You Are the Steward of Your Own Ship

If-you-feel-lostSometimes it’s really hard to stay centered. Maybe someone has said or done something hurtful, maybe you’re being ignored, left to figure out what’s happening on your own, in the dark. It could be that things are shifting rapidly in your life, or that you’re feeling stuck. You might be wildly in love, or going through a heartbreak. Maybe you’re under incredible pressure at work, or you’re trying to figure out how to make ends meet. You might feel judged, rejected, or invisible, or perhaps you’re the object of someone’s intense desire.

Any and all of these situations can throw us off balance, and again and again, it comes back to how much we need reassurance, affirmation and love from other people. There’s nothing wrong with wanting connection in life, with wanting to be held and seen and cherished. If you need those things because you doubt at your very center that you’re worthy of love, then you’re in trouble, because if one person says or does something that leaves you feeling rejected or discarded or “stung”, you can bet you’re going to spin for awhile.

Our time, attention and energy are the most precious gifts we have to offer. We don’t get a do-over; there is no roll-over plan for wasted moments in this life. Other people can’t make us feel anything, unless we let them. To feel love, you have to be receptive to it, you have to be ready to receive, and to give, to open and to trust. If you feel insecure, ashamed, or rejected based on the actions of another person, some deep part of you is in doubt; somewhere within you, you must not be sure of yourself, otherwise why would it bother you so much? I’m not saying it’s a minor thing if someone pushes you away, or doesn’t bother to treat you with respect, consideration, and compassion, I’m just saying you don’t have to receive the insult. If you know you’re doing your best and you’re trying not to hurt other people, then you can feel centered and at peace. It won’t matter so much if other people say nasty things behind your back, or to your face, because at the end of the day, you can face yourself, that’s what matters. Of course we care about the opinions of those nearest and dearest to us, and if one of those people tells you it’s time to do better, I’d take that into serious consideration, but ultimately, you have to trust yourself.

It doesn’t feel good to be held in someone’s contempt, and it’s even worse to feel unseen, but you are the steward of your own ship, you decide your course each day. You’re a human being, so some days you’ll come up against the rocks, or the seas will be rough, or you’ll be thrown overboard and pulled under by the current. As soon as you can, grab your compass and get back to it. If you need to dock on an island for a bit so you can explore the source of your pain, fear or doubt, by all means, get on that. Otherwise, try to direct most of your time, attention and energy toward sharing whatever you’ve got to give. As long as you’re approaching life with an open heart, and doing your best to be accountable for the energy you’re spreading, you won’t have much cause to doubt yourself. I wouldn’t let someone rob you of an afternoon, a few days, a week, or more, because time is too precious, and you won’t always know or understand another person’s pain, but you can bet we all have some.

If you’re off center because of great circumstances, enjoy every moment. Just don’t lose yourself, and don’t forget about your family and friends.

It’s not possible to understand what’s driving a person unless he or she tells you. People do things that are confusing and hurtful when they’re in pain. That’s where they are on their journey; it’s no reflection of anything lacking in you. So if you’re going through tumult around that kind of storm, try to get back on your feet.

We can be rocked by circumstance, thrilled when things are going our way, and depressed when they aren’t, or we can keep coming back to steadiness. You might call that steadiness “knowing yourself”, or inner peace.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Make the Shift (Take the Challenge)

Wherever-you-go-thereWhen you feel the need to make a shift in your life, you really have to start by making a shift in your thinking. And in order to change something, you have to be able to see it clearly. Sometimes a way of being or thinking, or moving through the world has become so ingrained, we take it for granted. We assume this is “how things are”, and this is , “the way we are”, and that how we perceive things is accurate. Creating some space between yourself and your thoughts, so you can take a good look at them, is really the beginning of any change.

Our experiences shape us. We can only know what we know, after all. And sometimes what we know is based on lies. If you grew up in an unsafe environment, then what you “know” is that people can’t be trusted, and how you feel is irrelevant, and the best you can hope for is just to survive. If you’ve been betrayed, disappointed, neglected, abused, or made to feel that you have to earn love in order to be worthy of it, you have some serious unlearning to do. But if these beliefs are so much a part of you that you don’t even question them, it’s impossible to unstick yourself. You’re trying to work within a false paradigm that’s been built around the idea that you are not good enough, not strong enough, not lovable enough to have life look or feel any other way. So the first step toward liberation is simply to recognize that you have a perspective, and that your perspective may be really bent.

Also, for many people, the ideas that,” you are not your thoughts, and you are not your body”, are totally new. You do not have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. You do not have to identify with, or act upon every feeling you have. Like anything living, feelings arise, peak and subside. They don’t go on and on interminably. But many people are so reactive, they feel something, and act out. There’s no space between the event of the feeling, and the response to it. There’s no room to be curious, to observe, to reflect, to consider, and then to act. Or to not act.

Creating space between your thoughts, and between your feelings and your responses to them, is a life-changer. Knowing yourself is at the heart of any spiritual practice, and it’s also the key to living your best life. How do we know people? We spend some quality time with them, yes? We observe them, we listen to them with an open heart and an open mind and a desire to examine what’s real for them, what’s true for them. We ask questions when we’re confused. We trust, we nurture, we embrace. This is how we get close to people. You are a person. If you want to know and understand yourself, you need to spend some quality time with you.

It’s good to think about looking at things in a different way, or to consider whether your thoughts are weakening you or strengthening you. But if you really feel the need to make a change, if you’re deeply unhappy, feeling stuck, frustrated, or paralyzed by fear or a lack of confidence or self-esteem, of course you’re going to have to get to work. You have to deal with your particular mind, your specific way of being, your personal way of moving through the world and interacting with other people. Your own history, belief systems, struggles with intimacy, or difficulty acting on your own behalf. If you feel cut off from your own intuition, if you’ve lost the thread, you have to find tools that work for you so you can start again. Until you exhale for the final time, it’s never too late to do that.

Your Homework

Above is a link to a class. Let’s say doing this class is your homework. There’s a three-minute talk about making a shift, a five-minute seated meditation, and a short yoga practice. It would be great if you had some paper and a pen handy. The meditation is designed to help you take a look at the current state of your mind, and the quality of the relationship you’re having with yourself. You’re not trying to change anything at this point, you’re just looking for a baseline. You want to observe your “default setting”. Doing this once won’t get you there. It’s meant to be done every day for a week, so you can see how things are with you in general, not just on one random day. The practice is designed to get you breathing, and beyond that, to breathe in a conscious way, so you engage your mind with something that’s happening in the now. You train your mind on the present moment. If you observe during your meditation that your mind is loud, redundant and obsessive, you use the breath, and the physical practice to quiet the storm. If you find that your inner dialogue is harsh and unforgiving, you use your practice to feed a loving voice. If you struggle with a pose, that’s wonderful. You get to see if you can face the challenge calmly, and with compassion for yourself. If you can’t, that’s what you work on all week. If you fall out of a pose, you see if you can practice falling calmly (Type A personalities and perfectionists, take note).

You have to work with your own inner dialogue, your own personality, your own tendencies. At a certain point, it can’t be conceptual anymore, you need the visceral, raw, personal experience. Meet me back here in a week for another class that will build on this one. If enough of you participate, we’ll turn this into a 30-day challenge to make a shift. There’s no winner, or rather, everyone wins. You can email me (ally@yogisanonymous.com) all week and let me know how you’re doing, and what challenges you’re facing. Please be patient, I will answer everyone. If you’re serious about healing, I really want to help. Sending you love, as always, Ally Hamilton #timetogetbusy #toolsforhealing #dothework #noexcuses #letsstarttheparty #lifeisgood


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Home

We tend to think of “home” as the house or apartment where we grew up, and “family” as the people with whom we share a bloodline; those people who were in that house or apartment before we got there. See also: those people who were supposed to love us and protect us and nurture us. When it works out that way, it’s ideal and such a gift, but it doesn’t work out that way for so many people.

There are tons of variables; trauma and abuse can be passed down from one generation to the next. If a person grew up in an unsafe environment, that’s what they know, and that feels like home. The pull to recreate that familiar feeling can be strong, especially when there hasn’t been an opportunity to heal. So sometimes home is a scary place, and family are the people you maneuver around as you try to stay safe. In a case like that, the longing for home, the desire to be loved and seen and heard can feel like some kind of mystery to be solved. Isn’t it funny how we can yearn for things we’ve never had, and miss people we’ve never met?

Anything unhealed within you wants your kind attention. We long for closure and resolution, but underneath that what we’re really wanting is peace. We want to know we’re worthy of love. There are those lucky people who’ve never had to question that, because love is all they’ve known; it’s not common, but it does happen. Someone who is raised knowing they’re treasured and cherished is likely to have an easier time with later heartbreaks. They still hurt, of course, but the person isn’t as likely to question whether there’s something at their very core that’s unlovable, something about them that makes it easy to leave, neglect or abuse them. A person who is securely attached to his or her parents and siblings isn’t as likely to take rejection as proof that he or she is really disposable, after all, but a person who’s never felt loved, who struggles to trust and be vulnerable, can take a heartbreak as that final blow. As if it’s up to someone else to determine their worth.

Roughly thirty-seven trillion cells come together to make up a human being. They’ll never come together in that way again, and they never have before; that’s a miracle in my book, scientific or otherwise. We arrive here needing to be held and fed and clothed and rocked and soothed. We come here needing each other, we go out needing each other, and in between, you can bet we need each other. I truly feel our purpose here is to love — to open, to grow, to heal, to learn, to strengthen and blossom and share whatever we’ve got with each other; to dig until we uncover that limitless well of love within us, so we can spread it as we move through our days. Home is inside you. It’s not a place, although you may feel attached to the house you grew up in if you were happy there. The bonds between family members can be strong, but that doesn’t always mean they’re healthy; sometimes you have to negotiate your boundaries. Sometimes you have to love people from afar in order to love yourself well, and sometimes you have to create a family of your own, with those people who’ve shown you what love looks like. Ultimately, you want to feel at home inside yourself, comfortable in your own skin.

When life throws you a curve-ball, you want to know you can catch it. You want to have your own back. You want to know how to root for yourself. You want to be able to nurture and cherish your particular thirty-seven trillion cells. “Home” might be something you have to create out of your imagination, you may not have a frame of reference for it, but home is inside you. You can visit any time you like.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

The Gift of You

Dont-give-in-to-yourThere are many things that can scare us in this life, but sometimes the biggest fears we have are created in our own minds. Have you ever geared up to have a conversation with someone for weeks or months, or even years? And every time you turn it over in your head, you think you can’t. You can’t get the words out because the pain will be too much; too much for you, or the other person. Maybe you play it out in your mind, looking for some way to become clear. What you’ll say, how you’ll say it, and what you hope they’ll say in response. Maybe you imagine the worst case scenarios, too. Meanwhile, you’re in a prison, time is going by, and your whole being is in agony. Pushing down the truth, whatever it is for you, is absolutely exhausting. Any painful conversation would be easier than the suffering we inflict upon ourselves when we just won’t face what we know in our hearts.

Shame is a strangler. There is no way you’re “supposed to be”; you can only be you, fully, the most beautiful, authentic version of yourself. Other people may have expectations and ways they like to think of you. If those expectations and ways go against the very grain of who you are, if it just isn’t working for you anymore, then the people closest to you will have to change their expectations, or not. But you can’t deny the deepest longing of your soul. You can’t fight your truth and expect to win. You can make yourself sick trying, though. Sometimes we long to make changes but tell ourselves we can’t or shouldn’t. We run down the list of all the things that might go wrong, instead of all the things that might go right. We ask ourselves who we are to consider shining. The real question is, who are we to consider not shining?

Fear can be debilitating, but we’ll all feel it, it’s perfectly natural. The more you open to it, the less hold it has over you. If you can acknowledge you’re afraid, you’ll find that releases the grip and you can breathe again, there’s space again. This is not an easy gig, this business of being human. We’re vulnerable and underneath the surface of our lives exist questions we’ll never be able to answer with absolute certainty until we exhale for the final time. It’s understandable that we want to cling to our plans and visions of how things should be. Presumably that, at least, is something we can control, but it isn’t, and we can’t. We are all evolving all the time, circumstances are shifting and changing all around us, and the reality of that groundlessness can be difficult to absorb. So we make our plans, and we feel afraid when they aren’t panning out the way we’d hoped. Now we have nothing to hold onto.

There are people who cling to their pain because that’s all they’ve got. Without it, they have no clear sense of who they’d be, or how life might feel. Something we know is often more appealing than something we don’t, even if what we know, hurts. But life isn’t something to get through with our fists clenched and our eyes shut tightly. It isn’t something to be endured in quiet despair. It can be both of those things when we don’t face ourselves and embrace what’s true for us, though. It’s isolating and suffocating. The only person who can let you out of a prison you’ve created in your mind, is you.

You may have fear of disappointing people, of not being what someone else wants you to be. The worst betrayal, though, is the betrayal of yourself. Too many people spend too much time and energy trying to be something other than who they are, as if what they are isn’t miraculous. When was the last time you ran into yourself at the grocery store, or on line at the movies, or at the park, or when you were traveling on the other side of the globe? You’ve never run into yourself anywhere, because you’ve never existed before, and you’ll never exist, exactly as you are, again. You have one shot in this life, in the body that you’re in, with the experiences you’ve had and the way you look at the world. One chance to sing your song and accept yourself and shine it out. It would be a shame if you let fear stop you. Feel it, and go there, anyway. Otherwise you rob the world of a gift it can never have any other way. You rob the world of the gift of you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Secrets of the Second List

Everyone enjoys the sweet stuff in life: the love, the joy, the fun, the excitement, those times when life is giving us exactly what we’d hoped for, or more than we’d ever imagined. Nobody wants the tough stuff: the pain, loneliness, confusion, fear, shame, doubt, guilt, suffering, those times when life is taking from us more than we think we can bear. That seems perfectly logical, after all. Why would anyone want anything off the second list?

The thing is, when you crave the good and feel aversion for the challenging, you’re bound to suffer because life brings both. Many people go through this experience of being human as victims of circumstance, happy when things are going well, and depressed when they aren’t; there’s no power in that. Of course there are things so knifing in this world, they rip your heart apart, and you do whatever you can to survive and find your way back to love, somehow. I’m not talking about those incredibly heartbreaking events. I’m talking about the normal ups and downs of life. If you don’t gain some mastery over your mind, you’ll believe your happiness and your unhappiness are the result of things outside your control.

Most of the time, happiness is a choice, but we have to define our terms. Happiness to me is being at peace. Waking up and feeling grateful for, and excited about the life you’re living, even if, and maybe especially if, everything isn’t going exactly the way you’d like. Happiness is knowing yourself well, and deeply. It’s tapping into your gifts, and sharing them any way you can. It’s knowing what’s true for you, being able to speak about that kindly but with conviction. It’s having relationships in your life with people you love, and we have to define that term, too. Love meaning the ability to see and understand clearly the people with whom we’re close, being able to accept them and cherish them and celebrate them for exactly the people they are, and not for our ideas about who we’d like them to be someday, if only. Happiness is knowing you also have people in your life who really see you and hear you and want nothing more than your full expansion so they have that much more of you to cherish. The things that define happiness are inside, they aren’t outside, and they can’t be taken from you over a bad day, or a tough week, or a rough chapter in your life. (With the exception of those gut-wrenching tragedies I mentioned above. Those could throw anyone off their happiness game for a good long while.)

How do you get to happy? Strangely enough, I think you have to have experienced at least some of the pain on list number two. Pun intended. For most people there’s a time when you come up against it, whatever it may be for you. It could be that things don’t gel personally; relationships with family members, romantic partners and friends are fraught with disappointment, dysfunction, and pain. Or it could be a struggle to find your purpose, to find the meaning in life for you. Very few people sail through, healthy and whole and unscathed, knowing themselves well, and ready to rock it. Many people are so attached to the idea of happiness, they seek it and chase it and work for it like it’s a destination or a possession, or the result of having or doing the right stuff, and because they long for happiness, they run in the other direction when the painful parts arrive. We aren’t taught that the painful parts are markers for where we have healing to do. We don’t talk about the need to heal as a prerequisite for happiness. We talk about houses and cars and diets. You want to know why? It’s a lot easier to chase that stuff than it is to turn around and face your dragons; your fears, your insecurities, your doubts about yourself, and life, and what the point of it all is. Life presents big questions, some you can answer if you’re willing to be brave, and some you won’t know for sure until you exhale for the final time, but if you pretend they don’t exist, you’re living in a false reality. I don’t believe you can experience happiness there.

You have so much power in this regard. Many people rob themselves of the chance to feel it, though. Your power lies in your ability to face reality as it is, to look with your eyes, your mind, your heart and your hands wide open. Not to turn away. Not to deny, or cling or re-write or insist or manipulate or will it to be a different way, but just to look, and to breathe, and to let the tears spill when they come. To hold the fear even though it sears your hands and your heart. Holding it and breathing is the key to releasing the heat so that stuff doesn’t own your ass. So you don’t have to be on the run from those things you’re trying to hide from the world, and even from yourself. People on the run aren’t happy. People in denial aren’t, either. People who numb out are numb. If you want to be happy, you have to feel, and you can’t just cherry-pick the good stuff. You have to be willing to feel it all. The places that are painful will become less so if you give them your kind attention, a lot less so. No one can force you to do it. You have to want to do it. You may need to try the other path first, I certainly did. You may have to try buying your happiness or amassing it or starving yourself for it. You may have to seek it in others, but eventually, if you really want it, you’ll have to sit with yourself.

The dark night of the soul is not easy and it’s not fun, it hurts. It’s lonely and scary and confusing and you’ll meet storms of shame and guilt along the way. You may find in the very eye of the storm the belief that you are somehow unworthy of love, or easy to leave, or fill in the blank. If you look in that eye long enough, you’ll see it’s a lie, it’s not even real, it’s made of vapors, and this very funny thing will happen. You’ll find you’re smiling through your tears and you can take that happy on the road with you. You’ll find a perspective shift in most cases, where your eyes and your mind go to everything you do have, that is going well. You’ll look at the people in your life with a new appreciation and understanding, and a lot more compassion and empathy, because this work of being a happy human is not easy, it takes enormous determination but it’s totally doable.

Wishing you the strength to be happy, and sending love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

Time for a Re-Frame

We-may-overcompensateThe feeling that you have no power over your life or your circumstances can be crushing. Doubting your ability to have an impact on the world around you, feeling you’re defeated before you’ve begun, or that you are somehow to blame, that some deep part of you is simply unlovable, these are all beliefs that can make it very hard to act on your own behalf. If you grew up in an unsafe environment, then this may be part of your wiring. We usually seek the familiar, even if what we know is abuse or neglect. If it’s familiar, it feels like home, and we all want to be able to count on something. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Or something like that. As a result, there are people who’ve known nothing but abuse. Who truly believe the world is an unsafe place, and you can’t count on anyone. That people will let you down, or leave, or hurt you when you need them to love you. When you need that with all your heart. You can only know what you know, after all. Your frame of reference is what it is.

The thing is, sometimes the frame is really bent. So bent, the glass has bubbled in places, and when you look through those raised parts, everything is blurry. Sometimes the glass has cracked, and you see two realities, one right on top of another, and it’s hard to figure out which one is the real one. And sometimes the glass has shattered in places, and you can get these small glimpses of the truth, tiny portals into other worlds that you can almost feel and want to believe are real.

What I can tell you is that you are worthy of love. You are made of love. That to me is fairly obvious. We come into this world and we need to be held and dressed and fed and rocked, and sung to, even if the person caring for us can’t carry a tune. We need connection and affection and to know that how we feel matters. But if you’ve never had any support for those feelings, if the people who were supposed to love you weren’t able to do that due to their own limitations (and perhaps, their own history of abuse), it’s not easy to wrap your head around the simplest ways of taking care of yourself. The idea of caring for yourself might never have crossed your mind. I meet adults all the time who have no idea what makes them happy, what lights them up, what they want to do with their time or energy. Sometimes people are stunned just to find someone is listening to them. Someone is asking questions about who they are and what they want and how they feel. You matter. You, reading this, if there’s any doubt in your mind, you matter. Your thoughts, the way you move through the world, your smile, your tears, your ability to love and to be loved, it all matters.

When you feel small and insignificant and like the world is a cold and dangerous place, it’s perfectly natural to want to order it. To make sense out of chaos. To create stability in a world that is always spinning. But you can’t control other people, nor do you want to try. You can’t manage what another person will do, or say or feel or want. You can only keep your own side of the street clean. That’s your power. You can manage how you show up, and what you do or say. There’s a lot of strength in that, and that’s something to hold onto if you’re feeling like you’re somehow invisible. You have as much right to love and respect as anyone else. Rage is an understandable feeling if you were not loved the way you needed to be or deserved to be; there are few things more painful than believing you’re unlovable. That’s enough to make anyone lash out, or try to control–to keep people around by bending over backwards, by putting their needs and wants above your own to an unhealthy degree, to selling yourself and trying to be exactly what other people need, instead of simply, your gorgeous, true self.

The world is a beautiful, complex, often painful place to be. But the other thing that exists here, other than suffering which is part of being human, is the potential to explore your capacity to love. Your frame may be bent or broken. Your glass may be foggy. But there are all these methods available for unbending your frame, or building a whole new one from scratch. Eventually, if you do the work to heal and tap into that limitless well of love you have within you, you won’t need a frame at all. Or glass. You’ll just be moving from love, and that opens a whole new world to you. Message me if you need help with your frame. Because you need to repair it and work with it before you can toss it. Sending you love, as always. Ally

People Who Don’t Make it Easy

Every-man-has-his-secretI moved into my house seven years ago. My dog was six at the time, and he’d seen me through heartbreaks and good times, and a move across the country, as well. He was my best friend. He was the kind of dog who could turn people who weren’t dog lovers into friends. With one exception.

I have a neighbor across the street, I’ll call him Walter, although that isn’t his name. He’s kind of like the crotchety Mayor of the block, always standing in front of his house, monitoring the comings and goings of everyone around him. He’s the kind of guy who’ll run out and yell at neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. I don’t know exactly how old he is, but he’s over seventy for sure. About three weeks after I’d moved in, I came home to find a notice on my front door. Apparently, my dog had been barking and someone had called the police. I was pretty bummed out, and wondered why whomever it was hadn’t just told me upon my return. I’d only been gone an hour, and my dog had never been much of a barker. I’d lived with him in apartments in New York City, and in a tiny house with a neighbor right on the other side of the wall. No one had ever complained about barking. The next few times I left the house, I drove to the corner and walked back. No barking. So I chalked it up to a one-time thing, and went about my business. But a couple of weeks later, I came home to a second notice, and a warning that if there was a third incident, mediation could ensue, and my dog might have to be removed from the premises. At that point, I put baby gates up when I left the house, so my dog would be in back, unlikely to be heard from the street if he did bark. A few weeks later, I left to lead a yoga retreat. I had a friend stay in the house to watch and walk my furry friend. One day when he came back, he found, you guessed it, another notice. Strike three.

When I got back, I went right over to Animal Control to speak to someone in person. As it turned out, I found the guy who’d been out to the house. He said he hadn’t heard barking when he’d pulled up either time, and that it wasn’t until he knocked that my dog made any noise, which one would expect. I asked him what my recourse was since none of the neighbors on either side of me were complaining, and the person calling in wouldn’t reveal him or herself to me. He said he couldn’t tell me who it was, but I could guess, and deduce it from his reaction. Kind of hilarious. “Bill?” I asked. “No”, he said. I made up three or four other names and kept getting that no, until I came to, “Walter?”. Silence. I wasn’t surprised. The officer suggested I try talking to Walter, since mediation would only follow if he pursued it. That maybe he was satisfied just to have caused some trouble. So I went over to Walter’s, understanding I wasn’t supposed to know he’d complained. I just asked him directly if my dog had been bothering him. Immediately, he called my dog a “problem”, said he’d been barking, and that he had called the police three times. I asked him why he hadn’t just talked to me, and said I was confused because no one else around me was hearing it. I wondered if it could be the dog on the other side of Walter’s backyard. But he was adamant and unfriendly, although he didn’t pursue mediation. Things were strained from then on, even though I would always wave and send him some love. It’s no fun to have tension with someone you’re going to see every day, after all.

A few months went by, and my dog had become a favorite on the block. People would stop and pet him on walks, and we had settled into the ‘hood nicely. But Walter was impenetrable. I’d try to talk to him when I was alone, but he’d basically grunt at me and that would be that. One day, I saw Walter walk out of his house with a person I could only assume was his very elderly mother. She was hooked up to an IV, and also had an oxygen mask. Walter had his arm around her, and was holding her up as they made their way to the car. She couldn’t have weighed more than seventy pounds. I hadn’t realized Walter was living with and caring for his elderly mother, and that he’d lived in that house his entire life. At that point, I tried harder to cultivate a friendship, but he just wouldn’t have it. Sometimes it seemed to me my friendliness was embarrassing him, but since I couldn’t get more than monosyllables from him, there was no way to approach the topic. A few years went by this way. My beloved dog died one awful morning, and Walter’s mother died, too. I had two kids. You know who finally “broke” Walter? My son. Because even Walter could not resist a two year old waving and yelling to him from across the street. Sometimes I’d bring my boy over to say hi to Walter, and little by little he started talking to me. By the time my daughter came along, it was on.

At this point, Walter always waves and smiles and says hi to us, and very frequently crosses the street to hang out in the front yard. He doesn’t yell at neighborhood kids anymore. We have a puppy, and Walter even likes him. About six months ago, around 3am one morning, I awoke to a very loud crack and an explosion of light that shook the house. I was shaking, and went to the front door not knowing if my house had weirdly been struck by lightning, if we were having an earthquake, or what was going on in my half-awake, fight or flight state. I didn’t know if I should be grabbing my kids, or what. There was Walter, crossing the street, saying, “You’re okay.” Turned out there was a problem with an electrical transformer right outside my house. It’s nice to have neighbors who care and are paying attention. Sometimes the people who don’t make it easy to be friends are the ones you want to watch. Because underneath his gruff exterior and short fuse, Walter is a pretty cool guy. I’m glad I didn’t give up on him. He was just lonely and sad, watching his mother slip away from him. Most people have pain underneath the surface. Dig a little before you give up. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton