Grab Your Inner Tube

onlyinastormSometimes life brings a huge storm our way. We lose someone we cannot imagine living without. Or we’re fired from a job. Or our spouse walks out or has an affair. Our child is in pain. And sometimes we choose the storm. We walk into it head-on, knowing there’s a need to leave the familiar shore and head into unchartered waters. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, I really didn’t know anyone out here. I moved with a guy who also taught yoga and liked cheese a little too much, and when it all fell apart I ended up three thousand miles away from home, with a few people I called friends, whom I was really just getting to know. And, of course, I had my dog. The ex had a serious road rage problem, so for the six months we’d been out here, I’d tried to figure out some kind of reasonable solution. We had one car, and would often leave for our own Ashtanga practice at 6am, and head together to all the classes we were teaching the rest of the day. If I drove, he screamed at me to go faster, to take a different route, to cut this or that person off. If I took a right instead of a left he went ballistic. He became this insane person in the car, instead of the hilarious and kind-hearted person I knew, and it was jolting, because it would happen right after our yoga practice, or after a peaceful hike, or really, anytime we went anywhere. When he drove, it was generally a 90-miles per hour scene, involving the “traffic fingers” of many other drivers, blaring horns, and screeching stops. Neither scenario was appealing or safe, but I truly feared we’d have an accident if I drove while he raged, so he drove. And I would hope we’d get wherever we were going without a problem. Of course I spoke with him about it and he always promised to calm down, but never managed to pull it off. And then he was gone, and I had no idea where I lived. Like, I seriously had to start from the beginning and remind myself, that way leads to the mountains, and that way to the beach. I went on a dating detox because I was alarmed I’d missed the cheese problem, and some other stuff. I’ll explain the cheese thing in another post, lest you think I actually broke up with someone who liked Gouda too much. And I say that as a great friend of said ex. He still calls me every Thanksgiving because of a funny and crazy holiday we shared that involved his sister, my dog, and a pair of pajamas with bunnies on them. And we check in from time to time. Grab a bite when I’m in New York. But when it ended, I just felt bereft and confused, like the rug had been pulled out from under me by my own hand. Because I’d ignored my intuition. I felt pulled to retreat and regroup. And thus began what we call in yoga, my, “Dark Night of the Soul”.

It’s a storm you choose because your way of being in the world hasn’t been working out too well. Friendships, relationships and jobs that don’t feel authentic are left behind, but it happens in an emotional hailstorm. Because when you start to change your inner wiring, believe me, the system is going to revolt. The tendencies and patterns and coping mechanisms that have been keeping all that raw emotion at bay are going to rise up. They’re going to beckon. And if you have the strength and determination not to repeat a pattern you recognize gets you nowhere, not to numb out or run or deny, you’ll likely find yourself in a state of depression. Which is generally confusing when you know you’re moving in a healthy direction. ‘”Shouldn’t I be feeling better?” you’ll think in despair, “I’m doing everything right.” That’s the storm, and if you want to come back to yourself, that’s where you have to head. In many ways it would have been easier for me to move back to NYC where my family and friends were, or to throw myself into another relationship. Instead I meditated and practiced yoga and taught my classes and hiked with my dog and wept a lot. I felt lonely and allowed myself to open to that. I felt scared and heartbroken and sometimes I wondered why I didn’t just make it easier for myself. But somewhere I knew I needed the pain. I needed to finally lean into it and swim through it so it wouldn’t own me anymore. So I could come back to myself. It is a storm. Sometimes you get pulled under and are thrashed into the rocks and you can’t see the surface, and it is very dark indeed. But if you want to really know yourself, you have to embrace everything. You have to accept and integrate all parts of yourself. It’s not easy work, but when the sun emerges and you take a deep breath and know you’re home, the kind of home that’s with you wherever you may go, it’s so worth it. Sending you love, and an inner tube if you need one, Ally

Throw Some Luggage Overboard!

losingsomeofthebaggageOne of my oldest girlfriends, I’ll call her Sue, is incredibly self-aware when it comes to identifying her “stuff”, and owning it when she doesn’t show up the way she’d like. She started going to therapy when she was thirteen years old due to her parents’ ugly divorce, and as she got older, for her own relationship issues. She had watched her parents tear each other down directly and indirectly, through her. Her mom said horrendous things about her dad, and her father said awful things about her mom. When they each remarried (which they both did, more than once), the bitterness was quadrupled. Her stepmothers made snide remarks about her mother, her mother couldn’t stand her father’s new wife, either time. Her father thought her first step-dad was not very bright, and her step-mom said he laughed like a woman. I witnessed a lot of this myself, as did all our friends, at sleepovers and afternoons at her mom’s or dad’s house, and once, sadly, during Sue’s sweet sixteen. Her dad got drunk and took the mic to toast Sue, but it somehow deteriorated into a tirade about Sue’s mom. Not so sweet, and Sue ended up in the bathroom, with a bottle of champagne that she downed, and then threw up all night. And so it went. In high school Sue struggled with an eating disorder, and I watched her turn herself inside out trying to be perfect. To control the little bit she could. She was smart as a whip, but sometimes she’d play dumb because she thought guys liked that. Her family has a lot of money, and Sue would often buy lunch for a whole group of us. Or more accurately, she’d pay for lunch with her American Express and her dad would pick up the tab. Because her parents believed throwing money at the situation would somehow make it okay. We went to college together as well, and as we grew up, a pattern emerged for Sue that was no surprise to any of us who’d watched her struggle over the years. She kept picking guys who ended up hurting her. Not the typical stories of ways men and women can misunderstand each other, or not show up all the way, but deep, “I just realized he’s been stealing money from me for months” kind of pain. The relationships were usually high-drama, and there were many times Sue showed up at my house unexpectedly, eyes puffy and red, sobbing in the middle of the night. Sue started drinking heavily, first a couple of nights a week, and then most nights. Eventually she cleaned that up. If you were to talk to Sue, you’d know within minutes you were speaking to an awake, aware person. She’s intelligent and funny and kind. She can tell you exactly why she’s done the things she’s done. She can give you the whole road-map to explain all her choices and all her behavior. But so far, it hasn’t helped her resist the pull of that ancient pain. Sue wants a happy ending. But she keeps trying to go back and carve one out of her past. As if she could rewrite history. As if she could change her parents into people who were mature enough and loving enough to put her first. To love her well. And time and again, Sue ends up crashing into the brick wall she keeps choosing, even though the crashing part sucks. A few years ago, I really worried for her. She’d hit such a low point I wasn’t sure she was going to be okay. I went back to New York to teach, and I saw Sue for the first time in many months. She was gaunt, and her nails were bitten down to the quick. Her eyes were dull, and so was her spirit. Through it all, Sue has always been a force. So I was really disturbed to see this lifeless person who looked like Sue sitting before me. She’d just had another painful breakup, and I could see this time she was taking it particularly hard. She started to relay all the details of what had happened. What she’d done. What he’d done. What she said, and why she felt the way she did. I listened as I had so many times before. And when she was done, I looked at her and said, “Sue, I love you. You’re an incredible person with such a beautiful heart. But you have to put the baggage down now, or it’s going to destroy you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re as lovable as a person gets. Your parents did the best they could but their best kind of sucked. You have to stop letting this own you.” And Sue started sobbing, right there at the restaurant. People looked over at us, and Sue apologized to me for making a scene. I went to her side of the table and hugged her, and told her to go ahead a make a scene. Because sometimes you work your sh&t out on a rainy Tuesday afternoon at a Thai restaurant downtown. Sometimes you’re just sitting there sobbing with chopsticks in your hand deciding it is finally enough.

Carrying your old, painful stories around with you wherever you go is exhausting, back-breaking work. At a certain point, it simply drains the life out of you. Everybody has pain. Everybody. Some people have more than others, and some are better equipped to deal with the everything that life brings. The heartache and disappointment. The trauma and abuse. The neglect and loneliness. The confusion and shame. We’ve all experienced at least one of these, some people have seen all of that and so much more. I once met a girl at a workshop I taught, who told me she had to stay angry at her father so he’d pay for what he’d done to her. I asked her how that was making him pay, since she never spoke to him or saw him. I said I was pretty sure she was the one paying. Your past will shape you and inform the way you think about yourself and the world. If that way isn’t loving, you’re going to have to unlearn some stuff, which is, of course, harder than learning it the right way the first time. If you think people suck, for example, you’re going to have to unlearn that. If you think you suck, you’re going to have to unlearn that first. Have some compassion for yourself. Be kind. In some way or another, we’ve all been Sue, collapsed on the bathroom floor, throwing up our pain all night long. If you want to travel back to your past in a productive way, go back there and give yourself a hug. Re-parent yourself if you need to. But put some of the heavy stuff down. It does not have to own you. The destination that really counts is your journey to inner peace. You’re going to have to throw some bags overboard to get there. Wishing you strength and love, Ally

Run Like Hell

runmydearI’m going to state some things that may seem totally obvious when you read them in black and white, but which I think we tend to forget in our tender hearts. Unconscious people do unconscious things. Damaged people do damaged things. Unkind, hardened people are not suddenly going to be soft. People with rage are going to behave in violent ways. If someone is envious of you, they are not going to have your back. Selfish people will not suddenly think of you, and how you might feel in any given situation. And there are people who are so damaged, they actually want to drive the thorn in your side intentionally. Hurt people hurt people as the saying goes. People who behave in any of these ways are in pain themselves, and are living in a certain kind of prison. All kinds of abuse and trauma can lead to imprisonment like this. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” The sad fact is, help is only available to those who decide to help themselves. You can’t do it for someone else. You can’t save anyone except yourself.

Of course you can’t define a human being in a word, we are all complex beings and only to the degree that we examine our pain and our motivations will we be accountable for our actions and the kind of energy we’re spreading. The way we’re being in the world. A person coming from an angry place most of the time may be able to pull it together to do some great stuff on those days they’re able to rise above. What I’m talking about here is a baseline way of being. If someone is commonly thoughtless or cruel. If someone consistently behaves in ways that are hurtful. If someone is generally so wrapped up in their own experience it doesn’t even occur to them to think about the impact of their actions. People who hurt us the most are usually also suffering the most. And you can have compassion for them, and you can practice forgiveness. But you really don’t want to put yourself in their path if you can help it; you don’t want to keep paying the tab for someone else’s cruel or thoughtless acts. If a person stabs you in the back, don’t expect them to turn around and call an ambulance for you. We can look at any of this stuff and say it’s not personal, right? A scorpion will sting you because that’s the nature of a scorpion. You can also open your heart and your mind to the idea that a person can change and grow. Where they are now is not necessarily where they’re always going to be. And if someone hurts you, it’s the most liberating thing to wish them well. But you do that from a safe distance. The part that IS personal is how you choose to respond. You don’t stick around to see if they want to push the knife in more deeply.

I say this to you because if you’re kind and open and trusting, if you want to hope for the best from people, you may need to look at whether you’re sacrificing your own well-being in the process of loving someone who is not able or willing to love you well. Or participating in a set of circumstances that insults your soul. Your work is to heal your own heart so you can open to all the love within you, and give it away freely. If you keep hanging out with people who crush your heart, thinking tomorrow might be the day they realize what they’re doing, that’s kind of like “expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian”, as Dennis Wholey says. Forgive if you can, for your own sake, so you’re not held hostage or made sick in your soul by the actions of someone else. But set up your boundaries, and be prepared to get out your hammer and nails and shore up those walls when you need to. Because some people just won’t get it. Not in the time-frame you’d like, and maybe never. If it’s a person you must have in your life, like a family member, then you figure out what it is you need to maneuver as safely as possible through painful terrain. You set up the best possible circumstances you can to take care of yourself. But if it’s not a person you need to be dealing with, run like hell, my dear. Sending you love, Ally

Choices

freetochoosebutnotfreefromthe consequenceWhen I was seventeen I began dating a man twenty years my senior, as I’ve mentioned before. He came after me with everything he had, but once he had me, he treated me pretty terribly. For me, it was too late by then, because I was convinced I was in love with him. So I stayed and endured treatment no one would if they were feeling good about themselves. He lied to me and cheated on me, but was also controlling and possessive. He was emotionally distant and verbally abusive, and he scheduled himself every waking moment of the day. He was in pain, I have no doubt about that now, and he was running from it. But I didn’t have the understanding to recognize that, nor the tools not to take it personally. He leaned on me and wanted me to be there for him, but there were times he was incredibly cruel. We were still together for his 40th birthday, and I planned a huge surprise party for him. By then we’d been together three years, and I was close to all of his friends, and most of their girlfriends, although a few were hostile to me because of my age. I rented a pool hall, and called a caterer, and ordered a cake, and sent invitations to all his friends letting them know it was on the down low. I also made reservations at a restaurant I knew he wanted to try, and planned on heading to the pool hall after. I’d saved money for months so I could afford to do all these things, and I was excited like a kid on Christmas morning. Of course underneath all of it was the hope, maybe once I do this, he’ll really love me. Really see me. Really appreciate me. I wish I could go back and give my seventeen year old self a hug. Grab a tea and say, “You know what? Get the f&ck out of here. Amazing things are going to happen in your life, and this man isn’t going to be a part of them.” Except he is, because he’s part of my story. A week before his birthday, he confronted me in our kitchen. “I know about the party at the pool hall. Tell me who you invited so I can make sure you didn’t forget anyone.” I burst into tears. He laughed. Maybe he was nervous, I don’t know. Maybe he felt unworthy underneath it all. But it was a nasty laugh and it broke me. He wouldn’t relent until I pulled the guest-list out of my purse and threw it on the kitchen counter. I hadn’t forgotten anyone. Then he asked me about the pool hall, and what kind of food I’d ordered. He didn’t want to be embarrassed. I’d ordered sushi from his favorite restaurant and had a friend of his who was a pastry chef bake him his favorite cake. By the time he was done grilling me, testing me, laughing at me, I felt like I was made of bones. Like he’d stripped the heart right out of me and thrown it on the counter alongside the guest list. Like I could break into a million pieces, and his housekeeper could come by and sweep me away. Like I was nothing. I told him everything, including the time of our reservations at the restaurant he’d been talking about for months. It had taken me months to get us in there. A few nights later, before the night of his party, he went to that restaurant with a friend of his who was a food critic. So the night we went, he’d already been there. He robbed me of any bit of joy, and he was remorseless.

A few months later things got worse, and I finally found the strength to leave. Not because I was in a healthier place, but because I knew if I stayed he would kill me. Not literally, but my spirit. My ability to open and grow and become myself. He was, in the end, so mean he left me no choice. Leaving was the hardest thing I’d done up to that point and I was shattered. I had played out some ancient history with him, and it was as though every heartbreaking thing that had ever happened to me, happened again. But little by little I started coming back to myself. And eventually I landed in a yoga class. And the rest is history. I don’t regret the experience, but I do regret that I needed to learn the lessons in such a painful way. Once I left, he begged me to come back. Said he realized what he’d lost. That he’d change. He said every single thing I’d hoped he would say when we were together, but it was too late. His words were like dust, and my heart was a stone to him. We all make mistakes. Depending on the kind of pain we carry and our inclination to face it or run from it, we all have the potential to spill our pain all over the people closest to us. Even if they love us and would do anything for us. Even if they aren’t equipped to deal with all that pain. Sometimes the mess we make is so great, there’s simply no cleaning it up. There’s just the sad understanding of what has happened, and the possibility to grow from the pain, or not. We always get to choose. Hurt people hurt people as the saying goes. If you’re in pain, you know it. Running from it doesn’t work, but it is a choice. Pushing it down or numbing it out doesn’t work, either, but those are still choices. Being accountable is a choice. Doing the work to heal yourself so you can love yourself well, and by extension, love the other people in your life well, too, is a choice. And whatever you choose, you will have to live with the result of those choices. Again and again and again I say, choose love. The rest is bleak, indeed. Sending you some love right now, Ally

Your Intuition Doesn’t Need a List

quieterubecomemoreucanhearToward the end of the relationship with the guy who still has the antique mirror that reminds me of my Nanny, and the piece of jewelry that belonged to my mother’s great Aunt, I went to my best friend’s summer house on Cape Cod. It was January, and at that time of year, it’s a locals-only scene. There were virtually no stores open. I didn’t take my phone, but I did take my dog. I stopped on the way there and bought groceries for the week. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going except, of course, my friend whose house it was, and my mom. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’d had the same conversation with everyone I trusted. I was talked out. I knew I had to leave this man, but I was struggling to accept what I knew. Which, I believe, we do a lot with those painful truths. When we start to feel them and acknowledge them, it’s as if they begin to take up residence in our lungs. Little by little, it becomes harder to breathe. Why can’t I breathe? I”m being smothered by my own truth, which I’ve been trying to deny. To avoid. So there I found myself, or more accurately, there I took myself and my dog and my groceries and a starter log because I had no idea how to build a fire, but I knew I’d want one. I took my books and my journal and my jeans and some warm sweaters. My down jacket and my gloves and my scarf and my crowded lungs and my broken heart, and my amazing gift of a dog. I didn’t know exactly why I was going, I just felt pulled to do it. And for a little over a week, I stayed in this big house by myself, feeling vulnerable because it was the setting for every horror movie you’ve ever seen. Young woman in a big house by herself in a deserted place with no phone service? But also feeling like I was exactly where I needed to be. And I walked on the freezing beach and ran into exactly no one. And I wrote in my journal and curled up by the fireplace to read my books. I talked to my dog who was the world’s best listener. About the situation I was in, and the choices I’d made to land myself in it. And I did not look away from my part in the whole thing. And by the end of the week I had reconciled what I knew to be true with what I knew I needed to do. And just like that, I could breathe again.

If you want to get in touch with your own truth, you’re going to have to quiet your mind. Which is LOUD unless you’ve worked on it. The mind is so full of shoulds and can’ts and there’s no way I could do thats. Of reasons and judgments and lists of why not. But your intuition has no list. It doesn’t need a list. Your heart wants to sing. Your intuition is the score. Without it, you are lost. Alone. Disconnected. The notes don’t carry, it’s like singing into the wind. You don’t have to leave your life to get quiet, although sometimes it’s very helpful. The first time I did a 10-day Vipassana (meditation) sit, I thought they’d have to pick me up in a rubber van. I thought I’d end up in slippers taking blue pills every four hours, with my friends saying, “I don’t know what happened. She used to teach yoga, and then she went on this silent retreat…” But by day four I was amazed. And by the end of the retreat I didn’t want to speak and I didn’t want to leave. We talk too much about absolutely nothing. I blathered on this morning about traveling on planes with kids in tow, and a couple of minutes in I thought, “Who cares? Is it really news that traveling with small children isn’t easy?” And I stopped talking. People talk about their weight and their cars and their breakouts and their plans to renovate their houses or their faces or whatever. But really, listening is the thing. And if you can’t listen to yourself, to that deepest truest voice within you, how will you ever step into your own light? It doesn’t matter how you quiet your mind. For me, that’s the heart of my yoga and meditation practice. But for you, it might be wind-surfing, or hiking or salsa dancing. The thing is to figure out what you need if you haven’t yet. Because that’s how you get connected to your (true)self. And that’s how you sing from your heart. So much love, Ally

Love and a Pair of Sandals

Love-one-another-butIf you follow this blog, you may remember the much older man I dated during college. When that all fell apart, it was awful, and it took me over a year to get back on my feet, closer to two, really. It would have been great if I’d taken some time to heal, but instead I ran head-long into another disaster. Rebounds rarely go well, but I hadn’t figured that out yet.

After finally ending the previous relationship with a man who’d been emotionally distant and unkind, inattentive and unfaithful, and ultimately, very cruel to me, I suppose a guy who was jealous and possessive, constantly in my face and in my space, seemed like a good call. I won’t recount the million examples I could, but it was so crazy that one night after we’d had dinner out, he grilled me all the way back to his house about the way I’d looked at the waiter, screaming at me as we walked north on Broadway. Apparently I had lust in my eyes when I ordered my soup.

This kind of outburst was so common, I started “watching myself.” I was a little less friendly and open (he told me I was naive when it came to men, and that my friendliness was being misinterpreted as flirtation), and I checked in with him by phone all day when we weren’t together. If I called ten minutes later than he expected, he was positive I was sleeping with every member of the New York Knicks. Nuts? For sure, but I certainly didn’t feel ignored. Anyway, this insanity continued, and I became less and less of myself, until one fateful weekend when we went to Lake George with my best friend and her then-boyfriend.

When they pulled up to his apartment to pick us up, they heard him screaming from their car from inside the building, which is saying something considering we were in New York City. I can’t tell you why he was screaming, but I’m sure it involved some other imagined transgression. By the time we got to the lake-house I was so tired, I wanted nothing more than to collapse in bed. Instead, as I unpacked, he noticed a pair of sandals he’d never seen before. “Where’d you get those sandals?” he asked. I told him I’d had them for awhile and couldn’t remember. He proceeded to ask me twenty-five questions about those sandals, with the wild look in his eyes I’d come to know so well, and I guess I’d just had it. “You know what? You’re right!! You figured it out. Some man came up to me on the street the other day, and told me he had to have me, but first, he was going to buy me a pair of sandals. Then I went home with him and we had wild sex all afternoon, and I kept the sandals on the whole time!!!” He stormed out. My friend came in to see if I was okay. “Wow,” she said, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about this guy with the sandals.” And I started laughing and crying at the same time. By the time the weekend was over, so was the relationship.

This is an extreme example, of course, but in many relationships, people do some lesser degree of this dance. Frequently, the very traits that drew a person in become the same qualities they can no longer stand–gregariousness or shyness, confidence or insecurity, warmth and affection or aloofness. What was appealing or endearing when the hormones were raging, has become a source of annoyance or frustration or despair. This is different than the natural compromises that are part of the process of two complex people choosing to come together and create a relationship in the space between themselves. There’s a difference between give-and-take, and trying to change a person, or possess them. Love is not controlling or jealous. It doesn’t manipulate or force. Love is a celebration, and when it’s happening well, it’s the most liberating foundation there is. You love well with open eyes and hands, and with an open heart. It’s an acceptance and an honoring and a cherishing. It’s an expression of your deepest yes, and an extension of that yes to your partner. It’s wanting their yes to blossom also. And you simply cannot do that for someone else until you know how to do it for yourself. Two rooted flowers leaning in together and rising up toward the sun is a gorgeous thing to behold. Two weeds strangling each other, not so much. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Soul-Purging Truth

soulpurgingtruthLast time I was in New York, I had lunch with a couple of girlfriends I’ve known for years. They spend a lot of time together. I only see them when I’m in town, but we talk on the phone, over email, and on Facebook. One of them, I’ll call her Sue, had recently started seeing a guy she met on a dating site. It seemed like they had a lot in common, and we were happy for her. The last guy she dated stole money from her for months, and took off one day without a word. She (admittedly) has a history of dating men who end up hurting her one way or another, so we were hopeful this was going to be different. After we’d been catching up for awhile, she confessed that there was this “one thing” that was troubling her. “Oh boy, here we go”, said our other friend, whom I’ll call Bertie. I pinched Bertie’s arm because she needs behavioral therapy sometimes. “No, it’s no big deal,” said Sue, “he’s just really close to his mom.” When we asked what she meant by “really close”, she explained that his mom called him every night at 10pm. At which point he’d go in his room and close the door and not come out for at least an hour, usually two. Sue was not supposed to interrupt or come into the room, or make any loud noises. Bertie’s mouth fell open and she hit my arm and threw her hands in the air before putting her head in her hands. Sue’s eyes got wide. “Hmmm,” I said, “that’s kind of unfortunate timing. What’s with all the privacy/secrecy? Does he not want his mom to know he’s dating someone for some reason? And you’re just supposed to wait until he comes back out of the bedroom? Maybe this has just been their pattern all the years he’s been single, talking at night. Have you talked to him about it?” I was trying to get a fuller picture. But before Sue could answer, Bertie said, “I KNEW something was off about this guy!! That’s disgusting, okay, Sue?! He should talk to his mother during the day, not at night when the two of you should have some intimate time together. That’s just not normal. Something’s really off about this. And how many times do you have to get this lesson?? You have horrendous judgment when it comes to men!!!” Sue started crying. Bertie got angrier, said she was not, “up for another round of this”, and left in a huff.

Bertie loves Sue like a sister. I totally understood that’s what was motivating her outburst. Total frustration that someone she loves was probably heading for another brick wall (Sue is no longer dating the guy; she got out quickly and is relatively unscathed, and she and Bertie have made up). We’ve all been there. A person we care about deeply seems likely to get hurt, and we are powerless to stop it. It happens with family members, too. A couple of years after I graduated from college, a friend of the family said to me, “What are you doing with your life? You’ve graduated from Columbia University. When are you going to get it together?” And even though I knew she loved me, it stung, and it sunk me a little further into that darkness. When a person is struggling, cutting them down is not going to help.

It’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, but we never know what another person’s journey is supposed to look like. Each of us has our lessons to learn, and sometimes we need the lesson over and over again to really get it. To be done with a certain way of being, or thinking, or treating ourselves. It’s hard to love someone who’s struggling without stepping in and trying to manage their path. Pick them up and say, “Go THAT way, COME ON!!! It’s so obvious!!!” But it’s inside work. You can ask for help if you’re in pain, and get yourself some support. But ultimately, we each have to do our own work to heal. If you love someone who’s struggling, patience is the lesson. Compassion. Understanding. We all struggle, we all have pain. If you love someone who’s bent on self-destruction, that’s a heartbreak. Sometimes it means you have to love the person from afar. But you can’t control anyone else’s journey, any more than you can control your own. You can work on the way you respond to the people in your life, and the circumstances that present themselves. You won’t always show up the way you want to, you won’t always make the healthy choice. And neither will anyone else. You may knowingly head for a brick wall, because maybe you need one last ride to be done with that chapter. If you have something to communicate to someone in pain, do your very best to be kind and clear. It’s not easy, this business of being human. Honest communication is always good, but screaming your viewpoint in frustration, not so much. Words are very powerful, and they can go right to the center of a person’s heart. And a person’s heart is precious. Just like yours. Sending you love, Ally