Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: The Power of Acceptance
“Accept—then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it … This will miraculously transform your whole life.” — Eckhart Tolle
When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I heard the words, but it took me several years to accept the realities of the disease.
I’ll never forget one moment when we were sitting outside in his backyard together. It was just a few years after he was diagnosed. There was traffic racing by on a nearby highway, but he thought he heard water flowing.
“Don’t you love the sound of that water?” my father asked me.
I corrected him. “No daddy, that’s traffic.”
He shook his head and insisted that he heard water. I corrected him several times until finally, I accepted his version of reality.
“Wow, Daddy, I hear the water, too,” I said. “It’s so calming.”
He smiled and nodded, relieved that I had met him where he was.
Accepting a diagnosis — be it of a disease, a friendship, a relationship, or your own self — can be exceedingly difficult. I have gotten better at it over the years, but it’s something that I still have to work at on an ongoing basis.
Accepting something that I don’t like has always been a personal challenge of mine. Ironically, though, the same thing has actually been an asset in my professional life.
Every time I heard “you can’t do that” or “I won’t do an interview with you,” I just refused to accept what I was being told. Instead, I pushed past it with a dogged determination, a relentless work ethic and a certain stubbornness. Doing so has ultimately helped me achieve many of my professional goals.
When I approached HBO to do a documentary on Alzheimer’s, I heard “no” so many times it was laughable. I just refused to accept it. I kept pushing and, eventually, we produced the landmark Emmy Award-winning series “The Alzheimer’s Project.”
I’m sure many of you have similar stories. Stories of not accepting something you’ve been told. Stories of pushing past something to achieve a goal. Or, on the flip side, stories of learning how to accept something that is outside of your control.
That brings me to this coming month. November marks the beginning of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Family Caregivers Month. 5.5 million people live with this disease in America today. Eradicating Alzheimer’s from this planet is my mission. Accepting where we are in the fight today is my reality.
Every 65 seconds, a new brain develops Alzheimer’s. Two-thirds of those brains belong to women and we have no idea why that is.
I can’t accept that. In fact, I refuse to accept it.
This coming month, I’ll be working on behalf of all those who are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. I’ll also be working on behalf of the 40 million Americans who are serving as unpaid caregivers each and every day. 16 million of those caregivers are serving on the frontlines of Alzheimer’s. Others are caring for special needs children, for veterans, for parents and for spouses struggling with a disability, disease or other hardship.
The caregivers among us are heroic. They are simply the best of us. Yes, they talk about burnout and sadness. But they also talk about love, about finding meaning, and about doing what they feel they were put on Earth to do.
They accept what is and they also carry on, providing dignity, respect and love. I have learned so much about acceptance from being in their presence. It is beyond humbling.
I get how hard it is to accept what life throws at us, especially these days when there is so much happening day after day. This week alone was hard to accept, between the news of the pipe bombs in the mail and the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday. None of us should accept these kinds of tragic acts happening in our country. We all must fight to improve our civil discourse. We all must expect more from ourselves and from others.
I get how easy it is to just power past it, or tune out, or slide into denial. After all, denial allows you to carryon. That is, until it doesn’t anymore.
But I don’t want to live in denial of the challenges our country is facing today. Yes, there are so many challenges, and at times, confronting them can seem daunting or insurmountable. But I won’t accept the notion that we can’t overcome. I won’t accept the idea that we can’t come together and work together for the change we want to see.
That’s why I keep fighting against Alzheimer’s disease, one of the biggest challenges of them all. I hope you’ll join me.
This coming month, I ask you to think about how you can join me in this fight. I ask you to think about your own brain health because what you do today will affect what kind of brain you have in the future. I also ask you to think about our fellow citizens who are caregiving around the clock. They have no choice but to accept what is. The rest of us still have a chance to make life better for them and to work together to find a cure for this mind-blowing disease.
I refuse to accept the diagnosis that we are just too divided, and I believe that you should refuse to accept it, too. We can cure Alzheimer’s. We can cure our divisiveness. Our country’s health depends on it. I hope you agree.
Dear God, please meet me where I am and help me meet others where they are as well. There is so much in life that is hard to accept, but I know that acceptance is critical if I want to move on and move forward. Amen.
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VIEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
Advocate Leeza Gibbons Reminds Caregivers to Give Themselves Credit and Recognize Their Brave Efforts
My friend and Architect of Change Leeza Gibbons was a caregiver to her mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. Now, she is the founder of the caregivers’ support organization Leeza’s Care Connection. This week in an exclusive essay and video for The Sunday Paper, Leeza explains why caregivers should strive to “find some sanity sanctuaries amidst the chaos.”
Bestselling Author Mitch Albom Gives Us a Glimpse Into the Next Person We Meet In Heaven
In his sequel to his bestselling book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” author Mitch Albom continues the life and death journey of “Annie,” one of the original main characters. This morning, Mitch shares with you an excerpt from his new book “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven,” in which Annie gets to see her departed mother one more time as they share a blessed chance to reconcile old anger.
Dr. Sara Gottfried Shares Her Lifestyle Tips for Keeping Your Brain Sharp with Age
As an advocate for women and Alzheimer’s, I have deep respect for the work Sunday Paper Columnist Dr. Sara Gottfried is doing to better understand women’s brains. Dr. Gottfried, author of the bestselling books “Younger,” “The Hormone Reset Diet,” “The Hormone Cure” and the upcoming “Brain Body Diet,” shares her insightful advice this morning on how personalized lifestyle medicine can keep our brains healthy with age.
Dr. Drew Ramsey Explains Why a Healthy Diet Leads to a Healthy Brain
I had a fascinating discussion this week with Architect of Change Dr. Drew Ramsey, bestselling author and renowned nutritional psychologist. Did you know there is a connection between depression and what you eat? In his latest book “Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health” Dr. Ramsey offers crucial tips on how to help revamp your diet and improve your cognitive health.
NEWS CURATED…FOR YOU
1. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Diagnosed with Dementia: I’ve been honored to work alongside Justice O’Connor these past three years to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, the disease that stole her husband’s mind and life. This week she announced that she, too, is battling the early stages of dementia, “probably Alzheimer’s.”
When I was First Lady of California, I was proud to present Justice O’Connor with a Minerva Award, honoring her impressive career as a visionary and an Architect of Change. I hope we can all honor her incredible work and service to this country. The Minerva video above recognizes her contributions.
2. U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth’s Eulogy For State Auditor Tom Schweich: ‘Words Do Hurt. Words Can Kill’: My brother Bobby sent me this piece from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It’s a reprint of Sen. John Danforth’s beautiful eulogy for Schweich and addresses the impact of negative campaigning and a call to all of us to be more judicious with our language and to work to bring out politics up and not reside in the gutter where it is today.
3. Long Lines, Strong Turnout for Early Voting Across the Country: Though political headlines have been scary lately, this story about people turning out in record numbers to vote in the midterms inspires me and gives me hope for the future or our country.
4. New Study Reveals Stress Could Lead to Memory Loss, Brain Shrinkage: More evidence that we need to do whatever it takes to keep our brains sharp early in life. According to a study published in the journal Neurology, a high-stress life in young people could lead to memory loss and brain shrinkage before the age of 50.
5. Prince Harry Delivers Powerful Speech on the Importance of Seeking Mental Health Care: So glad that Prince Harry continues to bring awareness to this important issue. On a recent royal tour of Australia, he delivered a speech referencing his own bout of depression. “You need to know that part of being strong and tough is having the courage to seek help when you need it,” he told the crowd.
6. Neuroscience Reveals How 50-Year-Olds Can Have the Brains of 25-Year Olds: Love this piece about the importance of practicing meditation and yoga. When neuroscientist Sara Lazar began to study the effect and benefits of meditation, she found that the practice decreases stress, depression, and anxiety, reduces pain and insomnia, and increases quality of life.
7. Public Libraries and YMCAs Across the Country Will Soon Get Narcan for Free: This is encouraging news. Every public library and YMCA in the U.S. may soon be equipped with Narcan. The effort is intended to help combat drug-related deaths by expanding access to the opioid-overdose-reversing naloxone nasal spray.
8. Family Gathers Every Sunday for Food and Music: I love this idea because it’s such a joyous way to start the week. Every Sunday, this musical family gathers to sing, dance and enjoy each other’s company. WATCH VIDEO BELOW
BOOKS I’VE BEEN READING
“The Next Person You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom: In this moving sequel to the No. 1 New York Times bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie’s heavenly reunion with Annie—the little girl he saved on earth—in an unforgettable novel about how our lives and losses intersect.
“Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years” by Dr. Sara Gottfried: New York Times bestselling author Sara Gottfried shows every woman how to create a lifestyle that will help her look great, feel energized, and slow down the effects of aging.
“Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health” by Dr. Drew Ramsey: Using new science and a collection of 100 simple, delicious, and affordable recipes, Dr. Ramsey’s latest book helps you get the core nutrients your brain and body need to stay happy and healthy.
“Maverick and Me” Board Book Edition by Katherine Schwarzenegger: As a proud mom, I’m excited to announce that my daughter Katherine’s children’s book “Maverick and Me” was released this week in a board book edition. It makes the perfect gift for any child (and animal lover) in your life. I love this book, I love its message and, of course, I love her. Get it on and
RECIPES TO SHARE FOR YOUR SUNDAY DINNER
My dear friend Architect of Change Cristina Ferrare joined me in the kitchen this week to tell us about her delicious Healthy Brownies, a great dessert for your Sunday Dinner. You can preview the recipe on our website today, but also find it in Cristina’s new book “Food for Thought: Recipes for Ultimate Mind and Body Health,” out Dec. 4th.
We hope you’ll keep sending along photos of your family dinners inspired by The Sunday Paper. E-mail us here and we’ll share them in upcoming editions of The Sunday Paper.
A SUNDAY REFLECTION FOR YOU
I am a fan of Danielle Doby, a talented young artist and poet. I thought this beautiful piece from her new book “I Am Her Tribe” would be appropriate to share as today’s reflection. Danielle says of this piece: “Instead of thinking of heartbreak as something that shrinks or shatters me, I wrote about ways in which it opens me up to something greater and much larger than myself.”
THE SUNDAY PAPER PROUDLY SUPPORTS…
Mental Exercises to Keep Your Mind Sharp
“For many years, we’ve known that physical exercise keeps our bodies strong and now scientific evidence suggests that mental exercise keeps our brains young.” WAM Scientific Advisory Council Member Dr. Gary Small explains how to strengthen your mind with some brain exercises.
SHOP THE MARIA COLLECTION:
Good for You, Your Mind & the World
Visit the shop on MariaShriver.com to get Maria’s book “I’ve Been Thinking,” her coloring book for Alzheimer’s “Color Your Mind,” the Maria candle, Rivet Revolution bracelets benefiting The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, her new Maria BrainHQ program, and more!
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