I was photographing this week’s profile subject, Mary Shriver when I noticed a chin-up bar in her bathroom. She jumped up to demonstrate and ripped off a couple of impressive pull-ups before the bar became dislodged and she fell four feet onto the tiled floor, hitting her tailbone.
Then she did something I didn’t expect and began willfully shaking her body as if she were trembling vigorously. A few moments later, she was done. What came out with the shaking, she explained, wasn’t the pain, but the associated trauma and stress that might have otherwise built up in the nervous system from the fall.
“I could’ve made myself worse with worry,” she says.
One of the lesser known, but ascendant fields in psychology, Somatics, is based on the idea that including the body can help heal the mind far better than simply therapy or taking prescription pills. Acknowledging the mind and body as one helps people overcome things like chronic stress and trauma — and it forever changed the course of Shriver’s life.
That life began in privilege in an Upper East Side apartment across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. A precocious young girl who slept with a copy of Grey’s Anatomy on her bedside table, Shriver nevertheless set marrying well as the goal in her life.
“I was going to get married and have kids and that was the end of my short story right there,” she says.
She moved out to Los Angeles after college, and rolled with the cool, young celebrity set, working in an art gallery, then as a publicist and the personal assistant of a Nigerian prince (yes, really). Trauma hit early when her father died after a battle with AIDS and her mother died in a parachuting accident when Shriver was 25.
But she always prided herself on her resilience. After her mother’s death, she took a trip to Nepal and hiked for 10 days, spending that time thinking about what kind of person she would want to marry. She met him shortly after returning to LA. He was a jazz pianist and singer at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills and they ended up moving to Las Vegas together.