This essay originally appeared in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper newsletter. Subscribe today to receive it in your inbox every week.
At the beginning of the week, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to write about this morning. I had been thinking a lot about how unscripted the world feels and how it sort of mirrors my own life’s trajectory. I feel like I’m basically making things up as I go these days. And where I’m going is shorter than where I came from. That feeling can either be very anxiety-inducing or freeing, depending on the day.
But then, a few things happened that made me want to write about love instead. I wasn’t called to the topic just because I had finished binge-watching “Modern Love” on Amazon (a TV show based on the New York Times column, both which I recommend). No, I was called to write about love because, in a deeply profound way, I think it’s our common denominator. It’s our common desire. It’s the feeling that we all want more of, and that we (and our world) desperately need right now.
Once I focused my attention on love this week, I started seeing it everywhere. First, I saw a picture that Sen. Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug, posted after she dropped out of the presidential race. He’s holding her in the photo, and the caption says, “I’ve got you. As always.” I stared at it for the longest time. I was so moved by its simplicity and power.
I’m so glad my daughters can see this. I’m so glad my sons can see it, too. I’m so glad we can all see it. I want to see more expressions of love like this one.
Why? Because what our unscripted, chaotic world needs is more people stepping up and saying, “I’ve got you. As always.” It’s so simple. It’s so strong. It’s so needed.
I was also moved this week when Sen. Elizabeth Warren shared an emotional story with a teenage girl in Iowa who asked if there had ever been a time when someone she looked up to didn’t accept her. Sen. Warren shared a poignant story about the time she told her mother that her first marriage was ending.
"My mother and I had very different views of how to build a future. She wanted me to marry well, and I really tried, and it just didn't work out," she said. “And there came a day when I had to call her and say, 'This is over. I can't make it work.' And I heard the disappointment in her voice. I knew how she felt about it. But I also knew it was the right thing to do and sometimes you just gotta do what's right inside and hope that maybe the rest of the world will come around to it. And maybe they will, maybe they won't, but you gotta take care of yourself first."
She ended by giving the teen girl a hug. It was a genuine moment of love and strength.
I share these examples because we’re often inundated with the opposite kind of story. We are inundated with stories of polarization and division.
Our only hope lies in the language and the promise of love. Love is universal. It’s primal. It’s human. It’s what shifts individual worlds and larger world orders. I believe it is our best hope for something better.
Each of us is born into someone's arms, and, if we are lucky, we’ll die in someone’s arms. Everything in between is a search for our common humanity. It’s only rooted in love.
There is no right time for anything anymore. There is no right school to attend. There is no right dream job to pursue. There is no right person to marry. There is no right path to live happily ever after. We’re all worried that everyone is judging us, but the truth is that no one really cares. We live for likes, and yet we cry in loneliness. We are worried about saying anything, and yet so many people say nothing at all. What kind of way is that to live?
As I look ahead to the final weeks of this year, I find myself shaking my head in amazement at where we are as a nation and a world. I also find myself shaking my head at where I am in my own world. I’ve never felt more vulnerable, and I’ve never felt stronger. I’ve never felt more alone, and I’ve never felt more connected. I’ve never felt more scared about the state of the world, and I’ve never felt more hopeful about what can be.
There is a new year coming. It’s one with no script written yet, other than the one we write for ourselves.
This article has been edited and condensed.