Grief is Like This

In case you ever wondered what grief is like, it’s like this. Last night I went to Trader Joe’s. It was packed which is why I try to go during the day, but there was also a nice holiday vibe. When I came out with my cart full of groceries there was a woman standing there by the wreaths and I waited to see if she wanted to cross in front of me. She was around the age my mother would be if she was still here. Cut from the same cloth – put together, very attractive. She gave me a big smile with her twinkling eyes and said, “Oh, that’s okay, I’m just waiting for my daughter.” And that was it, I was gutted. I managed to smile back at her, though.

 

I went to my car, loaded in my groceries, put the cart back. I thought about going to find her to tell her how lucky her daughter is to have her and to maybe share that I do not have my mother here on this planet anymore, but I knew I would fall apart. So I got in my car and pulled out of the parking lot, drove to the light and put on my blinker to turn left on Pico. I ran through the moment in my mind and wondered why I was so deeply affected, and then I realized my mother will never say that to anyone again. She will never casually say she is waiting for her daughter, she will never say anything. I had a seriously hard cry all the way home. The kind where it’s hard to see and the streetlights get blurry and there’s nothing you can do. Tears everywhere, wrenching sobs coming from your gut. It’s coming up on a year since my mom exhaled for the last time. I was there with her for that and I’m grateful, but it’s painful to remember. It’s easier than it was the first five months or so when I would wake up in the morning and have to re-remember that she was gone. Or the first seven or eight months when I would reach for my phone to call her. Around month ten I stopped forgetting that I can’t call her.

 

But it’s still hard. Grief can knock you sideways out of nowhere. You can be going about your day and someone can say something as innocent as “Oh that’s okay, I’m just waiting for my daughter,” or you might come around the corner of an aisle at the grocery store and see the brand of napkins your gorgeous mother had to use to wipe her mouth when her jaw got slack the last year of her life, because ALS takes everything, slowly. Or you might remember the way your mother’s face looked when they turned off the bipap machine that had been breathing for her. Weirdly enough, you might hear someone sneeze on a subway platform in New York City and realize their sneeze sounds exactly like your mother’s. There are a million ways you can be okay and then not okay at all.

 

There will be people who will tell you your mother is always with you. They’re not wrong, but it is not the same and hearing that won’t help very much if you are really hurting. The loss of an entire person is incomprehensible. And there is no timeline. If anyone tells you how you should be feeling by such and such a time, that is someone who doesn’t understand grief. They’ll understand eventually, but right now they don’t and that’s okay. There are people who do understand, they’re the same people who have had the breath knocked out of them in an instant because of someone’s perfume, a Facebook memory, a dream lingering on the edge of their consciousness in the morning.

Grief is an expression of the depth of your love. If you loved with your whole heart there’s a good chance you’re going to suffer the loss with your whole heart as well, whatever that might look like for you. There’s no formula for this, no “right” way to grieve, there’s just an ocean of feeling. So if you are suffering at least know you loved your heart out. That’s a huge thing, not everyone can do that. And the love that you extended is something that can never be taken away, and the love that you still feel is alive and well and continuous. And that’s a lot, too. But for all of you who have had or may be having the raw, deep cry on the way home from Trader Joe’s, I see you, I understand and you are not alone.

Sending love to all this holiday season and always,

Ally Hamilton

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

Stay in Your Own Lane

It is so easy and so human to get twisted up with this idea, but the more you can stay in your own lane, the better. Any time I find myself thinking I know what someone else ought to feel, say or do, I realize I’m avoiding my own work. I have yet to meet another human being who has their own stuff so dialed in, they’re in a position to start weighing in on anyone else’s behavior, choices or way of being.

But it’s so appealing, isn’t it? Don’t we love to think we have all the answers when we stand on the sidelines of someone else’s life? If only they would do this (insert your opinion here), everything would get better for them! A lot of the time, our tendency to want to manage another person’s path is coming out of love. We want to help someone avoid pain or steer around a pothole we can see in the road that they don’t seem to see coming. It’s natural to find it excruciating to watch someone we love suffer, but sometimes we all need to struggle in order to strengthen. I know there have been times in my own life during the gnarlier moments of my healing process when I knew full well I was getting on a train that was going to crash into a brick wall, but I didn’t have the strength yet to not get on the train. We learn the lessons when we’re ready, and not a moment sooner. No one else can do that work for us, and even if you drag someone off the train, the minute you turn your back, they’re gonna jump back on unless they are ready to choose a different road themselves. See also: you can’t save anyone. This is particularly tough to swallow if we’re talking about our children or our partners, but there are times when the most loving thing we can do is just be there to listen, to help pick up the pieces, to offer our hugs and our hearts and our belief in them.

Have you ever tried to manage someone’s reaction to something you desperately need to say or do for your own well-being, sanity, or ability to survive? Maybe you’ve swallowed your own feelings to avoid hurting someone else? That’s also not staying in your own lane. I have found that most people want to be dealing with the truth, even if it’s heartbreaking. Most people would choose dignity and respect over pity or avoidance. That doesn’t mean compassion and sensitivity aren’t key when you need to share something you know is painful or disappointing with someone you care for, but most people would rather have full-on love instead of half-measures. And everyone deserves full-on love.

When I find myself trying to manage another person’s path, I remind myself I don’t drive the big bus with the LIFE license plate, I drive a tiny little car with the Ally license plate. That’s the car I get to drive, and even then it isn’t easy. That alone is plenty of work, especially if I want to show up in the world with compassion, patience, empathy, understanding and a sense of humor. And I do want to do that! Even if I stay focused on that work, I still don’t control the road ahead of me. I still might find myself in a falling rock zone, or a sudden storm, I still might get blown off the road by a tornado I failed to see on the horizon, or I might get a flat or my AC might break on a really hot day. All I get to work on is how I respond to whatever happens. I get to check my oil, make sure my tires have enough air, clean my windshield, pick a speed that’s safe for me and other travelers on the road, use my turn signals, pay attention to the signs, use a map or find my own way…but I don’t control the rest (and neither do you).

Sending you lots of love on the windy road,

Ally Hamilton Hewitt

If the posts are helpful you can find my books here, or you can come practice the art of opening to everything (yoga) with me here!

Our Collective Undoing

Uncertainty is the name of the game in life. This whole business of being human – arriving on a spinning planet in a vast galaxy with no idea how long we’ll have here, no clue how long anyone else will have, no idea what happens after this – none of these are easy parameters to deal with and integrate. We don’t know what kind of sudden loss we might face on a “normal” Wednesday or whether we’ll wake up in the morning. We don’t know if the person we adore will continue to adore us, we don’t know if our children will be okay when we drop them off at school (back when we used to do that), we don’t know if we’ll realize our dreams, no matter how hard we work. It’s a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning and keep showing up, but that’s the very thing about human beings, we are a wonder.

In the face of all that vulnerability, we do get up. We brush our teeth and get dressed (pajamas count at this point) and we start the day. In “normal” times we might make a pot of coffee and start tackling our to-do list whether it’s written or not. Pack lunches for the kids, check! Get them up and make them breakfast, check! Drive to school in the nick of time, check! If it’s Monday, maybe we head to the grocery store after school drop-off and buy groceries for the week. Maybe Monday nights we go to yoga and put our mat in the same spot we like. The point is, we have our routines, our plans, our checklists, our habits, our schedule, our deadlines, our expectations and off we go. These are the things that help us forget our vulnerability, because in “normal” times and on most days, things go (mostly) the way we expect. Things go according to our plans, dammit, and this helps us feel okay on a spinning planet in a vast universe where we don’t know what the hell is going on.

In the last several weeks, all the things we count on to forget our vulnerability have been taken away from us. You can’t go to the grocery store unless you’re ready to suit up, mask up, glove up and wait on line six feet away from the nearest other person just to get in the store ten people at a time, and all of that reminds you of your intense vulnerability, so there went any comfort from your grocery routine. Maybe ordering online is better for now, you think. You can’t go on your hike because the trails are closed and you can’t go to the beach, either. You will survive this, these are small sacrifices you understand you have to make to care for the vulnerable members of your community, and yet these things help you with your mental wellness, but you’ll figure it out. You can’t meet your friend for coffee and a walk because you can’t see friends right now and there’s nowhere to have coffee and walking is really like some weird game of keep-away with strangers that is no fun at all. Hugs with anyone outside your house are not possible and if there’s no one in your house with you, there go hugs for awhile and here comes a lesson in skin hunger. Basically, what you have right now, what you get to acknowledge and roll around in and possibly avoid marinating in for a bit with a Netflix binge or three, is your vulnerability and the intense recognition of the fact that you are not driving the bus and you never, ever were.

If you make plans and your plans happen, that is called good fortune. If you have a checklist and it’s reasonable and realistic and your day goes the way you hoped it would, that is called hard work and good fortune. If you love someone and they love you back and this goes on for days and days and weeks and months and years, that is called enormous good fortune, it is called two people choosing each other again and again day after day, it is called hallelujah, and even then, one of you will be left at some point. There is no way through this life without loss and suffering, not a single one of us escapes it. There is no such thing as a “normal” day or the luxury of “wasting time” – the only sure thing we have is a lack of surety.

We all know this on some level. It’s tough to swallow, acknowledge and honor every day, but it’s real and it’s true and you can count on it and you know this in your heart of hearts and in your gut. You know this. All the plans and routines and regimens won’t change it. You can be totally ripped and gluten-free, you can do burpees or run miles or do nine hundred chaturangas a day (not recommended) and still, you can’t escape it. All the lists and deadlines in the world won’t stop it. What is different about the last several weeks, what makes this time unprecedented and unchartered as everyone has said and said and said again is that we are all going through this intense realization at the same time. Usually we experience this individually. We lose someone we love, and for us it’s like the world has stopped spinning and an entire universe has disappeared and it doesn’t seem possible people are out in the world having a good day. Our world has stopped. For a time our perspective changes and we remember how fragile we are and how fragile life is and how thin is the membrane between being here alive and being out in the ethers. We understand it for a time, but that is not easy to hold onto because it hurts, it’s painful, it makes us feel small and powerless and not in control. So eventually we “get back to living” and we make plans and lists and find a routine and a new footing and this person is still gone and sometimes the grief knocks us off our feet in the middle of a plan or a deadline and we remember again, but we get back up.

What’s different about this experience is that we have had a collective undoing, a group lesson in vulnerability and not being in control and it’s painful and it hurts and grieving and mourning make sense and there are no normal days and that is always true. There are angry people out there screaming about their rights being violated, but that anger is just the emotion on top of the pain and the rights they’re speaking of are gifts they can’t access to feel better and to feel in control. Some people deal with their vulnerability better than others. Some people try to suit up against it and armor themselves against the world, but that never helps in the long run. Your heart is meant to be broken again and again so it can keep softening and opening and you can know more and care more and have more compassion and understanding, awareness and patience and love for yourself and others. Does this mean we shouldn’t make plans or assume we’ll see our children at pick-up or pursue our dreams or try to meet our deadlines? Of course not. We are wonders after all and we should never give up on ourselves or each other or on life’s ability to surprise us with joy and adventure we never imagined. But somewhere in there, we ought to keep remembering, this is a gift, this is a gift, this is a gift.

May we all remember.

Sending you so much love and the hope that you are being gentle with yourself,

Ally Hamilton Hewitt

 

If the posts are helpful you can find my books here my yoga classes and courses here and live meditations and group support here.

Yoga and Mindful Parenting

childrenimitateNot long ago, I was in a parking garage walking to my car, and I saw a young mom, struggling with her daughter who was wailing. “I miss Daddy!” Her mom was yelling back, “It’s not a daddy day, you’ll see him this weekend!” My heart hurt. I felt badly for both of them. I went back and forth as a kid, three nights at my mom’s, four at my dad’s, switching that fourth night every other week. When I was at my mom’s I’d miss my dad. When I was at my dad’s, I’d miss my mom. I wanted to go over to the mom and say, “Hey, it’s so normal. She loves you, you’re her mom, but she misses her dad. Maybe a phone call to him would do the trick?” But I have found most people are not very receptive to suggestions when they’re in a heightened emotional state. So, I sent them love, and felt grateful, for maybe the millionth time, that when I had my kids, I’d already been practicing yoga and seated meditation for fifteen years. It helps so much in those moments when you want to pull your hair out, are feeling vulnerable, tired, or tested, or just aren’t sure what you should do. Parenthood asks us to be our best selves in every moment, twenty-four hours a day, but of course, that isn’t going to happen! For me, my practice has given me the tools to show up with the best of myself for the greatest percentage of time I can manage. If I’d had my kids before I had a long-standing practice, I have no doubt I’d have been screaming at them in parking garages.

I think there are plenty of articles out there that are shaming and judgmental when it comes to parenting. This won’t be another one. Maybe you only let your kid play with organic wooden blocks, and maybe you let your kid watch tv, and maybe you eat only avocados and maybe you let your kid have sugar sometimes. You won’t hear any gasping from me. There’s no formula for perfect parenting, you just do the very best you can with the tools you have. If you love your kids to the moon and back, and they know it, you’re doing pretty well! Here are some tools I’m grateful to have as a result of yoga and meditation practice, and I hope they’ll be helpful to you and your littles, too.

1. The ABC’s of Non-Reactivity

Sometimes WE need a timeout, so we can tune in! One of the greatest parental superpowers you can work on on your yoga mat is the ability to breathe deeply and stay calm when you feel challenged. Maybe you’re exhausted and your kid just asked you his ten millionth “why” question of the day. Maybe your teenager just tried to walk out the door in shorts so short her butt is hanging out, and when you said no, she told you all the reasons you know nothing about life. Perhaps your infant will not settle no matter what you do. Whatever stage you’re at, parenting is no easy gig! When you learn how to hold a lunge for twelve deep breaths even though your quadriceps are on fire, that power will be there for you when you walk through the fire in other areas of your life. So much of the physical practice is about being aware of physical sensation, and exploring it with curiosity. Eventually, this shows up for you when you’re feeling intense sensation that is a result of intense emotion. That ability to breathe deeply and stay calm is the difference between lashing out and saying something you’ll regret, making threats you don’t intend to keep, or thinking about your kid’s point of view, or whether there’s been a misunderstanding, or not!

2. Starve your loud inner critic

You might say to your kids, “Do as I say, not as I do”, but the truth is, our children integrate and internalize what they see day in, and day out. If you’re very hard on yourself, they’re not going to miss that. And if you’re hard on yourself, you’re likely to be hard on them, too, and then they’ll be hard on themselves. Author and inspirational speaker Peggy O’Mara has a quote, “The way you speak to your children becomes their inner voice.” Quite the responsibility, right?! When we live with a harsh inner dialogue, it’s only natural that it slips out sometimes. Whatever we’re filled with is naturally what we spread. If you work on being more forgiving toward yourself, you’ll find that ability is strengthened when it comes to other people, too, especially your children. When you make a mistake and you have an inner cheerleader instead of an inner witch, that cheerleader will be there when your kids spill their smoothies down the front of their shirt, or come home with a “needs improvement” in some subject or another. When we feel safe to make mistakes, the foundation of trust is built, and the knowledge that we are loved for who we are, and not for what we accomplish, is driven home.

3. Being present is the best gift you can give

We are all crazy-busy, and trying to find that elusive work-life balance can be challenging. Personally, I am not sure that really exists, I think it might be an urban legend. What I think it comes down to is priorities. One of the things we work on during the physical yoga practice is focal points. Each pose has one, and when you train your mind to focus on one thing at a time, that’s the same skill you use when you decide to put down your device and focus on your child. It’s the same skill you use when you’re in a crowded restaurant, but really want to hear about your kid’s day, or whatever is on her mind. Our attention, affection, love and presence are really the things our kids long for and thrive upon. Having the skills to be there fully means you’re not going to miss the moments, and your kids are not going to miss the love you feel for them.

There are so many things we work on in the yoga practice that make us better people for ourselves, and all those we love, and the world at large. Ultimately, it’s a breathing and listening practice. We breathe and become present, we listen to the body and respond with compassion, acknowledgment, respect, acceptance, patience and understanding. If you strengthen your ability to do those things for yourself on your mat, if you fill your tank with love, that’s naturally the same stuff you’ll have to offer your children, and that is gorgeous!

Sending you, and your littles, so much love,

Ally Hamilton

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When to Hold On, and When to Let Go

Some-people-believeSometimes it’s so hard to know when to hold on, and when to let go. This comes up in all kinds of relationships. Often, we’re dealing with people who simply do not know how to love. Maybe there’s a history of abuse, and they’re continuing the cycle of what was done to them. Maybe there are personality disorders, and we’re dealing with people who don’t feel empathy, and are incapable of communicating in a compassionate way. There are people who go up and down…sometimes they’re rational, and other times there’s no logic at all, no possibility for understanding. Those are often the most challenging cases, because we get lulled when things are good, and blindsided when the tides turn. The thing is, after you’ve been through a few cycles with someone, you have to stop allowing yourself to think things are going to be okay every time they have a good week. Your heart is tender, and it can only take so much battering. Also, you are the steward of your own ship, and if you keep sailing into tsunamis, you can’t expect things to go well. There are also cases when we’re dealing with betrayal, and it’s hard to know if we should try to open again, or cut our losses and move on. Sometimes we’ve just grown in different directions and need something else, maybe something we’ve never known before. Like belief in ourselves.

Here’s the thing. If someone has a history of treating you badly, you have to distance yourself. I mean, if it’s not a relationship you want to end completely, then boundaries are your only option. I’m talking about familial relationships here. Most people do not want to cut ties with their parents, siblings, or exes when there are children involved. I really consider that a last resort. There’s a deep pain when we have to walk away from people who were meant to love us, and didn’t or couldn’t. There are cases when ending the relationship and cutting off ties is the only option, so I want to acknowledge that, but short of instances of abuse, boundaries will usually get the job done. We can love people who have a hard time being consistent, while still loving ourselves.

If your parent or parents have never been there for you, if you’ve had a fear-based relationship and doubted your value to them, I do think you need to step away. Sometimes that’s incredibly difficult. If you rely on your parents financially, or you come from a culture where you don’t leave home until you get married, it’s not as easy as just moving out and starting your own life. Obviously, it’s very hard to heal and to create boundaries when you’re living under the same roof with people who’ve let you down in all the important ways. You can recognize that perhaps your parents are repeating what was done to them, but that does not lessen the impact on your own gorgeous heart. It’s beautiful if you can see that it isn’t about you, or anything lacking within you. It takes strength and insight to understand that some people, even your parents, might not have the tools to love you well, and that it isn’t a reflection on you. You’re lovable. You’re made of love and you’re full of love, and if your own parents can’t see that and receive that and embrace that and nurture that, that is very sad for them, and a heartbreak for you all. That doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t have love in your own life. I would say removing yourself from the situation is ideal, but if you aren’t in a place where you can do that yet, protect your heart in all the ways you can. Nurture yourself, be kind to yourself. Mother yourself.

If we’re talking about romantic relationships, betrayal is a tough one, and I also think it’s a case-by-case situation. Let me say that if you are unhappy in the context of your committed relationship, bringing another party into the mix is a very bad idea. If there are children in the picture, you’re putting your whole family on the line. You’re also making troubled waters murkier. If you’re at the point where you’d even consider going outside your relationship, it’s time to grab your partner and head to therapy, because the answers to the problems do not reside in a third party. That isn’t going to fix things, it’s going to confuse them further. Maybe you and your partner have gotten off track. Maybe you’ve dropped the thread. Maybe you’re so convinced you know everything there is to know about one another, you don’t even pay attention anymore. Perhaps you’re out of balance. Maybe there are little ones in the picture, and you haven’t figured out how to nurture them, keep a roof over your heads, and still find time for romance. Maybe you’re full of rage or resentment, or a list of ways your partner isn’t showing up for you. Maybe you’ve shut down. The things is, relationships need our time and attention. Human beings thrive on love and connection and communication.

Sometimes people blow it. They get desperate. They feel lonely or unseen or unheard, or they feel unwanted in every way, and they act. Maybe they’ve felt rejected or disrespected, and someone at work is making them feel amazing, like everything they say and do is brilliant. Like they’re hot and desirable and hilarious. You know how it goes. A flirtation starts to build and then there’s emailing or texting and the next thing you know, something has happened. I mean, you can’t play with fire like that and expect to walk away unharmed. When there are other people in the mix, like your family, that hurt has deep and far-reaching consequences, and now, instead of focusing on the problems that existed between you and your partner, the number one priority will be fixing what you’ve done, if your partner is even open to allowing you to try. You’re going to have to be patient, and understand you broke their trust. You’re going to have to be transparent, and also compassionate. Basically, you’ve just created a bigger mess for yourself, and you’re likely to feel resentful, because all the other issues are going to take a backseat to your making things right, which might not be possible. Having said that, people can recover from betrayal. It takes two people who are willing to fight for the relationship. If there are kids in the mix, I hope you try. If it’s a pattern, and there’s a history of cheating, you’re probably not in a good situation, but if it’s a one-time thing, and you can recognize that both parties contributed to the deterioration of the relationship prior to the betrayal, you can come out stronger on the other side.

Sometimes there are no kids in the picture, but there’s a long partnership. People sometimes write in and ask if it’s okay to leave someone just because they feel pulled to do so. Usually, these are people who are very used to putting other people’s feelings, needs and wants ahead of their own. I don’t believe anyone would thank you for staying in a situation out of pity or guilt. We all deserve more than that, don’t you think? It’s never easy knowing what to do when our heart is in the mix, and other people are involved. I do think people tend to walk away from their families too easily these days. I think it’s heartbreaking when parents and children don’t speak, when brothers and sisters aren’t in contact, when people walk away from the families they’ve started without giving it everything they’ve got, first. I also think life is short and precious, and that we don’t have time to waste. If you know a thing is dead, release yourself, and the other party. If you’re holding on to something toxic, by all means let go, or get yourself help doing that if you need it. Love is worth fighting for, and sometimes that means we hold on, and sometimes it means we let go. Trust your instincts.

Sending you love, and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton

Love Frees You

lovefreeThich Nhat Hanh also says, “To love without knowing how to love, wounds the person we love.”  We don’t all enter the world knowing how to love, though. If you were very blessed, you might have learned this at home, but even the most loving parents don’t always have the tools to love with open arms, open hearts and open minds. So many people confuse love with possession or control, or they make it conditional. And, it should be noted, there are many people who were born into violent homes, and have a lot of unlearning to do, before the learning can begin.

So yes, for most of us, we’ll spend time flailing around as we figure things out, and we are both likely to hurt, and to be hurt as we do this. Friendships may fall apart, romantic relationships may crash and burn, we may find that trusting anyone in any situation is a challenge. Whatever your past, you’ll have to reckon with it so it doesn’t determine the quality of your present and future.

Here are some things to think about, if you’ve been struggling in this area. Love is freeing. When someone loves us and sees us and accepts us, we’re safe to relax and open. True love gives us permission to be more of who we are. If you’re in a relationship and you feel diminished, that’s not love. If you’re in a relationship and you feel you have to edit yourself in significant ways, that’s not love. If you’re in a relationship and affection is given or withdrawn based on whether you do or do not show up the way the other person wants you to, that is not love. If you feel unsure of yourself, insecure at every turn, doubtful about where you stand, that is not love. If you’re being emotionally, verbally or physically abused, that is also not love.

Having said all of that, you may be with someone who’s trying to figure out what love is, and who has no frame of reference. This doesn’t make him or her a bad person, you’re dealing with someone who has deep wounds. They may be doing the best they can to love you with the tools they have. I’m not saying they don’t love you. I’m saying they don’t understand yet what love is. If you’re being abused, you cannot stick around and be a punching bag while they figure it out. You are not here to be that for anyone.

If you’re with someone and you’re both trying to figure it out, and you’re both willing to listen and communicate honestly and do the best you can to look at yourselves and each other with compassion and honesty, there’s hope. You won’t avoid hurting each other as you go along your path, but it won’t be intentional, and you may learn a great deal about giving each other the benefit of the doubt, about forgiveness, and about creating a safe space to forge ahead together. So something that starts out as “not love” can turn into love, but only if both people are willing and ready.

Other things: we’re all human and we all blow it from time to time. Learn how to say, “I’m sorry”, without excuses or justifications. Learn how to do it while you look someone in the eye and allow yourself to be vulnerable. When people feel hurt, they put their defenses up, that’s understandable. So if you do something thoughtless or selfish or weak, it’s normal for your friend or loved one or family member to feel both hurt and angry, and they may come at you. The best way to diffuse an attack is to take ownership of your part (if you’re culpable, which you will be sometimes, because you’re human). Also, forgive as easily as you can. It doesn’t feel good to hold onto anger and be “right”. Don’t make lists and keep score of all the things your friend or partner has done, unless they’re lists of the good stuff. Resentment grows like weeds and it will strangle the life out of your relationship. Bitterness tastes terrible and it eats away at your stomach lining and makes it hard to sleep and who needs that?

Listen with your heart. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Listen the way you’d like to be listened to. Consider that your viewpoint might be wrong, but also stand strong when you know in your gut something isn’t right. Learn to express yourself calmly and clearly. Get help if you need it. I’m always amazed at the people who resist therapy. If you tried it once and the therapist wasn’t for you, try again, try someone else. It’s subjective, but if life isn’t going well, or your relationships aren’t going well, or your ability to express yourself is limited, or you can’t figure out what you need in order to be happy, use every tool available to get right with yourself. For me it was yoga, meditation, therapy, reading, writing, and having an amazing dog. You have to be willing to weep. You have to be brave enough to face your pain and own it and examine it so it doesn’t own your a$$ for the rest of your life. You have to free yourself because no one else can.

Then you can get busy loving. Love is acceptance and understanding and forgiveness and listening and nurturing and supporting another person’s growth and well-being. It doesn’t grip, force, manipulate or punish. It’s absolutely worth fighting for.

Sending you a ton of love right now,

Ally Hamilton

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Motherhood

Mother-is-the-name-forSomeone asked me recently what I thought was the best and hardest part of being a mother. The best part is having your heart expand to a degree you wouldn’t have thought possible. To love so deeply and so completely, you’d do anything and everything to support your child(ren)’s growth, happiness, well-being and joy. The gifts of those impossibly soft cheeks, those beautiful eyes staring up at you, that tufty hair and tiny little grasping hand around your finger. The first smile, the first word, the first laugh, the first step. The first time you’re asked a question and you have to pause and breathe because it cuts right through you, like, “Are you going to die someday?”

Being a mother slices you open. If you didn’t realize you were vulnerable before, you will now. All you want is to see the expansion of this person who’s come to you. You want to discover what’s going to light them up and bring them joy. You want to nurture those sparks of interest and see what blossoms. You want to be there. And if you’re awake, you’ll understand that nothing is promised. I found a lump in my breast last year that turned out to be benign, but that’s the kind of thing that brings you to your knees. Please let me be at their graduations. Let me be there when someone breaks their heart for the first time, the second, maybe the third. Let me be there when they’re teenagers and they’re confused or insecure or scared or they feel awkward or different. Let me be there for the “ordinary days’ when it’s about drop-offs and pick-ups and packing lunches and going to the park. When homework needs to be done, or they need haircuts. Let me be there. So maybe that’s the hardest part. Accepting the vulnerability of the thing.

But I also think that can be the part that inspires you to show up, all the way, every day. To give them everything you’ve got. To make sure they know their feelings matter, and you listen when they speak. To make every day full of, and about, love. Of course you’ll lose your patience sometimes, you’re a human being. So you can also learn to forgive yourself, and to show them what it looks like to apologize from your heart, so they’ll know how to own their mistakes, too.

If you do it well, you’ll end up with grown children who want to hang out with you. That’s what I hope for, anyway. That my kids will want to call, or have dinner, or take trips when they’re not living in the same house with me anymore. Then I’ll think I must have done a good job. But even more than that, I think the thing is to raise happy, kind, compassionate people who know themselves. Who understand the best thing in life is to give from your heart, and that if you feel of service, your life will have meaning and purpose.

I hope they grow into adults who won’t be attracted to people who don’t know how to be kind or how to love. I hope they honor themselves and follow their hearts and contribute in some way to raising the happiness quotient of the people around them. Motherhood asks it all of you. It asks you to give in every way possible, and it also asks you to let go. To love for real. To accept, to celebrate, to cherish and to support the happiness of your children, even if, and maybe especially if they’re traveling down a path you wouldn’t have chosen for them.

And let me say this. Sometimes you have to mother yourself. If you have healing to do, if you doubt whether you’re worthy of love, if you feel stuck, or scared or confused or frustrated, or if you’re in a state of self-loathing, you’re going to have to re-parent yourself. So that the voice inside your head shifts from one that might be full of criticism and a lack of forgiveness, to one that’s nurturing and kind. There are so many different healing modalities available to work on this—yoga, meditation, therapy, journaling, getting out in nature, reading good books. If you weren’t mothered the way you wanted to be, it’s never too late.

But if you were, I think the nicest gift you could give your mother is just to sit and meditate on all the ways she was able to show up for you, whether she’s with you, or with you in spirit. Just to sit, and allow yourself to be filled with gratitude for those qualities that exist within you, as a result of what you saw at home. Because that’s really where it starts. That’s our first experience of love. Wishing you some right now, and sending a heaping dose to all the mamas out there. Happy Mother’s Day whether you have babies, or you’re birthing something else into existence, like your art, or a different way of moving through the world. Remember that birthing anything into this world requires love, bravery, challenge, courage, faith, and compassion for yourself. Ally Hamilton