It’s not easy to drop your feelings, opinions and ideas so you can really hear what another person has to say, where they may be coming from, or how they’re seeing and experiencing things. And this is never more true than in the context of an argument. When we feel attacked, it’s perfectly natural to go into defense mode. But most of the time, no one is attacking us. And deep listening can’t happen if you’re in “fight or flight” mode. People may see things differently, but if you’re in a close relationship with someone, it’s unlikely they want to go for your jugular (and if they do, you’re probably with someone who needs help figuring out how to manage their anger).
We all want to be known and seen and understood. It’s beautiful when you allow yourself to open to another person, but the more you do that, the more you have to be willing to be vulnerable, and that requires trust. When you have the feeling that someone is really seeing you, and suddenly that same person seems to be misunderstanding you, it can feel like a betrayal. Or sometimes we have embarrassment or unease because perhaps some of our flaws slipped out. And now this person who had this image of us may be seeing something we don’t want them to see, or something we’d rather not see ourselves. There are all kinds of reasons a person gets defensive, or shuts down, or runs for the door. Often it feels safer to dig our heels in and defend our position. To “win” the fight. But if you’re trying to get close to someone, and if you want to be seen, it’s not a fight, and this isn’t your opponent. A person is either going to love and accept you with all your flaws and absurdity, or they aren’t. You can only be known if you allow yourself to be known. Most people are not going to be able to read your mind. And if you’re only willing to show the shiny, status update, perfect picture version of yourself, that instagram glow, the 140-character gem that you thought of while walking your dog, then you’ll never really be seen. Because we’re all complex and we all make mistakes, and we all have choices we wish we could make over again and differently.
I think very commonly people dig their heels in when they’re attempting to hide. To hold on. Or the level of reactivity is high. That’s one of the main things a consistent yoga practice addresses and encourages–the ability to sit with intense sensation, calmly. A burning feeling in your quadriceps is not all that different than a burning feeling in your heart, like rage. It’s a temporary sensation, and if you can open to it and examine it, it will open you and strengthen you, and teach you something about yourself. But if you fly off the handle every time you feel something intense, you deny yourself those opportunities to know yourself well. To become more aware and more accountable, and more able to trust yourself.
Of course there are legitimate times when you’ll disagree with someone, or see things in a completely different way. But if you really want to know the people in your life, it’s so useful if you can learn to listen deeply. Open to it even if it’s something you don’t want to hear or see or accept. Maybe this person is attempting to show you something essential about who they are, or where they are on their path. Maybe you’re going to discover a new way of thinking about something. It’s possible you’re going to realize there’s some fundamental difference philosophically that you’re not going to be able to get past. But there’s no point in denying someone else’s reality, even if you disagree with it. You might as well open your heart and your mind to their point of view. Maybe you’ll go back to your own, and maybe something will shift for you. But real listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to speak. And being right is not nearly as satisfying as being seen. Wishing you love, and the power to pause, breathe, and listen. Ally
A couple of days ago I wrote about someone suffering over the loss of a painful relationship. And I’ve received a torrential downpour of emails from people in similar situations since then. A man wrote in and said his wife had invited a man from work to a party at their house. She spent the whole afternoon with him, introducing him to all their friends, sitting next to him, endlessly putting her hand on his arm or leaning into him, swimming in the pool when he wanted to swim. He said the vibe was definitely flirtatious, and that many of his guy friends asked if he needed back up. Some of the wives asked him if he was okay. He pulled his wife aside at one point and told her he was extremely uncomfortable and so were many of their friends, but she rolled her eyes and said he was just being jealous again. He told me the last time this happened he’d discovered she’d been texting and emailing with another guy from work who lives in another state. She sees him at conferences, but for the most part their relationship was happening over their laptops and cellphones. He told me he had checked her phone and her emails, because he had a very definite feeling something was off. And he found pictures she’d sent of herself in a bikini sitting by their pool. And pictures of her curled up on their sofa. He saw an email in which she told this guy her husband was very possessive and she might not be able to write as much because it was making him crazier than usual. When he confronted her about that, she again said he was being jealous, and that it showed a real lack of integrity for him to be checking her emails and phone. She put passwords on everything, insisted this guy was a friend, and carried on. Anyway, at the end of the party, it was just the husband, the wife, and this guy left alone in the pool. And the colleague did make small talk with the husband, but his attention was definitely on the wife, as hers was on him. She opened another bottle of wine and handed this guy a glass, and asked her husband if he wanted one, too. He said he was tired, and she told him he could go to bed anytime. At that point, he asked the guy to leave. He said he was polite, but he just told him it was late, and he needed to kick him out. That he had to get up early to drop their boys off at school. The guy gets his stuff and goes, and the wife goes to bed without saying a word to her husband. They’re in therapy because she thinks he needs help. As far as she’s concerned, she doesn’t have any problems.
Someone else is in pain because she’s in love with a man who wants to keep their relationship hidden. He told her at the outset that he wasn’t looking for anything serious, but she fell for him, anyway, and now when she runs into him in public, it crushes her that he acts like she’s just a friend. That he could go from being so close to so cold in a matter of hours. It’s brutal when someone pulls you in and then pushes you away, and for some people that’s their modus operandi. If you get too close, you’re going to get burned. Because for some, getting close is a dangerous proposition. There’s the possibility that you could find a tender spot and tap into something so painful they fear they couldn’t survive it. Or it enrages them that you’re asking for that kind of intimacy. Not because they don’t want it, but because they aren’t willing to be that vulnerable. If you fall in love with a person’s potential, that’s not the same as falling in love with them as they are. Accept people as you find them. Not as you see they could be or might be one day. And either love them the way they are, or set them free. Otherwise the love you’re offering is a form of rejection. It’s a kind of manipulation. It assumes your love will be enough to save them or change them. You’re going to break your own heart that way. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing where a person has room to grow. But it’s not loving to expect and ask someone to be somewhere they aren’t.
Lots of people wrote in saying they know they’re in something that isn’t healthy but they can’t get out. Some of them have children, and that always complicates things and in those cases it makes a lot of sense to go slowly and make sure you’re clear about the impact your choices are going to have on those around you. Counseling is a really excellent idea, because sometimes your feelings are so intense, they cloud your vision. This is true whether there are kids in the picture or not. How you see a person is not necessarily how they are. And how someone sees you isn’t always accurate. A third, objective and compassionate set of eyes can be incredibly helpful. Two people can weave a very intricate web over time, and untangling it is not easy. People frequently become attached to their list of wrongs. Dig their heels in and recount every awful thing that’s ever happened in the history of the thing. The anger is so great, it colors everything.
If you know you’re in something that isn’t growing and isn’t loving, if you’re allowing yourself to be degraded, disrespected, neglected or abused, you really need to find yourself some help and some support. Sometimes the way we’re coloring things in the rear-view mirror is also really inaccurate. When I finally left that much older man I dated when I was in college, I suffered intensely for over a year, and he was pretty awful to me. Not because he was a terrible person (although in retrospect I think it’s very uncool for a 37 year old man to chase down a seventeen year old girl), but because he was in an incredible amount of pain himself. Nonetheless, I loved him and thought I could save him. And I tried to heal some of my deepest wounds in the context of that relationship, but instead, I drove the stake into my heart a little more deeply. We suffer those relationships the most because not only have we lost this person we thought we loved so much, we’ve also betrayed ourselves. The tendency is to look back and think, “If only…”, this or that, or the other thing. If I’d said this, or done that, or been more this way or that way. You know I’m going to say the work is always inside. You have to wrangle your own dragons and know yourself if you expect to be able to handle yourself well in the context of intimate relationships. If you don’t know who you are or what you want or how you feel or what makes you happy, it’s very hard to figure those things out as you try to factor in what someone else wants or needs in order to be at peace. There are exceptions to that rule. I know a couple who’ve been dating since they were 15 years old and they’re 30 and married and very happy. They grew up together and figured it out together. But it’s highly unusual.
The bottom line is if you’re suffering it is your work to solve that and heal it. On your own or in the context of a relationship. You can’t wait for your partner to fix it, nor can you keep pointing your finger in their direction. You have to take care of yourself if you want to be able to nurture anyone else. If you’re depleted, you won’t have much to give. Please don’t allow yourself to be abused. Life can be so beautiful. But not if you allow yourself to stay stuck. Reach out if you need to. Sending you love, Ally
Recently I received a message from a woman who’s suffering over the loss of a relationship. She hooked up with this guy a couple of years after her divorce, and at first everything seemed wonderful. He was kind and attentive, and she felt that heat she hadn’t experienced in years. She fell hard. Little by little, things started to deteriorate. He began comparing her to the three hundred women who came before. He’s 62, so I guess he put the time in. He measured her breasts (take a minute with that if you need one, I did), and he told her she needed to get her boobs done to satisfy him and stack up to his prior girlfriends. Then he began to complain that she took too long to orgasm, and that he never had to scramble anyone else’s eggs for such a long time before (insert all the non-yogic things I’d like to say, here). He timed her. Like. With a stopwatch. Nothing like a clock going to relax you!! He let her know he would be going out to flirt with other women and chat them up, and he might even exchange numbers and hang out, because that’s what he needed to feel good as a man. And eventually she discovered he’d made plans with an ex-girlfriend to take a trip behind her back, even though she’d asked if they might take a weekend away somewhere for her birthday, and he said he couldn’t afford to travel. She ended it, even though she says she still loves him and wants him back. Because, I mean, who wouldn’t want a prince like that?! And it seems she went and had that breast augmentation. To make matters worse, he told all their mutual friends that he ended it because she’s jealous and crazy and needs to be medicated, and they believed him because he’s charismatic and the life of the party, and she’s more soft-spoken. But I guess he posts things about his current girlfriend and her private parts on his Twitter account, so you’d think maybe his friends would realize he might not be such a fabulous guy to date. So basically, she was emotionally abused and lost all her friends, and moved to the other side of the country to get away from all the pain. But of course, “wherever you go, there you are” as Jon Kabat-Zinn so eloquently puts it.
We could all focus on the guy (and go ahead if you’d like to, because there’s plenty to say there). He’s clearly got some rage toward women, and a deep insecurity underneath all that bravado, some self-loathing, and a lot of pain. But the more interesting thing to look at for her, is why she participated in a relationship like that, and why she thinks she still loves him and wants him back. This is a smart, very attractive woman. And she’s convinced she’d go back to him given the chance. Love does not cut you down, okay? It does not ask you to prove your worthiness. It does not bring measuring tape and stopwatches to bed. And it does not make you feel, “less than”. If you’re attracted to relationships like that, you have some deep pain. Some seriously unhealed wounds that tell you you aren’t worthy of love or consideration or respect. You don’t love the person who’s making you suffer, you’re addicted to the interaction. Some part of you believes you aren’t worthy, and you’re thinking if you can only attain the love and approval of this person who’s seeing the “truth” (LIE) about you, then you’d be healed. But you won’t heal that way. You’ll just increase your pain.
When you’re stuck in a web like this, you really need to get yourself some support. Someone to help you untangle yourself before your heart is so strangled the light starts to go out around you. This woman who wrote in feels suicidal. How could you not when you’ve participated in your own destruction, and feel compelled to continue? That’s a very dark place to be, and you may need some good people to help you turn the lights back on. A great therapist would be a very good call. Any healing modality that helps you find your power again, whether it’s yoga, or seated meditation, or long hikes or journaling, or reading a book that helps you shed some light on your situation. But going back for more is asking for more pain. And more darkness. And life is too short for that. Love will never degrade you. Sending you a hug and some love right now. Ally
Everything you perceive is coming through your lens. There’s no other way for you to receive data from outside yourself, except to filter it through your own eyes, ears, heart and mind. And sometimes our receptors have really gotten clogged. Emotionally, our ability to discern what’s real is determined by how much we’ve been hurt, and to what degree we’ve been able to work with our pain. At this point, I’d have to say your pain and your willingness to examine and understand it are your tickets to an empowered and authentic life, which to me includes an ability to face reality as it is. As Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Sometimes you have a history with someone, and you have pain around the interaction, and it clouds your ability to see the person clearly, even years later. We are all in process all the time, it never ends. The way you were three years ago is not the way you are today. There’s been growth, and change and movement. And so it is with everyone else. People make mistakes, and no one is operating from their highest selves in every moment. We’ve all made choices we’d love to go back and redo. Sometimes people have so much heat and pain between them, even when something small happens, the reaction to it is huge. As if every single way the person had ever disappointed you or hurt you is also in the mix. And maybe they just forgot to pick up their socks. (Not that it’s considerate to make a habit of leaving your dirty socks around for someone else to pick up, I’m just saying that’s all it takes to set a person off sometimes, and before you know it, you’re screaming about something they said 10 years ago to your mother. Or something.)
Sometimes the inability to see a person clearly happens at the beginning. People write to me with their lists of qualities they’d like in a partner. I think it’s good to know what you’re looking for as far as your “non-negotiables”, which might include things like loyalty or a good sense of humor, but I’m talking about lists that include eye color and hair color and six-pack abs and an interest in croquet and salsa dancing. Then they meet a person with the “right” color eyes, and start projecting the entire list on to the unsuspecting person. Who maybe doesn’t like croquet. And they miss the chance to get to know someone as they are. And then see if it’s a good fit. This can come out of a deep desire for intimacy and connection, which is totally understandable, but can create a tendency to sweep things under the rug. And hormones can also fog your lens right up.
It’s not just romantically, either. Familial relationships are a classic context for this stuff. You may be a full-grown adult who functions well in the world, but find when you go back to your parents place it’s as if you regress to the you you were when you were fifteen. Or that your parents still treat you like that kid who should get a smaller portion at dinner. Siblings often interact the way they did growing up, either supporting each other, or blasting each other, or some combination of both.
If you’re feeling incredibly lonely, that can also clog your lens. Maybe you think every person who says hi to you might really want to sleep with you. Or you think everyone hates you. There are all kinds of ways we mis-perceive reality, and it’s important to recognize that, or at least factor it into your mix. To ask yourself if you’re feeling heated over something, or defeated, or confused or angry or rejected or mistreated, if there’s any possibility you’re not seeing things clearly. If maybe you have some part in what’s happening. Because you do. You have your experiences and your outlook, and it’s essential to understand how those things are helping you filter the data that’s coming at you, or not. If you think you suck, or people suck, your lens is distorted. If you think another person is only ever going to be the way they were with you at some given point in time, your lens is also in need of a wiping. You also might want to throw into the equation your dynamic with someone. Sometimes two people bring out the worst in each other, or push buttons or bring up past pain unintentionally. Just because your interaction didn’t work doesn’t mean other relationships will face the same demise for you, or for them. You can’t “peg’ people. I know we love to do that, but people are in flux just like everything else is in flux. And it feels awful to be pegged, right? To be unforgiven, to have every mistake you’ve ever made reflected back at you every time you talk to someone with whom you were once so close.
There are many ways to wipe your lens or get a new Rx if you need one. If you practice all eight limbs of yoga (the physical part is only one eighth of the equation), you’ll be well on your way. Finding the tools that work for you for your own healing and your own willingness to examine and work with your pain are also ways you upgrade your prescription. I won’t lie to you. The world is full of pain sometimes. But it’s also full of the kind of beauty that can take your breath away if you let it. That can knock you over with gratitude and joy. I used to think the thing we all wanted was to be happy. But really, I think the thing is to be awake. To be hungry for the truth, whatever it may be, and even if it’s painful. When I say “the truth”, I’m not suggesting there’s one truth. I’m saying your truth, what’s true for you personally. Being able to discern what you need to be at peace. What’s yours and what belongs to someone else when interactions go awry. What’s real for other people. Just being able to see clearly, and accept reality as it is. It’s not easy. Sometimes we want to fight it because things aren’t unfolding the way we want them to. But it’s not up to us. We don’t get to choose everything that comes at us. We don’t get to manage what other people do or want or say or need. We just get to manage ourselves, as best we can, and hopefully with a lot of love and compassion. There’s a lot of power and a lot of peace in that. Wishing you love, and sending you a little glass cleaner if you need it. We all need it sometimes. Ally
Do you ever “boil yourself”? Obsess over a conversation that’s behind you that didn’t go the way you wanted it to? Or worry endlessly about situations that might or might not come to pass in the future? When we look back at a set of circumstances around which we feel unsettled, or sad or disappointed, it’s so tempting to try to rewrite history in our minds. If only I’d said this instead of that. If only this person had wanted X and not Y. If only I’d stayed home instead of going out. Thoughts create a chemical reaction in the body. There’s not a lot of difference in the way the nervous system responds to events we’re concocting in our minds, versus those challenging interactions or circumstances that are actually happening.
I think we get fixated when we’re feeling vulnerable, or depleted in some way. When we’re tired, or overwhelmed, or feeling hurt. Those seem to be the times the mind latches on to something painful or unsettling, whether it’s real or imagined. So there we are, folding the laundry, except we’re not. We’re in some imaginary conversation about something that hasn’t happened and might not ever happen. We’ve imagined our worst-case scenario, and we let our minds run wild. So there we are, folding that t-shirt, but our shoulders are up around our ears, and our breath is shallow, and our brow is furrowed and maybe our jaw is clenching. If you work hard enough at it, you might even raise your blood pressure or get an adrenaline rush. And meanwhile, you’ve missed the chance to practice a little Zen and the Art of Folding Laundry. Maybe you missed hearing your kids laughing in the other room. Or you didn’t see how the sun was setting right outside your door.
Left unchecked, the mind tends to head into the past or the future. But it’s sad because there’s no potential left in the past; it cannot be rewritten. I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for examining and understanding in what ways your past might be affecting your present. I’m simply saying there’s not much point in using up too much of today looking backward and trying to do it differently. It already unfolded the way it did. And when we race into the future, we often do that with anxiety. Playing out our worst fears, thinking about what we’ll say or do, making ourselves literally sick with worry. There is no predicting the future. And most people spend way too much time upsetting themselves over things that never come to pass, anyway.
There’s a real power in being able to pick up the mind and bring it back to this moment. Back to this little t-shirt, or sunset, or laughter in the other room. Your breath is a great tool for that. Your inhales and exhales happen in the now. You can use them to arrive in the moment and open to it. Life is full of pain sometimes. You don’t have to create it in your mind. It’s also full of joy. But you can miss it if you’re somewhere else. Sending you love, and the hope that you’ll experience a little zen and the art of breathing. Ally
I got an email from a woman a couple of days ago asking if I thought it was wrong that she was longing for a partner. She said she’d done a lot of work on herself over the years, and that she feels like she has gone a long way toward healing and understanding the source of those tendencies that have derailed her relationships in the past–clinging, obsessing, sacrificing her own feelings and needs for the sake of her partner’s. She’s been on a dating detox as she’s done all this work, showing up on her mat six days a week, working with a great therapist, hanging out with friends and family, and getting to know herself well. And now she’s wondering if it’s a bad sign or an indication that maybe she hasn’t healed enough since she has started thinking about how nice it would be to find someone special.
I told her I think it’s the most natural thing in the world to want to connect. To have someone to laugh with and cuddle with, to talk to at the end of the day. Not everyone needs that or wants it, but there’s certainly nothing wrong if you do. And it’s great to heal and work on yourself so that you can move through the world with an open heart, and interact with people in a healthy, loving way. It’s fairly easy to remain stable when we’re on our own, doing our own thing, coming and going as we please. Eating what we want when we want. Reading if we feel like it, or going for a walk, or turning out the lights and going to bed really early or late, as the case may be. It’s in the context of intimate relationships that our “stuff” is most likely to come up. That’s when our buttons get pushed, and we really get to see how much we’ve healed, how accountable we can be for our own feelings, how able we are to express ourselves calmly. Relationships can be very enlightening and the springboard for a lot of growth.
I think the issue is not attaching your self-worth and reason for being to another person. That’s a heavy burden to ask anyone to carry, whether it’s your significant other, or your child, or your sister. No one can validate you in any real way, except you. It’s wonderful for people to tell us they love us and appreciate us. It feels so good. But if you have doubt about whether you’re lovable, no one is going to be able to solve that for you but you. I know in our culture we’re taught that if we just find the right person to “complete us”, we can sail into the sunset and have that happy ending. The story begins when the sailboat leaves the harbor. That’s not the end. The story is about you and your shipmates dumping water overboard when you need to, or sealing up holes, or weathering storms, or enjoying those gorgeous days when the water is calm and warm, and the sun is shining. Having two people in the boat who know how to hold their own is really helpful. Otherwise one person is stuck doing the heavy lifting.
It’s no fun to be in a relationship if you’re feeling insecure all the time. If you’re bending over backwards, or chasing, or relentlessly wondering if everything is okay. If you’re being enough for them. Asking someone to carry that for you is not reasonable. It’s too much. That’s really your load to carry. Healing is what gives us the strength to carry our load. Otherwise we end up spilling it all over the people who come close to us. And we look to them to solve our feelings of doubt and fear about ourselves. About our not being enough. Most people will need to put that load down eventually. They may run from the weight of it. Or just jump overboard one day. Feeling like you’re the only reason a person is happy or miserable is just too grave a responsibility. Put the key to your happiness in your own pocket. And then share it with your partner or your family or your friends. That’s a gift you give to them, and to yourself. Ally
Listen. Sometimes people write in and they are in despair. The kind of pain that leads to thoughts of, “What’s the point of it all?” Usually people asking this kind of question have been knocked around by life a little. Or a lot. There are people coming out of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. People who’ve endured the kind of loss that makes you weep if your heart is open and you allow yourself to stand in their shoes for just a moment. Sometimes the pain is really old. I have a friend who watched his father die of a heart attack when he was eight. That will never be okay. My mom lost her father at thirteen and her mother at 28. Then her brother died suddenly of a heart attack, and just like that, her family of origin was gone. My cousin lost his son when he was six years old. And my cousin is one of the best and kindest people I’ve ever known, and so is his wife. I know a woman who drove her daughter to the school bus and watched her get hit by a car as she crossed the street. The parents in Newtown Connecticut who are still suffering and still trying to put their lives back together in some kind of way so they can get through today. And tackle it the same way tomorrow. I’d be lying to you if I said everything in life is positive. I wrote something about horrendous things happening to good people recently, and most of the responses were compassionate and kind. But one person said it was Karma, and life is fair, and people get what they deserve. No they don’t, not always. And that’s not a true understanding of Karma, either. People who believe in Karma and reincarnation feel the soul is going to get the lessons it needs for its evolution. It’s not a vengeful thing. But it’s very hard to imagine anyone needs to lose their child violently for their soul to evolve. Or that 40 of those parents happened to all live in the same town in Connecticut, and need the same lesson. Someone else said it’s a person’s thoughts. That what you think about is what you attract, and that you will create what you believe you deserve spiritually. Can anyone truly believe people create that kind of devastation because they think that’s what they deserve? Or that anyone could have thought a thing like that into being? Yes, your thoughts affect your reality. Fear will shut you down, and tremendous amounts of worry and anxiety will create dis-ease within you, there’s no doubt about that. If you suffer from anxiety or are recovering from trauma, there are so many ways you can work with your nervous system, and there are different healing modalities available to you. (If you need help with that, feel free to message me privately). If you’re optimistic and you feel that life can be full of pain, but that it can also be full of joy, and you head into the world with an open heart and a lot of gratitude for what you do have, it will have an effect on your day, on the way you’re moving through the world, on the way people respond to you. But if you have worries about dropping your child off at school from time to time because we are living in a world where some people are slipping through the cracks, you are not creating a horrible outcome for your children or yourself. You’re simply awake. You cannot wrap life up into a neat little box. Anymore than you can go gift wrap a wave from the ocean.
On Friday I had just finished teaching and someone at the studio told me to call my kids’ dad right away. He’s my good friend, and business partner, and ex-husband, and he picks the kids up on Fridays while I’m teaching. When I went to get my cellphone I saw a text from a friend saying he hoped my kids were okay. And then I saw a text from their dad saying nothing had happened at my son’s school, but they wouldn’t let any parents in, or kids out. A mom at my son’s school had texted saying we were on lockdown. And then a student in my class said there had been a school shooting. I felt the blood drain to my feet. I’ve never felt anything quite like that. The room went a little hazy, and I lost my peripheral vision. My hands shook so much I struggled to hit the right buttons to reach their dad. I didn’t get through right away, so I looked online to see if I could get the story. The shooting happened about fifteen blocks away, and at first they reported the possibility of more than one shooter. I felt personally reassured that it hadn’t happened there, but to be honest, I really wanted some kind of visual. Someone to tell me they’d seen my boy and he was okay. Until I saw him myself, I really didn’t breathe normally. And my heart went out and goes out to the families of people who were killed on Friday, who did not get to end the day feeling thankful. My six year old spent two hours in a bathroom with eighteen of his friends and their teacher while all this was going on. She played quiet games with the kids. I love her. My son said he wasn’t scared or worried. They didn’t say much to the kids about what was happening. This has become so commonplace, there’s now a procedure for school shootings. That’s the part that might break your heart if you let it. i hope you let it.
You have your wounds in this life. Some are greater than others. Some strip you right down to the bone without mercy, and level you so have to remind yourself to breathe in and breathe out. And sometimes you’d rather not even do that. I understand. But I’m going to tell you something. Just as much as there’s incomprehensible grief and loss and suffering, so too is there joy and love and fulfillment. You get everything in this life, and some people get more of the pain, and others get more of the joy. And maybe everything is happening for a reason, but you’ll never hear me say that because to a person grieving, what could be a more alienating thing to hear than, “I’m sorry for your loss, but it happened for a reason.” Or, ” I’m sorry you’re gutted but it will make sense to you one day” ? Somethings will never, ever make sense, and some things will never be okay. Accepting that is often the doorway to surviving it. Staring it dead in the face and realizing you’ll have to carry this with you. This part of you that’s been changed. This scar. But as much as possible, allow your wounds to open you instead of close you. Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” And Leonard Cohen on the subject, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” You might wish for less of a wound and less light, so to speak, but we don’t get to choose.
What happens after this? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. I can tell you what I believe. I do not believe this is it and then we’re worm food. But I can’t prove that to you, and I wouldn’t even try because you have to figure out what makes sense to you. Sometimes people scream from rooftops or mountaintops or their Facebook page or the subway platform about what they think. A person who thinks this is it, and when we die it’s over, can’t prove that to you anymore than I can prove my beliefs are accurate. You just have to wrestle with these questions yourself, and figure out what feels right to you. And try to open to other points of view. And then you really have to get down to the business of making this life beautiful, even with all of its pain. Of connecting and loving and giving and receiving and experiencing. Of being as awake as possible in each moment. Of opening to your own kindness, and to the kindness of other travelers. Of discovering your gifts, and giving them away. Of laughing with those you love until your eyes well up. They will if you let them. Have chocolate sometimes. Go for a hike, feel the breeze on your cheek. Watch the sunrise or the sunset, or stay up and be amazed by the next full moon. Or the stars in the sky when you can see them. Go to the ocean and let yourself be humbled by your smallness and your limitlessness, all at once. Take your heart, your open, wounded, gorgeous heart out into the world without fear, and without any delusion that you won’t suffer sometimes. If you come out of abuse, you may have to unlearn the idea that you are unworthy of love, because that is a lie. And you might need help with that. Because love is where it’s at, love is the point of it all. I’m pretty positive about that. If you miss out on opening to the limitless well of love within you and around you, then I think you will have to wonder what the point is. Because it surely isn’t amassing stuff or being a size zero or driving a fast car or keeping yourself busy relentlessly, or numbed out or on the run. It isn’t about your bank account. No amount of money can save you from the vulnerability of this thing. But a lot of strength comes from accepting it. You are vulnerable. So am I. We could make ourselves less vulnerable in this world if we opened more to love. Within ourselves, and with each other. There’s such an incredible amount of joy to be experienced and understood. But I think it’s easy to miss if you buy the hype. If you think you can outrun the experience of being human. People do it all the time. They run from stuff that isn’t even chasing them. Stop. Stand, and open to it all, hold it all. Some of it is so achingly beautiful, it would be a real shame to miss. It’s the stuff that makes it all worthwhile. It’s the point of it all. Sending you love. Ally