Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: What Is It Like to Be You Right Now?
“The spiritual path is not a solo endeavor. In fact, the very notion of a self who is trying to free her/himself is a delusion. We are in it together and the company of spiritual friends helps us realize our interconnectedness.” — Tara Brach
Last week, as I was sitting in the back of the room at the World Dementia Council Summit in London, a woman about my age stood up to speak. She had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and wanted the world leaders to hear what it’s like to live with the condition first-hand.
“We don’t want your pity,” she told them firmly. “We also don’t want your fear. All we want is for you to ask us, ‘What it’s like to be you right now?’”
The room fell silent.
This woman’s words really struck me. I’ve been thinking a lot about them ever since.
I believe we all share a deep desire to be seen and heard. We all share a deep desire to be known — for all that we are. We want to be known for more than one disease, more than one headline, more than one decision we’ve made over the course of our lives. And yet, so many of us fear what people will think if we open up and share our true selves.
I’ve had people with Alzheimer’s tell me that they fear telling people that they have the disease. They worry it will change what they think of them or how they speak to them. I’ve heard similar concerns from those fighting cancer, depression, anxiety and other ailments or issues.
“What’s it like to be you right now?” Think about that question. When was the last time you said that to someone, or someone said that to you? It’s the kind of profound and meaningful question that takes us deep into someone’s life, way past the noise and the distractions that live on the surface.
That woman’s words inspired me to ask the people in my life this very question last week. I asked “What’s it like to be you right now?” and “How are you really doing right now?”
I got a few responses from people who said, “I’m fine. I’m good.” Another said, “I’m okay. Well, I think I’m okay. Why are you asking me?” And then, I got some answers that brought me to tears.
Friends shared stories about family fractures, relationship misunderstandings, in-law problems, disease diagnoses… The list goes on. I even had an Uber driver tell me how hard her life is right now because finances are tight and she’s living in an office.
No matter what people said to me, all of our conversations ultimately ended the same way: “Thank you for asking me what it’s like to be me. Thanks for asking how I really am. Thank you for connecting. Thank you for listening. Thank you for hearing me out.”
This effort reminded me that we’re all longing for the chance to be vulnerable and to be heard by another person.
Connecting with another human being is a gift, for them and for you. I think we all instinctually know this to be true, but far too often we get caught up in the hustle of life and forget to slow down and connect with those we love. How precious those moments can be.
As my past week came to a close, I found myself having one of those moments with my eldest daughter Katherine, who just celebrated her 29th birthday. It was one of those nights you couldn’t have planned if you tried.
The two of us sat on the couch by the fire. The Christmas tree was lit nearby and the room was quiet.
My daughter opened up to me about the best year of her life (this year). She also spoke to me about all the lessons she has learned, about how blessed she feels, about how miraculous life can be, and about her belief that her next year is going to be even better than the last.
“Wow,” I thought. “Just wow.”
When she got up to leave, I hugged her tight and said, “29 years ago tonight was one of the best nights of my life. You burst forth into the world and you made me a mother. It felt so amazing at the time and I was so happy. Little did I know that 29 years later, that feeling of love for you would keep getting more and more amazing.”
I told my daughter how blessed I felt that she and I were able to sit and share with each other how we’re doing and how we’re really feeling. These are the kind of moments that a mother will cherish forever.
As I went to bed that night, I thought back to what that brave woman said in London. “All I want is for you to ask, ‘What’s it like to be you right now?'”
I’m grateful for her voice because it pushed me to have meaningful conversations this week, both with people I love and even with some I don’t know all that well. They were the kinds of conversations that make life awe-inspiring.
My hope is that you, too, have a few meaningful conversations this holiday season. And, if you happen to meet someone who tells you they have Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression, anxiety or something of the like, I hope you will be brave enough to ask them, “How are you doing? What’s it really like to be you right now?’”
Dear God, this world is filled with so many people and so much good, yet it’s easy to slip into the feeling that I’m all alone. Help me remember that I am not alone. Help me remember that there are people who care. Help me to be a beacon of light and understanding for others as well. Amen.
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VIEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
Martha Beck Encourages Us to Create Holiday Traditions That Fit Our Lives and Who We Are Today
This thoughtful piece by SP columnist Martha Beck gives us all something to think about during this holiday season. Her message: Don’t get stressed out by expected family traditions. Instead, it’s okay to “modify, tweak, and adapt your family customs to bring everyone the greatest possible satisfaction.”
Six Years Since Losing Her Son, Sandy Hook Mom Scarlett Lewis Is Working to Help Children Become More Loving and Emotionally Resilient
Friday marked the sixth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. It’s heartbreaking to think about how many lives have been lost since then to senseless gun violence. I recently sat down with Architect of Change Scarlett Lewis, a mother who lost her son on that tragic day. Scarlett is working to keep her son’s memory alive through the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, which helps children become more emotionally resilient, connected and loving individuals.
Christina Schwarzenegger Speaks to Researcher About the Health Benefits of ‘Wasting Time’
I’m so proud of my daughter Christina Schwarzenegger for the work she does at Goop, and this latest piece is no exception. She recently spoke to Professor Alan Lightman about the art of disconnecting and his new book, In Praise of Wasting Time.
Time’s Up CEO Lisa Borders Shares How Adversity Has Shaped Her as a Woman and Leader
Architect of Change Lisa Borders recently became the first president and CEO of Time’s Up, the organization dedicated to combating sexual harassment and mistreatment in the workplace. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lisa for TODAY this week to talk about her mission to level the field for all women.
Counselor Claire Bidwell Smith Reminds Us of the Beauty of Life and How Grief Can Be a Reflection of Our Love
In last week’s Sunday Paper essay, I wrote about President George H.W. Bush’s legacy and how he faced death with strength and courage. In the end, we are the ones who are left with the grief of losing a person we loved. And that’s okay, according to grief counselor and SP columnist Claire Bidwell Smith. Smith says we must “lean into our grief” for transformation and healing.
Entrepreneur Ianthe Mauro Explores How the Simple Act of Lighting a Candle Can Create Meaning in Everyday Life
I love the warmth and glow that emanates from a lit candle. But the tradition of candle-lighting often signifies so much more. In honor of Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, which was celebrated earlier this week, Objects With Purpose creator Ianthe Mauro reminds us that setting intentions on the flame of a candle is an ancient practice that crosses all social, economic and spiritual boundaries.
NEWS CURATED…FOR YOU
1. “The Guardians”: Time Magazine Recognizes Journalists as Its ‘Person of the Year’: Now more than ever we need to keep the truth alive, not only for the American people but for the entire world. That’s why I’m so pleased that TIME Magazine decided to honor journalism and journalists this year with its coveted title of “Time Person of the Year.” Jamal Khashoggi, the Capital Gazette, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are the people featured and honored.
2. Groundbreaking Study Examines Effects of Screen Time on Kids’ Brains: This fascinating piece featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes” looks at a landmark government study that examined how phones, tablets and other screens are impacting adolescent brain development.
3. Bruce Springsteen Opens Up About His Battle With Depression: This is an inspiring read about being authentic and living a life of truth. Music legend Bruce Springsteen recently sat down with Esquire magazine to discuss his struggle with depression since childhood and how he has used music as a distraction from his mental health struggles.
4. Study Says that Friendship Is Important to Well-Being, Especially During the Holidays: I’ve always stressed that having community around you is essential for your mental health. At a time when loneliness has become a public health crisis, this new report from the Mayo Clinic states that our bonds can help reduce stress, increase happiness and bolster self-confidence.
5. Research Reveals How to Stop Forgetting Important Things: A recent study published in the journal Experimental Aging Research says a better way to keep memories fresh in our minds is by drawing a picture.
6. Dolls Provide Comfort and Revive Memories for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients: Such a beautiful and loving idea. This video shares the story of women from Pearl’s Memory Baby in Kentucky, who bring dolls to seniors in their area who are suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. According to one organizer, the act “helps revive a part of their memory from when they were parents.” WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW
BOOKS I’VE BEEN READING
“Food For Thought: Recipes For Ultimate Mind and Body Health” by Cristina Ferrare: NY Times bestselling author, chef, TV personality, and entrepreneur Cristina Ferrare shares delicious and brain-healthy recipes from the meals she makes for her family and friends.
“Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness” by Scarlett Lewis: On December 14, 2012, Scarlett Lewis lost her son Jesse in an act of unimaginable violence when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, However, this isn’t a story about a massacre. It’s a story about love and survival. It’s about how to face the impossible, how to find courage when you think you have none, and how to choose love instead of anger, fear, or hatred.
“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
Such a yummy and healthy way to top off your holiday or Sunday Dinner. This recipe for Cherry Date Coconut Dessert Balls was created by my friend Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo, founder and president of HealthCare Insights LLC and the Brain Health and Wellness Center.
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
My dear friend Karen Skelton sent me this beautiful piece, which was taken from an ancient Christian text. She said it reminded her of me and at first I thought, “uh oh.” Then I read it and said, “yep.” I think these words speak to all women and remind us of the many roles we play in our wondrous lives. Click here to read the full piece.
THE SUNDAY PAPER PROUDLY SUPPORTS…
Young Woman Tells Us Why She’s Committed to Caring for Her Mom with Early Onset Alzheimer’s
This week, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement featured the story of Emily Delster, a young woman who inspires us with all she does to care for her mother who is living with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Emily is caring for her mother at the same time that she is also caring for her three young children of her own.
THE 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!
BECOME A SUNDAY PAPER AMBASSADOR …
And finally…if you love what we’re doing here at The Sunday Paper … join us! Become a Sunday Paper Ambassador and help spread the word!