“Daddy, how did you know you were in love with mommy?” asked my daughter, Kyla, as we drove down from Austin to Mustang Island at Port Aransas this morning. For those that read my writing regularly, you may recall my post last summer, July 2 to be exact. It was also a Powdered Donut Manifesto, a manifesto “With a Touch of Cinnamon.” It was written at a table inside the same Seaside Cafe as I am sitting now. Today, however, I sit outside, because the weather is magnificent. It is late afternoon, the first day after Daylight Savings Time, and so the sun has a different light at this hour than it did yesterday.
I brought Kyla down to spend the next several days over spring break with one of her dearest friends from school, actually, that isn’t quite right. This friendship is more than a friendship. These two, in many ways, are sisters, and as I said to Kyla, if we are lucky in life, we will have one family that loves us, ours. In your case, you have more than one, and one of them is your friend’s. Since it is a bit of a drive down, I always have the privilege of staying a night before driving back. It gives me a few hours of solitude, a few hours of peace, a few hours to reflect.
Kyla’s question was a wonderful one, because I have been reflecting a lot about love lately. What is it? Really? Is it a word? Is it a feeling? Is it something more? I particularly like Brené Brown’s definition from her book, the Gifts of Imperfection:
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
To be honest, after 25 years of marriage to Maureen, I now realize that I did not really know if I was in love with her in those early, early days of our relationship. I instead had a feeling. In my old words, I would have said it was “love at first sight.” In my new words, my words of yoga, I would call the feeling I had Namaste. Namaste means “I bow to and acknowledge the pure inner light of awareness within you.” Maureen had a light, the same light we all have within us. When I met Maureen at the Apple office in Chicago in the late summer of 1988, it is that light that beckoned to me, called to me. Our lights shared a frequency, a harmony, a resonance. The light called to us.
During my TEDx world tour in tribute to Kethan in October 2013, I spoke at a TEDx event in Rome. At that event, one of the other speakers was a light artist. Patrick Rochon would turn out the lights, open the lens to his camera, and then literally dance with light. He would then close the lens of the camera, and the light he had captured from his dance would reveal his art. It is magnificent work, and as I reflected in My Tribute to Kethan | Rainbows, Light and Love at TEDxTrastevere, “Patrick believes, and I must say I agree, that we each share a light, that the human body emanates the very photons that comprise light.”
It was that light within Maureen that attracted me. Our eyes can only reveal so much, and so it is critical that we be willing to open our souls to the light that is all around us to truly be able to see. Since last August, my yoga has opened my eyes to my own inner light. As I become aware of that light, I not only see what connected Maureen and I when we first met, but I also see what connects us now. The stories in my series on the Love of My Life continue to answer the question Kyla asked me this morning. How did I know I loved mommy? I didn’t. Because love is not a word. Love is not a feeling. Love is something that we “nurture and grow” as Brené Brown noted. For over 25 years, Maureen and I nurtured each other, and we grew.
That is love with a touch of cinnamon, and if we are lucky, we will be able to open the lens of our hearts, our internal camera, to capture the beauty of love in all of our relationships in life, from friends to family to those we have never met. As we approach the seventeenth powdered donut day, March 21, the 17th month since Maureen’s passing, my heart, my shutter, is again opening to the light. As Brené noted elsewhere in the Gifts of Imperfection: “The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” After 17 months, I am coming out of the darkness back into the light. I have returned to cinnamon.
And to answer your question, Kyla, I know I was in love with mommy, because you were born, and your light shines in this world. You are the light that shines in my darkness. You are love, and you are loved.