Don’t Call Me an ‘Empty Nester’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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}

 

The Power of Listening

Today is a new day. May we all take a moment to pause take a deep breath and move forward with the knowledge that this moment is all we have

I wrote last week about questions and answers. How I had more questions about what was happening in our country than I did answers. I wrote that I wanted to spend the week listening. Listening to friends, listening to strangers, listening to myself. 

And so I did. 

I listened to my friend tell me about the guy who cuts his hair and how angry he was that so few people understood his experience of being a young black man in the United States of America. My friend was shocked at what was simmering underneath the man he thought he knew so well. I listened to another friend whisper about the loneliness, the anxiety and the pressure of her experience as the provider/caretaker for a big extended family. I had no idea. I listened to another talk quietly about how hard it is to grow old in a society that only seems to value youth. I listened to another rail about the state of our politics and scream about the lack of leaders and leadership and everyone’s apathy. 

I listened.

I listened when a well-known actress stepped forward and out of pain and exasperation said she was fed up. Fed up and exhausted with her body being shamed and her womanhood being questioned because she wasn’t a mother. I listened when my daughter Katherine shared what she’d listened to on her Road to Real tour: How hard the average American’s daily life isI listened to our President when he spoke in Dallas…he challenged us to open our hearts and think less about which side of the debate we are on and more about how we can unite the sides. 

[From Sorrow to Triumph: Making Every Moment of Life Sacred]

I listened. And I’m not even sharing the half of what I heard. If I did, it would take you until next Sunday to finish this column.

Everywhere I look we are inundated with news and information about how terrible everything is. We are segregated and divided: By language, by color, by gender, by politics, by zip codes, by technology, by media, by income levels, by age. And yet simultaneously, we are all seeking connection, all seeking some common experience. An experience where we can hear another person say “I hear you.” “I understand.” Or, “Me too.” “You are not alone.” 

I’ve learned this myself while listening when I’m mothering, when I’m reporting, when I’m working with women and with families struggling with Alzheimer’s. When I’ve listened long enough to any of the people I’ve met, or a person I’ve loved, I’ve always found commonality. I’ve always come away thinking ‘We have so much more in common than we think we do. If only we could let down our facades and share our truths.’

In my week of listening, I also listened to myself and I shared what I heard. It’s something I don’t often do.

I shared that I too, often felt disconnected, scared or anxious. That I too, often felt alone in my life experience. I fully understand that my life experience is nothing like the young black man who cuts my friend’s hair — nor any black person’s life experience for that matter. I want and need to do better at understanding that deep divide. I understand that my life experience is nothing like a white man’s or a Latino person’s or a transgender person’s. I need and want to do better understanding what that’s really like.

In fact, my life experience is unlike anyone else’s. And guess what? So is yours!

[Whose Mind Is It Anyway? How to Get Out Of Your Head and Into Your Life]

But what we all share, I believe, is a desire to be understood, to be seen, to matter, to belong. As ourselves, not as our race, or who we may be married to, or what family, religion or group we belong to. We all share a common experience in our humanity. We all fundamentally want someone to listen to us. Listen deeply to who we really are, what we feel, what we are scared of.

I know it’s hard to pause in our daily lives. It’s hard to be quiet and hard to listen. It’s hard to take in other people’s pain, frustration, anger and loneliness without internalizing, feeling attacked or letting our judgements get the best of us. But when you do listen deeply, you realize while our experiences are vastly different, our hearts and desires are not.

At this time, at this moment, I believe we all want leaders who bring us together. Not just with words, but with experiences and actions. We want leaders to listen. To be brave enough to share back so we can get a glimpse into their own humanity, into their own struggles and fears. That’s the beginning of connection, of trust.

[Fixing Broken Family Relationships Can Bring You Healing & Peace]

At this time in our country and our world, what we want and need are leaders to ask us to put our own individual greatness to use. Because we all have greatness within us. What is needed, is for each of us to step forward and offer our own best selves to the world. In our homes, in our schools, in our communities.

These next two weeks of political conventions will challenge many of us. Many will want to scream, protest, judge, even espouse hate.

Let us imagine another way. Imagine if we made a commitment to listen with open minds and open hearts to find the common thread. Imagine. We just might begin to hear some answers. And they might not come from a podium or out of the computer. They might just be right inside of you. Listen.

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


[Image via Pixabay]

Everywhere I Look There are Questions

Like youthere is a lot that we do not understand, and at this pointlike you, I am demanding answers.

Those are the words of the Baton Rouge police chief about the murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge this week. His words struck me.

“Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand.”

His words captured my feelings about this tragic event and the one that followed in Minneapolis with Philando Castile; and the one that followed in Dallas where five officers; Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith; were killed; and so many other things that transpired this week (or this year, or this decade, or the decades before that). There is so much that so many of us don’t understand, and sadly, the answers that come don’t seem to make it better.

[Listen to Your Heart…And His Too]

As I watched Alton Sterling’s teenage son break down in uncontrollable grief at his mother’s press conference I thought, ‘What answer will heal his pain?’ As I watched the protests on TV and the widening racial divide in our country I wondered, ‘What answers could possibly bring us together?’

Questions. Questions. Everywhere I looked there were, and are, questions. About guns, about black lives, about police officers, about our candidates for President. And ultimately they lead to questions to ourselves about ourselves.

Do black lives matter? Why does this seem to keep happening? What’s at the root of it? What can we do?

[Our Mother/Daughter Relationships Allow Us to Become “Radically Responsible” for Ourselves]

Our answers to these questions, and really all questions, can further the divide or can begin to close it. 

There are times in life when answers aren’t what we need. We just need to listen. Listen without judgement. Listen to the wails, listen to the fear. Listen to the divide. Sometimes when someone is screaming for answers they are really screaming to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be understood. Sometimes there are no answers to our questions large and small. Sometimes demanding answers won’t get us the answers we need.

One week after our nation’s birthday where we celebrated our freedom and our “storied unity,” may we all ask ourselves: how can we do better. How can we use our voices to unite instead of to incite. How can we all be better listeners, better neighbors, better citizens.

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

At times like this I think of this prayer Mother Teresa (who will be canonized in two months’ time) had on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta, almost always attributed to her but actually written by Kent M. Keith. It’s the only answer I can come up with when no answers will do.

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[Image via Pixabay]

What Does It Mean to Be Free?

Happy birthday AMERICA!!!!

I want to reflect today on America. I feel so blessed to be an American. I am so grateful to all those who fought to make this country what it is and who continue to do so. Men and women who fought with their words, their bodies, their minds, their spirits. They had faith in this country and in one another.

Throughout this election season we have heard from everyone running about what needs to be better, what needs to be fixed, what wounds we need to heal, what divisions we need to lessen. 

But on this weekend, I want to pause and and turn down the volume on what’s wrong and turn up the volume on the idea of freedom that this country was built upon. The freedom it still offers and the hope it still promises.

America is great.

The idea of it is great and so is the spirit of it. So on this holiday weekend amidst the fireworks, the barbecues, the parades, may we all take a moment to reflect on the concept of freedom.

What does that mean to each of us? What does that feel like to each of us?

Freedom; America.

That’s what we are celebrating this weekend. Her greatness: past, present and future.

Happy birthday America! I’m proud to be one of your children. To that effect, we have all heard so much lately about the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton written by the extraordinary talent Lin Manuel Miranda. Hamilton was one of our founding fathers who fought, thought and wrote so eloquently about our country, its promise and the price of freedom. As we celebrate America and freedom this day and this weekend, I leave you with his words:

Legacy. What is a legacy?

It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see

I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me

America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me

You let me make a difference

A place where even orphan immigrants

Can leave their fingerprints and rise up

I’m running out of time. I’m running, and my time’s up

Wise up. Eyes up.

America you are indeed a great unfinished symphony. We all are called to leave our fingerprints on you. What an opportunity, what a gift. We are all as Miranda wrote and his character Hamilton says, “Free to take our shot” at creating our legacy here in the land of the free and the brave. Now that’s freedom!! Lucky us!

Happy birthday AMERICA may you have one hell of a new year of life. 


[Image via Pixabay]