Let's Light The Way

mariaS11.921 Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: Let’s Light the Way


I've Been Thinking...

It was my birthday yesterday, and I've gotta say, I feel so blessed this year. 

I feel blessed to be alive. Blessed that my children are healthy and that they all came home to celebrate with me! Blessed that my granddaughter lights up when I walk into a room! Blessed to have friends who have stood with me through the years and who have guided me, laughed with me, held me when I’ve fallen apart, and picked me up when I couldn’t get up. They have reminded me more than a few times of my value, my worth, and my love.

I am also blessed that my work feels meaningful. I feel like I have a purpose bigger than myself, and part of that feeling comes from being in community with each of you each Sunday. That means a lot to me.

So on this day, I want to give thanks. First, to God, Mother Mary, and all of my guardian angels in heaven who I believe accompany me on my daily journey. Yep, I feel accompanied, supported, and guided on my path forward. Thank God that I do.

The truth is that no one gets to my age without hitting some big bumps along the way. One might say that you even get hit with a few boulders along the way as well. I know I have. I’ve endured heartache and heartbreak. I’ve lost my parents and friends who were near and dear to me. I’ve had health challenges. And, when I look ahead, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I sometimes feel scared about facing my future alone.

Sometimes I feel fearful, and other times I feel sad, lonely, and unsure about how to navigate my way forward. But I’m usually able to redirect those emotions and recenter myself into my many blessings thanks to the daily practices that I've faithfully practiced over these past many years. I write about my emotions instead of pushing them down like I used to do. I meditate. I pray. I walk. And then I do it all over again. It truly helps to remind me that emotions flow through us all like waves.

I've learned that on any given day, you can experience pain, fear, anxiety, sadness, joy, love, and happiness. That was a huge discovery when I realized that life was like that. More importantly, it was a relief for me because it helped me realize that I have everything I need in my life already within me. I am good enough, strong enough, and capable of handling whatever life throws my way, as are you.

I share this with you today because no matter where you find yourself at this moment in time, it’s critical to know that you are enough. It's important that you understand that you can handle whatever it is you are going through or dealing with. I tell you this because I wasn’t told this growing up, and that caused me to spend too much of my time worrying, wondering, being anxious, and feeling afraid. It was such a waste of time.

I was raised in a home where no one spoke of their feelings. This despite the fact that my parents went through a lot of trauma, which my brothers and I also endured but no one spoke about. I would often sit alone in my room wondering what my mother was feeling, how she was processing the grief she undoubtedly felt after her brothers were killed, she lost her parents, and had to deal with her sister's intellectual disability. She never let me into any of her fear, heartache, or sadness, but I knew it was there. I felt it. But instead of understanding it, I lived in fear of things like that happening to me and wondering whether I had what it took to survive. That’s one of the big reasons that I share what I've learned in my life, so that you know the ups and downs are common and that it's normal. I want you to know that you have what it takes to survive whatever gets thrown your way.

So on this day after my birthday, I am feeling overwhelmed with deep gratitude. The other morning I sat on my porch alone in total silence. I noticed the quiet and how peaceful it was, and I smiled. I couldn’t believe I was OK with all of it, with myself. That surprised me. 

My wish for you is that you, too, might surprise yourself. My hope is to continue to surprise myself with my strength, but also my softness. I grew up tough, but it’s now my tenderness that interests me. This week, in honor of my birthday I closed my eyes and spent time imagining my future. And guess what? I believe that my future is going to surprise me. In fact, I hope it does. I believe it’s going to be magical. Yes I do. I believe it's going to be beautiful. I know I will face more challenges, but this time, I know I have everything that I need within me to move forward.

And this time when I look ahead, I'm going to spend more time in the magic than in the fear. I’m going to spend more time in the moments of awe than in the moments of anxiety. I’m here to be a bright light, as are you. I’m here to share the lessons of my journey, as are you. I’m here to love, as are you. And I’m here to be loved, as are you.

Many years ago, a friend told me to celebrate each and every day I had because, after all, no one knows whether they will get a tomorrow. It’s such simple, but profound, advice. So today, make peace with yourself—your whole self. Honor the light in you and the darkness, too. Be good with your own company. Never undervalue your own company because if you do, you will sell yourself short in life and in love. 

Forgive yourself for whatever mistakes you’ve made that still drag you down. They are your past. Do not let them squander your future. Wherever you can, ask for forgiveness, then grant what you give to others to yourself.

Be compassionate with yourself. And patient. Allow yourself to love who you are. Tell those you love “I love you." It’s a gift you can freely give, and it changes lives in real time before your very eyes. Free yourself from worrying whether you are strong enough or worthy enough. Believe you are because it’s so true. Share your emotions with those you trust. It helps them feel less alone with theirs. Know that life will be hard at certain times and that you are strong enough to make it through. Know that there will be darkness, but that light is around the corner. If you have to decide between work and family, always choose family. Always choose fun. Let go of restrictions. Start living in abundance. If there comes a time in your life when you have to make a really, really big and hard decision, choose yourself. Choose yourself every single time. Choose your self-respect. Choose your value. Choose your worth. Choosing yourself is what brings you self-worth.

Don’t be afraid of being alone. So many people settle for less than they deserve simply because they are afraid of being alone or being single. Don’t be one of them. Don’t be afraid to age either. Consider it a gift not bestowed on everyone and embrace it with guts, optimism, joy, and purpose.

I’ve learned a lot in my life, but the above lessons are some of the most important things. Trust that you will know what you need to know when you need to know it. Trust yourself. In the meantime, celebrate your life. See it and yourself as a blessing. Don’t wait. 

Treat everyday like a birthday, because in a way, that’s exactly what it is. It's a day to give birth to who you want to be. So let’s go. Let's look ahead. Let’s light the way.





Dear God, help me honor and cherish each and every day you have given me. May I treat each of them as a birthday, a day to give birth to new beginnings and new possibilities. Amen.


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