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You Might Not Get Everything You Want, But…

August 20, 2014

What-you-allow-is-whatDepending on your personality, and many other factors including the way you grew up, your level of self-esteem, and your ability to speak out about how you feel, creating boundaries with people may be a great challenge for you. I really get that, because I struggled around this issue for years.

What makes it difficult to speak up when you want to? Maybe you’re worried about disappointing other people, or not being able to show up the way they want you to show up. Maybe you grew up and felt you had no impact on the people or the world around you, so it never occurred to you to value or investigate what you felt or what you wanted. Maybe you’ve decided that your worth as a person, a friend, and a partner is based upon how much you’re able to do for the people in your life. And maybe, you don’t know how you feel, so when you come up against a strong-willed person, you let them take the lead.

The thing is, your job while you’re here is to shine. I really believe that. You have something precious and unique to offer that only you can. And I don’t think you’ll be able to do that without some belief in yourself and your own value. So I’d look at that first, if you find it difficult to act on your own behalf. If you don’t feel good about yourself, why is that, and when did that begin? Upon what evidence did you come to the conclusion that you don’t measure up, or have anything enormously special to offer? When we don’t stand up for ourselves, it’s often because we’ve grown up feeling powerless. We’ve internalized that, and sewn it into the fabric of our being. When confronted, we collapse in on ourselves. We cope, when we should fight back. But if you’re grown up, you’re not powerless anymore. Sometimes we really have to unlearn ideas or ways of being that are not based in our current reality, and are also blocking our ability to both give and receive love to our maximum capability (which is huge).

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter with me when I went to get my eyebrows waxed. This place is nice, and they have organic cruelty-free nail polish, and they’ll paint your kid’s nails while they wax your eyebrows and whatever other parts you might want waxed. So there we were. My daughter went to pick out a color, but she’s five. So she picked four colors. She wanted a rainbow. They don’t charge to paint your kid’s nails. You tip, of course, but they don’t charge for it. So I was debating whether to tell her that might be asking for a bit much, when the woman called her over, and the waxing woman started talking to me. When I turned back to my daughter, she had pink nail polish on every nail, and was looking down at her hands, and up uncertainly at the woman painting them. And then she looked at me. I knew she was disappointed about the lack of a rainbow. Before I could step in and explain to the woman what it was my daughter had wanted, this grandmotherly woman at the table next to her, also getting her nails done, leaned over and said, loudly but nicely, “She wanted a rainbow. She wanted a different color on every nail.” My daughter beamed at her, and the woman said, “Always ask for what you want, dear. You might not get it, but you definitely won’t if you don’t ask!” And the woman who was painting her nails promptly and happily gave her her rainbow.

Communicating how you feel, what you need, and what you’d like is a gift you can give to the people who are close to you. It’s so refreshing when people are just honest about where they’re at, and what’s happening within them. As my friend at the nail place said, you might not get everything you want, but it never hurts to clearly state what that is. It takes the mystery out of the thing. No one can read your mind. And sometimes we project and assume so much. We think other people must think and feel the way we do, so certain things should be obvious. But you know what? I would take nothing for granted. What’s obvious to you might not even occur to someone else.

So there’s clear communication, and then, sometimes, there’s the need for boundaries. Maybe you have someone in your life who hurts you, intentionally or otherwise. And sometimes, even when it is a family member, your only healthy option is to step away. But there are certain situations where that isn’t possible or desirable, and that;s when boundaries come in. You may not get everything you want in life, but you deserve respect. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to fight for it. But that’s not always how it goes, and sometimes we have a long history with someone, and there are ingrained patterns and dynamics. When we seek to shift that stuff, there’s always resistance. Most people struggle with change. And if you’ve been playing a certain role for a long time, don’t expect to be able to calmly give your two weeks’ notice. People in your life have probably gotten used to you being the way you’ve been. That’s understandable. But that doesn’t mean it can’t change. It doesn’t mean you can’t change. You may lose some relationships if you’re making big shifts in your life. Those close to you may feel threatened, they may feel like they’re losing you. Or they may get angry and say they liked the “old you” better. Of course, the old you didn’t confront them.

Anyway, my point is, there are times in life when you have to stand up for yourself and say, “Enough.” That’s part of the responsibility you bear; you have to be able to protect your, “little spark of madness” as Robin Williams called it. You can’t let people trample on that. If this is new for you, it will take time, like anything else. The first several times you speak up when you’re not happy with the way you’re being treated, it might come out with more force or aggression than you intend. Of course, you’ve been bottling up your voice for so long, it’s not surprising it might explode. But if you stay with it, and explain to the people in your life that you are in pain and are trying to change some essential things about the way you move through the world, the people who are meant to travel with you will support your efforts. And over time, you’ll be able to speak out with confidence, clarity and compassion about what’s real for you. It’s worth the effort. You deserve a rainbow if that’s what you want. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Grappling with Your Truth

August 19, 2014

The-truth-has-a-way-ofMost of us know what’s true for us long before we act on it, especially when we’re talking about making huge life shifts. Sometimes we agonize for weeks, months, or even years, because so much hinges on maintaining the status quo. This can happen in our personal and professional lives. People stay in jobs that crush their souls for all kinds of reasons. Some are practical—they need to keep a roof over their heads and food in their refrigerators. Or they need health insurance for themselves and their families. Sometimes the reasons have more to do with low self-esteem, or a lack of self-respect. People tell themselves every day that they are not good enough. That they don’t measure up. That they should be thankful for what they have, because who are they to think that things could be different? Who are they to pursue their dreams? There are all kinds of reasons we convince ourselves we’re stuck. And when you’re speaking about the necessities of life, of course those are real. But if you’re in a job that’s sucking the life out of you, I wouldn’t accept that as “the way things have to be”. I’d do everything in your power to seek out another opportunity somewhere. Because 80 hours a week is a lot of time to spend feeling like you want to scream.

And of course it happens in relationships, too. Sometimes two people come together, and despite all their best efforts, they grow in different directions. Maybe they came together when they both had healing to do, and attempted to cover their individual pain with a relationship. Maybe there are kids in the mix. And now it’s brutal. Staying is painful, and leaving is painful. Sometimes those are your choices. It’s human to agonize when we’re faced with a decision that impacts the people we love. But ultimately, if you’re in a situation that’s crushing you, you’ll never be able to nurture yourself, or anyone else to the best of your ability. Maybe you can get creative. Maybe you can go for radical honesty with your partner, and come up with a way to stay, and not feel like you’re losing yourself. And maybe you can’t. But allowing your light to go out is never the way. Numbing yourself or editing yourself until there’s almost nothing left of you won’t serve anyone. Distracting yourself, running, denying, keeping everything on the surface level will not be sustainable for the long haul.

So what do you do? I think first you get quiet so you can really allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. And face those realities head on. There’s no point hiding from yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to act on your feelings. It’s just that it’s such a relief to acknowledge them. To lean into them, to accept them, and accept yourself. Then, at least, you’re dealing with your own truth. Getting support from someone objective is also a great idea. And communicating honestly is a must. I don’t believe anyone would thank you for keeping them in the dark, or staying in something out of guilt, shame or pity. Maybe you can resurrect the thing. But the only chance you have of that, is if you start building with blocks of truth. You can’t build anything that lasts on top of lies, bitterness, resentment or rage. You want to be seen, right? You want someone to see you, to understand you, to cherish you for the person you are. But you give no one the opportunity to do that if you repress what’s real for you. Is it scary to start a conversation that may change the course of your life, and the lives of those you love? Absolutely. But it’s less scary than decades of betrayals, emotional or otherwise. And I’m talking about the betrayal of your own heart, as much as anything else, here.

If you want to be at peace, you have to allow what is true for you to rise to the surface and spill out of your mouth, kindly, confidently, and with compassion. Sending you love, and wishing you peace, Ally Hamilton

Tackle It

August 18, 2014

Most-of-us-can-read-theSometimes people get really clear on what their tendencies are, but that’s as far as they go. Maybe you know people like this. I used to date a guy who was brilliant in this regard. If something came up between us and I talked to him about how I felt, he would focus and listen and completely own his end. He could tell me what had driven him to do what he did, or say what he’d said. He would acknowledge that he understood why I would feel the way I did, and he’d apologize. And I’d think, awesome. He really heard me. We understand each other. We’ve had some really good communication. But then the next time a similar situation presented itself, nothing at all would change. It was like “Groundhog’s Day”, only not funny.

Identifying our stuff is a huge step. It’s definitely a big part of knowing ourselves, so we can be accountable for the energy we’re spreading and the actions we’re taking. But if that’s as far as we go, we’ve landed in a ditch. Sometimes I get emails from people, and they say things like, “Well, I have an addictive personality, so sometimes I lie” And I’ll ask, “Is that the end of the story? You have an addictive personality, so you lie?” Or I’ll hear, “My dad left when I was four, so I have abandonment issues.” I may have said that once or twice in my life. The thing is, your abandonment issues don’t make it okay for you to cling or manipulate or bend over backwards to be perfect so people won’t leave you. Life isn’t going to feel good like that. And this is my point. Knowing what your issues are is huge. Then you can be aware when you’re in a danger zone. If you have fear of being left and you keep picking people who are unavailable, you can rightly assume you still have some healing to do around the first time you felt abandoned. You don’t have to let that one ancient event predetermine your whole destiny. You don’t have to keep replaying the old tape again and again.

Other classic examples of identification without the follow-up work? “I have fear of commitment”, “I have fear of failure”, “I felt invisible as a kid so I need attention all the time”, “I felt invisible as a kid, so I cringe when people notice me”, “I learned you can’t trust anyone, so I don’t”. You get the picture. It’s what we do about what we know that matters. If you have fear of being abandoned, that’s yours to grapple with and tame. It’s not your partner’s work, it’s yours. Do you want to choose people who are compassionate when you’re going to be intimate? Of course. Do you want to be able to share your struggles and allow yourself to be vulnerable? Yes. But your pain and disappointments and heartbreaks do not give you free reign to act out all over the place. It’s never okay to check your partner’s emails or text messages, even if your last partner cheated on you, or you grew up in a house where infidelity was the norm. That has nothing to do with your partner, and it is not their job to allow you to violate their privacy because you feel triggered. Having a conversation about your feelings is fine. But even that will get old after awhile. A therapist is a great call if you’re struggling with internal demons. I can tell you I slayed quite a few on my yoga mat, and in a therapist’s office. I find that to be a winning combination by the way. Therapy is a great place to become aware of what’s scaring you, or blocking you from living life in a way that feels good to you. And a yoga mat is a great place to start to starve the voice that tells you this is how you are, or this is how things are. You don’t have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. Everyone is different, of course. And part of the work is searching for healing modalities and combinations that are going to work for you.

In order to liberate ourselves from our issues, we have to heal the original wounds we’re carrying. We can’t play this stuff out in the present and expect that to be the balm that soothes us, because in order to create a similar dynamic of pain, you’ll have to pick people who cannot give you what you want. That’s the hook. That’s what snags you. All you’ll accomplish that way is the creation of more pain for yourself, and more information that affirms your false assumption that “everyone leaves”, or “everyone cheats”, or whatever it is you’re telling yourself. If you want to heal, you’ll have to dive into the source of your pain and face it head on. This is the only way I know to free yourself. If you could run, I’d tell you to run. if you could solve it be pretending it isn’t there, I’d say go ahead, pretend. If you could numb it without killing yourself in the process, I’d say do your thing. And if you could heal by replaying ancient pain in your present, with people who don’t know how to do anything but hurt you, I’d say go right ahead. But none of that works. You’re just on a train, crashing into a wall. And that becomes less and less pleasant, no matter how many words and explanations you give it. Who cares why you’re crashing into a brick wall? At a certain point, don’t you want to just not do that anymore?

It’s wonderful to be able to know yourself and articulate how things are for you. But ultimately, these things are more interesting to us than they will be to anyone else. And they’re more useful to us, as well. Stopping at the identification process is like picking a dish off the menu, but not eating it. Time to grab your fork if you need to! Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Don’t Chase Love

August 17, 2014

Never-chase-loveWhenever you find yourself trying to force or control an outcome, it’s time to perk up and take a look at what’s happening within you. We’re all going to be attached to certain ideas; this is the nature of being human. For example, we’ll all want our loved ones to be happy. Perfectly understandable. But if we start to assume that we know what will make someone else happy, then we’re in trouble. The minute you try to manage someone else’s path, you’re losing a chance to keep your own side of the street clean.

A lot of the time, we’re taking things personally. Maybe there’s someone we really care for, and we’re chasing. Right there, it’s a problem. You don’t chase love, you open to it. If you have to take off after it, that’s a huge red flag. Instead of spending your time and energy wondering what you can do to be perfect for this other person so you can get their attention and make them fall in love with you, you could be examining why you’re feeling so badly about yourself you’d tie up your Nike’s and chase your worthiness. You’re worthy. You’re the only one of you we get. You think you aren’t worthy of love? If someone isn’t offering it to you fully and openly, what are you doing? Have you ever talked to a couple who’s in love, and has been for thirty, forty, fifty years? I have. I make a habit of it any chance I get. I love to see couples who make it. And not once, in all the conversations with all the people I’ve met over the years, has any couple told me a story about a beginning that involved one person feeling deeply insecure all the time, and the other not treating them well. That’s not a solid foundation, and it won’t lead anywhere good. Also, it isn’t loving to race after someone who doesn’t want to be caught. If you love someone, you have to want for them what they want for themselves. if someone is making it clear to you that they aren’t available the way you want them to be, it’s disrespectful to refuse to accept that. It’s not just disrespectful to them and their feelings, it’s disrespecting yourself to keep trying.

It can hurt like hell when people we love don’t want what we wish they would want. This happens when we relate to the world and the people around us as if it’s about us. As if we’re in the center of this thing, and everything is happening around us or to us. When you can remove yourself from the center of the story and look at it from the sidelines, you’ll see it usually has very little to do with you. People want what they want. They are where they are. They have the tools they have. They may not want you, or anyone else the way you wish that they would. But it’s also a bit nuts of us to imagine we can ever know what’s right for someone else. Isn’t it hard enough to grapple with what you need for your own inner peace? As long as a person isn’t intentionally hurting you or anyone else, you really have to assume they’re doing the best they can to work life out in a way that will feel good to them. Sometimes people don’t know what they want, and that can be hard to watch and hard to walk away from if you’re hoping maybe they’ll finally realize they want you. But you aren’t here to wait.

When we start to try to control situations or people, when we find ourselves attempting to manipulate or cajole, or dance like a monkey to get what we want, it’s time to stop and check ourselves. Life is not about forcing the picture in your head onto the people around you. That picture of “how things should be”. No one will thank you for trying. And not many things cause us more pain than our attachment to that picture. It can be so hard to let it go, I really understand that. But grasping and waiting and hoping and struggling and doubting and obsessing….this is no way to live.

It’s brutal to have to release an idea, or another person, or a hope we held close. But you can’t cling and fly at the same time. And you don’t have all the time in the world. So I wouldn’t spend too much of it refusing to accept and open to things as they are. There’s so much power in that. Your self-respect is in the mix. So is your self-esteem. This is the stuff that has far-reaching consequences on your life, on the way you move through the world, and on the way life feels to you, day in, and day out. Let life feel good. It might hurt a lot in the short-term, but intense pain for a little while is so much better than a lifetime of suffering. Sending you love,

Ways That Life Will Feel Good

August 16, 2014

In-order-to-healWhen you start to live in alignment with what’s true for you, life becomes so much simpler. It’s easier to say no when you mean no. It takes away the murkiness between people and around situations that might have left you scratching your head in the past, because now, you can just open your mouth and say, “I feel really weird. What’s going on?” It gives you the power to direct your energy, because you know what you want, and so do the people in your life. You don’t have to waste time or energy making excuses for yourself, or anyone else.

But it’s not always easy to get there, and you can multiply that by nine million if you have certain tendencies, like people-pleasing, or feeling you aren’t supposed to be taking up any space. There are genuine problems in life. All we have to do is read the paper for three minutes to verify that. But a lot of the problems people grapple with are self-created. Not all of them, so let’s be clear. There are heartbreaking, piercingly painful losses we endure sometimes, and some people more than others. But I’m not talking about that right now. I’m talking about a loud inner critic you may have been living with your entire life. A relentless voice inside your head that is unforgiving and full of should. Or about ideas you may have about yourself that are blocking your ability to be happy, to be at peace within yourself.

What stops us from listening to our hearts, and calmly but confidently moving in the direction we know we must if we want to rock it out in this life? Fear. Fear that we aren’t enough. Fear that our deepest desires may not be in line with what others had hoped we would want. Fear of hurting the people we love. Fear of trying, and failing. Fear of change and of loss. Fear of proving to ourselves that we aren’t able to do it, after all.

Here’s the thing. You’re alive. You’re living this life, and it’s going to feel good, or it isn’t. Ways it will definitely not feel good: If you let your shoulds rule your life. If you don’t try because you might not pull it off. If you allow yourself or other people to talk you out of your dreams. If you never act on your own behalf because you don’t feel good about yourself. If you believe everything you think, especially the nasty, mean-spirited stuff. If you marinate yourself in envy or bitterness or rage. If you keep a mental list of every way you’ve every been wronged, betrayed, abandoned, and disappointed. If you never let anyone know you, really know you because you’re so caught up in worrying about what people would think if you dropped the mask. These are all ways life will feel very long and painful.

Ways that life will feel good: If you take ownership of the one thing you can, namely, how you face what you’ve been given. If you look your pain, losses, heartbreaks and betrayals in the face and say, okay. That happened. That hurt. Here’s what I’ve learned from these experiences, here’s how I’ve grown, here’s how I’ve become more empathetic and compassionate as a result. If you remind yourself every single day of all the things you do have, right now. If you remember to let the people in your life know how you feel about them. If you feel the fear of not being enough, but go for it, anyway. Because you’re going to be here, right? You’re going to be living these days. And living truthfully feels a lot better than living in fear or blame or powerlessness. Maybe all your dreams will come true, and maybe they won’t. But you’ll feel a lot better about yourself if you’re following your heart. It’s not like tomorrow is promised, or that life is going to start somewhere out ahead of us after we get everything figured out. Life is happening right now, this minute.

If you’re stopping yourself from following your intuition, it’s time to get some support. We all need that sometimes. It might be a teacher who inspires you, or reading something that raises your consciousness, or it might be a good time to try therapy. But I wouldn’t do nothing. You know the saying right? If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. If what you’ve been doing isn’t working out so well, it’s time to try something else. There’s only one of you. I really do not believe you’re here by accident. You have something to offer only you can. But you won’t be able to do that if fear is blocking you at every turn, or that voice inside your head tells you you can’t. I can share with you that for me, personally, yoga was the way I eroded that inner voice that was so harsh and critical and relentless. I got on my mat, and I just didn’t feed that. I didn’t heed it, either. I kept feeding a loving, patient kind voice. For me, I needed an experience that was happening in my body. I needed the visceral feeling of hitting a challenge and seeing what came up for me. It wasn’t pretty or easy. It took a number of years. But knowing yourself and accepting yourself is certainly worth the investment of a few years, right? Developing a healthy, happy relationship with yourself is the thing, wouldn’t you say? I can tell you it feels a helluva lot better having a voice in my head that roots for me, than one that tears me down and says I’m unlovable at my core. Life does not have to feel that way, but you have to meet yourself where you are. it won’t get better unless you get off your ass and make it better. That’s the truth. You have to work. But what better use of your time is there than to make the world within you a more peaceful, loving, kind, compassionate place to be? So you can make the world around you, and between you and those you love, a more peaceful place to be. What’s more pressing than that? If you need help with this, sign up for a free trial to our website with any of the preview clips we post on the page. Go take a “Make the Shift” class. See if that sparks something within you. But don’t let life go by for too long. We don’t have forever. Sending you so much love.

You Take the Keys

August 14, 2014

If-we-learn-to-open-ourWhen I was in college I had a roommate for one semester, I’ll call her Jane. I didn’t know her, we were just placed in a room together. Jane liked boys. A lot. I walked in on Jane with so many different Tarzans, we finally devised a system. Not that Jane was ever troubled if I showed up in the middle of her eggs being scrambled, I just found it awkward. And Jane was annoyed by the fact that I found it awkward. When I wasn’t interrupting something, I’d come back to our room and find sweaters of mine thrown in a corner, sometimes stained, or I’d go looking for a pair of shoes only to discover Jane must be wearing them. She was catty, and cold, and never had a kind word to say about anyone. Not that she talked to me much. I tried to get to know her, but she really wasn’t open to that, nor did she have any other girlfriends. If I saw her on campus, she was almost always with a group of guys, and might acknowledge me with a look, but not a friendly one, and not usually. One morning I walked into our tiny shared kitchen and howled because I stepped on a shard of broken glass. Jane had knocked over a vase, and simply thrown a towel over the mess. Finally, frustrated and done, I requested a new roommate. The paperwork took a few weeks, but there was light at the end of the tunnel.

One afternoon after I knew my days with Jane were coming to an end, I walked in to find her alone in her bed. She looked awful, her cheeks were flushed, her eyes were glassy and she was groaning. She had the kind of flu where you just want to dig a hole and bury yourself ’til it’s over. Her fever was incredibly high, but she refused to let me take her to the nurse. So I went to the store and bought soup and juice and bread for toast, and came back and made her a little lunch. I sat on the edge of the bed and put my hand on her forehead, and Jane started crying. Not just a tear or two streaming down her face, but the kind of crying that sounds more like keening. Primal, deep wailing. I was stunned, but I just held onto her until she quieted. It turned out Jane’s mom had left when she was a baby, and never looked back. Her dad had raised her but he wasn’t the most emotional guy. No one had ever made her soup before. I wish I could say this was the beginning of a close and lasting friendship, or tell you that I still know Jane and that all is well with her. But that moment with the soup was all there was, because the next day Jane was back to her dismissive ways. In fact, she was even more hostile. When I packed up my things before winter break, I left Jane a card with my new phone number and a note that said she could always call me for any reason. I never heard from her, but I think about her a lot. Especially when I meet someone who’s challenging to be around, or whose behavior is difficult to understand. Everyone has pain, everyone is struggling with something.

When you feel as though someone is “driving you crazy”, understand they can only do that if you let them. Checking in with yourself when you’re feeling enraged, frustrated, trapped, or shut down with someone is really essential. Sometimes a complete stranger can “drive you crazy” by talking loudly on their cellphone in a cafe. Or not holding a door open, or letting you merge on the freeway. Sometimes it’s someone you like who isn’t responding the way you wish they would. The story that matters is always the story of our participation. What about the situation is triggering us? Why, for example, would you allow the driving habits of a stranger, no matter how annoying they might be, rob you of your own peace? Or affect your blood pressure, or the way you’re driving, or what you’re doing with your own middle finger? What is the real source of the anger or insecurity or lack of trust this person is tapping that already exists within you, and did long before s/he came into the picture? If you’re really tweaked, consider whether it’s old stuff. Are you feeling powerless? Rejected? Abandoned? Are you repeating a pattern of interaction that feels awful and very familiar at the same time? This is the way challenging people can become some of our best teachers. The potential for growth and greater understanding about who you are and where you’re at is always available. If someone cuts you off on the freeway and you feel a surge of heat rush to your face, you really ought to be yelling, “Thank you!” and not, “F&ck you!” out the window, because they just helped you release and explore some of the rage that was already within you. Next time you’re dreading hanging out with that person who drives you up and down a wall, see if you can turn it into an experiment where you drive instead. They can do and say anything at all, and you will still drive your own car, peacefully and mindfully, slowing down whenever you need to hop out and explore the terrain. Sending you love, and wishes for a peaceful ride without the use of your “traffic finger” ;) Ally Hamilton

Just Be There

August 13, 2014

Compassion-is-hardSometimes the very best thing we can do for someone is hold some space for them to be where they are. To listen intently, and reflect back our understanding with love. To say, “Yes, of course that would hurt. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” That’s often the best we can do for people, reassuring them that they are not alone in their experience. That we get it, that we’ve been there. Or that we haven’t been there, but still, we can mourn with them, or simply just be there to make a meal, or take them for a walk. It’s very hard when people we love are suffering, or grieving, or enraged, or feeling bitter, or maybe all of those things at once. It’s natural to want to get in there and fix it. To brainstorm about solutions, or to offer our unsolicited opinions about what our friends should do. The reality is, we never know what another person needs for his or her own healing or grieving process or growth. Sometimes people are in so much agony, the people around them become uncomfortable. And this discomfort propels them to give their friend a push to “get back on their feet”. That’s really the last thing a person needs to hear when they have no way of doing that for themselves. As Earl Grollman rightly states, “The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

Some wounds are self-inflicted. Sometimes we need painful lessons again and again until we get it. That isn’t easy to watch, and of course if someone you love is harming themselves, we’re in a different territory. Then, you step in and do everything you can to get them some support. Or you find some for yourself so you can honor your own needs and boundaries while you try to offer a hand up, or a shoulder to lean on. But you can’t save anyone, and if you’re confused about that, you’re in a precarious position. We can never carry the burden of another person’s pain, nor can we be responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Each of us must do our own journey. We all have to find a way to be at peace within ourselves, and sometimes the journey to that peace is fraught with roadblocks, self-imposed, or provided by the twists and turns and losses of life.

Whatever we have to bear, having loyal and understanding friends with whom we feel safe, can be such a comfort. Knowing that there’s at least one person with whom we can share our fears or insecurities or doubt or shame or guilt or jealousy without hearing a solution we didn’t ask for and don’t want, is really a gift. It’s hard to just listen. I think a lot of people feel like that isn’t enough. That if someone is coming to them in some pain or discomfort, implicit in their sharing is a request for advice. But people will ask for our opinions if they want them. Most of us don’t listen to advice, anyway. We tell ourselves thats the way it is or was for our well-meaning friend, but it’s not the way it is or will be for us. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking close friends when they share with me. “Do you want me to just listen, or do you want to know what I think?” People will tell you. Most people just want a safe space, and some understanding. Hoping we can all be, and have, friends like that, and sending you love, Ally Hamilton

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