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For People Who Suffer from “Needing to Be Right Disease”, and Those Who Love Them

October 29, 2014

You-have-your-way-I-haveSometimes it’s easier to be forgiving with other people than it is with ourselves. This has a lot to do with your personality, and your history with making mistakes. If, for example, you were badly punished when you made mistakes growing up, whether they were big or small, you might have a lot of fear around screwing up. If you felt that love and affection and approval were withdrawn when you blew it, the stakes become even higher. If that resonates with you, you might also find that you’re invested in being “right”, because if you aren’t right, you’re wrong, and if you’re wrong, you’ve made a mistake and there will be painful consequences. Fear usually drives the need to be right. And people who suffer from “Needing to Be Right Disease” often have a very hard time saying, “I’m sorry.” Which is, of course, the antidote.

If you’re dealing with someone who has to win every argument, or can’t ever say they’re sorry, or see their part in a misunderstanding, you might be dealing with narcissistic pride, but you might also be dealing with fear. If this is someone you love, or someone you’re still getting to know, it might be worth your time to investigate the source of their need. Obviously, no one is always right. And most of the time, if there’s a miscommunication, it’s a two-party deal. Not always, so don’t freak on me, here. Sometimes you’re dealing with personality disorders and it doesn’t matter what you do or say. Logic has no bearing. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about people who are normally kind and considerate, thoughtful and reasonable, until they feel they might have screwed up. Then this other entity comes out, this person who digs his heels in, or who can’t hear you because she’s raising her voice, or storming out the door. Clearly, that’s not a sustainable way to communicate, or try to work out problems. I’m just offering a possible explanation. Sometimes if we can understand that underneath anger and defensiveness, what we’re really dealing with is fear and pain, it inspires us to be kind, compassionate, and patient.

You will never get through to someone if they’re in the middle of a fight or flight reaction. That isn’t the time to offer your insights about what might be driving their need to be right. In fact, if you bring it up then, good luck to you! But if you care enough to understand, when things are calm and your friend is not feeling threatened or attacked or backed into a corner, you might ask how it was handled when they made mistakes as a kid. What did discipline look like in their house? How were they punished, and over what? This is the kind of conversation that might bring you a lot closer to someone you love, and it also might enable you to help them grow. To create a safe space to make mistakes. To show them that you aren’t going to run out the door, or stop loving them, or “make them pay.”

Because people who fear being wrong berate themselves more than you ever could when they blow it. They obsess over it. And let me be clear, it’s not always the way someone was raised. Sometimes a person is a perfectionist. Maybe they had a parent who was very hard on her or himself, and they ingrained that behavior, so anything less than perfection is intolerable. Type A personalities suffer from this. Anyway, I know a lot about beating the crap out of yourself when you blow it, because I did that for years and years. I often say that after twenty or so years of yoga, pretty much six days a week, I am a mostly recovered Type A personality. 93% recovered on a good day.  But it’s a hard way to live, if you’re expecting to never make a mistake, because obviously, you will. And probably you will a lot. It’s kind of an intrinsic part of being human. So if you feel disappointed in yourself, or disgusted with yourself, or like you want to jump out of your own intolerable skin, life is going to be pretty rough. You can lose days, weeks, months, even, over mistakes you’ve made. You can keep “boiling yourself”, traveling into the past, replaying what you’ve done, rewriting the scene so you don’t blow it, and lose all kinds of precious time you could have been enjoying the present.

Learning to expect that you’ll make mistakes is essential. And learning to own your mistakes and be accountable for your actions and choices is also imperative if you want to have healthy, lasting relationships of any kind in your life. Saying, “I’m so sorry”, and meaning it, is so freeing. It frees you, and usually, it’s all the other person needs or wants to hear. We all just long to be seen and understood by the people we love. We want to be known. It’s not about winning or being right. It’s about being seen and cherished and safe. Give yourself the gift of an inner voice that roots you on. Don’t keep living with one that tears you down. There’s no need for that. A loud inner critic is a roommate who needs an eviction notice. That’s a voice that needs to be starved so you can have some peace. For me, I did most of that work on my yoga mat. If that shaming, critical voice spoke up, I didn’t give it any credence. I came back to my breath, reminded myself to be kind, and got back to the business of healing. It’s not a magic bullet, but I don’t know of anything that is when it comes to healing. You can try it with me if you’d like, http://pages.yogisanonymous.com/preview/2172  Forgive yourself. Be reasonable with yourself. Let the love in. Sending you some right now, Ally Hamilton

Self-Pity is a Thief

October 28, 2014

Self-pity-is-easily-theSocial media can be amazing when it comes to connecting with people you might never have encountered otherwise. It can be a beautiful forum for sharing ideas, laughter, concerns, gratitude, tools for living well, and beauty. I’m in contact with people I haven’t seen for twenty years because of Facebook. I get on this page every day and am blown away by you people, and how thoughtful, kind, compassionate, enthusiastic, honest, intelligent, funny and thought-provoking you are. I get emails from people that are raw and brave, and I have zero doubt this is one way we can show up for each other. We can reassure each other that we’re not alone, and people care, and more importantly, strangers care. I think that’s huge to know, because it restores our faith in the goodness of people, if we need to have our faith restored. I see people rooting each other on in the comment threads, offering support, or condolences, or ideas. So those are some of the ways this world is not virtual at all, and can be a real blessing.

Having said all of that, sometimes social media, and I’m including Twitter and Instagram and whatever else you might be doing, can be a source of pain for people, if they’re feeling badly about themselves, or moving through a dark time. It can really seem like everyone else is having this idyllic, carefree, fulfilling life with their bare feet in the sand, and their annoyingly perfect dog in the background. Or that everyone is wittier, more cutting edge, better informed, more engaged, cooler or hipper or hotter or glossier or whatever-er. It can become a source of feeling “less than”.

Social media is certainly not the only contributing factor that might make a person wonder if they’re measuring up. Most media is designed to do that, after all. If you want people to buy products, apparently you have to barrage them every day with messages that they just don’t cut it. They don’t look right or smell right or feel right, and there are a million products, diets, supplements, cars, pills, and different kinds of beer that can help. We could talk for hours about the way women are relentlessly encouraged to be as tiny as possible. Perhaps we should all disappear. And don’t even think about getting angry around that topic, because then you’re really taking up too much space. Men don’t fare much better. They’re supposed to be virile and unafraid and able to take charge under all circumstances. Video games start to look awfully appealing if those are the standards men are supposed to meet. In a virtual world, that might be possible, but in the real world, it’s asinine to think we’ll never be afraid, or we’ll always have the answers, or know the next right thing to do, and that goes for both genders. Anyway, my point is, advertising is designed to make us all feel like we’re blowing it, in all kinds of ways. And if you’re feeling vulnerable, you can get sucked down the rabbit hole.

Self-pity and self-doubt are thieves. They rob you of your power, of your belief in yourself, of the desire to take ownership of your life. Blame and shame and rage are poor traveling companions, but sometimes it’s hard to take action when we’re already feeling like we should just give up. It’s easier to point our fingers, and make other people the cause of our unhappiness, or to feel angry at the world at large because it’s so unfair. And you know what? It is unfair. It’s not a level playing field. Some people are born into loving, nurturing families where there’s no concern about health insurance, or keeping a roof over everyone’s head, and other people are born into abusive environments where they weren’t wanted, or their parents were too young to be responsible for themselves, let alone a baby. Some people have to deal with loss and grief and mourning that just brings you to your knees, and other people have a path that’s a lot smoother. Here’s the thing. There might be a few people living a life where their hair is always done, and their cars are sleek, and they talk to their housekeeper about the meals for the week. That doesn’t add up to a happy life if there isn’t happiness on the inside. Most of the crap we see that’s designed to sell us something, is just so far removed from most people’s reality, it’s laughable. I think most people know this, it’s just easy to get sucked in when you’re feeling tested, down on yourself, rejected, hopeless or really confused. It’s a distorted perception of reality when we’re moving through times like that, and believing we’re not good enough. Or that other people are more deserving, or more likely to get the breaks, or the girl or the guy or the promotion.

If you ever find yourself thinking, “No one likes me”, or “People suck”, or, “Everyone cheats”, you know you’re hanging out with the White Rabbit. Extreme thinking, sentences that involve “always” and “never”, are good indicators that you’re not thinking clearly. That you’re allowing yourself to spiral downward, or spin out of control. And when we feed self-pity, we make ourselves sick. It’s likely we’re all going to feel sorry for ourselves at one time or another, so please don’t misunderstand me. Sometimes horrendous, deeply painful things happen to beautiful people, and it’s hard not to feel like we’re being “singled out”, especially if many unfortunate things happen at once. I’m just talking about self-pity as a way of life. As a way of moving through the world. There’s no possible way you’re going to uncover your gifts and share them freely, and light yourself up, if you’re in the blame/shame/rage cycle. You really have to step off that wheel, dust yourself off, and start again. That’s the beauty of being human. It’s never too late to start where you are, until your final exhale.

You are not less than. Less than what? Other people? You’re you. You cannot be less than you. We have about seven billion people on this planet, but we only have one you. So what are you going to do with your spark? What are you going to offer up? Whatever it is, you’re the only one who can do it. And you can’t buy that knowledge, you have to dig for it. You really don’t want to move through life feeling bitter and resentful, and unable to be happy for there people’s good fortune. I can’t think of too many things that would feel more unfulfilling than that. There’s so much beauty inside you. If you’ve been hurt, disappointed, heartbroken, allow those experiences to open you and make you a more compassionate, understanding, empathetic, patient person. Don’t believe the hype. You aren’t missing anything. You don’t have to be anything other than yourself. Your authentic self. Let your pain inspire you to grow, let it mean something. And stick with the social media that lifts you up Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Grief, Healing & Connection

October 26, 2014

Things-dont-really-getSometimes we grip and cling and refuse to accept reality as it is. We reject the truth. The more we contract against our experience, the more we suffer. It’s just that sometimes, reality really hurts, and our mind isn’t ready to integrate and accept it. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say our minds and our hearts aren’t ready.

We can do this in big ways and small. Maybe we’re dealing with the pain of rejection, and keep writing a script in our heads about what’s really happening, and how we’re going to get our happy ending down the line. Or maybe we’ve lost someone we don’t know how to live without, and it’s happened so suddenly, we’re in a state of shock. The limbs work, we can put one foot in front of the other, we seem okay to those around us, but inside we’re bargaining with the universe. We’re coming up with some way we might get back the person we’ve lost, as if that might be possible.

Some things are so painful, we look for another way, a different route, a formula that creates a different and livable outcome. We might do this by retracing our steps. If only we’d done or said “this”, maybe these other events wouldn’t have transpired, and life would still make sense. If only we could go back in time and redo one decision, perhaps that would have all kinds of implications that would save us from the current pain. And here’s the thing. When you’re dealing with those big losses, the loss of an entire person, for example, it’s a process, like anything else. It’s not something you can rush, and there isn’t any “how-to” book. You just have to move through your pain in whatever way you can, and hope that the people in your life show up for you, feed you, make sure you get a little sun on your face. Sometimes we go through experiences that make us feel we’re in a bubble, like there’s an impenetrable film between us, and everyone in the “living world”. Regina Brett has a quote, “You have to give time, time.” Time doesn’t heal every wound, but it helps lessen the crushing, incomprehensible nature of sudden grief. That waking up, and having to “re-remember” what’s happened goes away over time, because eventually you will integrate it, you will know it in your bones. You won’t wake up in the middle of the night, disoriented, panicked, feeling as though you’ve forgotten something urgent.

We deal with all kinds of losses in life. The loss of our innocence, whenever that comes. The loss of our trust when someone betrays us for the first time. The loss of the idea that we’re invincible. Sometimes we deal with the loss of our faith in ourselves, or the world at large. Losing your keys is just a moment you get to practice not panicking. Dealing with a car that won’t start is a chance to realize the things you take for granted won’t always work the way you want them to, or think they should. The more we accept that life is really another word for energy, and that energy is always in motion, the less we’ll expect things to be stable and predictable and safe. We all know we’re going to die, but that isn’t a comfortable thought, so we don’t always live like we know that. It’s as if we know, but we somehow don’t really believe it. That won’t really happen to us, or to those we love. Sometimes we live as though we have all the time in the world. We “waste” time, or “kill” time as if it isn’t precious. Death puts things in perspective. It shocks us into awareness. But grief is so overwhelming, and we don’t create a safe space for people to move through it. We’ve become so attached to positivity and light, it’s as if we’re supposed to feel ashamed when we feel dark and hopeless. Like we should stay home until we’re ready to smile again. People who are grieving and need support more than ever, are often left to manage on their own, because grief reminds people of their own mortality.

The thing is, none of us is going to live forever in the bodies we have right now. That much we know for sure. And we can allow ourselves to be crushed and devastated and paralyzed by that, or we can allow that to inspire us to really be living and loving and giving and seeing and listening and tasting and hugging and crying and laughing and grieving and cherishing the whole experience, every facet of it. If we’re grieving, it’s because we loved deeply, and there’s beauty in that. Some people will never allow themselves to be vulnerable that way, they’ll never really open, or let themselves be seen and understood. I don’t believe you have to feel grateful about everything that’s ever happened to you, but I do think every experience is a chance to grow and learn and open and soften. I think we can become more empathetic, understanding and compassionate. If we’re going to suffer from time to time, let’s at least put that suffering to good use. Let’s help each other. We don’t do that by rejecting the uncomfortable feelings. We don’t do it when we reject them internally, and we don’t do it when we refuse to meet people where they are. Most of the time, a person dealing with loss will appreciate your kindness, your presence, your thoughtfulness. These aren’t huge things to give, and at some point, we’ll all need to lean on each other. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

The Illusion of Control

October 23, 2014

You-may-not-control-allIf you want to be at peace, you have to let go of the illusion that you’re in control. Because the truth is, you’re in control of very, very little. You cannot control circumstances, for example. You can’t control what other people are going to do, or say, or want, or need. But you can work on the way you respond to what you’re given, and there’s a lot of power in that.

Our time and energy are the most precious gifts we’re given, and they’re also the most precious gifts we have to offer. They happen to be finite. And we don’t get to know when our time will be up, or how long we have with the people we love. It’s a tough gig, in many ways. Some people will love us, others will leave us, delight us, surprise us, shame us, uplift us, inspire us and betray us. These things are all likely. There are other possibilities, of course. We might be abused, neglected, abandoned, marked by grief and loss that’s hard to bear. We may also be nurtured and loved and protected and celebrated. Life may unfold in a delicious and incredible way, and we may also experience storms and obstacles and times when everything feels dark and impossible. Sometimes painful, unimaginable things happen to beautiful, kind people. Sometimes people who have trouble being kind and compassionate still get the breaks. It’s not a level playing field, after all.

Often we have pain, and our pain controls us. If we don’t do the work to heal, if we don’t know ourselves, we’re going to careen through life, crashing into things and people, like the woman I saw today, who rammed her car into the back of the car in front of her. I don’t know if she was texting, or distracted, or thinking about something her husband said on the way out the door. I just know she totaled her car, and was lucky to be relatively unharmed. When we’re moving through life in an unconscious way and we don’t have any real sense of what lights us up, what scares us, what excites us or inspires us, or where we might be blocked, life can really be a confusing mess where we accidentally hurt ourselves and others. We all long to heal, but often we go about healing in all the wrong ways. We think we have to chase what’s outside of us, to cure the hole that’s inside of us. We might try to fill it with relationships or money or things or ideas. We might repeat painful patterns in an effort to win that happiness. We might think we’d be happy, we’d be at peace if only we’d lose ten pounds, or meet someone amazing, or have a different job, house, car, or personality. Maybe if we had better hair, or whiter teeth, or bigger boobs or biceps. This is what it looks like to be controlled by pain. It sends us on an outward hunt, when we should really be digging and unearthing what’s within us.

Sometimes we become attached to a picture in our heads of how things should be, or how people should be, or how life should be unfolding. When reality doesn’t match that picture, we suffer. And this is my point. You cannot bend reality to your will. That is not within your control. But you can work on the way you show up for yourself, and all the people in your life.

If you’re expending a lot of energy trying to force, control, or manipulate an outcome or another human being, that’s time and energy you could be using to heal, and free yourself. When you stop and think about how hard it is to control yourself sometimes, it makes it easier to grasp how futile it is to try to control someone else. You’re never going to make another person, “see the light”, nor can you ever be sure that what feels right for you is, or would be, right for anyone else. Sometimes people need to screw up in order to learn and grow. When you jump in to save the day, you might, instead, be robbing your friend of a lesson they would have gotten had you not grabbed your cape and run out the door. Sometimes we over-inflate our power, or we relate to the world and the people in it as they pertain to us. As if everything and everyone is in orbit around us, and things are happening to us, when the truth is, we are one tiny strand in a huge story, and our strand is no more important than anyone else’s. Other times we underestimate our power, and the impact we could be having. Discerning what is within your power, and what is not is the best way to figure out how to spend your time, and upon what to direct your energy. If you want the world around you to be more peaceful, loving, compassionate, kind, honest, patient, awake and aware, start by cultivating those qualities within yourself. Start with that world, because that’s a place within your jurisdiction.

Too many people waste too much time trying to force. Anything in life that’s worthwhile is going to require work, time, effort, commitment, patience, presence and passion, whether we’re talking about a long-term relationship, or the blossoming of your dreams. But working hard is a lot different than forcing. Working hard feels really good, because you know your devotion is in service to your dreams. Forcing feels awful, because there’s a sales pitch involved. You have to convince yourself or someone else that everything is great, when you know it isn’t. Don’t chase love. Don’t chase people. Don’t bend over backwards and try to be perfect for anyone. Don’t run after people who reject you. Don’t bury your head in the sand when a person shows you with their actions that they do not want what you want, and they do not feel what you feel. All of these things are a poor use of your time and energy, plus they hurt your tender heart. They deplete you. They make you feel less than, when the truth is you are more than enough, and you are capable of healing. But it takes time and energy, and you won’t have enough if you’ve spent it all chasing. Life is not a race. It’s a journey, it’s a process, it’s a story that’s co-written by the things that happen and the way you respond. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Motivations

October 22, 2014

Whatever-happens-aroundWe never know what’s motivating someone unless they tell us, and even then, people are not always honest. No one wants to say, “I’m making this decision because I’m scared and weak, and it’s the safer and easier thing to do.” I mean, seriously. Who wants to have to own that? Sometimes people make choices, and they don’t communicate about what’s driving them because they can’t face it themselves.

We’re human, and most of us long to understand. Few things feel worse than being ignored. If we make ourselves vulnerable with someone, if we reach out in an effort to make sense of something, and are left in a vacuum to figure it out on our own, it adds insult to injury. We feel we aren’t even worth a response to someone who was, or is, important to us. There’s nothing kind or compassionate about leaving someone in a communication void. And let me be clear. I’m not talking about situations with people who are unbalanced or have a total lack of boundaries, or who refuse to accept what you’ve already said a million times. Sometimes you really have no choice but to draw a hard line. And while I’m at it, let me also say that you can never be the one to help heal the heart of your inconsolable ex. Meeting for one more tea, taking one more walk, answering one more call, writing one last email…it just keeps the other party hanging on and hoping. Your intentions are probably good, but you can’t and won’t help anyone that way. If you’ve explained yourself, if you’ve communicated openly and honestly, and given the other party the chance to say whatever needs to be said, you’re both going to need some time and space. It’s hard to heal when we keep throwing salt in the wound. I’m not talking about those cases, though. I’m talking about times when we’ve been close to someone, and they make choices that are mind-boggling, unexpected, completely out of left field, and then they refuse to help us understand what’s happened.

This happens with romantic relationships, it happens between family members, and it happens with friends. Sometimes there’s a willingness to talk, but it’s not coupled with the ability to be truthful. You can only do what you can do, after all. You can create a safe space. You can say that you just want to understand. You can invite the other party to open up and share with you, even if it isn’t pretty. You can reassure someone that there’s nothing they could say that would make you stop loving them. But you can’t force someone to accept your invitation to be intimate, because that’s what we’re talking about, here.

Sometimes people feel threatened or envious, and they can’t imagine saying that out loud, so instead they withdraw, or they lash out, or they act out. Friendships that were once thriving are lost, because we’ve decided some feelings are ugly or shameful. Can we really tell a friend we feel jealous or insecure? What’s funny, is that the more we’re able to be truthful, the less these emotions overpower us. Because that’s what happens. When we repress something, we’re actually feeding it power. The more we push it down or reject it, the harder it comes back up. Most people would rather have an uncomfortable conversation than lose a friend. And some people might actually see bold-faced ownership of your feelings as an opportunity to deepen your bond. If you want someone to know you, you have to be willing to show yourself. Even the parts that aren’t so pretty. Especially those. If you internalize your confusion and pain about the choices being made by someone close to you, you also lose a chance to see what the friendship can sustain.

Also, let’s talk about rejection. Since we never know what’s motivating someone unless they tell us and they’re honest about it, it’s really inadvisable to assume it’s a reflection of anything lacking within you. If you’re in a romantic triangle with someone, if you have a friend who you wish would be so much more, and they choose the other party, of course that can feel like the other party must be better than you. But the reality is just that the other person is different than you, and maybe in ways that work better for your friend. Maybe you’re scary in some way. Maybe you demand a level of honesty and intimacy that feels too intense for them. Maybe the other person offers more stability, and your friend comes from a really unstable background. Maybe your friend doesn’t want a real partner, maybe they prefer to be the big personality. Maybe a million things.

The point is, try not to expend too much time or energy trying to understand what someone else is doing, or has done. The story to examine is always the story of our participation. What did we bring to the mix? Do we feel good about it? Did we show up the way we wanted to? Is there anything we can learn that will help us moving forward? Do we need to apologize to the other person, or to ourselves for anything we might have done or not done? Once you have those questions answered, move on and try to trust. I realize it isn’t always easy. But if a person is meant to be in your life, they’re going to find a way. If they can’t, you just need different things. Try to be at peace with that. Sending you love and a hug, Ally Hamilton

Addiction

October 21, 2014

We-are-addicted-to-ourSometimes in the name of love, we seek to control. We may do this because we can see a loved one is about to head into a brick wall, and we long to save them from getting hurt. Parents do this all the time, especially with their firstborn children. It’s a natural instinct to want to protect your children from pain; if you don’t have that instinct, I worry for you and your little ones. But if a parent is always there to say no, and stop and don’t, what results is a fearful child. You don’t want to scare the curiosity out of your kid. Or rob them of any sense that they can trust themselves. Eventually, we all have to learn that if we run too quickly, we’re probably going to trip and fall, and it’s going to hurt. That’s how we learn.

Sometimes we see a friend stuck in a painful cycle, and we throw our hands in the air. What are they doing? How can they not realize they’re repeating this destructive pattern? How many times will we have to be there when it all falls apart? I’m not saying we shouldn’t kindly hold up a mirror when someone we love is hurting themselves. But you can’t force a person to see something they aren’t ready to see. You can’t manage another person’s journey. And you never know what someone else needs in order to learn and grow and strengthen. Sometimes we need painful lessons over and over again before we get it. Sometimes we have to have our hearts broken badly and repeatedly, until we finally say, “That’s it. Enough.”

You can’t save anyone, anyway. Communication is beautiful. “I love you, and it hurts me to see you treating yourself so badly. It hurts me to see you in such a self-loathing place, because I see you so clearly, and you’re beautiful.” Say it, go ahead. Maybe, hopefully, some part of that will seep in there. Maybe a tiny little root will grow, and one day the person will start to see themselves the way you do. If you’re dealing with someone who’s harming themselves, of course do everything you can to get them help. But understand, ultimately, everyone has to do their own journey. Healing is inside work. A person has to be open to help, or no help is available.

And try not to judge. None of us knows the interior world of another person. We only ever know what someone is willing to show us. We all have pain. Some people do a better job managing their pain than others. Some people have more pain handed to them, that’s a fact. Sometimes a person is up against so much grief and despair they reach for anything to numb it. Anything to avoid feeling that abyss. Desperation and loneliness and a certain kind of personality, along with possible trauma, a person’s resiliency, and so many other factors can lead to the kind of numbing that’s hard to comprehend. No one wants to be addicted to something that has the potential to ruin or end their lives. Addicts are prisoners of the object of their desire. They get hijacked by it. They’re owned. Their pain owns them, and the agent that numbs the pain owns them. Unless they find the enormous will and strength and love for themselves to fight back. And even then, it takes a Herculean effort, a lot of support, and a decision every day to choose love. To choose health. To choose freedom. Sometimes people just don’t win the fight. They get tired. It’s heartbreaking. Addiction robs us of so much beauty.

Have you ever been in a destructive, abusive relationship that you wanted to end, but you just couldn’t find the strength? You just weren’t feeling good enough about yourself to say, “F&ck this. I don’t deserve this”? Maybe you tried to end it a bunch of times, but the pull was so strong, you found yourself dialing that number, even when every part of your being was screaming, “No!” It’s not easy being a human being. It can be gorgeous and beautiful and wildly interesting. But it isn’t easy. Love the people in your life. I mean, really love them. Honor them, cherish them, see them, hear them, support their growth and their joy. That’s all you can do. And sometimes, you’ll have to do it from afar if someone you love is hurting themselves and won’t be stopped. Don’t ever think a person is choosing between you and a drug. And that you must not mean much to them if they’re choosing a drug over you. You’re not even in the fight. You’re not in the mix. It’s not about you, so don’t get confused. You’ve been left on the shore. They’re out to sea with this thing, fighting for their lives. You’re outside the thing, so try to grasp that. How much they love you has nothing to do with it. It’s how much they’re able to care about themselves. May all beings be free from suffering. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

A Leg is a Leg

October 20, 2014

How-many-legs-does-a-dogSometimes people come into our lives and there’s an instant and real connection there, but circumstances prevent us from exploring it. There’s no need to agonize over this. You can’t pursue every road; life is full of choices. There’s a reason we have the word “bittersweet”. Also, understand that there are times we idealize someone, or the feeling we have when we’re with them, simply because we’ll never get to really test it. Fantasy is easy, even with a real bond. Meeting once a decade for tea, or reconnecting on Facebook with someone you knew twenty years ago can bring you back. It can make you feel like you’re in a time warp. But if you really want to know how things would be with someone, you have to be in the foxhole with them at some point. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel like this would have been the person for you, if only things had worked out. Sending messages, meeting at Grand Central Station for an hour-long wistful coffee while you’re in town on business, that’s easy. Holding your baby at 3 o’clock in the morning as he’s throwing up for the sixth time in four hours, covering you both in vomit until you finally strip down to your underwear to lessen the laundry load, that’s something. Especially if your partner is there to take shifts with you, to discuss the merits of a trip to the ER, to hold you, too, because you’re on the verge of collapse—that’s when you really know, one way or the other.

Focus on what’s real in your life. Try not to take people for granted, or to be reckless with the heart of someone you say you love. If there are problems, welcome to real relationships. Life will never fail to put challenges in your path, it’s how you handle them that defines your relationship with yourself, and anyone else. It’s easy to lose the thread. You wake up with someone, day in and day out, for weeks, months, years, decades, and it’s easy to stop seeing them. I mean, to really take them in, and not just glance and nod your head like you’ve got it all figured out, because guess what? We’re all changing, all the time. Every single one of us. The person you chose to share your life with ten years ago, is not the same person today, and neither are you. We like to “peg” people, to think we “have them down”, but we’re always in process, and so are they; if you stop paying attention, you’re going to miss a lot. And no one likes to feel unseen or unheard. If two people stop showing up for each other, but continue living under the same roof, you can bet problems will follow.

A relationship exists in the space between you, and the other person, whether we’re talking about your partner, your child, your parent, or the person behind the counter at the juice bar. What you put into that space is up to you. If we’re talking about intimate, longterm relationships, you have to be especially mindful about what you’re contributing, because complacency won’t get you there. Boredom, rage, frustration, blame and criticism won’t do it, either. You can’t control other people, or where they are on their own path. You can only do your end, you can only work to keep your side of the street clean. But you can inspire other people to be kind, compassionate, caring and present, by being those things yourself. If they don’t follow suit, if you try to communicate but find it’s falling on deaf ears, you may not be able to walk the distance together. It takes two people to make that third thing beautiful. That third thing being the relationship.

Maybe it can’t work, and that’s hard. It hurts. Depending upon circumstances, it can hurt a lot. If there are children in the picture, for example, it’s brutal. But understand that they live in that space between you and your partner, and if it’s polluted, they’re going to suffer. If you can’t make the space safe, loving, healthy and nurturing, it’s time to come up with a new plan. Turning your attention to fantasy won’t help anyone, but people do it all the time. They allow a flirtation at work to grow into a full-fledged situation, with heated emotion, and lying and desperation. It’s easy to justify poor behavior when you’ve felt discarded or rejected for years. But that just adds to the mess. It involves a whole other person, with all their feelings and complexities. It adds a layer of guilt and shame and hopelessness to a situation that’s already bleak. You really have to go to the source. If you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, misunderstood, it’s time to have a conversation. It’s time to sit down and get real with your partner, who already knows things are not okay. If it’s so bad you’re ready to trade in your integrity, and your ability to feel good about yourself, communication is long overdue. Some things are just not sustainable. Sometimes the foxhole is full of broken promises, dreams, hopes and potential. All that stuff has been shot up over the years, and now it’s time to see if you can piece things back together. If there’s enough there to start again, and start new, as you are now. And maybe you’re going to find that you can’t. But dealing with reality as it is, is always the place to start.

When we struggle in a relationship, we all like to think that things would be different if we had a different partner. And let me say this—maybe you chose someone when you were too young to really know yourself. Maybe you got hitched because you turned thirty and it seemed like the thing to do. Maybe you thought you knew your partner, but found out once you were in it, that so much had been edited out. Maybe you thought you wanted intimacy, but once you had it, you realized it isn’t for you. It isn’t for everyone, and that’s just reality. But if the truth is that if you’re not happy on the inside, finding a new partner won’t fix that. It’ll catch up with you. We can’t run from our pain, or gloss it over, or push it down or numb it out, and expect life to feel good. It won’t. Whatever it is, deal with it. Take it by the horns, and own it. Because you don’t have all the time in the world. You want to be at peace. And you want the people you love to be at peace. And you want to be able to face yourself in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth at the end of the day, and feel you can look yourself in the eye. These things are really important. There’s no judgement here. People screw up royally, all the time. Someone is making a huge, messy mistake right this second. Sometimes that’s what we need to learn a painful lesson, or own the fact that we’re miserable, and start to make hard choices. So don’t go to self-loathing, because you’ll get stuck there, Just start where you are. Yoga is great for this, by the way. One of the biggest things we work on is the ability to lean into our uncomfortable feelings, and to work with reality as it is. To breathe when we feel challenged, to trust that everything is always in flux, to understand that how we feel now is not how we will always feel, and to pause and listen before we act. When you follow your intuition, the way becomes clear. Sending you love and a hug, Ally Hamilton

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