Maria Shirver's Sunday Paper: You Deserve to Feel Invaluable

You Deserve to Feel Invaluable - Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper

“For my part, I am almost contented just now, and very thankful. Gratitude is a divine emotion: it fills the heart, but not to bursting; it warms it, but not to fever.”  
—Charlotte Brontë


I've Been Thinking...

On Friday, I awoke to the devastating news coming out of Kentucky. Entire towns are underwater. Schools that were about to open are now in rubble. Families are searching for loved ones, and first responders are once again stepping up to help.

Watching the flooding in Kentucky and in other parts of our country made me reflect on climate change, but it also made me reflect on how, at the end of the day, people just want to help others. In times of crisis, we rush to step up. We rush to donate. We put aside differences and just help one another. That’s fundamentally who we are as Americans, at our core. The news may tell us that we are hopelessly divided, but we aren’t.

Sure we can do better. Almost every family can learn to better communicate and compromise, but if a family is told that it’s hopelessly divided—if its members are constantly pitted against one another—then it’s hard to be hopeful. It’s hard to be inspired to get better.

I fundamentally believe that, deep in our hearts, Americans want to feel good about our country. We want to feel good about one another. I know it’s hard to ease our collective anxiety right now, especially with all the uncertain reports about the economy. But anxiety and division are not going to get us to the other side. What will get us there is strength, resolve, faith, and hope.

In my life, I have found that staying hopeful in turbulent times requires a dedicated practice. The news can easily take me down if I'm not vigilant, which is why I start each day with gratitude, no matter what.

I love my morning practice of silence and stillness. I go to my designated “sacred space” with my coffee in hand, and before I meditate, I simply sit. I sit with the sounds of the early morning. I sit with what comes up in my mind. I thank God I’m alive. I express gratitude for my life, my health, my children, friends, and family. And then I engage in the practice of simply being—being who I truly am and being at one with myself.

Having an early morning meditation and prayer ritual has made a tremendous difference in my life. I wish I had instituted one years ago. I often wonder who I might have been had I done that sooner, but now I’m focused on the present and the future.

I know the present is all we have, which is why having a practice that helps you move into the present with gratitude is a gift to yourself and others. It helps with every part of your life: parenting, partnering, and being a leader at home, work, or out in the community.

As a child, you are told to practice, practice, practice if you want to get good at something. That’s true when you are an adult as well. Having a practice teaches you how to settle and helps you deal with all that life throws your way.

I’ve learned that having a “practice” as an adult is critical. It helps you navigate our turbulent world, and it helps ground you in it. It helps remind you that it is each of our own responsibilities to decide how we go out into the world and how we show up in it. If how you are showing up doesn’t feel good to you, know that you always have the choice. You have the power to shift, change, and reboot so that you feel more in tune with the person in the mirror.

Having a practice–be it a gratitude practice, a yoga practice, a breathing practice, or a prayer/meditation practice—helps you get in touch with yourself. It helps you stay in touch with your authentic being.

One practice I instituted a few years ago is taking the month of August away from work—away from writing this weekly column, and away from my work at NBC News and the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. And now I’ve added MOSH to my plate. I’ve been known to put too many things on my plate, so stepping back allows me to reflect on what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. It allows me to look at everything on my plate and look for breathing space. It’s given me the chance to reboot.

Now, I’m well aware that many people can’t take a few weeks away. Some can’t even take a few days away. I understand. When I started my journalism career, I never ever took a day off. No one else around me did either, so I didn’t dare. Then before I knew it, years had piled up. There were children, aging parents, and the list goes on. Taking time to reflect and reboot wasn’t something I ever considered. I didn’t even know I should.

But then a few years ago, I began to read about the benefits of sabbaticals—be it weekend sabbaticals, week-long sabbaticals, or six-month sabbaticals. I thought, “Wow, wait a minute. If other people can do that, why can’t I?” Turns out I had to first confront some unhelpful beliefs I had about work, rest, and time off.

So I said to myself, let me try a weekend. That helped me think about a week, and then I worked up to the full month of August. Now, what am I going to do with my time away this year? Well, I’m going to use it to connect. Connection is what I’m longing for right now. I’m going to connect with myself, with my children, with my grandchildren, with my brothers, and with my cousins, nieces, and nephews back in Cape Cod. I’m excited to go home to them.

I’m also beyond excited to celebrate my granddaughter Lyla Maria, who turns 2 next weekend. Lyla has been such a force of joy in my life. She is a force of love and gives me hope for our world. She gives purpose to my desire to make our world better.

She’s also helped me reconnect with the inner child inside me—the silly, fun me. The love she expresses for me has helped me believe in something profound and life-altering. She has helped me feel that I am lovable and that I am fun. Lyla, her sister Eloise, and their brother Jack have helped remind me that there is so much more to my life than the work I do (how blessed I am to have each of them).

I must say that I had lost touch with a lot of those feelings about myself. Adult life can do that to you. That’s why having a practice (or a grandchild) that can bring you home to yourself is invaluable.

So one of my hopes for you on any given day is that you have someone in your life who makes you feel invaluable and lovable. Because each of us is deserving of that, no matter our age. No doubt you have many in your life who tell you what you could or should be doing more of. But I’ve come to discover that there isn’t anything you should be doing for someone else. You are lovable as you are.

Yes, you are. Allow that to sink in. I hope that while I’m away this August, you sit with that truth. I hope you sit with yourself in some special, sacred place and can ground yourself. I hope you take some deep breaths and try to tune out the noise (and yes, the news of the day). Trust me, it will be there for you tomorrow, so it’s okay to tune it out sometimes, however or whenever you can.

I hope you can find some time to reboot. Your light, your presence, your joy, and your fire are all desperately needed in our world. Our world needs people like you to help others unlike yourself. So take the time you need to reconnect with all that is yours. Your world will thank you. Our world will thank you.

My Sunday Paper friends, I leave you this morning with Lyla’s words to me. Out of nowhere the other day, she looked at me with a big smile and said, “Mama G, I love you so much.”

Those words are available to us all. Start where you are. Start saying them to yourself, then to others. Practice and watch what happens.

See you in September. God bless.

Love, Maria

Prayer of the Week

Dear God, help me to stay hopeful in turbulent times. Give me the vision and discipline to find a sacred space that allows me to connect with myself and, from there, with others. Remind me that I am invaluable, that I am lovable, and that my light is desperately needed in this world. Amen.


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