I used to think I knew about courage. I would often write and talk about it as a defining attribute that allowed you to explore and wonder about your life. And referred to it as the backbone of what gives relationships the strength to evolve. Those things are true, but in a more fundamental way for more people than I probably ever recognized before this massive loss, our capacity for courage is actually proportional to our will to keep living.
One of the meditations that my spiritual teacher taught me to use during this time was the classic practice of Tonglen – except, using myself and Ian and all the mothers who have ever lost their children as the subjects… Visualizing and breathing in my own pain and the pain of my son is searing, and I am often at the reaches of my faith as I breathe out the felt sense of being held by the divine… but when I get to breathing in the pain of all the mothers everywhere that have lost their children, the cloth is so big, I can’t hardly catch my breath.
The size of the cloth of loss in this world is so enormous that it is hard to fathom how we persist. The idea of courage becomes profoundly real in this moment – and grace, which I think is where and how our deepest courage inspires and breathes us. Many mornings when I awake before dawn, I don’t know whether it will find me again. And then it is in the small acts of caring for my dogs or watering the plants that it slowly comes up.
Sometimes in this changing of seasons it is in the brilliant light and colors that reveal just how amazing it is to be alive on this planet. Sometimes for a brief moment it is in an old familiar feeling of curiosity of how something is working that wasn’t before.
Coming back to work at Good Clean Love is the closest I get to normal. Ian wasn’t in this space much and I am more devoted than ever to our mission of making love more real and palpable than I have ever been. This idea, that the only thing we will hold onto when we take our last breath is love- isn’t just an idea anymore, it feels like the entirety of our life’s purpose.
All the issues that used to feel like problems in the business I realize now were fun. A challenge where it doesn’t matter if we win, so long as we keep loving it and each other. Spreading love is the one marketing channel that feels resonant and true. Finding our way to loving ourselves and the people who fill our lives is an act of courage. Continuing on this path when you are hollowed out by grief is how courage becomes grace.
I used to talk about these things. Just the week before Ian’s death, I reflected on how all our griping about our problems would feel like a holiday should we experience real heartbreak. I thought I knew what courage was when I still thought that death only happens to other people. Thinking that we were somehow protected from the loss that makes everything else small and petty.
Now I know that the courage to want to keep being alive is maybe the purest form of grace. It’s how the universe loves us back into life.