care to admit.

Time gets away from us all, not just those trying to run for President. Joe Biden’s words got me thinking about how I’m spending my time. It got me thinking about whether I was running out of time in some area of my own life.

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I’m about to start a new decade of life and I want to be more mindful of my time. I want to make sure I’m allocating it to the right people, the right projects. I want to make sure I make time for those who love me, for those who need me, for those who fill up my life. My time is mine. Mine to give away. It’s also mine to guard.

I’ve often felt exasperated with how long some things take (i.e. I was struck by this article and this ad that said it took Barbie 59 years to get it right). I’ve often felt rushed with how fast some things move or change. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that some things like grief or forgiveness just take the time they do. It’s like giving birth. You cant rush it.

Some people’s process is slow and deliberate, others move so fast that we are left trying to catch up. Sometimes we all run out of time.

The truth is, I’m Barbie’s age. More than likely I have less time on this earth in front of me than I have behind me. But like Barbie, I want to get it right. So the question in front of me and you, no matter your age, is this: What to do with your time? How do you spend it? Who do you spend it with?

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I want to spend it in deep connection with those I love. I want to spend it learning and growing, evolving and laughing. I want to spend more time being grateful. I want to spend it imagining what more I can do with my time here on earth. I want to spend it in conversation with God. I want to spend it writing. I want to spend it helping others as others have helped me. I want to spend it with people who value me and, yes, even with people who challenge me. Challenge me to be better, to be wiser, to be kinder. I want to spend it in nature and I want to spend it being a lot less worried about what people think. Yes, I don’t want to spend it one more minute worried about what the hell people are thinking.

I’ve met so many people who said “I wish I had more time.” “More time to spend with my kids.” “More time to spend with my friends.” “More time to do the things I really loved to do.”

There is no time like now to make time for what you really want to do. Whether you want to run for office, learn to cook or write your story, it’s all the same. Time runs out on all of us. Don’t spend any of yours worried about how others are seeing you or what others are thinking of you. Trust me, I’ve done that and it’s such a waste of time.

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

Today I hope you spend less time worried about what you’re not doing and more time imaging what you, and only you, can do with your time here on this earth. Don’t let it run out, make it count. #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]

Seeing the Jewel Inside

Maria Jewel Inside Git Wrap

Are you looking at the gift wrap or the jewel inside?

My sister-in-law Jeanne sent me this amazing video. Jeanne is about to turn 50. I am about to turn 60. And everyone I know is about to turn something: 26, 30, 18.

No matter your age. No matter who you are. The challenge is the same. How do we all turn our focus to the jewel inside, the jewel that is us, instead of to the shiny glittering fancy gift wrap that we think is us?

I thought a lot of different things when I watched this. I’m interested in hearing what you thought.

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I thought how beautful the poem is. I thought about how amazing it was that she could remember it all. I thought about her writing it. I thought about how hard it is to get old. I thought about her caretaker who filmed it and wanted the world to see her beauty. I thought about all the millions of people who are caring for loved ones. I thought about her life and wondered what she was like when she was young or when she was my age. I read that she had 8 children, scores of grandchildren, even great grandchildren. I thought about the marathon that life is and the endurance it requires.

Clearly this woman’s caretaker wanted us all to see the jewel that she is. But I think there is more to this than that. There is a reason it exploded on the Internet.

I think we all want someone to see the jewel that is inside of us. We all long to be seen that way, at any age and at every age. We work so hard for others to recognize our worth, our value, so often giving them the power to determine if we are in fact a jewel.

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That power is actually ours, as she so eloquently says. In this poem, she is talking to herself and to us as a group.

Know you are jewel. Don’t get thrown when the gift wrap fades or wrinkles. The jewel doesn’t.

I think she is also asking all of us to be kinder, more loving, more devout. Maybe she and her caregiver both wanted us to think about the millions of older people who are struggling with these sentiments.

I got to thinking, how old is old? I know so many young people who struggle with finding the jewel inside, caring for it, loving it. I watched both of my parents age before my eyes. I relate when she says she looks in the mirror and wonders who is that in the reflection. That wonder doesn’t always have to do with age, mind you.

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

We can all look in the mirror and see ourselves with kind thoughts, loving thoughts and then take those thoughts and reflect them onto others. Life marches on. As I always say, there is no moment like now.

I loved this video, this poem. I loved what I felt watching it, and I loved that it made me think. Today I’m going to look in the mirror. I’m going to look past the gift wrap to the jewel inside. Thanks to this, that’s what I’m going to see looking back at me. #PassItForward.

{Image credit: Pixabay}

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.

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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.

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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]