Reflections on Radical Love
Love is a difficult thing to write about. For as long as humans have taken pen to paper or finger to keyboard we have struggled with Love. Love is a struggle, isn't it? A delicious yet desperate, passionate pursuit that often elicits both the highs and the lows, sometimes simultaneously. Love is a deep ache. It is deeply personal, subjective by definition and also ubiquitous to the human experience. Love is central to my work as a coach and healer yet my ability to describe it is ephemeral, fleeting. Love is something that we cannot simply intellectualize, we need to live Love to best understand it. We need to live Love to best understand it.
Fred Rogers has a beautiful way of capturing the complexity of Love. He says, “Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” It feels daring to me to imagine an approach to love such as this. This quote has inspired me so deeply that it is what lead my wife Erica and I to develop our concept of Radical Love.
Radical Love is intended to be a broad term. Radical Love is a state of living. It is not to be sexualized as our western culture is so eager to do. Radical Love is unrehearsed. It is often spontaneous. Radical Love is a practice, like yoga. It requires mindfulness, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and active listening to pull off. Radical Love refers to how you show up in the world.
Yesterday I had an opportunity to practice Radical Love. As you know I have recently left my culturally comfortable job as a Senior Director for a heritage wellness brand. Despite what the title may indicate, we were not rich. We were a family living on one income, pay check to pay check. We don't own a home. We have no equity. There was no golden parachute. We have been living off our meager savings to give birth to this business and blog and now have around one month of living expenses left. This isn't coming as a surprise. In fact, this is the lived reality of the vast majority of Americans. Even the ones with loads of privilege like us! No, we knew the risks and were willing to take them because we want to impact change. Despite knowing the risks it's a scary as hell thing to do. Most often my wife Erica and I trade off days where we contract around things like money issues and cultural pressures. If I am feeling down she is usually up and can support my process, and vice versa. Yesterday, however, was a day where we were both down and contracting. Hard.
We were frustrated at the illusion so pervasive in American culture right now: If you work hard enough and rise 'to the top' you will have made it and be able to accomplish your dreams. I felt deeply sad about my realization after 7 years working my ass off to advance from the Coordinator level to Senior Director level that there was literally no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But there was high blood pressure, back pain and anxiety attacks (hmmmm). I felt angry that the system is set up for people to succeed who are unethical and not living in integrity. And Erica felt so angry about how culturally silenced and unvalued mothers are. How even if she wanted to go back to work outside the home to support our family financially she would have to start back at the bottom for shit pay, even though she's a UC Berkeley grad and worked in senior management for a tech company for years. And things just progressed from there. We bought a one way ticket on train the to Doom Town and were travelling first class.
That's when Radical Love came into our day. The point here is not to erase or eradicate the feelings described above and 'just looooove, man'. No. Honoring those feelings as real and important is what led us to Radical Love. Because as we sat and talked and negotiated and cried and reasoned and fell apart we touched something deeper together. We got in touch with those injured children that were living in us who were told that we were worthless without strict adherence to cultural norms. That living out of compliance with the very norms inflicting the pain and trauma was sinful and wrong. Once we understood where that we were responding in fear out of hurt, we could soften to one another.
Radical Love is a practice of being present with your feelings No. Matter. What. With as little judgement as possible. Accepting that we all have days where we live in fear. That we all have days when we wish the world were different. That we want desperately for the world to be different, and that's OK too. Regardless of how we are feeling, we deserve Love and tenderness and care. All humans do, especially those in the most need.
I will leave you with a poem by Courtney A. Walsh, who encapsulates to so much of what I feel Radical Love is with her art.
Dear Human: You've got it all wrong. You didn't come here to master unconditional love. This is where you came from and where you'll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty Love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of... messing up. Often. You didn't come here to be perfect, you already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And rising again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. Love in truth doesn't need any adjectives. It doesn't require modifiers. It doesn't require the condition of perfection. It only asks you to show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU. Its enough. It's Plenty. ~Courtney A. Walsh