Love as an Art Form
Art is an expression of the artist. At the heart of every artist is a sincere desire to communicate. The same applies to someone who loves. When an individual expresses his or her appreciation, desire or heart, the world becomes more beautiful. Vincent van Gogh professed, “I feel there is nothing more artistic than loving people.” The vibrant individual embraces this ideal, becoming an artist, with love as the medium.
Here are four strategies for turning love into an art form:
Begin by loving yourself. Lucille Ball advised, “Love yourself first, and everything falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” Loving yourself is recognizing that you have talent, gifts and skills that the world needs. Once you've acknowledged your potential contributions, frame this knowledge as a responsibility. Don’t miss that. Your abilities demand a response. You get to engage the world, using your talent to shine! When you put your talent to work, the world sees your genius. It loves you! This is the point where “everything falls into line.” You’ll find yourself, as Lucille says, ‘getting things done.’ Your love for yourself will result in loving others.
Give feedback when you love the qualities you see in others. Stop finding fault, pointing out shortcomings and critiquing others. Ruthie Lindsay challenges us, “If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it.” My father had this habit. If he thought the server was good at her job, he said so. If he witnessed a child exhibiting smarts, he spoke directly to the child and celebrated the behavior. If he had a stellar experience, he filled out the comment card. I treasure my opportunity to witness this behavior, this art form, his love.
Be the love you never received. My mother died when I was eight years old. I never really knew her and, truth be told, this empty place left me longing for a mother’s love...until I met Ann Starrette. At age 42, Ann became my mentor and role model. I didn't have a mother, and Ann never her own child. Together, we have been the love to each other that we had never before received.
Do everything with a good heart without expecting something in return, and you will never be disappointed. Don Carroll, a coach and spiritual director with whom who I work in the School of the Spirit, shared this wisdom in a retreat: “Uncommunicated expectations are a premeditated opportunity to be disappointed.” This truth has resonated with me at a deep level ever since I heard it. I have been deeply disappointed when others have not loved me, or have not loved as deeply or passionately as I do. I own that I have wasted an enormous amount of time and energy wallowing in disappointment. I have placed “should” on people. I have hated people. (Don’t miss that! It is the exact opposite of LOVE!) And, I have shut people out of my life because I expected them to reciprocate my love.
What a waste…when I could have shined brighter and created art.
As Jennifer Pastiloff says, “When I get to the end of my life and ask the question, 'What have I done?' let my answer be, 'I have done love.' ”
When it comes to loving others, I hope my epitaph will be, "She was an artist."