Maria’s Sunday Paper: And the Doctor Said, ‘Go Live Your Life…’
A few weeks ago, I went to visit my friend Nancy.
She didn’t ask me to come, I just went. I went because she told me the doctor (actually, multiple doctors) had told her there was nothing left to be done for her. Her cancer — the disease she had long kept at bay — had finally gotten the best of her.
She looked me in the eye and said, “What do you suggest I do?”
I looked at her. Her beautiful eyes locked with mine and I felt as if my heart were on a magnetic wave with hers. “Good question,” I replied.
What does one do when something like cancer gets the best of you? What does one do when there is nothing left to do, but enjoy what’s left? What does one look forward to when there is almost no forward to look towards?
I asked her, “What do you enjoy? What brings you joy?”
“Being with friends,” she said. “Being by the ocean. Letting the sun hit my face.”
“And so,” I said, “Let’s do that…”
After I left Nancy, I thought a lot about what would I do in a similar situation. What would my list look like if she and I switched places?
I had just recently read a piece online where a nurse shared what kids with terminal cancer said was on their list. It really stuck with me. It’s interesting, isn’t it? What sticks with you when everything else falls away… When your back, so to speak, is up against the wall.
Do you know what you would do if the doctor said to you, “Just go and live. Do what you want to do. Do what brings you joy”?
Like my friend, I’d gather those who have brought out the best in me. I’d gather those who rooted for me when my back was up against the wall. I’d throw a party for them and for me.
I, too, would go to the ocean, put my feet in the sand, and feel the sun on my face. I’d eat French fries (really crispy ones) and chips and guacamole.
I’d hang with my kids and tell stories—funny stories—about the best of times. I’d play games with them. Uno, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders… (I’m sure they’d finally let me win.)
I’d dance with anyone and everyone who would ask me. I’d make a playlist for my kids and friends of all the songs that I love with the hope that they would play it and dance to it. I’d write notes to people I love and I’d give stuff away to those very same people. I’d ask someone to hold my hand and squeeze it tight.
Now, what wouldn’t I do?
I wouldn’t spend one more minute getting my hair done, scrolling through social media, or worrying about organizing my house.
I wouldn’t spend one more minute watching pundits scream at each other on television. I wouldn’t read one more book about someone else’s journey. I’d just rest in my own and marvel at it all.
That’s right. I’d take a deep breath and marvel. I’d marvel at what was, what is, and what will be. Sometimes shit happens and it gets the best of us. My friend’s gift to me was yet another reminder to get living.
“What are you waiting for?” I thought to myself. “Get living. Don’t wait until your back is up against the wall to dance, to gather, to be kind, to say what needs to be said, or to ask someone to hold your hand.”
We whittle away so much time these days listening to the noise. We spend so much time being voyeurs into other people’s lives, that we forget to live our own. That’s why this moment is a reminder to me to focus on living my own life, now. The time is now to define how I want my life to be. The time is now to speak up for what I believe in. The time is now for each of us to begin living our truths. Our lives are too precious to let the opportunity slip away.
As for my friend Nancy, well, a few friends did take her to the beach. She felt the sand on her toes and the sun on her face. Those who loved her came to visit. There were tears, and there were lots of expressions of love.
Last week, I went back to visit her. I told her how much I loved her, what a meaningful life she had led, and that my goal was to do the same in her honor. I held her hand. I squeezed it tight and she squeezed back.
Then, this past Thursday night, as I sat in my home watching yet another insane day of jaw-dropping news stories, the phone rang. The voice on the other end told me that my girlfriend had passed. I hung up the phone and I took a deep breath. I stared at my TV with pundits screaming about the latest tawdry news and remembered what I told myself about what really matters.
I turned off the noise on the TV and said out loud to no one in particular, “Life is short, Maria. Turn off the noise. Go get your living on.”
I say the same to you. Do what you would do if you were told to go and enjoy your life. Do what you would do if you were told there was nothing left to do.
Don’t wait to be told. Turn off the noise. As for me, I’m going to spend more time using my voice for causes I believe in, like the March for Our Lives rally that I attended on Saturday. I’m going to eat some of my favorite foods (especially crispy fries). I’m going to play some games. I’m going to put my face in the sun. And, I’m going to keep my eye out for someone to hold my hand.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about. What about you?
WHAT OTHERS HAVE BEEN THINKING
WHY HOLY WEEK IS IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE — REGARDLESS OF YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
We recognize Holy Week as a time for renewal, which is why this piece, written by religion expert/author Gary Jansen, is so insightful. He reminds us to take the time to reflect on the places where we are broken in body and soul in order to move forward for healing and rebirth.
NUTRITION JOURNALIST MAX LUGAVERE TEACHES US ABOUT ‘GENIUS FOODS’ THAT CAN IMPROVE OUR COGNITIVE HEALTH
After his mother was diagnosed with dementia at an early age, journalist and Architect of Change Max Lugavere decided to devote his life to finding the best foods for cognitive health. His new book, “Genius Foods,” offers information on nutrition that will make you smarter, happier and more productive. We sat down this week in conversation.
DIANA BUTLER BASS TEACHES US WHY WE SHOULD CHOOSE GRATITUDE AS A WAY OF LIFE
Best-selling author and Architect of Change Diana Butler Bass believes that practicing gratitude gives us each a new story, “opening our eyes to see that every life is, in unique and dignified ways, graced.” I couldn’t agree more. In this excerpt from her latest book, “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks,” she explores how we can all find meaning in our lives by learning how to give thanks every day.
PATRICK SCHWARZENEGGER TALKS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF DETERMINATION AND PERSEVERANCE
I’m so proud of my son, Architect of Change Patrick Schwarzenegger, who stars in the romantic film “Midnight Sun,” out this week. We had a chance to sit down and chat about the message of the film–the power of true love–as well as his determination to make it as an actor in the entertainment industry.
HARVARD’S PROGRAM AIMS TO HELP US RAISE COMPASSIONATE, JUSTICE-MINDED CHILDREN
This week, we honor the Making Caring Common program at Harvard University and the leaders behind it as our Architects of Change of the Week. Richard Weissbourd and Stephanie Jones, faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wanted to elevate the emotional intelligence of today’s youth when they founded the program in 2012. The program utilizes research, expert guidance, and the insights of both practitioners and parents to give us concrete, engaging strategies for how to raise caring, ethical children.
NEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
1. Huge Rallies Gather Across America to Speak Up for Sensible Gun Control: I’m so inspired and excited to see how many people of all ages came together on Saturday for March for Our Lives rallies across this country, using their voices to cry out for changes to our gun laws. I was among those on the ground in Los Angeles and spoke to many along the way. Above, watch my conversation with comedian Amy Schumer, who has been advocating for this cause since a shooting broke out during a screening of her film “Trainwreck” in 2015. I also spoke to two students who survived the Parkland, FL, shooting.
Meanwhile at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington D.C., Parkland, FL, survivor Emma Gonzalez led the crowd in an incredible and emotional moment of silence. It doesn’t really get any more powerful than what you’ll see here. Sometimes, silence is as powerful as words.
2. New Song by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt Raises Funds for March For Our Lives: I love this beautiful song written by the dynamic duo of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt. The proceeds from “Found Tonight” went to this weekend’s March For Our Lives rally, organized by the Parkland, FL student survivors and fellow students from all over the country.
3. Mark Zuckerberg Apologizes for Cambridge Analytica Security Breach: After it was reported this week that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to the Trump 2016 campaign, illicitly gathered data from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge, the world waited to hear how Mark Zuckerberg would respond. In a Facebook post on Thursday, he did.
4. Can A.D.H.D. Be An Asset In Today’s Society?: I found this to be an interesting perspective on the effects of this chronic brain condition. According to the author of this piece, Attention Deficit Disorder in its severe form can be disruptive in a person’s life, but in today’s fast-paced world, a moderate form of it might actually be beneficial.
5. Alzheimer’s Disease Is Costing Americans Billions of Dollars Each Year: A new report reveals that an alarming increase in the rate of Alzheimer’s cases is creating a stress on the U.S. healthcare system and caregivers. Currently, about 5.7 million Americans have the disease, and by 2025, the number of seniors with Alzheimer’s could reach 7.1 million. I won’t rest until these numbers are reversed for the better, and I hope you’ll join me in the fight against this mind-blowing disease.
6. Opinion Piece: ‘Why I Didn’t Join My School’s Walkout’: While I support the young people who are taking a public stand against gun violence, I admire this young man for voicing his own perspective. I’m curious: what do you think?
7. The Obamas Write Profound Letter to Parkland Students: In a handwritten letter sent out last week to the school shooting survivors, the Obamas commended the teens for their “resolve” and “solidarity.”
8. Stephen Colbert Gets Physical With Ruth Bader Ginsberg: I’m constantly and consistently inspired by Ginsberg, who’s still going strong at her age. Late night talk show host Stephen Colbert recently hit the gym with the 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice, who’s known for having a real commitment to physical fitness. Watch them “get shredded” in the video below:
INSPIRING SPEECHES FROM LEADERS AMONG US
‘World’s Best Teacher’ Helps Shape Bright Future For Her Students: An inspiring acceptance speech delivered by British teacher Andria Zafirakou, who received the prestigious Global Teacher Prize last week in Dubai. Zafirakou instructs arts and textiles to a diverse population at a community school in one of the poorest communities in London, England. Recognized for her extraordinary dedication to her students, she observes that schools should always be a safe haven for young people.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND VIEWING
“Midnight Sun”: I’ve been thinking…who doesn’t love a great love story? My son Patrick Schwarzenegger stars in this romantic tearjerker about a teenage girl suffering from a rare genetic condition who falls for her childhood crush. This sweet story illustrates how love really can conquer all. Go see it this weekend, and watch the trailer above.
“Take Your Pills”: I’ve been thinking about the Adderall epidemic. I hope you watch this film that explores the abuse of drugs like Adderall in America. Executive produced by myself and my daughter, Christina Schwarzenegger. “Take Your Pills” is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer above.
“Random Act of Helpfulness”: “I’ve been thinking how proud I also am of my daughter Katherine Schwarzenegger for continuing to use her voice and her platform to help animals in need. Look out for her commercial with the SoCal Honda Dealers in which she provides supplies to the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center for those pets that were displaced during recent natural disasters. Watch the video above.
“Brain Secrets”: I’ve been thinking about the brain. With new statistics revealing that cases of Alzheimer’s are on the rise at an alarming rate, this groundbreaking film “Brain Secrets,” offers information that will help you keep your brain sharp. Check your local listings for airtimes and watch the trailer above.
JOIN US ON THE “I’VE BEEN THINKING…” TOUR
As we begin this Holy Week, I thought this inspirational reflection by New Thought writer, teacher, and leader Ernest Holmes would be nice to share. He reminds us that we are all capable of fulfilling our goals and dreams. Though the word “God” is used, please take from this what you like.
INSPIRATION FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
SHOP OUR STORE: SEE OUR COLLECTION
Get Empowered. Pass It Forward.
We’re so excited to announce that we’ve added a few new items to our shop! Check out our stylish apparel to fight Alzheimer’s, created in partnership with Art With a Purpose. You can also order our newest product, the “Maria” candle – the same scent used in her office and home. Visit the shop on MariaShriver.com to learn more.