What does it mean to be loved and to love well? This is a question that Margaret A. Brunson asks often. The Durham-based life coach describes herself as a leader and a luminary who uses love as a strategy to help people authentically connect—both with their inner selves and with other people.

“Love is my journey,” she shared with me in a recent conversation about her new talk show, TheLoveLife with Dr. Margaret, which launched in January and is streaming on YouTube and Facebook.

Brunson, a warm and charismatic presence, was born and raised in North Carolina, and her academic roots in the area run deep. She earned her BA in psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill, a master of public administration from North Carolina Central University, and a PhD in leadership studies from North Carolina A&T State University.

The inspiration for TheLoveLife with Dr. Margaret came from a moment when a friend asked about Brunson love life. It’s an ordinary question, one normally asked in reference to romantic love, and one that anyone single is bound to encounter multiple times. This time, though, the question made Brunson stop: she answered that she is single but experiences an abundance of love in her life. After the exchange, she couldn’t stop thinking about how she wanted to define her love life.

“What does my love life look like?” she says. “It could be spending time with my niece and nephew and feeling really loved by them and experiencing that joy that comes from loving and from being loved. I felt like this is the lens that I want to see my life through.”

With this new lens, Brunson began to live her love life out loud. On social media, she created the hashtag #TheLoveLife(TM) and began to document her experiences of love. As her love lens sharpened, she took notice of other people’s fulfilling lives that are rich with love for their family, work, passions, food, or other things. This inspired her to reframe the question that her friend asked, and develop a show exploring the concept. TheLoveLife with Dr. Margaret, now two episodes in, has featured a church leader and the founder of a lifestyle brand; at the top of each episode, Brunson asks each guest that not-so-simple question: “How is your love life?” Answers, so far, have led into life-affirming conversations about friendship, spirituality, creativity, and wellness, among other topics.

The conversations on TheLoveLife also provide tools and resources. One resource, referenced in the show and again in my conversation with Brunson, is the acclaimed book All About Love by the scholar and critic bell hooks. Brunson counts hooks as one of the teachers who taught her how to practice a love ethic.

Published two decades ago, hooks’ masterfully crafted new vision of love still resonates today.

“What resonates most with me is just the idea of the book at all,” says Brunson, who was a senior in college when she first read hooks’ treatise. “The fact that this Black feminist scholar, years ago, decided, ‘I’m gonna center so much of my work around this seemingly very simple thing’…is profound.”

That need for love has radically shifted, this year, as people have tried to survive multiple crises amidst a global pandemic. As Brunson and I talk, we both observe that people are returning to love in a season where state-sanctioned wounds cut deep, and people are actively seeking out ways to heal. The collective responses—or lack thereof—to the pandemic have displayed where love shows up, and where it falls off. But, as hooks says in her book, even when lovelessness abounds, “the light of love is always in us, no matter how cold the flame.”

She adds that love is the foundation of humanity and this pandemic is teaching us that a lens of love is a fundamental facet of human needs.

“You think about love and belonging as a basic need, yet it’s one of the things that we most ignore, especially in spaces where it actually needs to be lifted up,” Bunson says.

“I hope that love will begin to proverbially be on the table in conversations, where it normally doesn’t show up,” she adds, encouraging listeners to bring a love ethic into public spaces like the workforce, classrooms, and legislative rooms, just as we work to explore love and intimacy with our loved ones.

In the pilot episode of TheLoveLife, Brunson had a quick epiphany, stating, “Love introduces us to ourselves.” During our conversation, she continues that train of thought adding, “I think a lot of us are meeting ourselves for the first time or even being reintroduced to ourselves in a new way. It just makes me feel good that we are in this really tough moment and love is where we are leaning.”

Out loud, I wonder if we are leaning toward love in this difficult time because there is no other choice.

“Love is the last one standing,” Brunson says, adamantly nodding in agreement. “Where else can we go, but love?”

Comment on this story at arts@indyweek.com

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.