Ride the Waves

You-cant-stop-the-wavesFew things are more difficult than watching someone we love grapple with pain we cannot fix. Of course we want the people we hold dearest to be happy and at peace, just as we want those things for ourselves; that’s natural. But loss, grief and pain are built into the experience of being human. We’re all on loan, here, and we’re always changing. Sometimes we’ll be in the throes of our own confusion and anguish, and sometimes we’ll feel powerless as we watch someone else struggle with the reality of being human.

The most loving, well-intentioned parents will say things like, “Don’t be sad,” or, “Don’t be angry,” but sadness and anger are normal, healthy, human emotions, and they don’t need to be pushed away. In fact, the more we try to deny the challenging feelings, the longer they persist, because we can’t fight a truth that is living inside our own bodies. If your heart is broken, there’s no use pretending otherwise. I know a woman who lost her mother a few years ago, and the pain is still acute, every day. Some of her friends have suggested she should be moving on by now, and many have distanced themselves from her. This is not an uncommon story; often, people feel uncomfortable around another person’s grief because it reminds them of their own mortality, and the fragility of this life.

The more we long to be somewhere other than where we are, the more we strain to feel differently than we do, the more we suffer and create dis-ease for ourselves. You feel how you feel, and it won’t all be pretty. In order to deny your vulnerability, you also have to deny your joy; an armored heart can’t pick and choose. You are not obligated to do things in a neat and orderly way, and you are not on anyone else’s timetable. If someone in your life requires that you show up smiling and happy, then the potential for true intimacy and genuine friendship is not there.

Sometimes, pressure to be “over” something, whether it’s the loss of a person, a relationship, a time in your life, or an event that’s transpired, is not coming from the outside, it’s coming from within us. Happiness is not a spot on a map where you land and plant your flag, it’s a process and it requires patience and a willingness to embrace all of your feelings as they arise. No one is ecstatic all the time. A great day will also include some challenging moments, just as a great life will include painful chapters. We all get frustrated with ourselves from time to time, but an aggressive or unforgiving inner atmosphere will not help your grieving process. Cultivating compassion for yourself and others is essential if you want to walk peacefully through this world. Granting patience to yourself, other people, and the situations in your life creates an expansive environment where healing is likely to occur. No one can heal in a vise grip. None of us relax because someone yells at us to relax, just as none of us heal because we’re pressured to do so. Allow yourself to be where you are, and avail yourself of the tools that exist that make it easier to ride the waves of grief when they arise. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Untie the Knot in Your Heart

We-all-have-an-old-knotThe holidays can be a beautiful time of year filled with family, friends, laughter, and a little more time to relax and enjoy, but they can also be a time of loneliness and longing, of regret and despair, and of too much time on our hands to dwell on the “what if’s” and “if only’s”. You can make yourself sick with that stuff.

A lot of people suffer from the holiday blues. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, they’re particularly painful. The grief is compounded by the intense longing to share more time with the person we wish we could hug, when it seems everyone else gets to be with family and friends. Basically, the holidays magnify everything. If you’re happy right now, that happiness is multiplied in the sharing of the experience. If you’re in pain, the pain feels even larger, and more defeating and overwhelming.

Sometimes we’re derailed by our expectations and “shoulds”. We have ideas about how things should be, how life should be, how people should be, and how we should feel. And sometimes our expectations are not realistic. Remind yourself that no feeling is forever, and that you don’t have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. And also, short of grieving the loss of someone due to death, or heartbreak of any kind, try to be disciplined. Again, this does not apply to people who are grieving, because I’m a firm believer that you have to allow yourself to feel your feelings and lean into reality as it is. But short of those knifing losses, be disciplined with your mind. Don’t allow yourself to spiral down, or feed a sad story, or contract against your experience. Open to it, acknowledge your pain or envy or longing, but don’t feed it or wallow in it, because it will become hard to breathe.

If you notice that you’re doing a number on yourself, pick your mind up and choose some thoughts that will strengthen you. Maybe this holiday season will be tough, but who knows what 2015 has in store? I’ve certainly lived through some challenging and lonely holidays. It’s not easy, but then they’re over and life moves forward, and the truth is, you really never know what’s around the bend. Your world could be turned upside down in good ways or difficult ones, on any given day, and with no warning. That’s how life is.

Maybe today is challenging, but tomorrow, anything could happen. You might have an idea that lights you up and inspires you and sends you down a road you’d never have imagined taking. Maybe you’ll meet someone, and you won’t even recognize the way your life looks six months from now. I’m not necessarily talking about romance. I’m just saying, leave room to heal. Leave space to be surprised and amazed. If this holiday season is rough, and you have it in you, find a way to uplift someone else. That will definitely lift your spirits. And do take some time to focus on what you do have, right now. When we feed gratitude, we remember the gifts in our life, and how many things are going right, and that sets us up to come from a place of abundance, rather than fear or neediness. We really can take so much for granted. It’s a gift to wake up, even if you’re in the midst of despair. Just having this experience of being human is a gift. Having a healthy body, a place to call home, food in your fridge, people you love beyond words, who also love you and see you and cherish you. These are the most important gifts in life. Just the potential for connection is huge.

Hang in there if you’re having a tough time. You’re not alone. Sending you love, and extra hugs, Ally Hamilton

Grief, Healing & Connection

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

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

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

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

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

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Closure Doesn’t Save Us from Grief

goodbyehelloMost of us torture ourselves at some point or another looking for closure regarding a heartbreak. Sometimes it’s something that’s happened with a family member or close friend, often it happens when we’re grieving the loss of a romantic relationship. Here’s the thing. There are some situations we’ll never understand, and our best hope for closure is acceptance of that fact.

It’s completely understandable that we’d want to know why something has happened that’s caused a rift or a split, especially when we feel devastated, bereft, confused and untethered. When these things are left shrouded in mystery, it’s so hard to let go. Sometimes we can’t wrap our heads around why someone is doing what they’re doing, because we’re on the wrong end of displaced rage. Sometimes we’re dealing with someone who’s coming from a totally different place philosophically or emotionally, and we just can’t comprehend what would make a person do, say, want or need whatever it is they’re doing, saying, wanting or needing. Sometimes we’ve blown it, and no matter how much we might apologize, the door is shut with no hope for communication or healing.

Some people communicate well, and others really struggle. There are many people who have a difficult time putting words to their feelings, and sometimes resentment or despair is mounting for ages, and one day it blows up all over the place, leaving us to wonder what’s happened, and why something so small has caused an apocalypse. We only know other people, even those closest to us, to the extent that they allow us to know them. You will only know the interior world of another person if they choose to share it with you. Sometimes, for some people, the truth feels too painful to speak, or it requires the speaker to confront weaknesses or anger they aren’t ready to face. If that’s the case, you’ve cornered a person, and even if you’ve done so inadvertently, it’s not surprising that they’ve lashed out. You can’t force a person to tell you what’s going on in their heart of hearts.

This is like a small version of how we feel when we lose someone through death. We can’t and don’t have all the answers we long for, we don’t have the information that would soothe and reassure us. We are left to hold a space in our hearts for someone we once loved. We’re invited to let the trace of that love soften us instead of harden us. We can carry some of the good stuff forward with us. We can hope this person who’s lost to us is okay, and that they know they were loved. Eventually, we’ll have to accept that some questions will simply go unanswered, and that we’ll move forward, allowing the questions to inspire us to do that with love and compassion for ourselves and other people.

When you’ve done all you can, you have to release your grip on the story, and allow it to unfold on its own. Time does not heal all wounds, but it does lessen the piercing pain of loss. Time also invites us to stop clinging and start living again. You don’t want to lose too much of today making yourself sick over what happened yesterday, last week, or last year. The day is calling, and it has its own fresh mysteries and beautiful potential. Breathe in and breathe out, and trust your heart to heal.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Find the Gift

darknessoliverSometimes the gift is getting what you want, and sometimes the gift is not getting what you want. It’s fairly easy to celebrate when things go our way, but it usually takes a lot of effort to unearth the beauty in having some of our desires remain unfulfilled. I’m not an “everything happens for a reason” yogi, and I don’t believe everything is positive. I don’t go for platitudes like, “If you don’t get what you want, it’s because something better is planned for you”, but I do think there’s the potential for growth in every experience.

Heartbreak is a good example. Maybe you’ve suffered through a painful breakup, or you’ve lost someone you don’t know how to live without. Trying to find the gift when your heart is broken is no easy feat, and I don’t recommend that you rush to do that. If you’re grieving, grieve. Give yourself time to feel whatever you need to feel — deep sadness, despair, anger, longing, whatever it is. The best way to prolong a state of pain is to deny it, numb it out, or push it away. If you want to get through something and come out the other side as soon as possible, the fastest method is to lean right into your heartache. Then you can release the heat of your feelings, and you can start to let the worst of it burn off.

The gift comes in learning more about yourself. If you let these experiences soften you rather than harden you, you’ll find you become more empathetic, more insightful, and more able to extend compassion to other people who might be suffering. We learn the most about who we are, where we still have healing to do, where we’re strong and where we could use some strengthening, through times that challenge us. Chapters that feel good are wonderful, but as far as growth goes, we generally learn more through times that test us.

If someone let you down, the beauty comes through healing. Maybe the experience caused you to doubt your worth, and perhaps it took years to get through it. Maybe something very old was tapped, and you found yourself reeling, flailing, or running from your feelings, or maybe you opened yourself and you were hurt, and decided it was better to be hard. But human beings don’t come covered in shells. We’re vulnerable, that’s just an inescapable reality.

When you don’t get what you want, you might examine why you wanted it so much. What did this desired thing (person, event) represent to you? Did you think if only you achieved this outcome, then you’d be happy? Then you’d feel seen, heard, understood? Brass rings are wonderful, because they reflect back at us some insecurity. What are we striving for? Acknowledgement? Praise? Love? Acceptance? Power? Immortality? If you can figure out why you want what you want (aside from the ability to keep a roof over your head and the heads of those you treasure), whether you get it or not, you’ll know more about who you are and where you’re at, and if you have healing to do. Happiness comes from the inside of us. Yes, we can meet people, we can gravitate toward people who see us and understand us and cherish us, and why wouldn’t we? Connection is the best thing in life, but if you aren’t happy on the inside, no one and no thing can fix that.

If you get what you want, that can also be a gift. Especially if it doesn’t work quite the way you thought it would. Here I am, holding this brass ring with a huge grin on my face, but how long will it last? Why do I need it to feel validated? Why can’t I validate myself? I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy wonderful things when they happen. I’m just saying it’s enlightening to look at the gifts in getting and not getting, to examine our longing, to understand ourselves. That’s the only way to honor yourself, and to be accountable for the energy you’re spreading as you move through the world. The more you can bring unconscious drives to the surface, the more you’ll be at peace. Unless or until love is at your center, you probably won’t be at peace.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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Consider the Source

You-become-what-youSometimes we invent stories out of our insecurity and the breezes going by. Maybe we haven’t heard back from someone and we start to obsess. Did we say, do, or write something inadvertently offensive? Have we been misunderstood? Has the person decided they don’t like us, after all? Did we embarrass ourselves, and if so, can we ‘save it”?

Maybe we start to second-guess ourselves, or tell stories in our heads about how we always blow stuff. If you doubt yourself, you’ll need validation from somewhere, right? Maybe you doubt your talent, or your ability to give whatever you’ve got, or whether you’re really, truly, actually lovable. If you suffer from those doubts, any rejection can bring up deep fear and anxiety.

Usually when we’re obsessing, it’s because we’re triggered. Something in the current interaction is tapping something old and unhealed. So if you’re going to spend your energy on anything, figuring out the source of your pain, doubt, shame, fear, insecurity, or tendency to chase people is really the best way to go. Because then, at least, you’re dealing with something real. Something you can get your hands around, something that exists within you, and not some amorphous upsetting thing that exists “out there”, that’s really just a projection.

When did these feelings first emerge, and around whom? What happened to make you feel you might be the kind of person easily ignored, discarded, disrespected or unwanted? If the people who were meant to love, protect, nurture and cherish you didn’t have the tools to do those things well, that’s a reflection on them. It can be a compassionate reflection, because a lot of people are ill-prepared for the task of loving all the way, and timing is a huge factor. Maybe they were hurt or made to feel invisible, themselves. So much of the time, people are just repeating and perpetuating what they know. But if you weren’t loved the way you deserved to be when you arrived here on this planet, you may find it surprisingly difficult to learn how to love yourself.

That’s really the work. We never know what’s driving other people. Maybe you’re being ignored because your email didn’t go through, or because the person has decided they don’t like you, or because they’re on vacation, or because their mother called to ask them why they aren’t married even though they’re thirty-five, and they just aren’t talking to anyone this week. All I’m saying is, deal with what’s real. Don’t guess at things and fill in the blanks as though life is some huge game of mad-libs.

The story to look at is always the story of your participation. What’s within you? What are you bringing to the party? How are you spending your time, your days, your energy? Upon what are you placing importance? Choose wisely. You’re going to be with yourself for this whole ride, so you might as well know who you are. Sending you love and wishing you peace, Ally Hamilton

Don’t Wait

When-someone-tells-me-noWaiting can be a particular kind of agony, whether we’re waiting for a call, an email response, the results of a test, a job interview, or a first date. We never know what’s going to happen, even though we like to think we do. Tomorrow isn’t promised, and we can make all the plans we like, we can create our routines and try to make order out of chaos, but there’s no getting around that truth, and for many people there’s the impulse to run from it, but I think if you accept and embrace that you don’t know what’s coming, or how much time you’ve got, it can also inspire you. A little fire under your a$$ can be a great thing. That way you don’t get caught up in the idea that you can “waste” time, or “kill” time, because you know it’s precious.

Why do we agonize when we’re waiting for the phone to ring? Do we really think our happiness lies in the outcome? People will like us and get us and understand us, and other people will not do any of those things. The news will be good, there won’t be any news, or the news will be bad. The real issue isn’t the news. It’s how you’re spending your time and energy. Waiting is probably not a great use of your time, because it takes you out of the power seat, and I don’t mean power over other people, I mean the power you can exert over how you’re going to use the time you have. If you have a dream, if you have something to say, something to offer, you just keep going. There’s no need to wait. If you keep directing your energy toward spreading some love with every day you’ve got, I really believe that momentum will build on itself. Giving for the sake of giving is the reward. It happens as you’re doing it. If you’re giving to get, that’s another thing altogether.

Is it okay to want good things in your life? Love, companionship, affection, at least one person who sees you and knows you and cherishes you? Of course, but if a person isn’t running in your direction, and I mean this whether we’re talking about a romantic or a professional interest, keep going. They can catch up if it’s the right thing. Waiting feels like sh&t. Waiting for someone’s approval, acknowledgement, love, attention, respect. Screw that. If a person doesn’t have it to give, get going. Give it to yourself, and keep giving it to yourself, and don’t let anyone or anything cause you to doubt your ability to offer something only you can. There’s only one of you. In a world of seven billion people. You think you were put here to wait? I don’t.

I’m not talking about patience, which is something else. We all need patience in this world. Sometimes we have to be patient with ourselves, and our inclination to give someone else power over us. Maybe we have healing to do. Maybe we doubt whether we’re lovable at our very core. Maybe we have to be patient with someone we love. I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about hours, afternoons, days, weeks when most of your energy is spent waiting for something to happen, instead of living each beautiful day you’re given in awe and wonder and gratitude, or in deep sadness if that’s where it’s at, but not allowing your energy, your essence to be derailed while you obsess over what someone else might or might not do. How someone else might or might not reward you. How you might or might not be received and understood. What calamity might or might not befall you. That’s what I’m talking about. Life is too short for that, and you are too precious. Carry on, you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton