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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.
No one wants to end up thinking, “I wish I had told my kids I loved them.” “I wish I had made amends with that friend.” “I wish I had told that person how important they were to my life.”
The list goes on.
Getting my internal house in order brought me a sense of peace and calm that has eluded me for much of my life. The first step was realizing that I needed to do it. The second was having conversations that I used to shy away from. Those conversations, while never easy, have brought me a sense of peace I could have never imagined.
Getting clear about who and what I value has really helped me feel more grounded in my being. It’s helped me remove people and items from my life that no longer serve me, bring me joy or make me feel at home.
Life is incredibly fragile. It’s uncertain. We are all living in the unknown. We are all living in precarious times. Just a day after the families in Thousand Oaks were left reeling from the shooting tragedy in their community, they were forced to evacuate their homes due to the threat of wildfires. Many more people have had to do the same throughout northern and southern California. The community of Paradise, CA, was devastated and destroyed by the fires in just a few hours. My heart breaks and goes out to all of the families impacted by these fires right now.
We just never know what will happen one day to the next. That’s why we must each decide whether we will live each day to its greatest potential, or whether we will succumb to the fear and belief that nowhere is safe.
Me, I want to choose to live my life from a hopeful space, even if it isn’t always easy.
On this Sunday, I do feel hopeful about our nation’s future after the elections this week. I feel hopeful knowing that more than 100 women are headed to Washington D.C. to serve as national leaders. I believe that these women will not only change our nation’s capital, but that they will change what gets done in our country as well. In fact, in our recent Shriver Report Snapshot Poll, respondents said that if more women got elected, they believed they would improve the values and ethics of our country. They also said they believed that these women would bring more attention to important issues like caregiving, Alzheimer’s and health care. I couldn’t agree more.
I would add that I believe these new female leaders will also make gun safety and mental health top priorities. If you need proof, look no further than Lucy McBath, a gun control advocate who lost her teenage son to senseless violence and has now been elected to represent Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.
I believe women like McBath will put these issues front and center on their to-do lists. And believe me, when women put items on their to-do lists, things get done. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.
I also feel hopeful this morning knowing that we sent a wave of new military veterans to Washington D.C. this Election Day. These men and women know what it means to put nation above party and on this Veterans Day, I want to honor them for all that they have already done, and all that they will continue to do on behalf of our country. Your service matters, and it is deeply appreciated.
So while the world can feel scary (and I know it is), we can also choose to be hopeful that things will get better. I believe that they will.
The truth is, you don’t have to run for office or go to Washington to create change. You can vote to create change in your life each and every day, just as my friend Martha Beck writes in her Sunday Paper essay this morning.
You also don’t have to witness a mass killing or lose a family member to violence to get serious about the issues that are confronting us all. You can start today.
You can start right now by getting your internal house in order. Sit down. Take a deep breath. Straighten out your physical surroundings. Organize your thoughts. Check in with yourself regarding your values.
Click to continue reading Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper