A Note of Thanks To Some Important People in My Life

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As we approach Holy Week, I’m thinking about everything I’m grateful for and everyone I’m grateful to.

A woman named Anne I met last week asked me to try out a gratitude exercise with her. “I want you to say a really important prayer every morning when you wake up,” she said, adding, “Say it in the afternoon as well.”

My response: “Uh, ok. What is it?” (I said “Uh” because I was expecting some long-drawn-out prayer I would have to memorize.)

She said, “Please repeat after me: Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

[Read: When is Enough Enough in Life?]

She went on for two minutes saying those two words over and over asking me to repeat after her, soft, loud, fast, slow. I gotta admit, the first few times I was like, ‘This is weird,’ and I laughed a little (she didn’t). So then I just started following her tempo.

I started focusing on the words: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I settled in and, in time, her voice gave way and I was saying the two words by myself. With each time I spoke, I settled into the power of those two words and everyone I could say them to.

  • To God: Thank you for the gift of my life.
  • To my parents, both of whom died not too long ago: Thank you for being there for me and sharing your lives with me.
  • To my family: Wow, yes. Thank you to them for holding me in the protective womb of our family.
  • Thank you to my friends who check in on me all the time, who include me in their lives and their families.

[Watch: 4 Ways to Improve Your Memory]

  • To the people I’m lucky enough to work with each day: Thank you to you for helping me so much every day both at the office and at home.
  • To strangers I meet on the street who share a kind word when they don’t have to: Thank you.
  • To the people who share here on MariaShriver.com and to the people who have collaborated with us on AWomansNation.org and who have accepted the challenge to Wipe Out Alzheimer’sThank you for being so generous and so brave. Thank you.
  • To my children’s friends: Thank you for sitting with me, sharing with me and helping me to stay young at heart.
  • To those on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages who share inspiring messages and thankfully share my zero tolerance for meanness: Thank you.

This little prayer that I learned from Anne has helped ground me and put a smile on my face this week. I try to practice gratitude every day, but I think I was making it more complicated than I needed to.

All I had to do was say “thank you.”

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

I’ll continue to practice my thankful prayer, and I’ll continue to express my gratitude in big and small ways whenever and wherever I can. Thank you for listening and reading. Happy Holy Week to all of you. I can’t wait for Easter and to be able to eat dessert again!

#PassItForward


[Image via Morgan Sessions]

Internet Abuse is Real and It’s Up To Us to End It

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This week I watched as my friend Ashley Judd fought back against Internet abuse.

“Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood,” she wrote, adding, “As I began on Twitter to identify and push back against this toxicity and abuse, I faced the standard bashing anyone (girl or boy, woman or man) experiences when objecting to and taking action against misogyny.”

[Read: 7 Things Children Can Teach Us]

To illustrate why she is so offended by the written assaults she has experienced on the Internet, she bravely told a personal story of sexual violence, making comparisons and finding similarities between the two. And she correctly stated that the nameless, cowardly assaults that take place on the Internet have to stop.

She is right.

As was Curt Schilling when he stepped up to call out the “trolls” who were harassing his daughter.

Internet harassment is a real thing. It’s violent, hurtful, abusive and scary. And I know it affects all kinds of people, not just those in the public eye.

[Why You Need to Find Your Inner Voice]

I’ve been thinking about what we can do — what I can do — to stop this kind of violence, because that’s exactly what it is: Violence against women and men.

We could boycott publications that print things with the sole intention of destroying people’s lives. We could delete our accounts or hold the companies that run them responsible for removing the hate ASAP. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook ,etc. can do a better job of policing comments that are jaw-dropping, abusive, offensive and threatening. We can each watch our own words, our own tempers, our own sides of the street.

I’m not naive enough to think that everyone will always be kind.

But I do know that when people speak out and say how these comments and commenters, “trolls” or whatever they are called, make them feel, it does have an impact. It does affect others and make them pause and think about their actions. Or, at least, I hope it does. It does for me.

[Read: What #HappyActs Will You Do Today?]

Ashley Judd made me stop and think. Curt Schilling made me step back and say “wow.” Kendall Jenner called out a prominent weekly magazine for attributing quotes to her that were totally fabricated and that hurt her.

I have seen those I love experience it and I, myself, have been stunned more times than I can count by not-OK comments. I try to practice compassion and forgiveness, but sometimes just like Ashley, I gotta say “this is not OK.” 

Our goal must be to become a more caring, compassionate, conscious culture. If we can’t be kind together, we’re never going to be able to work together, to move this world forward together, to build happiness together.

It starts with each of us.

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

Let’s make these mean and threatening kinds of comments more than not OK. Let’s have a zero tolerance policy for Internet abuse.

Let’s start now. #PassItForward


[Image via Death to the Stock Photo]

Honoring Two Men Who Taught Me A Lot About Love

gentleman with roses

Last Monday, I went to a lunch in honor of my friends Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, the writers and directors of the much-acclaimed film “Still Alice.”

It was a small, intimate gathering. There were a few toasts, lots of laughs and beautiful stories. I spoke about how one of the best things that came from executive producing “Still Alice” was meeting Wash and Richard.

Why?

Because as I said that day, until I met them, I had never seen love in action like that before.

[See the Women Behind ‘Still Alice’]

Richard was diagnosed with ALS before the movie started filming, and watching the love they had for one another while facing the disease together was mind-blowing. The care Wash gave to Richard, who lost his ability to move and speak this year, was heart-stopping.

Wash spoke at the lunch and Richard joined by Skype. When I was leaving, Wash said, “Please come over for tea, Richard would love that.” I said, “Deal. I’ll call you Saturday.” Tuesday night, Richard died.

I was shocked. And when I read Wash’s statement about the loss of Richard, I once again was blown away by his love, his respect and his strength.

Awhile ago, I had asked Wash how their love worked, how could he be so selfless? I wanted to know everything I could about their relationship, their love, their kindness, their hearts.

Wash said it best in his statement.

I am devastated. Rich was my soul mate, my collaborator, my best friend and my life. Seeing him battle ALS for four years with such grace and courage inspired me and all who knew him.

In this dark time, I take some consolation in the fact that he got to see Still Alice go out into the world. He put his heart and soul into that film, and the fact that it touched so many people was a constant joy to him.

Thank you to everyone for this huge outpouring of love. Richard was a unique guy — opinionated, funny, caring, gregarious, generous, and so so smart. A true artist and a brilliant man. I treasure every day of the short twenty years we had together.

I cannot believe he has gone. But in my heart and the hearts of those who loved him he will always be alive.

“Still Alice” is a film about a woman getting early on-set Alzheimer’s, but it’s also a movie about caregiving, family, and ultimately, about love.

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

Love in the good times and in the hard times. Love, love, love.

The ALS community and the Alzheimer’s community are filled with stories like Wash and Richard’s. Stories of love, stories of care, stories of heartache and triumph. I hope you get the chance to have an example like Wash and Richard in your life.

[Join us in the fight to Wipe Out Alzheimer’s]

I thought about a lot of things this week, but nothing compared to thinking about Wash and Richard.

God bless them both. #PassItForward


[Image via Picjumbo]

Words Matter

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This week was a big week for people who believe in the power of words.

The End The R-Word campaign continues to make people think about the harmful ramifications of using the r-word and I’m so proud of all the people who have made this campaign so successful.

Curt Schilling stood up and smacked down some cyber bullies who were using harmful words about his daughter on the web. I cheered him on. He said no one, much less his daughter, should be subjected to comments of that nature and he went after those guys. All of whom will be watching their words from now on no doubt.

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

Curt Schilling showed how men can support their daughters, their wives, sisters, friends and loved ones through their words and their actions.

As a mother of two boys and a sister to four guys, I’ve always been a big fan of men. And I’ve always believed that men and women do better when we understand each other and work together in our homes, in our workplaces, in our government. That’s why I was happy to see lots of positive talk around men this week.

[Are You an Alzheimer’s Innovator? Share Your Story and Photo]

This week I wrote and an op-ed for Time with Jennifer Siebel Newsom asking the question, “What Does it Mean to Be ‘A Man’?” She has directed a new documentary focused on boys and masculinity, “The Mask You Live In” and I am one of the Executive Producers.

My friend and Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything contributor, Michael Kimmel, hosted the International Conference on Masculinities: Engaging Men and Boys for Gender Equality and lots of men and women showed up.

So whether you are showing up, speaking out, leaning in together or taking off the mask it’s all positive, forward movement. Communication and collaboration is what everyone needs. Men, women, boys and girls.

[Read: A List of Things I’m Consciously Trying to Teach My Daughter]

We need to focus more on using our words to fight prejudice, stop hatred, examine other genders and our own. In doing so, it is my hope that we can create a more conscious, caring, compassionate culture in our own communities and our country.

Let’s keep the good words going.

#PassItForward

What I Learned From #TheDress This Week

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News alert!

Something big happened on the Internet this week and for once it had nothing to do with the Kardashians.

Millions of people came together to have a national conversation. Not about income inequality, not about Alzheimer’s, not about ISIS. No not even about the premiere of the new season of House of Cards. (I confess I’ve already binge watched.)

No, we came together over the dress. Yup that’s right. A dress. I will spare you the rehash of the color debate but it got me thinking. Not about the dress, I know it’s just fun. But about how people come together.

[Watch to find out what Maria Shriver, Rob Lowe, Zachary Quinto and others have in common]

What brings us together?? Seriously, what does?

We know a lot about what divides us (politics, religion, abortion, Fox News, MSNBC to name just a few), but less about what unites us.

The ALS ice bucket challenge brought us all together, but I can’t remember much else that did. Until “the dress” got us connecting. It even got my 17-year-old son Christopher to talk to me on the way to school in the morning. Usually only Kobe Bryant can do that.

So what is it that causes the connection? Is it clothes? Maybe it’s animals? Banksy got us talking a little bit this week about the Middle East via cats. Maybe cats are a way into talking about wiping out Alzheimer’s or talking about the minimum wage, but neither cats nor roaming llamas came close to the dress.

[Read: How to Handle a Friend’s Tears]

Maybe the dress could lead us into talking about how many millions of people can’t afford a pretty dress. Or the fact that millions of women who have Alzheimer’s can’t even remember the name of the thing we all are actually talking about.

Maybe we could all learn something from the dress. This is what I learned: Make the question simple. As in black and white. Make people laugh. Make it light. Make it shareable. Don’t make either side feel as though they are wrong or stupid.

the dress

Imagine this conversation:

“See this picture?”
“I can’t remember what it is.”
“It’s a dress.”
“A what?”
“A dress.”
“What’s a dress?”
“It’s something you wear.”
“Oh.”
“What is this?”
“It’s a dress.”
“What’s a dress?”
“It’s something you wear.”
“Oh.”

Imagine… Not knowing that. Imagine not being able to remember what the color white or gold is. Or, blue or black.

[Read: Why I Volunteer to Visit People With Alzheimer’s]

It’s okay if you don’t know that we are in the midst of a Alzheimer’s epidemic. It’s okay if you didn’t realize this disease literally robs your mind and everything in it.

But now that you do, I hope you will help us. Help us Wipe Out Alzheimer’s. And if you do, we will buy everyone a purple dress.

No, Really. Not a gold and white one. Not a blue and black one. A purple one.

A purple what?
A purple dress!!!

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

Because purple is the color of the Alzheimer’s movement and we are going to need a dress, a beautful one for the gigantic mind-blowing party we are going to throw when we wipe this staggering disease out. As in OUT … NOW.

#PassItForward

This Is Our Moment in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s

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***We’re starting a movement, will you join us? Head to WipeOutAlzheimers.org to stand with us.***

Last night was a big moment for Julianne Moore. I am so happy she received a Best Actress Academy Award for her stellar performance in the magical film Still Alice — a film I am so proud to be co-executive producer of.

As a child of Alzheimer’s, her portrayal of Alice, a 50-year-old linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, left me moved, humbled and so very grateful. As the audience, we see through her eyes the toll this disease takes, not just on the person who gets it, but on all those who love them. We feel her struggle, we sense her bewilderment, we witness her valiant efforts to hold on to who she is, what she knows and what she remembers. Alice struggles to still be herself. Julianne does this so well that audiences and critics have been honoring her with every award in sight — and tonight I hope that streak continues.

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

This is a special moment in Julianne’s extraordinary career. A well-deserved moment for someone who has worked long and hard and has always given a performance that astounds. But this is also a moment in the fight to wipe out Alzheimer’s.

These are the facts: Someone gets Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. A woman in her 60’s is twice as likely to get it as she is to get breast cancer. Women make up 65 percent of all those who get Alzheimer’s and they’re nearly two-thirds of all the caregivers in this country.

[Watch the ‘Still Alice’ trailer & find a theater near you]

Why do women get it more? No one knows.

What’s the cure for it? No one knows.

What we DO know is that this film, this performance, is waking up our country to these facts and to the reality that more must be done to wipe out this staggering disease that is affecting millions.

To that end, myself and others have put our brains together to launch a global woman’s initiative called Wipe Out Alzheimer’s. Our mission: to research women’s brains and figure out why this disease is disproportionally affecting us. Our goal: Wipe out Alzheimer’s. When? Right Now. And everyone is invited to join us.

[Read: The Most Useful Phrase for a Lasting Relationship]

This is our moment, and we’re going to use it to study the female brain to wipe out this mind-blowing disease (and hopefully some others while we’re at it!).

I hope you’ll visit our new site and sign up to join us. And then #PassItForward to your friends.

Visit WipeOutAlzheimers.org to learn more.

What is Love?

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On this weekend it’s hard to think about anything other than love.

It is the stuff of great songs, novels, poetry and films. It’s also the great gift of life: To love and to be loved.

My friend wrote a book not too long ago where she wrote something that struck me. She said, like many women, she had spent a lot of her life searching for the love that’s depicted in the movies or fairy tales. So much so that she had missed the everyday love that was all around her.

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

She didn’t realize this until she got cancer, and she let all the love that was around her in. She regretted the love she had missed out on, but was grateful for this gift that cancer was able to teach her.

Every day there is love all around us that many of us miss out on.

Valentine’s day is a big commercial holiday. I’ve noticed that it makes many people who are not in relationships feel badly. And for those people who are in relationships, they can feel lots of pressure to come up with something smart, clever or expensive to “show” they love their significant other for February 14.

[Read: Are You So Plugged in You’re Out of Touch?]

But is love really any of those things? What is it? What is love?

Is it chocolates, roses, jewelry? Is it big fancy dinners?

Those things can certainly be part of the equation, but the kind of love I think everyone needs is the kind of love that’s already all around us. Love that is patient and kind, supportive, gentle and accepting. That’s what love is about.

It’s about caring, listening, being present. It’s about forgiveness and understanding. It’s when someone brings you a cup of coffee or orders you an iced tea before you get there because they know you like it. It’s your friend sending you a quote. Or someone calling to just check in on you.

I’m not saying I don’t like flowers or beautiful dinners, but like my friend, so many of us miss the gift of love that’s present in our lives every day.

[Find out where ‘Still Alice’ is playing in a theater near you]

Valentine’s day comes around once a year. But we can all practice love every day. What the world needs now is more love. What each of us needs is to see the real hardworking love that’s already there every day. We need to see it, feel it and recognize it for what it is.

Real love in real life.

And Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. You’re a part of the love that surrounds me daily, and I hope you feel it too. #PassItForward


{Image Credit: Picjumbo}

The Power of Words

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Not too long ago I gave a speech called ‘The Power of the Pause.’ I talked about the importance of pausing in all areas of our lives.

The power of the pause has never been more important than it is right now because our world is changing at warp speed.

Change is everywhere and it’s scary how fast what ‘was’ no longer ‘is.’

[Watch Maria Shriver’s full ‘Power of the Pause’ speech]

Companies come and go. Carefully orchestrated careers end in minutes. Friends up and move. Kids grow and leave. People change, governments surprise.

This week alone I woke up to images of a man being burned alive in a cage, and before I could close my mouth two more people were hung in swift retaliation.

I just didn’t know what to say.

And then I saw this piece by Kasey StuddardAnd then this piece by Nicholas Kristof. And then my daughter Katherine told me the brave words she said to a woman who was sitting next to her idly gossiping about our family in an unflattering way.

[Read: 13 Things I Would Tell My 29-Year-Old Self Now]

I sent both of the articles to my kids and their friends. I wanted them to see the effect negative words can have on someone’s heart. I wanted them to see a different take on a story that was unfolding in real time about a famous individual. I wanted them to see that they could use their words to join in the gossip or they could use their words to promote compassion, empathy and understanding.

The old nursery rhyme says “sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

That’s just not true. We’ve all used words that we regret. I know I have.

Words are powerful.

They can promote unity and peace. Look at Nelson Mandela, the Pope and countless “ordinary” teachers who are promoting kindness and emotional intelligence every day. Words can be used to empower.

Words can also cut just like a knife.

The power of the pause. The power of our words. The words we use in real life and on the Internet can both benefit from pausing to recognize the power they weild. 

I’ve been thinking about how I, and those I love, can use our words more for good than harm. In these changing times it’s one piece of power we all can share.

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

Will you join me in harnessing the power of your words for good?

#PassItForward


[Image via Death to the Stock Photo]

Wipe Your Slate Clean

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My daughter’s friend Stephanie got engaged not long ago. This was big news in our home cause Stephanie had struggled in previous relationships. Now at the age of 35 she has found herself in a real and healthy relationship.
This week I went to her engagement party to meet her husband-to-be and to ask her how she turned her life around.

She said, and I quote, “I worked hard. Really, really hard to get me right. I took responsibility for my choices. I looked hard at myself, I wrote it all down then wiped my slate clean.” (Ps this took time.)

“Wiping my slate clean,” she said, “was a liberating experience because it allowed me to put the negative, the sad, the heartbreak, the shame, the guilt behind me. Once I did this a good, kind man appeared in my life and I was ready.”

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

(She promised me she would write this up for our community and I’ll share it once she does.)

I thought a lot about what she told me, what she told my daughters and the others who had gathered to celebrate her.

Wipe your slate clean. Give yourself permission to put the sad and the negative away. Give yourself permission to start anew. But first make sure you do the hard work on you so that you will truly be able to wipe out whatever feelings you have that are dragging you down.

I don’t want to wipe my entire past away. It has made me who I am and those experiences and the many people I have met and loved on my life’s journey are the ones I want to move forward with. But what we all can benefit from wiping away are the feelings of shame and sorrow, sadness and guilt that Stephanie was talking about. Those are worth wiping away because they are heavy and they prevent us from feeling light joyful and well.

[Read: Getting Older Isn’t a Crisis, It’s a Blessing]

Ironically, “Wipe Out” is also the name of the movement we are launching to wipe out the staggering disease known as Alzheimer’s. 

Alzheimer’s disproportionally affects women and I’m hoping that scores of women will join us and put their brains to use to put the disease where it belongs: in the past.

[Watch: The Official ‘Still Alice’ Trailer]

We will give you more details as our movement unfolds but I love that it shared the name of the action that Stephanie took to get to happiness’ door. Wiping out Alzheimer’s… now that will be worth celebrating.


[Image via Pinterest]

Life is Yours to Create … and Recreate

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This week I’ve been thinking about this thing called life.

The truth is, when we are in our twenties we think a lot about planning a life. We look for someone to plan it with, we look to build a career to make our life, friends to complete it, kids to enhance it. But life has a way of upending your carefully made plans. All of a sudden you can find yourself having to plan this thing called life all over again.

I recently watched this Steve Jobs interview, and I agree with Mr. Jobs: Life, or what we are told about it, can either be limiting, safe, secure OR wide open, creative and sometimes scary. It’s ours to paint, draw, decide and create.

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

I was thinking about this as I listened to kids in my house complain about the boring nature of school.

“Why can’t it be more creative?” they asked. “Why should it be taught the same way as when you were little? It’s so limiting.”

Pushing up against the way it is, or the way it’s been, is smart. It takes courage to push up, push back and be creative with the gift of life. But that’s exactly what building a life of your own requires. It requires you to be creative, to think outside of the box.

[Find out when ‘Still Alice’ is coming to a theater near you]

Your life is yours to create and then recreate. Once you realize this, in Mr. Jobs’ words, your life will, and should, “never be the same again.”

That’s what I’ve been thinking, what do you think? Tell me, I’d love to know. And, as always, #PassItForward


Thanks to Faranam Street blog for the inspiration. [Image via Jeff Sheldon/Unsplash]