Talk of Love, Not Hate

“Talk of love, not hate. Things to do. It’s getting late. I’ve so little time and I’m only passing through.”

Those are the words of singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen, who passed away on Thursday during this tumultuous week.

My brother Bobby shared his words with me as I sat struggling with what to write this week. Leonard Cohen’s words are perfect—perfect for me, and I hope, perfect for you.

“Talk of love, not hate. Things to do. It’s getting late.”

So little time, and it’s true, we are all just passing through. So, on this day, I’m choosing to follow Leonard Cohen’s words. There is so much we can all do to move humanity forward. There is so much we can all do to be the ones we have been waiting for. There is so much to do.

We are a divided country. Millions feel invisible, left out, forgotten. Millions more are scared, angry, and confused. Millions cheered this election. Millions more are outraged. Yet here we all are.

We have a choice to talk of love or hate. To give up or get things done. To find purpose or to throw in the towel. To scream and yell, or stop and listen. To reach out or close down.

We are indeed all just passing through, but I don’t believe that we aren’t meant to make that time matter. Each of us is meant for a distinct purpose and I believe that purpose is to make our world more caring, more conscious, and, yes, more compassionate.

How can you do that? By seeing yourself as an instrument of peace. By seeing yourself as someone whose light is what the world is looking for. By seeing yourself as an architect of change. By seeing yourself as someone who can move humanity forward.

So, if you’re feeling down, confused, or shaken this week, read the Prayer of Saint Francis (click here). If you’re feeling elated, vindicated, or boastful, read the Prayer of Saint Francis.

May each of us—regardless of what party we belong to or candidate we voted for —think about spreading love, not hate. May each of us think about how to spend our days here making other people’s days better.

And while you’re at it, may you absorb these other words of Leonard Cohen’s: “I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair. With a love so vast and shattered, it will reach you everywhere.”

Greet someone from the other side. Greet them with a love so vast that it will reach them everywhere. It’s getting late.

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

My Birthday Gift to Myself

Today is my birthday. I was born in Chicago, IL, now home to the World Series champions!

The Cubs winning the World Series this week was THE bright spot in what felt like an otherwise dark, depressing week. I’m usually a pretty upbeat person, but I’ve gotta say, this past week—with all the divisiveness, the insanity, the anxiety, and the screaming—well, it got me down.

I actually haven’t been down or nervous this whole campaign season, but this week I have to admit that there was a day when I didn’t even want to leave my house. Everywhere I went, people would say things like, “Oh my God! Have you seen that latest poll? Did you hear what they are saying now? Did you see what that email said? Oh my God! What’s happening? What do you think is going to happen?”

Gosh, people!

In times of crisis and panic, I make an appointment with God. (Yup.) I check in with God daily anyway, but this past week, I checked in several times per day because everyone’s anxiety was spilling over onto me and I don’t care for that (especially since it’s my birthday).

He said (yes I say he!), “Tell the people to breathe.”

I said, “I already wrote about that. It’s not working.”

He said, “Well then tell them to be silent.”

I said, “I wrote about that too, and everyone just keeps screaming. If you don’t believe me, just turn on the TV.”

“God,” I said, “Give me something new. Give me something I haven’t said, because I’ve been writing about breathing and silence and the mystics and the Jesuits and the process of discernment and people still aren’t calm and still aren’t hopeful. They are panicking. What more can I share?”

I got silence. I got nothing.

Not good, I thought. So, I did what any nervous, anxious Catholic would do. I went to my back-up: the Pope.

Yes, when in doubt, I go and check out whatever Pope Francis is riffing about. It’s bound to be interesting. It’s bound to change your perspective.

Lo and behold, this week Pope Francis was talking about the Sermon on the Mount. (He also riffed on the fact that women will never become priests! Lord, I’ll deal with this ridiculous stained glass ceiling another week, after the other ceiling comes crashing down next week.)

But, back to the Sermon on the Mount. The pope has actually added some new, updated challenges/beatitudes for our modern times.

Now before you freak and say, “I’m not Catholic. I don’t believe.” Trust me here. You don’t have to be Catholic to get some solid life lessons from The Sermon on the Mount.

So today on my birthday, my gift to myself (and to you) is to re-read the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” is one. I’m sure there are at least a few beatitudes that will work for you. Read the originals, and also check out how the Pope modernized them (see here).

Then ask yourself, what could/would you add for these turbulent times? What could/would you add that would bring peace to your turbulent mind?

What could/would you add that would make you feel it’s all going to be okay? Because it is all going to be okay.

Just remember: Breathe in. Breathe out. Discern. Decide. Seek silence. Seek peace. And vote! For God’s sake, don’t forget to vote. It’s a gift!

That brings me back to my birthday. On this day, I’m grateful for so many gifts. The gift of my life. The gift of my health. The gift of my faith. The gifts of my friends and family who I know love me. The gift of living in the greatest country on Earth. The gift of my four incredible children and the gift of being able to vote.

Just writing out everything I’m grateful for makes me feel better already, and I’m 61. I’m 61? Oh my God. Now I’m depressed and it has nothing to do with the election.

I’m going back to my room and re-watch the Cubs clinch the title. That will make me forget about my age and the election.

Happy birthday to myself!

Finding Peace in Your Decisions

In the last few weeks, I’ve written about the power of silence, the importance of taking a breath, the art of listening, and the mystics (yes, the mystics).

Today, I want to take a page from the Jesuits (yes, the Jesuits). I was educated and deeply shaped by the Catholic sisters and by the Jesuits. Pope Francis is one of the individuals I admire most in the world, not just because he is a Jesuit, but because of the way he walks his talk, lives his life, speaks his mind, and embraces change.

When faced with difficult decisions or life-altering change, the Jesuits have a process to help guide them to the answer. Devised by Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, it’s called the discernment process (see here). The process of discernment walks you through a step-by-step process that’s meant to help you come to the decision that is right for you.

The truth is, some of us are better than others at making decisions. Some make snap decisions. Some labor forever, weighing the pros and cons. Some take too many other people’s opinions and feelings into account (that would be me). And some just know how to deliberate, discern and decide.

I share this process of discernment today because so many people I’ve spoken to lately about the election tell me that they are struggling. Struggling to decide. Struggling with whether to vote or not. Struggling with what’s right or wrong for them and/or for the country.

Making big decisions is tough for everyone. So, I thought, why not take a page from the Jesuits and follow the age-old, tried-and-true formula: the process of discernment. I’ve used it myself, and I’m using it to make other decisions (although not about this election, because I’m very clear about that decision). I’ve found the process illuminating and helpful in times of turbulent change or indecision in my own life.

All of us who have the opportunity to vote for the next president of the United States have a personal decision to make. It can be hard with all of the noise and back and forth to know what to do. All I know is that this great country of ours has always been a melting pot—different religions, races, and political affiliations—living together in pursuit of the common good. It’s important at this time to remember that there is a common good, there is common ground, and there are common dreams we all share.

So, before you lose your mind in reaction to someone who is voting differently than you, or who tells you that they’re not voting at all, remember what I wrote about the mystics. The mystics go to a place beyond words. They go to that wordless space, that place within all of us. It is there, they believe, that we all meet our compassionate, loving, honest, non-judgmental selves.

In this final week before Election Day, get quiet and clear about your own decision, your own vote. Get clear about your own process. And if you’re still struggling— if you still feel undecided— check out the Jesuits’ discernment. I share it with the goal of simply helping you to find clarity and peace in these turbulent times.

Discern. Decide. Be at peace with your decision and allow others to be the same.

It’s Time We Take a Breath

The debates are behind us. The candidates have spoken. The pundits have weighed in. The campaigns that have engulfed us and divided us are in the final stretch.

This is called crunch time. Get-out-the-vote time. Time to double down. Make calls. Find the remaining undecided voters. Hurry, hurry, hurry!

I suggest otherwise. I say, it’s time for all of us to take a breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.

That’s what I’ve learned to do when there is really nothing more to stay. Breathe. No more talking. No more yelling. No more trying to convince your neighbor of this or that. Just breathe.

This, I would argue, is a moment for each of us to ask ourselves how we can be a part of bringing our country together. This is a moment for each of us to think about how we can heal the division in ourselves, in our families, and in our country.

I thought it was interesting that Canada released a video this week reminding Americans of how great we already are. I thought it was worth noting that a letter written by former President George H.W. Bush for Bill Clinton went viral. Why was that?

George H.W. Bush Bill Clinton Letter 3


I believe it is because we all long for our leaders to be decent, well-mannered, and classy. We all long for examples of good sportsmanship, good character, and goodness. We want to see it in our leaders because we want to know that it’s within ourselves. The truth is, decent good people are all around us. Good, strong, well-mannered people. People with R’s next to their names, and good people with D’s, and I’s, and G’s.

This week, I hope we all take a breath (a big one). I hope we each take a moment to see ourselves as Healers, because we each have that capability within us. We really do.

Perhaps we could all think about what kind of handwritten letter we might write if we were one of the two presidential candidates. May we take a page from those who have gone before—be it George H.W. Bush, Al Gore or the many, many others. Those who went down to the wire, accepted the will of the people and then rose up as healers.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Get out a piece of paper, breathe in and breathe out, and start writing.

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


The Power of Silence

There was so much for all of us to think about this past week that it’s almost impossible to single out one thing. It’s almost impossible to know where to start.

My brother Timothy reminded me that the mystics like to speak of a dimension of experience that is “wordless.” He told me that in the wordless space, our truest identity is revealed. He went on to say that at some level, we all exist first in silence, and only after that, in words. He said maybe searching for the right word (as I wrote about last week), or the right thought, is first an invitation to go to a place of no words or no thoughts. Clear your mind of the distraction of words and thoughts, he said, and discover what emerges from that place. Whatever words are likely to emerge will come from your deepest self.

As I sat and tried to clear my mind of all that I heard this past week—from the now infamous hot mic bus video, to the back and forth of the debates, to the screaming on cable TV, to the panic I heard in friends’ voices about the division in our country, to the stories of gloom and doom that bombard us on an hourly basis on social media—this is what I discovered:

I discovered a feeling of hope, a feeling of joy, and a feeling of peace. I found myself feeling inspired by all of the people who used their voices this past week for good. I was especially moved by the multitudes of men who spoke up about what masculinity is and isn’t, and about what it means to them to be a good man. I was inspired by the millions of women who bravely used their voices to recount their own experiences with sexual assault. That gave us a chance to see bravery in real-time and it gave us a window into the prevalence of these kind of experiences.

This was indeed a teachable week. This was a week to be quiet and a week to be heard. It was a week to talk about gender, about manners, about behavior, about what is and isn’t “locker room behavior,” about language, about bullying, about right and wrong. It was also yet another chance to talk about our politics, our divisions, and yes, our common humanity.

It was a week where a female presidential candidate complimented the man on his children, and the man complimented the woman for being a tough fighter, for never giving up or giving in. It was a week of no words, and also of so many using their words to inform and to inspire.

As the week came to a close, we heard speeches telling us that this is indeed our moment and that we are all approaching a day of reckoning. Where do we stand, the speechmakers asked? What do you stand for, they wondered? Can you stand up?

This is indeed a moment for all of us. It is a moment to take a page from the mystics. Go beyond words. Go beyond thoughts. Go beyond politics, fear and rhetoric. Go into your own wordless experience. Be quiet. Be still. Then, and only then, will you know where you stand, what you think, and how you will be able to make sense of what was and what is.

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

Who Do Our Words Reflect, If Not Ourselves?

“Choosing the right word, and the right word order…could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or idea,” so said Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her new book entitled, “My Own Words.”

Justice Ginsburg is right. Words do matter. The right words. The right order.

As we all know, words have been a “hot topic” this election cycle. They have been thrown around with reckless abandonment. They have stung. They have caused tremendous pain and anguish. They have also become rallying cries, perhaps no more so than in the last 48 hours. 

The poet Maya Angelou once wrote: “People will forget what you said…but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The last 48 hours have made people—men and women—feel everything from outrage and disgust, to embarrassment and shock. 

We’ve all used the wrong words at the wrong time. I know I have. Sometimes I speak without thinking (yes, I do that). Sometimes my tone changes how my words are received. Sometimes I put the words in the wrong order. Sometimes I’m tired and in a rush and I text or e-mail my words, only to discover that they landed in a totally different way than I intended. Sometimes I can’t even find the right words, much less the right order, and that’s from someone who’s a word lover and a wordsmith.

On Saturday, Donald Trump used his words to apologize. He said, “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.” Then who do his words reflect? Who do any of our words reflect, if not ourselves? What I have seen in the last 48 hours are men and women speaking out to repudiate Trump’s words—words that not only disrespect women, but men as well. This is not a political issue. This is a question of whether we want somebody representing us who says their words are not an indication of who they are. (Melania Trump used her words on Saturday to say this: “The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. … I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”)

Finding the right word, or set of words, is a challenge for any of us. But as Maya Angelou said, words make people feel. They can make people feel seen, accepted and understood, or they can make people feel rejected, judged, shamed and embarrassed.

So, in the final few days of this election cycle, it’s not just the candidates who will be “watching their words.” It’s not just the pundits and the journalists and the bloggers who will be measuring their words. We will all be thinking about our words and whether they actually reflect us and what we feel. If they don’t, we need to ask ourselves, “do we know who we are?”

If you find yourself feeling frustrated or exasperated, look to these other words from Justice Ginsburg: “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” In my own words, what does persuade is a vote.

The right words, in the right order. May we all find a way to use them this coming week.

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

It’s Time We Question Our Beliefs

The other day I was thinking about how clear everything used to be to me. How sure I was about what I believed. How sure I was about what was right and wrong, true and false, acceptable and not acceptable. The list goes on.

But if you are awake in life (especially in your own), you find yourself asking, is that really so? Is there a different way of perceiving something? A different way of looking at something? Could a long-held belief actually turn out to be wrong?

Our realities and beliefs are shaped by many things—by our parents and our upbringing, by race and neighborhood, by media choices, by our own individual minds and experiences.

Yes, our minds create our realities. That was certainly clear to me this past week as I listened and watched the presidential debates and followed the ensuing reaction to it. Reading social media and listening to the candidates and their surrogates made me more convinced than ever that everyone is living in their own reality.

I wonder what, if anything, can get them or us to change how we view the world. For example, I heard Mike Pence and others say that Donald Trump took command of the debate. I and others experienced something different altogether. And then there was Elon Musk. While many of us were focused on politics, he was simply talking about putting people on Mars like it’s totally normal. Wow.

Mars aside, I was struck by the two starkly different realities that our candidates—yes, they are our candidates—painted of our country and the people in it. I’m struck by that almost daily. Everyone’s different views. Different realities. Different beliefs. I’m not saying mine is right. But I do know that I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to ask myself what beliefs I have today that are no longer accurate—no longer true, valid, helpful or rooted in reality.

I try to ask myself: what am I closed off to, and why? It’s a valuable exercise for any of us to go through.

-Can we really refute climate change if we look at the facts with an open mind?

-Can we really refute that we have a race division in our country if we look at the facts?

-Can we really refute that our nation is divided if we look at the results of the debate? (A newspaper in Arizona endorses Mrs. Clinton and subscriptions get canceled at a record rate.)

-Can we really refute our own bias about the other party?

The list goes on.

Labels divide us. Zip codes divide us. Our beliefs divide us. But, they don’t have to. We must have the courage to ask ourselves if there is any possibility that what we believe could in fact be wrong?

My friend Elizabeth Lesser, who just wrote a book called “Marrow” (and who I’m excited to be speaking with for our Architects of Change Live series), often uses the quote, “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”


We see things as we are. Campaigns give us a window into who we are and into our divisions. Our anger. Our different realities. Our perceptions. Our assumptions. They give us a window into how our fellow Americans see their lives and see their futures. They give us a window into ourselves. They give us a window into how much healing we all need to get busy doing.

So this week, I hope each of us can open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts and try to see how others see things. I hope each of us can take a beat and consider that there might be some truth in other people’s beliefs or realities. I hope we can each start the business of finding some common ground. Because no matter who wins this election, we are all going to have to challenge what is—what is outside of us and what is inside of us.

We are all going to have to imagine anew if we want to move humanity and our country forward together. Or then again, we can always move to Mars!

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


Don’t Be a Spectator

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

“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?