Don’t Be a Spectator

Pray For Charlotte 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why We Need More Privacy and Reflection in Today’s Society

Power Reflection

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

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

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

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

[Donald Trump Isn’t Crazy — Why We All Need to Stop Name-Calling]

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

Two different vantage points. Two very different interests.

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

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

[Sign Up for the Sunday Paper: Reflections on the Week that Was, Inspiration for the Week Ahead]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I Find My Hope for the Future

Find Hope Mountaintop

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

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

Today, September 11, is a day of reflection. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Don’t Call Me an ‘Empty Nester’

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Back in June when my youngest child Christopher graduated from high school, I wrote about letting go. I said I was ready because he was ready. I lied.

I lied to myself, of course. I wasn’t ready to really let go. I wasn’t ready for the flood of emotions (there were a lot of them). I wasn’t ready for the loss and I wasn’t ready for all of the questions I received from those around me.

“So, now what?”

“What are you going to do with all of that free time of yours?”

“What are you going to do every night when you used to eat dinner with him?” (I don’t know? Learn to dance?)

“What are you going to do with his room?” (Keep it exactly as it is.)

“What are you going to do with his dog?” (Sleep with him myself.)

“What are you going to do with yourself?” (Do I have to do something with myself?)

I’m grateful for the advice that so many of you shared with me on Facebook, as well as on other social media outlets.

“It’s your turn now. Take time for yourself,” said Sandy Hendricks.

“Stay busy. Help others,” said Kate Johnson.

“Wear sunglasses as you say your goodbyes,” said Connie Lowry.

“Give yourself a two-week adjustment period,” said Val Johnson Slininger.

“Give yourself 6 months. You will love it,”  said Lynne Doughan.

Cristine Henn Sausa also shared this quote, which I read at just the right moment:

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So when the moment came, I took a deep breath, moved my baby in (oh, excuse me, my young man), and moved myself out.

It helped that I could see how happy Christopher was and is. It helped that he told me, “Mom, you did a great job. Don’t worry. I’m fine.” (Special thanks to my daughter Katherine, who helped me with the move. Moving boys is sooo different from girls, FYI.)

Katherine and Christopher Schwarzenegger

It helped that I knew I gave him my best and that he brought out a kinder, gentler me, which I’m rather enjoying. It also helped that there was a football game I didn’t have tickets to, so I was more or less forced to head out and back to my own life.

[The Power of Presence]

So, now what?

Well… I’m going to give myself the two weeks that were suggested (maybe I’ll even allow myself the six months). I’m going to schedule dinners with friends who I haven’t gone out with in, like, 27 years! I’m going to keep my Sunday family dinners going, and I’m going to keep broadening the concept of family.

I’m also going to throw out any old mom clothes that still hang in my closet for some weird reason. I’m going to look for adventures in every part of my life (I already have one on my calendar for October). I’m going to focus on my mission to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and empower my heart and soul.

Look at that. I’ve got stuff to do! And it’s only been one day.

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

So on this blessed day, when Mother Teresa is being canonized, I’m going to focus my motherly love on my other adult kids who still live in town, and I’m going to mother myself and anyone else who shows up looking for some motherly love. Mother Teresa’s life has taught me to have faith, to stay in it and stay at it, to be of service, and to never, ever doubt the power—actually the miracle—of motherly love.

Knowing that truth makes me realize that the empty nest label is a misnomer—or better yet, an outdated label. Because once a mother, always a mother. A loving home is always a loving home (whether kids are in their rooms or not).

I returned home from moving my son in with a heavy heart, and I’m not going to lie, some fear and anxiety about how I’m going to manage moving forward. But then I sat down, found my mom’s intentional fortitude, and told myself this: There is nothing empty about my nest, my home, me, or my life! Dinner anyone?

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

6 Family Truths I’ve Learned Along the Way

ShriverFamily

I’m one week into my no complaining commitment and it’s harder than I thought. But what has kept me moving forward and committed are all of the incredible comments I’ve received since my Sunday Paper column came out last week (You can read them here and on Facebook).

So many of us are in the same boat, feeling bitchy or bogged down and so many of us are also inspired to DO better and BE better. I’ve read a lot of your comments and suggestions and a few really struck me — one in particular asked, ‘What do you think your parents did that brought you together and helps you stay together as a family?’

I thought long and hard about this (I have more time to think since I’m not busy complaining). I actually have thought a lot about this before the question was asked because I’ve always been hopeful my four children will stay involved with each other long into the future.

[Read why Maria was Inspired by her Brother to Give Up Complaining]

And I think the answer lies in a few things my mother used to say that have always resonated with me.

1.) Loyalty to family. My mother stressed this non-stop and also exemplified it in her own life. She was devoted to her parents and her siblings. She worked with them, played with them and made it her business to stay connected to their business.

2.) Find something to collaborate with your siblings on that is about making the world better. My mother made my brothers and I work on, and in, the Special Olympics — the organization she founded (and started in our backyard). It wasn’t an option not to be involved. She also made our friends get involved.

Now, each of my brothers run non-profits (Bobby is co-chair and co-founder of Vets Advocacy, Inc. and (Red). Timothy is Chairman of the Special Olympics. Mark is the President of Save the Children Action Network. And Anthony is the founder and Chairman of Best Buddies International). They work everyday to make the world a more caring, compassionate and conscious place. And I help them in any and every way I can, because I believe in what they are doing and I’m also trying to stay connected to what they are connected to (in fact, join me and Team Maria on the Best Buddies Hearst Castle Challenge in a couple weeks!).

[Maria and her Brother Anthony Shriver on the Power of Best Buddies]

3.) Don’t come between your brothers and their spouses. Really smart advice. I have four sister-in-laws. I love them all and I’ve tried to develop my own relationships with them, but I also stay out of their relationships with my brothers…or at least I try to. 😀

4.) Support my brothers’ families and develop relationships with their children. We can all support our siblings by emotionally supporting their families — especially their kids — with our time, our joy, our wisdom. They are the next generation, and the people you’ll pass your family values on to.

5.) Make time for your brothers; gather with them as much as you can. My mother used to always say ‘You can fight with your brothers, you can beat them in a sport (ha!), but never give up on them or lose contact with them, they are more than friends, they are family, so make it work.’

And there is one thing my mother never told me, but it’s something I’ve figured out on my own along the way:

6.) Your siblings each have their own experiences with your parents and with one another. Don’t disparage their experiences, listen to them, try to understand what they felt, and then work towards healing in a gentle, calm, nurturing, loving way. I’ve discovered yelling, judging, screaming, insisting that things were “Never that way,” never, ever works…especially with brothers. And, if one of your siblings does confide in you, DO NOT repeat what one sibling said about the other to the other. Respect confidentiality. Trust me.

Last week when my brothers and I were all together, one of my brothers quietly mentioned to me, “You know, I think men are more trapped today than many women.”

[How to Reduce Your Stress Anytime, Anywhere]

So, if you have brothers like me — or sisters — give your siblings a safe space, a reassuring space, to talk. And then listen. Tell them you have no judgment towards them, hold them like you would like to have been held by your mother or your father, hold their experience in your mind and your heart and before you know it, you will, in fact, be holding them in every way.

Wherever your siblings are at the end of this summer, reach out to them, listen to them, hold them. Don’t complain to them about them their kids, their wives or your parents. Remember, this is a complain-free zone…at least until Labor Day. 🇱🇷

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

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

I’m Giving Up Complaining

Shriver

I have four brothers. Yup. No sisters, only brothers.

Every year without fail, I go east to Cape Cod where we grew up so I can spend time with all of them at once. When large families get together I find they often tell crazy stories that are funny to some and not so funny to others. They rib one another. Laugh at one another. Stuff comes up, and yes, stuff comes out.

Lots of stuff.

On this trip one of my brothers casually remarked, ‘Don’t you think it’s interesting that we sit around and complain about how our parents didn’t do this and didn’t do that, yet here we all are — all five of us together, talking with one another, laughing with one another, working stuff out and through?’

Whatever faults our parents had — and Lord knows everyone thinks their parents had, or have, faults (my kids included) — somehow ours did something really right. They brought us together and encouraged us to stay together and stick together and here we are.

[The Power of Gratitude]

My brother went on, ‘Do you think kids just always like to complain about their parents instead of trying to focus on what they did right?’

I thought about that and it resonated as true to me. We all complain. Like a lot.

I complain about such stupid stuff. My kids do too. I’ve been thinking about how really unattractive it is — at least to me. How really negative it is. And how I can choose to change it.

Like right now.

After my brother brought that up, and after I read Alison Piepmeier’s inspirational piece, Thank you for my beautiful life (she sadly passed away right after it was published), and after hearing so many of the inspiring stories from Olympians and their families about what they overcame to get to Rio this year, I decided I’m going to give up complaining.

I want to try it. I want to see if it makes me feel different (it already has). I’m going to tell my kids that I’m instituting a “complaining free zone” in the house when I get back from the Cape. In my office too. In fact I’m going to try it for the rest of the summer. No complaints about anything. Not about friends, or jobs, or what we are eating for dinner, or traffic, or what a sibling did or didn’t do. Not even about the election. Remember: If you don’t like your choices you can always get in the arena yourself.

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

After all, my kids are healthy and so am I. I’m blessed and I want to stay in that place of gratitude for my blessings.

So that means out with the complaints both small and large, because those complaints impact my space, my day, my relationship with others and my life. No more complaints about my age, my body, my work, my friends, myself and none about how I grew up or about what my parents didn’t do right. It’s so boring.

I’m already focused on moving forward with gratitude only. Especially to my parents for the greatest gift they gave me: The gift of friendship with my siblings.

I can only hope that way off in the distant future, when I’m long gone, that my four kids are sitting around a table sharing their lives and sharing stories about their childhood. I know what I did wrong will come up, I can hear it already, but I hope they will also pause and realize, ‘Wow, look at us all together, this many years later. Our parents must have done something right.’

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


[Photo by Annie Leibovitz]

Donald Trump Isn’t ‘Crazy’ — Why We All Need To Stop Name-Calling

Neurons and brain cells

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

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

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

[Watch Maria Shriver and Patrick Kennedy in an Architects of Change Conversation on Mental Health]

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

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

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

[10 Foods that Look Like Body Parts and Why You Should Be Eating Them]

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

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

Be kind.

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

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


[Image of neurons via Pixabay]

The Power of Empathy

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Whew, what a week!

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

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

Empathy.

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

[Wealth Addiction & Changing What Success Means: A Discussion with Architect of Change Sam Polk]

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

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

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

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

[Why Not You? Maria Talks Motivation and Mantra’s with Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson]

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

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

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

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


[Image via Pixabay]

Stop Going Low and Stay Focused on the High Road

Photo courtesy of Clinton campaign

History was made last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Unite Our Country, We Must End the Blame Game

Maria Shriver Ive Been Thinking

What an interesting week!

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

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

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

And so my summer of listening continues. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


{Image credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash}