Maria’s Sunday Paper: Making Sense of Life’s Uncertainties
The truth is, sometimes you don’t know what to think because nothing seems to make sense. Nothing that you thought to be true is. Everything you believed to be, isn’t. It all just feels fluid, unsteady, confusing and scary.
For me — for a variety of reasons — that’s how I’m feeling right now. But, what my life has taught me is that these moments pass and that the best way to get through them is to actually live through them and breathe each step of the way.
Breathe. Breathe in and breathe out. I’ve learned that when one feels unsteady, it’s best to try and visualize a wave. See the confusion, the fear, the sorrow, and the grief as a wave that comes in and out and, slowly, it will give way to a calm sea.
No doubt, the calm doesn’t come as quickly as you would like, but it will come with time. For me, knowing this to be true is what makes the unknowing in life more bearable.
In 2009, my mother died. Then two weeks later, my uncle passed away. I couldn’t catch my breath at that time. Now, just two weeks ago, my friend Nancy died. Then this week, Bonnie, my friend of 40 years, passed away as well. Meanwhile, my friend Julia at YouTube had to sit inside her office on Tuesday as a woman shot her co-workers dead outside her office.
What is happening? Breathe.
Also this week, a book celebrating my mother’s life was released. In her own way, for me, she came roaring back to life. So, too, did my children’s father. Thanks to God, he always seems to defy what life has in store for him and roar back in his own way.
And so, there it is. Life and death and everything in between.
It’s the in between, I think, that gets you. That’s where you long for certainty. And yet, it eludes you. Life just refuses to be pinned down.
As I write these words, perhaps that’s the moral of this moment. The moral being that those who go with it — those who ride the waves of life and those who are brave enough to accept sickness and death — are the people who can teach us the most. They can teach us how to live, how to die, and how to move through everything in between.
In my last conversation with my friend Bonnie, she said, “I know you are a fighter, Maria.
I am too, but sometimes the real courage of a fighter comes from accepting when the fight is done. Accepting ‘what is’ is way harder than fighting.”
And so, I pray that I have the courage to stay in the fight, much like my mother did her whole life fighting for those with intellectual disabilities. Much like my cousin Joe is doing in his service to our country today. (I’m glad I got to catch up with him for a conversation this week, which you can watch below.)
Staying the course — grinding it out — that’s how you get things done. There are so many examples of inspiring people who, despite pain and despite setbacks, rise up and stay the course.
That said, I also pray that I have the courage that my friends Nancy and Bonnie had to accept when the fight is done and go courageously into the night, surrounded by friends and love.
I leave you with the end of a note that came from Bonnie after her death. Trust me, when I got this e-mail a few hours after her passing, I almost died…but that’s just how organized she was.
I share her advice with the hope that you will heed it. She spent her life working to make the world better in every way, and she did what she set out to do.
God bless her. God bless those who stay the course. God bless those who are brave enough to accept whatever life throws their way.
…I would humbly ask you to take a moment, preferably in nature, alone or with loved ones, to think about how you touched and enriched my life. How you touch and enrich so many lives. And how, hopefully, I touched and enriched your life.
If you could feel the connection we have to each other and to all living things in the world and feel the blessings in your life, I will be happy in “heaven” or whatever dimension my soul or life energy goes to.
None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, so my dear loved ones, please live each day with love, compassion and purpose.
With eternal love and gratitude,
“I‘ve Been Thinking… Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life” is still on The NY Times Bestsellers list! Thank you! I want to express my deepest gratitude. If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, click here.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE BEEN THINKING
I’ve been thinking about the individuals featured below and how their views on the world rise above the noise…
EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER: THE KENNEDY WHO CHANGED THE WORLD
My mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver is the personification of an Architect of Change and someone who, as I said in my essay, had the courage to stay in the fight regardless of roadblocks and setbacks. In the new book “Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eileen McNamara presents an insightful examination of my mother’s life, arguing that she left behind the Kennedy family’s most profound political legacy.
REP. JOE KENNEDY TALKS ABOUT STAYING THE COURSE IN TURBULENT POLITICAL TIMES
It’s always a joy to sit down and chat with my cousin, Architect of Change Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, to hear what he’s been thinking. Last week, we talked about the current state of politics and why it’s important for all of us to stay involved in the issues that matter most.
PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER EXPLAINS WHY HAVING ‘FAITH’ WILL MOVE US FORWARD
Former President and Architect of Change Jimmy Carter is a living example of someone who has stayed the course and continues to move humanity forward. At 93-years-young, our 39th president is still writing books, preaching scripture and contributing to multiple national and international causes. In his latest book, “Faith: A Journey For All,” President Carter contemplates how faith has sustained him through the ups and downs in his own life and offers how we can find it in ourselves.
JENNIFER PALMIERI DISCUSSES HER BOOK ‘DEAR MADAM PRESIDENT’ AND WHY MORE WOMEN SHOULD STRIVE FOR POWER
I had the great pleasure of sitting down with my friend and Architect of Change Jennifer Palmieri, former White House Director of Communications and Director of Communications for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, this past week. We discussed her best-selling new book “Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World” and the lessons she’s learned in order to create a positive framework of inspirational and practical advice for forward-thinking women in all professions.
FLORIDA JUDGE STEVE LEIFMAN STRIVES TO HEAL, NOT JAIL, THE MENTALLY ILL
Every day, in every community in the United States, law enforcement agencies, courts, and correctional institutions are witness to the impacts of untreated or under-treated mental illnesses that lead to multiple incarcerations at a high cost to taxpayers.
Judge Steven Leifman, a criminal court judge in Miami-Dade County’s 11th Circuit, has made it his mission to treat, rather than punish, the mentally ill, which is why we honor him as our Architect of Change of the Week. In 2000, he helped create the Criminal Mental Health Project, a groundbreaking program that diverts individuals with serious mental illnesses who don’t pose significant public safety risks away from the criminal justice system and into comprehensive community-based treatment and support services.
NEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
I’ve been thinking… these news stories will inform and inspire you.
1. Oprah, Alicia Keys and Others Read Maya Angelou Poem Via Google Doodle: Because it’s National Poetry Month, and because I am such a fan of poetry myself, I thought it would be appropriate to share this amazing rendition of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” as read by Oprah and Alicia Keys. Watch the video above.
2. Can Dehydration Lead to Dementia?: Lisa Mosconi is a brilliant neuroscientist and nutritionist who spoke recently out our Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement’s Move For Minds registration event. In this fascinating article from the Los Angeles Times, Mosconi concludes that many Americans “are basically walking around in a state of dehydration, which can be devastating for the brain.”
3. Why Today’s Youth is Not Being Wasted on the Young: The young people speaking out on important social issues should be role models for us all. This opinion piece echoes my beliefs that “young Americans from all walks of life continue to display qualities too many older Americans do not — tolerance, technological sophistication, political engagement, concern for the environment …”
4. Humans Produce New Brain Cells Through Adulthood: These fascinating new findings reveal that we produce new neurons in a part of the “brain involved in learning, memory and emotion” throughout our lifetime. That’s contrary to popular belief that this stops after adolescence. The research could be key in developing treatments for degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
5. Having a Passion Can Avert Adolescent Violence: I’m always touting the notion that passion leads to purpose, which is why I found this piece from “Psychology Today” so interesting. According to the studies, many of the kids who engage in risk-taking behaviors have no direction, no passions, and bored young people can lead to trouble.
6. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Discusses His Personal Battle With Depression: Suffering from depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and I’m glad that someone of The Rock’s stature opened up about his own and his mother’s personal battles with the illness and mental health stigma.
7. Female Chef Reveals How Her Restaurant Deals With Harassment From Customers: In a time when harassment is unacceptable under any circumstances, I found this female restaurant chef/co-founder’s method of handling difficult customers to be unique and seemingly effective.
8. Actress Ellen Pompeo Tells Us How to Own Our ‘Sh*t!’: Finally, I love this interview with the “Grey’s Anatomy” star on what power truly looks like. As one of TV’s most successful female stars, Ellen talks about how she’s learned to own her power and stand strong as a woman. Read the article and watch the video below.
In recognition of National Poetry Month, I wanted to celebrate the inspirational poets making names for themselves in the modern world. This week we feature the work of the very talented Cleo Wade, artist, speaker, and author of the new book “Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom For a Better Life.”
INSPIRATION FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
JOIN US FOR MOVE FOR MINDS 2018!
I’ve been thinking… you might want to join us for Move for Minds 2018! This initiative of my nonprofit, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, returns this June to Equinox Sports Clubs across America. Join me in person at these events as we work to make a difference in the fight to wipe out Alzheimer’s.
JOIN US IN CONVERSATION THIS WEEK
JOIN US ON THE “I’VE BEEN THINKING…” TOUR
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.