Where We Find Ourselves

CreditJohnEdmond2.141446 Maria Shirver's Sunday Paper
"This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful:in a word, more alive."
Alice Waters

I've Been Thinking...

I just had one of those weeks, but I don't mean what you think.

Usually when someone says “I had a week,” they mean that things were tough, overwhelming, or stressful for them. And Lord knows we’ve all experienced a lot of those feelings lately. In fact, if you were glued to the news this past week, you probably felt all those things as you were inundated with stories about supply chain woes, the devastating news from the Astroworld Festival, record inflation numbers, and yet more stories about our fragile democracy and the former president trying to block his records from going to the bipartisan committee investigating what happened on January 6, 2021.

I heard all those stories this past week as well, but on my birthday last Saturday, I told myself that whenever I get anxious about the news of the day, I need to stop, pause, and listen to myself instead. Listening is an art, and for decades it’s been my job to listen, learn, and share what I’ve learned. But it wasn’t until late in life that I afforded the same listening skills that I brought to my journalism career to myself.

On my birthday, I sat in silence with my own thoughts in meditation. I got quiet and listened for my soul voice to speak to me. And you know what I heard? I heard it say that this was going to be a magical year. It encouraged me to have faith, have patience, and trust the process. It encouraged me to listen to those who have faith and patience, and who believe in the wonder of our lives.

Listening to my inner voice made me feel joyful this week. It made me happy. It made me feel like I have a clear intention for my path forward.

That same soul voice is what has encouraged me to pursue partnerships whenever and wherever I can this year. That's why I partnered with my friends at Sounds True to produce a summit called Radically Reframing Aging. It comes out next year, but we shot it this past week, and it just filled me with so much hope and joy. I got to interview dozens of inspiring people from all walks of life who came to talk in such hopeful ways about what it means to be pro-aging, what it means to have a vision for yourself in the fourth quarter of life, and how to make your life matter in ways you never imagined.

At the end of the taping, my youngest daughter Christina told me that it was such a gift to listen to people at that age talk about pushing boundaries, feeling excited about finally really knowing themselves, and living their one wild and precious life after decades of living by the book. 

All of the people who came to share their wisdom at the summit lifted me up. It made me realize how much I've really missed being engaged with others. I’ve really missed communicating with others, being in community with others, and being uplifted by others.

The truth is that we all benefit from being in community with others (that's one of the secrets of super agers). We need others in order to thrive and to stay hopeful. We need others so we can listen, learn, and grow. Listening is our superpower and our best way forward.

One of my other big takeaways from the summit was that each of us has to get super creative about how we lead our lives today. There is no playbook anymore. There is no path to follow. You've got to make things up as you go. That's true for people of my generation, but it also applies to people in their twenties, thirties, and forties as well.

And that’s where I find myself: making it up as I go. Trying new things and being open to whatever comes my way. I'll admit that I felt some fear about my age right before my birthday, but not anymore. My path is mine to do whatever, say whatever, and walk with whomever I want. 

There is so much loneliness all around us. So much pain. So much movement under our feet. If we don’t walk into our weeks with intention, conviction, and faith, we can get lost in all the bad news coming our way. That's why who we surround ourselves with matters. 

I want to have a magical new year of life, but I know I can't just sit back and hope for it. I'm praying for it. I'm imagining it. And, I’m going to have to get busy creating it by being open to things I wasn't open to before. I'm going to have to commit to being optimistic about my country, my community, and my life.

This is an exciting time to be alive. Yes, our society is challenged by division and misinformation, but we can work to change it. Yes, our society is challenged by economic inequity, gender inequality, and climate change, but we can work to change those things as well. I really believe that. And, yes, we are challenged by loneliness, fear, pain, addiction, and disease, but with every challenge exists an opportunity to make a difference. We can each make a difference at every age. As my mother used to tell me when I was in first grade, you are not too young to make a difference, so get going. She made herself keep going until she died.

 So let’s get going. There is so much to do. So much that hasn’t been done. So much to learn no matter your age. See yourself as a person capable of inspiring people with your wisdom, with your calmness, with your joy, and with your strength. See yourself as a beginner, and bring that curiosity to your life. See yourself as an artist, and bring that creativity to your life. See yourself as alive, awake, and willing. Have faith in yourself and others. 

This week, set your intention to have one of those weeks, and see what magic transpires.

Love,
Maria

P.S. In 2020, there were over 93,000 drug overdose deaths, and that record-breaking number continues to increase at an alarming rate. Beyond our nation's opioid epidemic, addiction, in its many forms, is an issue plaguing our families, friends, and neighbors in heartbreaking ways. In light of this difficult reality, we have dedicated our issue this week to addiction—a pervasive theme for us at The Sunday Paper and for countless others we know. As we carefully featured the work of people on the front lines researching and helping those impacted by addiction, we were emboldened to see such valiant efforts. Addiction is a grave topic that has affected so many. We hope these Views offer some hope.

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