When Is It Time to Move On?

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As I watched the many funerals this past week in Orlando and listened to what family members said about those they loved and lost, I thought about their grief, their loss, their trauma and I also thought about how they will each individually and collectively move on.

When you are in the midst of grief it’s almost impossible to think about “moving on.” In fact, it feels almost disrespectful to do so. But slowly people, even well-intentioned ones, will start saying, “You know, you really should move on. It’s the only way to heal. It’s the only way forward.”

Moving on.

It’s another one of those expressions people toss around that is way harder to do than to say. When a loved one dies, when a chapter closes, when a job ends, when a campaign ends, a kid moves away…We are all told to just “move on.”

[3 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Try]

My mother used to say, “Move along, move along, just hurry up and move along.” It was, I think, her way of not dwelling, not getting stuck. I’m sure it was also her way of staying one step ahead of all those emotions we are all trying to keep under control and under wraps.

I get it. But I, for one, don’t like it when someone tells me to move on (or by the way to relax, or to not eat this or that, or to just stop worrying… maybe I just don’t like it when someone tells me what to do!).

Of course I smile when someone tells me to move on regarding all sorts of things, but inside I’m screaming back, ‘Hello! I would if I could but I can’t so stop telling me to.’

Breathe Maria, breathe.

The truth is moving on comes with time and everyone has their own pace. Rushing moving on isn’t healthy, it’s not fair and it’s not kind. 

[Love Can’t Replace Hate…Only Self-Respect Can]

So, If you haven’t moved on from the loss of someone you love, it’s okay. Be gentle with yourself. If you haven’t moved on from that job you loved and lost, that’s ok too. If you haven’t moved on from that fight with your best friend, take your time, it’s okay. You will. Because sometimes moving on is actually the exact wrong thing to do, as Representative John Lewis and other Democratic members of The House demonstrated this past week. The Senate told them to “move on” but instead they said no way and they sat down. They said, after all the deaths by guns lately, moving on is the wrong thing to do. We need changes and we’re not moving until we get them. And then across the ocean, the British said the exact opposite when they voted to move on from the European Union. It was a move felt round the world.

So this week as I’m thinking about all of these people my message — first and foremost to the families and friends of the Orlando victims, and to anyone getting over something in their lives — is this: take your time. Move on when you are ready and move on only when YOU want to. 

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

Because you will eventually move on and you will move forward. You will find your way. One day, without even realizing it, you will notice that you feel a little lighter, you’re thinking will be a little brighter. You will see your life and the endless possibilities of it in a new, clearer way. Things will just open up. Light will come in and you will wake up. Without even realizing it, you will have moved on in exactly the right way for you.


[Image via Pixabay]

This Week Instead of Thinking, I’m Focusing on Love

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Some weeks it’s hard to know exactly what to think.

Ones heart and mind can bounce from anger to grief to confusion to sadness to hope all at once leaving you somewhat at a loss as to what to say, think or write. What can one say after reading the stories that have come out of Orlando? Stories of horror are mixed in with stories of heroism, gratitude and love. What can one say when one sees the images of thousands gathering to pay their respects in Orlando and all over the world? Standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, with women, men, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons.

Witnessing the outpouring of love and courage we saw this week gives me so much hope. But that has been juxtaposed against other images, stories and dialogue from those whose sole purpose seems to be to incite fear and hate. It’s hard not to settle into despair and/or anger. It’s hard not to just scream or stay in a place of rage.

But today, on Father’s Day, I’m choosing to focus on the love. I’m choosing to focus on the stories of heroism, compassion and kindness that I’m reading about. The stories that make me proud to be an American. On this day I’ve been thinking about the role of fathers. This week our President, a father himself, spoke calmly to ease our fears and reassure our nation –– at that moment he was Commander-in-Chief, Consoler-in-Chief and Father-in-Chief. 

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A quote from my father from almost 50 years ago that, sadly, was the perfect response to this week.

Father’s Day obviously makes me think of my own father, whose words from a speech in 1968 were still incredibly resonant this week. My father, like so many fathers, was not only smart, driven and passionate, he was also loving. So, today, I’m focusing on the love that fathers can –– and do -– show to their children and families every day. Fathers and fatherhood are so important in each of our lives. Fathers are needed everyday and everywhere. They raise children who become women and men who can affect our world in so many ways. Children need their love, their strength, their compassion, their time, their acceptance and the safety they can provide with an embrace, a look, a conversation.

I’ll say it again: Fathering is needed everyday and everywhere. On this day, I want to say happy Father’s Day to everyone who is blessed to be a father. Your role is so crucial, so impactful, so important for those you’re a father to and those who witness how you father. 

As we have seen this week, life is so fragile. At times like this we all look for reassurance, we look for safety and security, but that, I have learned, is an illusion.

What isn’t ever an illusion is love. Love is what we can count on. Love is what heals fear. Love is what calms anxious hearts, bodies and minds. Love is a gift each of us have to offer to our fellow human beings. Those who are our children and those who aren’t. Those who are gay or straight. Those who practice one religion or another. When it feels like we have nothing to give or there’s nothing we can do, we each have the ability to offer our love to another.

And so on this Father’s Day, I say to Fathers everywhere: I hope you feel loved, appreciated and accepted. I hope today you can push through whatever walls, whatever fears you may have and express the love you have to give to those around you who so desperately seek it.

In this week, at this time, when it’s hard to know exactly what to think…don’t think, don’t doubt, just feel. Feel the love. Let it in. Let it heal. That’s what love can do, that’s what love does. 

Happy Father’s Day.


[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Making History

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I grew up hearing ‘If your mother had been a man she would have been President.’ My mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, grew up among men who ran for President and was married to a man, my father, Sargent Shriver, who also sought our nation’s highest office. But she never ran. I have no doubt in my mind that had she had the chance, if she had thought it was something a woman could do, she would have run, won and made a hell of a leader.

I grew up believing that history was not just something you read about in books, it was something to be made in one’s lifetime.

Watching Hillary Clinton make history this week was one of those moments I know I will remember forever. I was happy that in her historic moment she reminded the world of all the women who had gone before her and used their voices, their hearts and their minds to instigate change. She rightfully acknowledged that she stood on their shoulders, but she, herself, also worked tirelessly for decades to make the history that she did this past week happen. 

[Register to Vote Here]

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Regardless of your political affiliation, regardless of what you think about politicians in general, it was moving and inspiring to see a woman endure, persevere and triumph like she did to become the first woman in history to become the nominee of a major political party.

Let’s face it, the change business is not easy. It takes drive, energy, tremendous will and passionate desire. It takes guts, toughness, vision and determination. Very few individuals, male or female, will ever make the kind of history that Hilary Clinton did. It was History with a capital H.

But I’ve come to believe that each of us can make history in our own ways. Each of us has the opportunity to take a shot at writing our legacies, and just because it might not be on the scale of someone running for President, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have importance, meaning or value. A young woman or young man who becomes the first in their family to graduate high school or college makes history in, and for, their family. Someone who starts a business that gives others a job may be making historic change in another person’s life. The scientist who toils in a lab for years to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or cancer will make history. A woman who walks away from an abusive marriage to save herself and/or her children makes history. Her story and her courage will become part of her family’s legend. The young woman in the Stanford rape case that used her voice to speak out for every woman who has been sexually abused made history in her life, her family’s lives and the lives of countless women who have felt silenced or shamed after a sexual assault. 

[There Is Healing Power in Doing What Scares You]

The list goes on and on.

Each of us have a shot. A shot to make history in our own lives and with our lives. I doubt the women at Seneca Falls knew that so many years later they would get a shout out heard around the world. They didn’t do what they did for that reason, they did what they did for others. They did what they did so that so many years later a women they never knew could stand up and say “Look how far we have come.”

That’s the best kind of history to make. And it’s something each of us has the power to do. Make history in your world…you never know who might end up changing the world because of you.

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


[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Letting Go

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about letting go: about how easy it is to say and how hard it is to actually do. 

It’s hard to let go. To let go of things. To let go of attachments. To let go of beliefs that no longer serve you. To let go of old stories. To let go of people. To let go of the way things were. And it’s especially hard to let go of children.

It’s ironic to me that parenting asks you to be all in all the time. To give love unconditionally. To be totally present and then it tells you — or makes you — let go. Just like that; you are asked to let go. It’s the cycle — or circle — of life. You give your all and if you do your children are supposed to feel loved, secure and independent. Independent enough to go off and live their own lives. And you the parent are supposed to be totally fine with that. You are supposed to wave goodbye with a big smile on your face and feel like you did good.

[Want to Transform Your Life? Say These Words Out Loud]

What the??

Letting go is tough for me. I’m doing it, but I admit I don’t like it. No, I don’t like it at all. That’s my honest feeling and truth. I went to Bed Bath & Beyond again this week (I have now have four dorm rooms and three apartments under my belt). I’ve been there so many times the manager greeted me cheerfully with jokes of, “Is this it? Is this the last time? The last one?” I smiled as my eyes welled up with tears. My daughter rolled her eyes and told me to “Relax” (FYI I hate being told to relax). She told me, “Just be happy.” She reminds me daily that this isn’t about me, it’s about letting my kids do their own thing. It is, she says, the way it’s supposed to be.

Cool.

But I don’t like things the way they are supposed to be. No Architect Of Change does. We challenge what is and imagine what can be. But we also have the courage to move forward.

[Self-Made’s Nely Galán on Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant and Rich in Every Way]

So as I watched my youngest child graduate from high school and walk across the stage out into adulthood, I admit I knew the time had come for me to let go. I knew I had no choice but to do so.

‘Let go Maria,’ I said to myself. ‘Let go.’

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I know I can and will do it. I have faith. Faith in myself and in my kids. I know this new era of life is going to be more unscripted. More wide open. That’s both scary and exhilarating. The days will no longer revolve around school schedules. The days will become mine to imagine, mine to create.

[7 Steps for Unlocking Your Life’s Purpose]

That also means no more hiding, no more saying ‘I can’t go here,’ ‘I can’t do this,’ because of my kids. I’m free now. Omg. 

So as Christopher heads off to college I know in my heart I can step back because I know he’s got it!! And I know in my heart I do as well.

Let go…Let’s go!

P.S.: I know I’m talking about letting go. This is Phase One. The big “Let Go” with a capital LG will be when I drop Christopher off at college and come home. Brace yourself.

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


[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Presence

Christopher and I at his school's "Empty Nest" luncheon. Need a new name for that!

This next week is going to be hard for me. My youngest son, Christopher, is graduating from high school and going off to college. I’m super proud of him and super happy that he is so excited to be embarking on this next great adventure. But as the youngest of four, his departure is also super bittersweet for me. It marks the end of an era in my life.

For nearly the last 27 years I’ve focused my life around my kids and their lives. My days revolved around early morning and afternoon carpool pick up times, after-school activities, parent-teacher conferences, sit-down dinners, runs to Staples for school supplies. My calendar was marked with football games, dance recitals, horse shows, basketball. My weekends were joyful because of my children and their friends who congregated at my home playing games, laughing, socializing. I loved it all.

[“I’m a Mom”: A Statement That Should Be Said With Pride]

Now I’m focusing on a new chapter. So as this one winds down, I want to be incredibly present for this final week of school events. Prom, senior class gatherings, goodbyes to parents and kids I’ve shared so much with. I don’t want to miss a thing, I want to take it all in.

Christopher and I at his school's "Empty Nest" luncheon. Need a new name for that!

Christopher and I at his school’s “Empty Nest” luncheon. Need a new name for that!

I want to be present. Really present. For my son and for myself.

Being present in the moment takes focus. At least it does for me. I often find myself thinking about the future or the past, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time and effort focusing myself on the now.

[Advice to Grads: Be Careful Who You Choose to Be]

Yesterday was my son’s senior prom. He’s no longer the baby boy I held in my arms. Now he’s a strapping, gorgeous young man. Loved and admired by so many for his heart, his nature and his amazing mind.

As his last week of his last year of high school unfolds I will think back over how his life has unfolded, but I won’t miss anything this week. I will be present every step of the way. I know I’ll cry, I know I’ll struggle with the emptiness that his leaving will create. But I know that if I’m super present this week, the memories I’ll create will last me and comfort me far into the future.

Presence is powerful. It’s a gift to be present. A gift for you and whomever the other people are that you share your day with. This is Christopher’s week. Wish me luck and buy stock in Kleenex. I’ll be using a lot of it.

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

The Power of Thank You

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I’ve always been a fan of good old-fashioned manners. I was raised on them and I drilled them into my kids. Always say “Please” and “Thank you.” Stand up when an adult walks into the room. Hold the door for another person. No phones at the dinner table. Always introduce yourself — and if you have a friend with you, introduce them as well. Look someone in the eye when they talk to you. Thank the host and/or hostess when you go to a party at their home. Bring a gift when you go to someone’s house — a candle, some flowers, a little book, anything. And ALWAYS, always write a handwritten thank you note.

I’m a huge fan of handwritten thank you notes. In fact, I’ve never hired anyone to work with me who didn’t write a handwritten thank you after the initial interview.

Manners never go out of style and a thank you never gets old. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, the power of “Thank You.” Those two seemingly small words put together have huge power and huge impact.

So, today I want to say thank you.

[Thank You: A Simple Act of Gratitude]

Thank you to all those who came out for Move For Minds yesterday. It was an inspiring, moving, fun-filled day. And I believe, because of all of you, we are on our way to getting the answers we want as to why so many women are getting Alzheimer’s.

I also want to say thank you to all the Architects of Change who came out to share their wisdom. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know that you are all super busy and you made time to be present and to share your voices and your knowledge.

Thank you too to Equinox Sports Club. You stepped up and in and you are an incredible partner in helping us to spread the knowledge that physical health and brain health are connected.

[Live in Gratitude and Thank Your Creator by Enjoying Your Life]

I want to say thank you as well to all of my friends and to the people I don’t know who supported me with donations so researchers can begin to study women’s brains and hopefully provide answers that will benefit all of us. Thank you.

And while I’m saying thank you I want to thank all of you who have signed up for the Sunday Paper, who read it, think about it, and so often tell me it means something to you. That means a lot to me as well.

The reality is, there are so many people we can all say thank you to on a daily basis. But too often our busy lives get in our way and we forget. I know I have. I rush through my day often forgetting to thank the very people who make my day in every way.

[Gratitude is True Power – Why to Choose it & How]

The people I’m blessed to work with. The people who help me at home. The other parents in my circle who help me in so many ways. My friends who pick up the phone to simply say “Hi.” My brothers and sisters-in-law, cousins, and of course my kids. The list goes on and on.

I notice in my own life when someone thanks me for something it touches me. It makes me smile, it makes me happy. I notice it. I notice every time my son’s girlfriend writes me a handwritten thank you note. It’s made, and always makes, a big impression. I notice when my kids’ friends thank me for doing something for them or when my daughter thanks me for taking her to the Beyonce concert with a box of doughnuts! Or when my other daughter sends me information about supplements I should be taking (but I’m not). When my son asks me about my day or another brings me a coffee even though I didn’t ask for one. Or when my brother or friends include me out on the town whether I’m a party of one or have multiple kids in tow. Seemingly small things that make a big difference: A note, a card, a coffee, a phone call, an invite, a thoughtful email…it all adds up.
Expressing gratitude, saying thank you, is so powerful. It means you see the other person, it means you noticed what they did or who they are. It says to another person “You matter and I want you to know that you do.” That’s big. It’s a sign of manners, but it’s also a sign of care.

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

So on this Sunday I am filled with gratitude. To God. To my family. To my friends: Thank you for being there for me. Yesterday and on all days.

And a special thank you to these four well-mannered, loving individuals. Thank you for the joy, the love and opportunity to be your mother. You make, and have made, my life joyful.Image-1

Thank you.
P.S.: Don’t forget to write those thank you notes I asked you to write!!

The Power of The Mind

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Growing up my mother always said to me, “If you have your health, you have everything.” She also was always on me to never focus on my looks and to always focus on my mind.

Well right now, my mind is intensely focused on answering this question: Why are women disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease? My mind searches for answers as to why a new brain develops Alzheimers every 66 seconds and 2/3 of those brains belong to women.

Why is it that no one can tell me why this is happening? Why is it that billions of dollars are being spent on cancer and AIDS (by the way, I’m glad they are) and Alzheimer’s gets a fraction of that? Why isn’t the disease receiving comparable federal funding when millions of people have it (we’re talking about 5.3 million Americans and counting) and millions and millions more people find themselves caregiving for it around the clock. In fact, I heard a sobering statistic recently, it would take 43 football stadiums to hold all of the women in America who currently have Alzheimer’s disease; if each of those people only had one caregiver (and they don’t), it would take 86 more football stadiums to hold all of them. 

[Are You In Denial? New Shriver Report Snapshot Shows Fear of Alzheimer’s Stops Action]

This Saturday, in partnership with Equinox Sports Clubs, we are hoping to get answers to some of these questions. Women across the country — and the men who love them — will come together in six cities at six Equinox Sports Clubs to exercise, raise money for gender-based brain research and get informed as to what we can each do to lead lives where our brains are as in shape as our bodies. We will Move for Minds

My experience is that when people — women AND men — put their minds to something, it gets done.

My mind is focused on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. It’s also focused on living a life that might delay its onset in my own body by exercising, meditating, sleeping and eating right. I have four kids and I want to live to see their kids. I want to know their names and their children’s names.

[5 Steps to Help a Common Caregiving Side Effect: Guilt]

It’s beyond mind-blowing to find yourself sitting across from a parent who has Alzheimer’s and has no idea who you are, or worse, who they are. Trust me I’ve been that child and I would do anything to spare someone else that experience.

I want to be healthy. In my mind and in my body. I don’t take my health for granted. My physical health OR my mental health. None of us should. So, while researchers today can’t tell us the ‘Why?’ when it comes to Alzheimer’s, they can share with us what we can do right now. Because there are things we can do. Things we can do together that will help our minds and our bodies. In fact, experts and doctors will be at each of our six Move for Minds locations doing just that on May 21. 

I hope you will focus your mind on this issue as well. I invite you to join me and so many other amazing thought leaders, researchers, innovators and Architects of Change this coming Saturday, May 21, to get educated, get empowered, get engaged in your own brain health and body healthIt’s the best way to make them last a lifetime.

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

The Power of Motherhood

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

I say it that many times with the hope that it lands because today is definitely a happy day. I know our society says today is about flowers and cards and brunches, but for me this is really a day to pause, to take a deep breath and reflect on the enormity of motherhood.

That’s right, the ENORMITY of it because it is the biggest, most powerful, most all-encompassing job on the planet. 

I feel so blessed, so humbled and so honored to be a mother to Katherine, Christina, Patrick and Christopher.

The truth is, I was scared to become a mother. I was afraid to mess up, afraid I wouldn’t know what to do, afraid I wouldn’t be naturally good at it. That I would make all kinds of mistakes. I was raised by a formidable mother. And I was sure I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, measure up to the standards she set. (I actually discussed this—and other mothering musings—with Katherine for Huffington Post’s “Talk to Me” series, you can watch it here.)

[4 Ways to Celebrate Mom On Mother’s Day After You’ve Lost Her]

But I’ve come to realize that we all can mother in our own ways. And I’ve come to trust myself in this job.

I know my children. And I know deep in their hearts that they know I love them deeply. They know they are, and have been, my priority, my joy, my greatest purpose. They know I’ve made mistakes. They call me on how my parenting styles in their opinions have changed from the oldest to the youngest and what they sometimes see as inconsistencies between the boys and the girls, but I know they love me through all of it (and sometimes they’ve actually had a point).

They have taught me so much. They have taught me to love gently. They have taught me patience, kindness and acceptance. They have reintroduced me to play. They have helped me keep my sense of humor and my spirit of adventure. I have traveled the world with them, but the most valuable trips have been the ones where they have taken me deep into their thoughts, their hopes, their fears, their dreams.

On this Mother’s Day I give thanks to them. I thank them for who they are and all they have taught me and brought into my life. 

[Architects of Change Share 23 Important Lessons They Learned From Their Mothers]

I give thanks to my own mother who is celebrating in heaven with her mother. My mother taught me so many things, but what I miss most about her is her company and her presence.

What I have learned about motherhood is that I didn’t need to be afraid of all the things I couldn’t do. The most important thing I could do and can do is to love. Love openly and love unconditionally. Nothing else really matters. Not the to-do lists. Not all the classes I organized. Not all activities. At the end of the day, it’s the time we spend loving one another that I think our kids remember the most. The fun dinners, the UNO games, the walks, the talks. That’s what I’ve learned.

So as I sit here on Mother’s Day and as I contemplate my impending empty nest, I’m grateful.  So deeply grateful to God for letting these four people come into my life. They are, without a doubt, the four most beautiful souls I know. I love them to the moon and back, everyday and all days.

On this Mother’s Day that’s what I’m thinking about.

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

The Power of Communication, Consideration & Respect

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Communication, consideration and respect.

Those are the words Kelly Ripa used when she returned to her job this week after being blindsided by changes at her show, “Live With Kelly and Michael.” 

I think a lot about those words, “communication, consideration and respect.” I talk to myself and my kids about them all the time.

[Read: What Would You Say to Your Younger Self?]

I was happy that Kelly took a few days to gather her thoughts before speaking out. I was glad she talked about the need for a larger conversation and the importance of those qualities. Whether it be in the workplace, the home or in our individual relationships.

This was a big week for women to communicate about consideration, respect and self-respect. Kelly Ripa did it her way. Beyonce did it with her powerful album “Lemonade.” Hillary Clinton sought to change the tone and promote words and values surrounding love and kindness. Patti Davis used her voice to communicate openly, clearly and respectfully about Alzheimer’s and her father, and change happened — after an open letter, Will Ferrell severed ties from a film that planned to use Ronald Reagan’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease as comedic material. And one of our Architects of Change, Carole Brody Fleet, took a bad personal situation and turned into into a survivor’s a storyThese four women, of different ages, different situations, highlighted respect and consideration through communication on a national stage, but there are countless women who do it every day in all ways out of the public eye. They stand up, they speak up for themselves and their families. The world is better off because they use their voices, yes for themselves, but really they use them for all of us. They move forward. That’s what feminine power looks like. It’s centered it’s certain, and it brings us all with it.

These women come from very different places but what they have in common is what we all have in common:

A desire for love and kindness.

A desire for respect.

And consideration for who we are as people. Not just so-called “workers,” but real life people. 

[The Ultimate Guide to a Long Life]

No one likes being blindsided. It leaves you in a place of doubt, fear, confusion. But once you gather yourself — and that takes different people different amounts of time — you have the chance to use your voice, not just for yourself but for others who feel the same way, have experienced the same circumstances and want the same things. 

Respect. Love. Kindness. Consideration.

Those words are the universal recipe for taking lemons and turning them into lemonade.

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


[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of the Internal

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Last week I wrote about the Power of the Individual and my spirited conversation with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. I wrote about her pushing me to do more. What I left out was the moment her questioning came to a halt.

As I wrote last week, the Justice kept peppering me with questions as to what I was doing that was of significance with my time. With my voice. With my life.

I responded with all sorts of things but she kept at me until finally I told her the single most important thing I’m doing that left her speechless. In fact, after I said it I almost cringed waiting for the rebuttal, the attack, the come back.

[Poetry: Silence and Solitude Can Teach Us Valuable Lessons About Ourselves]

But to my shock there was nothing. She just looked at me dead in the eye. It felt like forever. It was probably seconds.

As she stared at me I realized she was actually taking in my answer. I realized that my answer had not only surprised me but stopped her as well. Realizing this I said, “Wow, you’re speechless, I can’t believe it. I actually said something that got your attention. You don’t know what to say.”

She smiled and squeezed my hand. I squeezed it back. Grateful was I to her that she had let my response land. Relieved was I that she not only let it land, but that she thought about it and by squeezing my hand reassured me.

“What are you doing with yourself that is significant?”

That was her question to me from the get-go. I ran down my professional list in rapid fire which just didn’t seem to impress her all that much. I detailed my conversation series, my website, my column that you’re reading and the community of Architects Of Change I’m trying to build online. I brought up my work at NBC News. I talked about my non-profit work with A Woman’s NationAnd my work to find a cure for Alzheimer’s — That one did make her pause for a split second, but she shot back at me quickly that I wasn’t getting the cure fast enough and I should put it all on a faster track.

[Why It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again]

Exasperated I looked at her and said, “You know, the truth is, what I’m really doing is building myself up from the inside out. I’m trying to make myself strong on the inside to be able to deal with life on the outside. That’s what I’m doing that’s significant.”

Bam! 

There. I said it. And now I’ve written it. 

It was, as I’ve said, met with silence. The kind of silence that makes you feel anxious. The kind of silence you want to fill up with something more. But this time I didn’t. I just let it sit. I let us both sit in silence. For me it was a significant moment. A significant move.

I have come to know, and to believe with all my heart, that making one’s self strong from the inside out is indeed significant. 

I wasn’t raised that way. Significance came from achievement, accomplishment. And I know that that’s what the Justice was looking for from me. I knew it because I could feel it.

[‘Happy’ Is The New Rich: 5 Intention Actions to Achieve Happiness]

I think the questions: “What are you doing?” “What do you do?” “What are you up to these days?” are everyone demanding from the other to state their significance. And then we decide whether to pay attention to that person based on their answer. But all the doing on the outside means nothing if your insides don’t feel centered strong calm. If you don’t feel significant on the inside in who you are as a human being. People don’t necessarily see the work that goes into getting that strong.

But it’s the most significant thing you can do.

Yes, I believe that. If you are strong on the inside you can be a better person, a better parent, a better professional. You can give back because you have given to you, and now you can give from a place of strength. As I’ve written many times, life can be a bumpy road and in order to stay on it and stay in it you have to be strong. Not just in your body, but in your mind and in your spirit.

I asked the Justice where she got her strength, where she got her strong on, and she said, “On the ranch when I was a young girl. That’s what made me strong.”

Yes it did.

Along my path I’ve been strong and I’ve been weak. I’ve been confident and I’ve been insecure. But I’ve never had the strength to just say out loud that focusing on my internal strength is a significant act for me. Last week I said it to someone who is more than slightly intimidating and I got a nod and look of respect. I share this because I think we are all searching, hoping, trying and sometimes the best response is the simplest, truest one. 

Sometimes what in your mind might seem insignificant and small turns out to be the biggest and most significant thing you could do.

[To read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays, click here]