“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” — Simone de Beauvoir
In my time in Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics World Games, I was struck by a few things.
1) How vast the world is and how small we all are in it;
2) How diverse the world is and how little we know about each other’s cultures, religions and customs;
3) How similar we actually are, regardless of the color of our skin or the God to whom we pray; and,
4) How much we all need inspiration and examples of courage and dignity in our lives.
These things have the power to lift us all up. They should give us hope that we can find common ground and that we are each capable of being the inspiration that we seek.
“Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people?” — Desmond Tutu
Sometimes you are lucky enough to take a trip at just the right moment…
I have been in Abu Dhabi this week for the Special Olympics World Games and, everywhere I’ve looked, I have seen the good of humanity.
Athletes from all over the world have traveled here with coaches, parents and volunteers. They have gathered together because they believe in the power of sports, the power of inclusion and the potential to move humanity forward.
Within this community, I find myself enveloped in goodness. I find myself surrounded by people who are giving themselves to others and who speak about unity, tolerance, respect and love. Those are the values that matter to them. These are the values that matter to me.
The Special Olympics World Games have been soul-lifting for me because I’ve met people of different nationalities and faiths who are committed to building a more inclusive world together. These are people who believe in a world where we lift each other up, not tear each other down. These are people who believe in a world of positivity and possibility. These are people who believe in a world where discrimination does not exist, and where the word disability is replaced with determination.
All of this has brought me hope this week as I have absorbed the tragic news out of New Zealand. It’s also brought me hope as I’ve digested the stunning story of wealth, corruption and deceit behind the college cheating scandal in the United States.
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” — Chinese Proverbour fears.”
Last week, I wrote that things are going to get better. This week, there were several examples that I was right!
For one, there was a huge breakthrough in the global race to find a cure for AIDS. News outlets reported this week that a London man was cleared of the HIV virus after doctors successfully replicated a stem cell transplant procedure that cured another man 12 years ago.
This news is huge, and it gives me so much hope. It gives me hope for those who are still struggling with the disease. It gives me hope for the scientists and researchers who have spent endless weeks, months and years working to find a breakthrough. It gives me hope for all the advocates and activists who have been pushing hard on this issue, as well as on other diseases that still have no cure, like Alzheimer’s. (I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll find a treatment or cure for it soon.)
This story is just one example that breakthroughs happen when you stay at it. That’s good news not just for doctors and researchers. It’s good news for all of us who keep grinding and striving to do better and get better for ourselves.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” — Nelson Mandela
When I read that ratings were up for this year’s Academy Awards—the “no-host Oscars,” as they’ve been called—I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised.
It also got me thinking. If the Oscars can succeed without a host, then what else can we live without that we haven’t considered before?
Well, this week’s news gave me plenty of ideas.
For one, I can really live without the Catholic Church’s response to clerical abuse. It’s pathetic. I can also do without their ridiculously outdated stance on women. It’s absurd.
And while I’m on the topic of religion, I can also do without the United Methodist Church’s ruling this week to keep its ban on same-sex weddings and the LGBTQ community. I mean, are you kidding me? “Shame on you,” as my mother used to say when she saw someone acting in a less than noble manner. Shame on both of these religious institutions for their lack of inclusion, love and acceptance.
“We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future.” — John F. Kennedy
How does one stay in the know, without getting lost in the noise?
This is a topic I touched upon in my essay last week, but I want to raise it again because it’s a question that I think about almost every day.
It’s a question that I’ve started to pose to my friends, to thinkers that I admire, to our Sunday Paper columnists, and to those who actually are awake to what’s going on in the world. I want to know what they think and how they’re dealing. I want to know how they are balancing the weight of the world with the need to stay focused on one’s own life and inner world.
“Happiness depends more upon the internal flame of a person’s own mind than on the externals of the world.” — George Washington
National emergency! National emergency! National emergency!
After the news broke, the TV pundits started chattering nonstop about the president’s impending declaration. They haven’t stopped since. I can feel my anger rising every time I hear the noise.
Then, I let their words fade into the background and I stop to think about all the other issues that I believe actually are national emergencies. These are emergencies that, for one reason or another, don’t get mentioned in the State of the Union, much less on the nightly news.
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” — Victor Hugo
I have to say, there were more than a few times last week when I thought, “What is happening in our world?”
The way Jeff Bezos took on the National Enquirer made me gasp for all sorts of reasons. But I love what he said: if someone in his position can’t fight back against blackmail and extortion, then who can?
I also found myself shaking my head during the State of the Union. I was upset by the visible division in our country and how it was on full display in the room. You could have turned off the sound and still fully seen and understood how one half of the room felt about the other. (I must say, though, I was inspired by the guests in attendance. Their inspiring life stories give me hope.)
“All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities.” — John O’Donohue
The other morning, I picked up a copy of my local newspaper and simply stopped and stared at the front page. Right there staring back at me were the pictures of multiple women running for president. The cover story was about how each of them is pursuing the highest office in their own way. But before I could even read the article, I had to pause and take in the historic nature of their photos.
As I stood there at my kitchen counter, I thought back to myself as a young girl. What would it have been like for me to see that photo back then? What must it be like for young girls to see that now? I also thought about my mother and all the women who blazed the trail that has allowed so many women to be taken seriously today. We owe them our gratitude.
Over the last few days, I’ve also been thinking about what it must be like for any young boy or girl or LGBTQ or person of color today to look at the field of candidates and see someone who looks like them? It’s really quite remarkable. We have the most diverse field of candidates ever (with Sen. Cory Booker being the latest to announce his run) and I, for one, think that is very exciting and promising.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill
Back in 2012, I gave a commencement speech called “The Power of the Pause” in which I spoke about the value of pausing before one reacts, comments or speaks out. At the time, I thought things were bad and that we could all really use the reminder. Well, back then doesn’t have anything on today.
Today, it feels as though people react, comment and post within seconds of seeing a story or a tweet or a video. We feel pressure to respond immediately and fret that if we don’t post or add our voice to the fray immediately, then people will rail at us for staying silent or being complicit in the problem.
All I’ve got to say is, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”
“When it’s all over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.” — Mary Oliver
The other day, I was talking to a friend about the people who have most impacted our lives. She shared with me a moving encounter she recently had with a stranger and remarked, “Isn’t it odd that a total stranger had that kind of impact on me?”
I said it’s almost always a stranger that ends up shifting your life. In fact, my own life has been deeply impacted by several total strangers over the years.
My friend paused and was slightly aghast. “What do you mean? How can that be?” she asked.
Before someone becomes your friend or partner, they are a stranger to you, I explained. Something about them moved you and then you delved further into conversation — deeper into connection — and got to know them better.
Sometimes it might also be the words of a total stranger in a book or a poem that move you so deeply that you shift everything you thought you knew and embark on a different course.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who passed away this week, came into my life just like that. Her words have touched and moved me so profoundly over the course of my life. Eventually, she went from being a total stranger to a loving, loyal friend and for that, I am forever grateful.
“Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” — Henry David Thoreau
This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different speeches that have been on TV these last few days.
Yes, I watched the president speak from the Oval Office on Tuesday about the wall and our government shutdown. I also watched the Democratic leadership’s rebuttal right afterward.
Neither of these speeches moved me. Instead, they just made me mad. They made me mad about where we are right now in our country. They made me mad that so many hard-working Americans aren’t being paid and are struggling to get by. They made me mad that our country’s leadership can’t come together and find some path to common ground. They made me mad because, if you ask me, it feels as if the president and the Democratic leadership have put up a wall between themselves…
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” — T.S. Eliot
On the first day of 2019, I sat down and meditated on how blessed I am to get this chance at a new year of life.
I focused on my intention to embrace the year ahead as one big magical adventure. My mind raced at times while thinking about this challenge to myself, but as I slowed down and focused my breathing, I found myself feeling calm and hopeful about what’s ahead.
If I have one big goal for this year, it’s to approach all of my professional and personal decisions from a place of adventure in 2019. Or, as one of my favorite poets the late John O’Donahue writes, I want to “awaken my spirit to adventure” this year. (You can read his poem in the “Sunday Reflection” section below.)
This year, I want to venture out, venture forward and venture into the unknown. I want to make decisions by asking myself, “Am I going to see and/or experience something new by doing this? Will it scare me or push me outside my comfort zone? Will I be able to look back and feel like I learned something or grew in some way? Will it be fun, meaningful and worthwhile?”
If my answer to these questions is “yes,” then I’ll know I’m making the right choice.
In 2019, I want to push myself to try things I might have said “no” to in the past. I want to challenge myself to keep an open mind about new opportunities. I want to stop looking at the items on my calendar as things I have to do, and instead, view them as experiences that I get to embark upon. And, I want to keep track of it all along the way.
That’s why I’m excited about “I’ve Been Thinking… The Journal,” which came out last week. This journal is a place for me (and for all of you as well) to write down what I’m thinking and experiencing throughout the coming year. It will also be a place for me to document how I’m feeling, what I’m excited about, what I’m scared of, and what I’m hopeful about.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.” — T.S. Eliot
Another year is upon us. Isn’t it amazing?
It feels like just yesterday that I was embarking on 2018 and preparing to launch I’ve Been Thinking… into the world. At the time, I had no idea how the book would be received or whether people would enjoy reading it. I have to admit I was even a little scared. But today, I am able to look back on this past year in awe and with deep, deep gratitude.
I loved being on the road this past year meeting so many of you at book events. I also enjoyed meeting you at our Move for Minds events benefiting The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, through my work at NBC News, and through my work with my daughter Christina talking about our Netflix film “Take Your Pills.” Being on the road throughout 2018 was inspiring and invigorating. Why? Becaus eit gave me a chance to meet so many of you, our Sunday Paper readers.
Every year, just a few days before Christmas, my family and I sit down in our home with a minister friend and focus on the true meaning of the season.
It’s one of those traditions that everyone really seems to look forward to each year. It’s a night of grounding and it’s a moment of calm before the storm.
We begin by listening to a reading from the Bible. Then, we talk about what that parable means to each of us. We also talk to one another about our lives over the past year. Our triumphs. Our struggles. Our hopes and plans for moving forward.
After each person speaks, I usually ask, “Do you feel supported by the people in this room? If not, how can we better support you? How can we do a better job of being there for you, or backing off when you need space and letting you roam?”
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.
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” — Ernest Hemingway
There are some weeks when I wait until the very end to write my “I’ve Been Thinking…” essay for The Sunday Paper. That’s because I like to have time to really reflect upon what I’ve experienced, what I’ve felt, and what has stayed with me over the past week.
There is so much coming at us these days that it is often helpful to pause, catch your breath and ask yourself, “What really mattered to me this week? What will I remember most? What was most meaningful to me, and why?”
This week, one thing that was really meaningful to me was that I got to attend the World Dementia Council Summit in London. This was a gathering of world leaders who came together to discuss what we can do to wipe out Alzheimer’s in our lifetime.
I attended the event so that I could speak about the global impact of Alzheimer’s on women. As I’ve said before, women are at an increased risk for this disease and they are also the ones who do most of the caregiving around the world. I see this as the ultimate women’s empowerment issue, and I’m glad I got to bring this important message to the global stage.
I was so inspired by all the scientists, researchers, politicians and advocates who gathered to discuss how we can better collaborate, innovate and speed up our goal of finding a treatment or a cure. I’m grateful and humbled that our work at The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement was included in this important discussion and that it was recognized for its game-changing work on behalf of women.
While I was honored to be a part of this global gathering in London this week, I also know that back home our nation was mourning the loss of former President George H.W. Bush and remembering his legacy. As I flew home on Thursday, I found myself returning over and over to former President George W. Bush’s poignant speech about his father at the funeral.
“The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain.” — Madeleine L’Engle
There I was last Sunday, sitting on my porch reading, when I came across a fascinating and inspiring article in the newspaper. (My porch is my favorite spot to sit, think, read, reflect, dream and write.)
As a married mother of three, L’Engle spent years pursuing her passion for writing on the side. But, as the article states, she felt “spasms of guilt” for trying to write and never having much success. At age 40, L’Engle reportedly almost gave up writing altogether. But then, she had what she called her “moment of decision.”
That moment, according to the article, was when L’Engle realized that she had to keep writing for herself, even if she never successfully published another book again. And so, she began anew.
L’Engle got the idea for “A Wrinkle in Time” while on a family camping trip. She wrote the book, submitted to her editor, and then the rejections started to pour in. “A Wrinkle in Time” received “forty-odd rejections,” according to the article. L’Engle called each one “a wound.”
Nevertheless, she persisted, and “A Wrinkle in Time” went on to become the bestselling phenomenon that it is today.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” — Mark Twain
And so it begins…
The holiday madness. The holiday rush. Everywhere you look, you see ads for this and that. Must buys. Must haves. Must gets.
I, for one, find it all to be overwhelming. That’s why this holiday season, I’ve decided that I want to try and stay present and focused on what the holiday spirit really means to me.
For me, the holiday season is about joy. It’s about my faith. It’s about generosity of spirit (not generosity of my wallet). It’s about kindness to my fellow human beings.
“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” — Barbara De Angelis
The other day, I woke up to a text from my friend Matthew DiGirolamo.
Matthew and I worked together for many years. He’s a bright and creative writer and thinker, so I pay attention when he sends me a message.
Matthew said: “I think we should create an ‘Inner Peace Corps.’ Our world is in a mental and emotional health crisis and I feel like we need a corps of therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, spiritual teachers, meditation coaches, etc. to be organized in a massive and coordinated volunteer effort. In times of tragedy and grief, they can help people process their pain, trauma, grief, and stress, and help them connect to their core emotions in a healthy way.”
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” — Deepak Chopra
As I watched the news unfold on Thursday about the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, here in California, a woman on the treadmill next to me at the gym said, “You know, you can’t go anywhere in this country anymore. Nowhere is safe.”
I’ve always known life is fragile. As someone who grew up in a family where two uncles were gunned down, I had that message drilled into me at a very young age. It’s one I have never forgotten.
But the idea that nowhere is safe anymore is a terrifying reality, isn’t it? How does one “live” when one feels that nowhere is actually safe to live? That’s a question each of us must ask ourselves these days.
For me, it’s all just another reminder to get my house in order. I don’t mean my physical house, per se. (Although getting my house in order over the summer really did help center me.) No, I mean my house of relationships. Because the truth is, you just never know.
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