I’ve Been Thinking by Maria Shriver


I love this advice from one of the smartest minds on the planet.

You can get out of a black hole, Hawking wrote, but you must look up. Be curious and don’t give up.

Hawking was speaking about the black hole of depression, but this advice can be applied to anyone who feels hopeless and scared, whether that be about their own lives or about the state of our country.

Look up. Be curious. Don’t give into the black hole.

I’ve always been a curious person, but there have been times in my life when I couldn’t see the stars that Hawking talks about. I could only see my feet, and they weren’t moving.
Every day, each of us is faced with the possibility of resetting our lives. Refocusing. Reimagining. Rebooting.

Every day, we can decide to change our outlook, our words, our tone, and our attitude. Every day offers us the opportunity to redirect our eyes upward, along with our hopes.

This week, President Trump will give his first address to a joint session of Congress. It will be his first real moment to address the American people and their representatives and outline his vision and agenda for the days ahead.

Trump’s audience will be one that is divided, but awake. It is made up of some who feel hopeful, and others who feel hopeless.

Many have given up hope that he will ever say anything that will speak to their hearts and their minds. They are in a dark hole. Others are holding their breath and hoping he might surprise them.

This is more than just a potential reset moment for the president. It’s also more than just a reset for the Democrats, who voted for a new party chair on Saturday. This can be a reset moment for all of us, regardless of who we voted for, or whether we voted at all. (By the way, if you are one of those who didn’t vote at all, please reset your opinion about that, as our nation needs all of us to be engaged in its future.)

So going into this week, each of us can decide how we approach the president’s speech by thinking about our own openness and curiosity. As Krista Tippett told me during our recent Architects of Change conversation, we have a choice in life: listen and be surprised, or close ourselves off and have our minds already made up. Each of us must decide whether we choose to dig in, or give up. I’m not counting on the latter, though, because everywhere I look I see engagement. I can feel it.

My brother Timmy wondered to me this week whether the war motivated our parents’ generation to get so involved, since it showed them what it was like to be attacked and to see people lose their lives for their principles.

Perhaps, he said, Trump is like the war for our kids and for others. He has gotten them to think about what they are willing to stand up for and fight for. He has gotten us all to think about our principles, our values, and what we are willing to do and say when we feel attacked.

As the president gets ready to stand up and speak out about what he values — what he is willing to fight for —perhaps it’s a moment for each of us to think about what we are willing to fight for. Will we fight for equal rights? Will we fight for the safety and security of our country? Will we fight for a free press? (Trump’s decision on Friday to block major news outlets from The White House is unfortunately showing us yet again that he doesn’t like the press.)

This is a moment for each of us to think about own principles and about how we would address a divided nation.

Do we have what it takes to unify the union — be it the union in our own homes and in our own lives? Are we willing to be curious about opinions that are different from our own? Are we willing to have conversations that surprise us and make us reset the way we think?

For us to go from divided to united, all of us are going to have to take our eyes off the ground and redirect them to the stars. It’s the only way to get out of a black hole.