It’s the Story, Not the Ending

notabouthappyendingaboutstoryDo you know any octogenarians? One of my closest friends is 80, he’s been a private client for eleven years. If you spoke with him, you would not feel like he’s in the midst of his “ending”, and he’d tell you off if you suggested such a thing. Most days when I leave he says, “Don’t let the bastards get you down”, mostly because he knows I’m going to shake my head and laugh, and also because, much to his chagrin, he knows I don’t believe in bastards. I just think some people are having a really tough time with life. He can’t stand the expressions, “No worries”, or “It’s all good”, either. He’s funny and brilliant, and one of the most alive people I know. He used to sing totally off-color Irish lullabies to my kids when they were babies. As they’ve gotten older, he sings the songs with the real words, not the “sailor” versions. But anyway, I used to think like that. Like, at 80, I’d have it all completed. My story would be long done by then, I’d just be living it out. My point is, there is no ending, happy or otherwise. Not until your final exhale. Until then, it’s all the story. Parts of the story are going to be stunningly painful. Other parts are going to be so amazing they’ll expand your heart and you’ll feel like it’s going to burst right out of your body. And there’ll be every shade of everything else in between. The real question isn’t whether you’re going to find that happy ending. The actual question is whether you’re going to be happy as you move through the unfolding story of your life, day to day.

I grew up on the same fairy-tales you did. And I’ve seen the same romantic comedies. And for a good long while, I bought into all that. I thought if I was somehow perfect, and I did everything the way I was supposed to, straight A’s and thin enough and pretty enough, someone would come along and “save me” and I’d live happily ever after. Or something like that. And then the way older man came along, and that wasn’t a happy ending. And the Mirror Guy showed up, and that wasn’t happy, either. And I’d graduated from a great school and starved myself through twelve years of ballet, and there I was with my diploma and my thinness and these relationships that broke my heart, and there didn’t seem to be potential for that happy ending on the horizon. Because it isn’t on the horizon, it isn’t going to happen one day in the future, when things calm down, or you meet someone, or you make X amount of dollars. But I didn’t know that then. I’d see families walking down the street and wonder, “How did they do that?” You know, because I was about twenty when I thought this way, and had no actual idea of what it would take to make a relationship work. Or a life. I think lots of people reach adulthood without a clue. Without knowing themselves.

It wasn’t until I found yoga and seated meditation that I started to understand happiness was an inner journey. And a process of discovery. And a willingness to open to reality as it is, and to do the work to heal what needs to be healed. To let go of the grip and the false notion of control. If I do everything “right”, then I’ll be happy. If I’m a good person, things will go my way. The “right” we are sold is a big fat lie. The real right is what’s right for you. What’s true for you. And no prince or princess is going to show up and tell you. There isn’t going to be this magical kiss on the lips that makes your life fall into place. There isn’t going to be a big enough house or fast enough car. There isn’t going to be a job that solves it, although it goes a long way when you find something to do with your time and your energy that’s fulfilling to you. There’s just you. Looking at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day as you brush your teeth. And you either look at yourself with kindness or contempt. The fairy-tales should really be about that. The fire-breathing dragons are inside us, and they have nasty little voices that say, “Not good enough”. Those are the ones you face. And you slay them. You take the red-hot realness of your truth, and you split them down the middle with it. And eventually they leave you alone, or you’re just too full of love to house them anymore. Or they’re mostly sleeping, but when they wake up once in awhile, you don’t have to waste a lot of energy slaying them again, you just give them a look and they cower and go back to sleep. Because they don’t own you anymore. Something like that. What I’m saying is that the most essential part of your story is going to happen inside yourself. And then there will be external factors, and the way you respond to them. And those external factors play a significant role in your story as well, because it’s not a level playing field, and sometimes the most devastating things happen to the most incredibly loving people.

I see so many people still searching for that brass ring or that “right” person to complete them. I have an inbox stuffed with emails from people trying to figure out what’s wrong with them, what they’re doing or not doing that’s causing the unhappy result they’re getting with their lives. Why they aren’t getting the breaks, even though they’re doing everything “right”. This happens with people on the spiritual path, too. I’m doing my yoga. It’s been ten years. When am I going to be happy? Well, how are you doing your yoga? Are you breathing and focusing and practicing with compassion for yourself? Are you feeding a loving, kind voice? Are you listening deeply and responding honestly? Are you curious about your experience or attached to the outcome? Are you zoning out, or tuning in? Because showing up on your mat consistently is great, but it’s not the whole story. Not by a long shot. Some people show up six days a week, but beat the crap out of themselves. Or get attached to the poses. Or feel good on days when they’re full of energy and feeling open, and bad on days when it’s a struggle. Happiness is not a destination, it’s a process. It’s an ever-unfolding choice you make. It’s equanimity in the face of life’s ups and downs. A knowingness that this is how it is now, not how it’s always going to be, because everything is always in a state of flux. Sometimes you allow yourself to just be heartbroken. To suffer and grieve. Or to be enraged, and shake your fists at the sky, or dig your hands into the dirt of why. You embrace it all, and as much as possible, you open to the wonder of it all. There’s beauty in everything, even the most devastating losses. The fact that you’ve ever loved so much to grieve so deeply has some beauty in it. Loneliness has some beauty in it; the fact that your tender heart longs to be seen and understood is beautiful. It’s real. Love requires your bravery and your vulnerability, and that’s gorgeous. The pain opens us. Generally the deepest growth springs out of the sharpest pain. And wisdom is gained through suffering. Is it human to sometimes wish for less pain, less growth, less suffering and less wisdom? Of course. But we don’t get to choose how our story will unfold, we only get to choose how we respond. The more you’re able to surrender to what is, and honor the truth in your heart, the more you’ll be able to relax into the unknown of the thing. And there’s a lot of peace in that. Wishing you a truthful, inspiring, exciting story, and sending you a lot of love. So grateful to be traveling with all of you. Ally

Whatever Your Truth, Own It

tellingthetruthIf you’re involved in something that requires you to lie and deceive, you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. I say this to you because I get so many emails from people who are having relations they have to keep hidden. Sometimes they’re email flirtations, and sometimes they’re full-fledged affairs. If you’re in a relationship that can only happen behind closed doors, that requires you to lie to people who love you and trust you, you are in the process of breaking your own heart, your own spirit, and your own ability to trust yourself. And you’re going to have to do something about that, or the world of pain you’re in will become less and less livable. And please believe me when I tell you I understand that life is complicated, and sometimes we find ourselves in situations we never would have imagined.

People lie for all kinds of reasons. They fear the outcome if they tell the truth. They don’t want to face the consequences of their own feelings. They aren’t ready to make changes. They want to do what they want to do. They’ve figured out a way to justify what they’re doing. They’re angry. They’re unhappy. They feel powerless, stuck, paralyzed to do anything but stay where they are and seek happiness outside the bounds of their commitments. But when you sacrifice your integrity and your ability to respect yourself, you lose the ability to move freely. Life becomes a prison of your own making.

When you don’t feel good about yourself, it permeates everything. If you’ve been in so much pain for so long that you finally look for relief through desperate acts, it’s really time to withdraw and regroup. I understand if you’ve been in a loveless relationship for a long time, a hit of passion can go directly to your brain and cloud everything until you can’t see or think about anything but your next fix. The real fix is going to happen inside, not outside. It’s heady and intoxicating to be wild for someone, and to feel those feelings of being wanted. It’s fine to desire that, it’s human. But you don’t want to experience those things in a way that’s ultimately going to make you feel badly about yourself.

We have all kinds of stories we tell ourselves. This person really loves me, it’s just the situation is a mess. That may be true. In which case it’s time to clean up the mess. Or walk away. But allowing yourself to participate in a set of circumstances that are hurtful to you, and would be to others if they knew, that’s simply not going to lead to happiness or peace. That’s not living in alignment with your own truth and your highest self. Being able to speak your truth and own it is the key to your freedom, and to living with your heart wide open, in a way that feels good. Having someone look you in the eye and break your heart is painful indeed. But you know what’s worse? Having someone lie to your face and betray you in their heart. Wishing you the strength to embrace your feelings, put an end to situations that cause you or others harm, and live your life in a way that makes it possible for you to be free, if you haven’t already. Ally

Spring!!

springToday, on the vernal equinox, the first day of Spring, it’s such a good idea to think about what you’re planting. Whatever you feed is going to grow and strengthen, and blossom all over your life. And I think it comes down to one choice when you strip it all away: Are you going to feed Fear, or are you going to feed Love?

Fear tells you there isn’t enough, and if someone else gets there first, they took your spot. Fear tells you you are not enough. Not good enough, smart enough, funny enough, buff enough, rich enough, skinny enough. You don’t say the right things and you’re going to die without having allowed yourself to be fully realized. Without opening up to your beautiful gifts so you can share them. Fear tells you you should stay where you are because it’s safe. Because you don’t have what it takes to make changes. And who are you to challenge the status quo, anyway? Fear tells you your past has damaged you and there is no chance for peace or happiness for you, no possibility of real connection. (There are times fear is good. You ought to look both ways before you cross a street. You want to pay attention to those hairs that stand up on the back of your neck when you’re twelve and passing a stranger on a narrow stairwell). For the most part, though, Fear is a f&cking liar.

Love knows there’s enough. Love knows you’re enough. Love understands you are here, and you are you, and you are the only one who can share your particular gifts. No one can ever take your spot, because no one else can be you. The only question is whether you’re going to step into your spot and bloom. Offer it up, whatever you’ve got, with everything you’ve got. Love knows your weight, height, hair color, eye color, skin color, waist size, lack of hair or abundance of it really, truly doesn’t mean squat. Your heart is the thing. Your yes is the thing. You heal yourself and you follow your heart. Those are the two essential ingredients if you want to be at peace. Full of yes. Those are the seeds you need. Plant that. Feed that. Watch that grow and strengthen and blossom all over your life. Happy Spring. Get out your gardening gloves! Sending you love, Ally

Be the Architect of Your Own Joy

lovingsomeoneIf a person is crazy about you, you’re going to know. It’s not going to be a mystery. I get emails from people every day who ask about various situations they’re in. This guy barely calls. This girl doesn’t make a lot of time for the relationship. This person is probably seeing other people. This one is separated or divorced, but still hanging on to their ex. This one used to like me, but I didn’t like her, and now I do and she doesn’t. I like this woman but she likes other women. I have a huge crush on this guy but he’s gay. Or married to my sister. Or dating my best friend. I like this woman but she has a boyfriend, but really she’s in love with me she just can’t hurt the other guy’s feelings. We used to go out and now we’re both dating other people, but last week we fell into bed and now it’s a mess. I like this girl but my family doesn’t. I like this guy but I’m too scared to tell him. I went out with this guy and it was amazing, but I never heard from him so now I stalk him. But just a little. Mostly on Facebook. Okay, sometimes I sit across the street from his house. He may have gotten a restraining order. But I’m pretty sure he’s gonna come around.

I’ve loved people who were distant or inattentive, or downright mean sometimes. I’ve crushed on people who sent very mixed messages. I’ve liked people who didn’t call. So we can talk about all that, but please. Please take the mystery out of this for yourself. If a person wants to be with you, they will find a way.

The real, painful issue to examine is why you’re giving so much of your precious time and energy to anyone who isn’t running toward you with everything they’ve got. Perhaps you’ve forgotten you’re made up of 37 trillion or so cells that have never come together in exactly the same way to be YOU at any time in the past, nor will they again at any time in the future. There are seven billion people on our planet, and only ONE, particular, amazing you. So why would you second-guess your value? If you undervalue yourself, and accept treatment that really isn’t what you deserve, you, my friend, are the architect of your own betrayal and your own suffering. The story to look at is never what the other person is doing; the story to examine is always the story of your participation. Participate in joy and freedom and recognition and celebration. In understanding and appreciation, and oh, wow, I’d almost given up hope I’d find someone like you. Choose love. You’re too incredible to wait around on stand-by for a boat that couldn’t dock where you are, anyway. Get out of the airport and head for the ocean. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Are You in a Cage?

bytheoceanposterWhen I was 26 years old, I stopped into a pet store one day to buy dog food for a friend’s dog, and I saw this tiny, sickly puppy in the corner of an enormous cage. His brown, pink-rimmed eyes were huge in his tiny head, and he was shaking uncontrollably. And although I’d never seen it in a dog before, he had a runny nose. He was one of the most pitiful creatures I’d ever seen, and of course I fell in love on the spot. On the front of the cage there was a sign. They’d originally been asking $2500 for him, but then he’d been slashed to $2000. Then $1500, $1000. By the time I got there, they were asking $500. They sent him out the door with me for $250. Two days later I had him at the vet, who told me to take him back to the pet store. He had bacterial pneumonia, and the vet didn’t even want him in the office, because it’s highly contagious. I begged him even though he was adamant. Said I’d already fallen in love with my dog, and taking him back to the place that had neglected him wasn’t even an option. I think I even appealed to whatever it was within him that had inspired him to be a vet in the first place. I know I cried. He put my dog on intravenous antibiotics in the basement, in a cage between cardboard boxes full of puppy pads, and dog food, and Frontline. There was a leaky pipe nearby, and it was pretty dark down there. I know because I visited my dog every day for hours, for the 10 days he was there. The vet told me not to get my hopes up because he was almost definitely a lost cause, but I brought my dog home on the tenth day, and he was my best friend for the next ten years, until he died suddenly one morning, two weeks before I had my son.

Pretty frequently I get emails from people who are in the corner of a huge cage, shaking with a runny nose. Not literally, of course, because that would be weird. But metaphorically. Sometimes the cage is a relationship, or a job, or a way of thinking about themselves or the world. Whatever it is, they’re in there, shaking, as their light dims. Their belief in themselves dwindling like the price on the front of my dog’s cage. Sometimes the person says nothing is really wrong. The job is not bad. The partner is loving and kind. The way of thinking is what they were taught, and how they’ve always been. They think they must be crazy. But. There’s something inside them that’s saying no. No, life should not feel like a cage.

All kinds of things keep people shaking uncontrollably as their light dims. Fear. Guilt. Shame. Sometimes it feels like people are asking permission. Is it okay for me to go to the basement with the leaky pipe (because healing is lonely, dark, painful work) and heal what needs to be healed so I can get out of this cage and live a life where I get to breathe, and it doesn’t feel like there’s this huge weight on my chest, smothering my heart? And I mean, of course it is. If you don’t leave the cage, you die. Maybe not literally, but your spark dies, and you may as well be dead at that point. But, other people will be hurt. Yes, that sucks. That’s brutal, and it would be a beautiful thing if we could all live our truths and never cause anyone else pain. Except, I’ll tell you, I’ve learned and grown the most from the painful times in my life. We can never ever know what another person’s journey is supposed to look like. We can only manage our own, kindly, honestly, and with compassion. And if you don’t follow the road marked My Truth, your heart breaks and you lose the will to do much of anything.

No one will ever thank you for your pity. No one deserves to be loved half-way, or even most of the way. Including you. The road marked My Truth is hardly ever well-paved and well-lit. You have to cut through the brush with no map, and the only thing you can really carry with you is belief in yourself. You won’t be stuck in the basement forever. But you do have to get out of the cage. Sending you love and a huge hug, Ally

It’s the Perfect Time to Jump

You-cannot-always-waitI don’t believe there’s a perfect time to do anything that’s challenging. I think life requires creativity; the ability to respond from your heart to an ever-changing set of circumstances, as you, yourself are also changing, evolving, learning. Another way of saying it, is that it’s always the perfect time.

We get caught up thinking we’ll do “it”, whatever it may be– forgiving someone, mending a fence, following our hearts, having a painful conversation, making a big but necessary change–when the “time is right.” It’s easy to take it for granted that you’ll wake up tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. And I surely hope you do. I hope you wake up for many, many more days. But life doesn’t have a “rollover” plan. You don’t get to store the time you may have wasted and use it in the future. And your contract can be revoked at any time, without notice.

Recognizing the absurd, amazing, exhilarating, painful, joyful, temporary nature of our existence will either shut a person down or open them up. The ride is the ride, how you take it is up to you. Doubt is paralyzing. If life is a creative process, doubt is the thing that will stop you in your tracks. Doubt about whether you’re enough, whether you have something worthwhile to say, to offer. You are here, and you have this amazing heart. Trust that. Speak from that. Shine it everywhere for as long as you’ve got, because you’re as much a part of this ride as anyone, you have just as much beauty to share.

Get busy uncovering anything blocking you from that connection to your joy, your purpose, those things that will light you up and set you on fire. Because I really think you may as well blaze your way through this world, doing anything and everything you can to spread some love and some light. You have a limitless amount of that stuff within you, and sharing it is the joy in life. Now is the perfect time. Jump. Sending you love, as I always am, Ally Hamilton