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Today Is the Day of My Birth

Today Is the Day of My Birth

By Maria Shriver
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Today is my birthday! Yes, it is! Yippee!

Happy, happy birthday to me and to anyone else lucky enough to be born on this day. We Scorpios are so blessed to get another turn around the sun.

I’m fully aware that not everyone gets to be my age. It’s a gift, an honor, and a blessing. It’s also a privilege that comes with great responsibility—not just to vote this Tuesday, but to make my time on Earth matter. I want to make it matter not just for me, but for others as well.

So forgive me for choosing not to write about the news this week (and there’s a lot—from Tuesday’s midterms to President Biden’s "defining moment" speech to all the shakeups at Twitter since Elon Musk took charge).

No, instead this morning, I feel like writing about where I find myself personally. I feel like sharing some lessons I’ve learned with the hope that they may resonate with you. I feel like writing not about the news or the noise, but about life: mine, yours, and ours. So let me begin.

Today when I look ahead to my future, I feel reflective and clear. I feel like I have a mission: a personal one, a professional one, and (in some ways) a pastoral one. I feel deeply that we are all here to share what we’ve learned, and I feel deeply that we are all here to heal ourselves and others. I also feel that this collective moment is one that needs us all to be at our best, because time is of the essence.

I’m mindful that the road ahead of me is way shorter than the one behind me. That road was long and winding, but it was filled with lots of joy, lots of laughter, and lots of incredible experiences and opportunities. Like all long roads, it had its fair share of tears, challenges, and failures. There were potholes that I fell into, but I dusted myself off and kept walking. And the woman who had the strength to do that, well… today, I like her and respect her. I enjoy her company. I’m rooting for her.

That’s a good thing because I didn’t always root for her. (Please don’t make this same mistake.) The truth is, I criticized her a lot and pushed her too hard. I never let her rest, and I even abandoned her and betrayed her at times. I didn’t truly accept all the different parts of who she was.

I didn’t, until I finally did. I didn’t, until I finally learned better. And when I learned to accept her, that’s when the beauty of life opened up.

You can always become a better version of yourself. You can always become wiser if you stay curious, stay committed to your growth, and allow your pain to turn you into a student of yourself. You can become more compassionate. You can seek understanding so that you can offer it not just to yourself, but to others as well. And isn’t that what it’s all about? It’s about giving to yourself so that you can give—and I mean capital “G” give—deeply to others too. It’s all so connected.

The other day, a friend asked, “When were you the happiest, Maria? What was the happiest time of your life?”

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and allowed images to cross my mind much like a movie. There I was as a child playing with my cousins and riding my beloved horse. There I was getting married and giving birth. There I was with my kids. All of them were little and we were playing, laughing, and having fun. My parents were alive, and my family was all there.

Life seemed simple and oh so happy. But just as quickly, images came to mind of me sitting at my kitchen table and in my garden today. My kids are there, and so are my friends. We share laughter and stories. My grandchildren run about. Then up comes a different image, one of me sitting quietly in the early hours of dawn. I am in conversation with God, and because we are deeply connected, I am not really alone. I am praying, and I am home in every sense of the word.

I opened my eyes and said to my friend, “this moment right now is my happiest time.” I am here alive. I have survived. I am growing and I am hopeful. I look ahead with hope, and I look back with gratitude. At this very moment in time, I am most fully myself. Imagine that.

How could I not be grateful? How could I not look at this moment and say that this is what it’s all about? It’s about Inner Peace. Family. Faith. Purpose. Contentment. Home.

So on my birthday, I give thanks to every single person who has been a part of my journey, from that hospital room in Chicago where I was born to my porch here in Los Angeles. There have been so many people who have accompanied me along my path. All of them have brought me gifts.

Some of those gifts have come wrapped in pain. Others have come wrapped in joy. Some have been fleeting. Others have stood the test of time. When you get to my age (if you are lucky enough to get to my age), you will see that every person you’ve encountered has played a part in your life. Every person has been a teacher. Some come to teach you how to walk and talk. Others teach you how to read and write. Some teach you how to survive in your chosen career. Others teach you how to love and be loved.

Some teach you about forgiveness. Others teach you about faith, trust, and friendship. Some teach you about letting go, acceptance, and surrendering. Others come to hold your hand through grief. They sit, listen, and teach you how to survive when you don’t think you can.

Some return after they’ve left to teach you how to do it all over again. Others come to remind you they never left—you did—so you learn humility. You learn about the ego, your shadow, and your own role in it all. You learn about the power within to right your wrongs before you go.

Life is such an extraordinary mystery. I wish I could share with you all I’ve seen, experienced, and felt. But then that wouldn’t be fair. It would rob you of the lessons you are meant to learn on the road that you are meant to travel.

My fellow travelers, know this: you are strong enough to deal with whatever the road tries to teach you, and it will try to teach you. Allow for that. Know that life at times may feel like it’s breaking you, but it won’t. You can still rise above. At times it will bring you to your knees, but you can still rise. At times the grief will make you feel like you can’t survive, but you can.

There will be moments of awe and love that take your breath away. You will want to capture and freeze them, but you don’t need to as there will be more. Life will age you and yet, you can still look in the mirror and smile at that person staring back at you.

You can say to that person, “I accept you. All of you. Thank you for making it to this moment. Thank you for not giving up or giving in. Thank you for taking your life on this very day and making it your own. You have so much to live for. You have so much yet to experience. Look ahead. Look up. Open your eyes, feel your heart, and love your life. Be grateful for it. Love others and let them love you.”

On this day of my birth, I want to say all this to myself, and I want to say it to you as well. None of us will ever be as young as we are at this very moment ever again, so think about that.

Don’t miss this moment. Don’t squander it. Embrace it to the best of your abilities. Life is indeed a teacher, and I am a student. I can’t wait for what this year has in store for me, for you, and for all of us.

So happy day to all of us. Let’s go.

Prayer of the Week

Dear God, I am so grateful for this precious life you have given me. Thank you for this moment. Allow me to honor my past, appreciate my present, and cherish my future days ahead. I know I am so lucky to have them. Amen.

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