Making Meaning of Love and Loss

How to Draw on Your Creative Courage

When I woke up yesterday, my first thought was wondering if it had snowed overnight. Then I wondered what time it was, and if I had slept in on this Daylight Savings Spring-Forward Sunday but 8am meant 7am so I really did just lose an hour. Then I remembered all the things that worry me, and that worry the people I love, and I wondered what kind of courage it takes to keep living and loving despite all the worries. 

I think about courage a lot. It’s the frame that holds the lens of my life. My M.O. is to work hard to make meaning of hard times so that life matters no matter what. It’s a very INF thing to do.

Sunday morning my mind wanted to make meaning of Loss. Love &  Loss, that is, because I always look for two true things that coexist to make Paradox, which is a key practice that makes courage possible.

On this Daylight Savings Sunday, I feel like I’m losing time. I’m feeling the scarcity of time with my parents across town. With my sister, my son and his husband who live far away. I’m feeling the scarcity of time to talk with girlfriends I miss. I’m feeling the scarcity of only seven days a week, when I have so much to do being my own boss of my startup. I’m feeling the scarcity of twelve months in a year when there’s so much I want to succeed at doing this year, with the seasons ticking so quickly away. I feel an abundance of loss, even with an abundance of hope.

What kind of courage do we need to live with Loss, whether the loss of an hour, a life, or love? (And what else? Lost opportunities? Lost causes?) I thumb through my list of five types of courage: physical, moral, social, creative, collective.

How can we draw on our courage? Is courage a choice or a stance? Is strength of heart a choice or does it happen by chance? I believe courage appears the moment we choose to act & it’s the energy that propels us forward. I’ve learned trust is the catalyst that can create all kinds of courage.

What can/do I trust so that I can live with my choices? I must trust the unknown. Trust if I hurt that this too shall pass. Trust there will be a balance, even if I can’t say/see when it will show up. Trust in Newton’s Third Law that for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction (though I prefer to respond than react). Trust I’m stronger than I feel. Trust I have help, both divine/invisible & friends/family who will respond if I request their assistance. Trust I can make meaning of whatever happens. 

Making meaning from hardship means relying on a “growth mindset.” Making meaning is creating new conditions, creating a new life, creating stories to share, to live, to shape our lives by the story we choose to tell in which we overcame challenge.  Creating new symbols we can rally around. I propose that creative courage is what we may need most of all. 

How do you draw on your courage to love, lose and let go?

Love, Loss and What I Wore is a now out-of-print book my mom bought decades ago and I still remember, mostly for the great title itself. The alliteration practically makes it a mantra for remembering meaningful moments. 

Love & Loss are perhaps the greatest pair in the Paradox of the human condition. Pair that with Grief & Gratitude, in that order.  

Overlay the two and try to draw a four-leaf’d shape without lifting your pen. Do so by first drawing an infinity symbol, figure eight sideways, then vertical. Label each petal in cursive to feel the flow of love, loss, grief and gratitude.

What do you trust about that shape? About the four concepts? What do you know is true about living through those experiences or watching someone navigate that flow of love, loss, grief and gratitude?  What fuels the flow? 

What happens if you sweep a circle round the center? What’s still true at the core? Wholeness? What’s essential? What’s quintessentially true? Remember that core sounds like coeur, or cor—French and Latin for heart, the root word of courage. And core sounds like for, the root word of fortitude and fortify. 

What fortifies you with strength of heart? Especially when you’d rather fight, flee, freeze, even flock, under stress and duress. 

Back to the doodle, after that centering circle, get grounded, draw the stem down to roots. Put roots down deeper, then retrace upward to put on two leaves that sprout like wings from the stem.

I just realized I drew this flower in reverse, like reflection, top-down from the blossom and then to the roots. Perhaps the true seed is the one in the center of the flower.

Playful doodles create possible perspective to see something emerge from love & loss, grief &  gratitude, centering & grounding, planting & pruning, sowing & reaping, laughing & weeping, sleeping & waking, living & dying, forgetting & recalling, loving & leaving, losing & learning, loving and leading and letting go. 

Love, Loss & What I Wore...  What were you wearing when you ___________?

What I wore when I wrote this: my favorite pink paisley pajama bottoms, Wil’s hand-me-down sweater from his trip to Peru, my sherpa-fleece slipper socks, and underneath a t-shirt Dad gave me saying “Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.”  

Favorite clothes can fortify me like Dumbo’s blue feather to fly free instead of freeze or flee when something scares me like Loss that’s still in the future. 

What do flowers wear to bear seasons of fear? Or are they bare? My mind moves quickly to see that if I rearrange letters of B A R E, and insert V, I get B R A V E. Now I wonder what else can be reframed when we draw on our creative courage?