When I was seventeen I began dating a man twenty years my senior. He came after me with everything he had, but once he had me he treated me terribly. I didn’t leave because I was convinced I was in love with him. 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 to not 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. I 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 that maybe once I did this he’d really love me. Really see me. Really appreciate me. I wish I could go back and give my seventeen, eighteen, nineteen-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 part of them 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.” He said this to me in a strange, angry manner, as if my efforts to surprise him with something special and sweet were somehow a betrayal. 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 old 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. The rest is my 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. Whatever you choose, you will have to live with the result of those choices. Again and again and again I say, choose love.

Sending you some love right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Be the Architect of Your Own Joy

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

I’ve loved people who were distant, inattentive, or frequently mean. I’ve liked people who sent very mixed messages. I’ve liked people who didn’t call. I stopped doing all that a long time ago. It’s a good thing to stop doing. Please take the mystery out of this for yourself. If a person wants to be with you, they will find a way.

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

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.

Mirror, Mirror

When I was thirteen I had a ballet teacher who was incredibly hard on me. He’d shame me in class and never offer a kind word, no matter how hard I worked. One day as I stood on my toes and twirled and twirled, he yelled out, “You could walk into any company, Hamilton, and they’d take one look at your body and hire you. But as soon as they saw you dance, they’d fire you!’

I remember the feeling of shame and the heat that rose up and stained my cheeks as I kept twirling and trying. Tears escaping the corners of my eyes, heart crushed. One of my friends twirled by and brushed my arm with her hand, a gesture of sympathy, and I had to work harder not to break down. I danced that day with a fire raging inside me until he finally asked if I was okay. That shocked me, and made me wonder at my rage and his behavior. How could he think I was okay?

Years later, after I’d stopped dancing, I ran into him on Broadway. He called out to me. He seemed much older, but his gait was unmistakable. He asked me how I was, how my little brother was, and where I was dancing. When I told him I’d quit, he was stunned. He said he’d always thought I’d been special, that’s why he was so hard on me. The fact that he was so hard on me was one of the reasons I’d quit, though I decided not to share that with him. He wasn’t teaching anymore, so his brand of tough love wasn’t likely to have a painful impact on any other thirteen year old. I could see he’d meant well, even if his methods were lacking in compassion or understanding at the time.

If you’re a certain kind of person (people-pleasers, take note), and you sense someone doesn’t approve of you, the disapproval is a hook. Once you’re on the line you can dance like a clown, but you’ll never get the affirmation you seek unless you affirm yourself. I’ve had people roll up their mats and leave my yoga class, I’ve had people write nasty posts about this blog. Not everyone is going to like me, or you. The main thing is being able to look yourself in the eye at the end of the day when you’re brushing your teeth in front of the mirror. The only opinion about the kind of person you are that truly has an impact on your well-being is your own opinion.  If you live your life trying to please everyone else, you’re going to be miserable. You’ll be coming from a place of neediness and desperation. There’s no power in that, and you can never make everyone happy.

I’d argue you can never make anyone happy. People are happy or they aren’t, that’s inside work. But if you’re living in alignment with what’s true for you, if you’re honoring your intuition and following the pull of that yes, you really can’t go wrong. That yes is your connection to your purpose and your gifts. Your gifts are yours to share. If you’re coming from that place, you’re coming from love. People who are angry or bitter may not like that or understand it. It’s hard to be coming from a place of pain. Wish them love, but follow your heart, so when you see those “I want you to like me stickers” on your mirror at the end of the day, it’s a no-brainer.

Sending you so much love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, please find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.

The One You Feed

twowolvesWe are all capable of incredible kindness and light, and also of indifference and self-absorption. It’s easy to move through life with blinders on, thinking of the world as though it’s rotating around us. As if whatever happens is happening to us. As though we are being punished or rewarded, or as though we are owed something. Some of life is incomprehensibly painful, and some of it will crack your heart wide open with gratitude. Life is just life, it is happening, it is moving and flowing. This was true before we existed, and it will be true after we’re gone. We get a blink, you know?

With your blink, I recommend you blaze your way through. How you respond to this life is your choice. What you feed is up to you. I believe in free will. I believe in facing your fears and slaying your dragons and sitting with your pain and owning your truth. I believe in acknowledging those places where you may be weak, and turning them into places of incredible strength. I believe in knowing yourself, and I believe in accountability. I believe if you want to be happy, you need to shift your focus and consider what you might do to uplift someone else. You cannot control circumstances, but you can work on the way you respond to them. You can weigh yourself down with resentment and rage. You can do your days bitterly. Or you can feed gratitude and light and love and oh, that sunset is unbelievable. You can soak the joy out of every moment possible, and when it is time to cry, you can cry openly, freely, on your knees with a pure heart. You can fight your way through this thing, or you can open to the flow. It takes courage to surrender, to be vulnerable, to realize you are not in control, and to meet each day with your heart wide open, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not suggesting you deny your shadow (And I also don’t feel those shadow feelings are “evil”, either. They are natural, human emotions we will all experience). When you’re angry or in pain, open to those feelings, too, because if you run from them or repress them or numb them out, they will own you. I’m simply saying don’t get stuck there. Try not to stoke the flame and keep yourself boiling. You really don’t want to hold on to a sad or angry story about yourself, life, or why things are the way they are. There is always potential for growth, for change. There’s always the possibility of a new story, every day. You get to co-create it. I think the key is just to receive those darker feelings when they arise, and explore them and let them wash over you so that the heat of your rage or your heartache or your despair or grief or betrayal is released, so you can be free to move forward. You may have a wound in your heart that will never fully heal if your loss has been profound, but that doesn’t mean your heart cannot open around it. The heart is so expansive.

Watch what you feed yourself in every area. Everything you take in is your food. Some of it feeds your body, some your mind, and some your heart. You cannot exist on a steady diet of Not. Good. Enough. and expect to be able to love yourself well. You cannot feed yourself a regular stream of violence (even if it’s fictional), and think that does not seep into your being. You cannot dwell on everything that’s wrong in your life, everything that isn’t happening the way you’d like it to, and think you’ll feel any gratitude, which is one of the best feelings there is, and a very sad thing to miss. Sending you love, and hoping you will realize who and what you are. Because you are really so stunningly beautiful and so capable of shining. If I could, I’d hold up a mirror for you so you could see that blinding light within you if you’ve lost sight of it. Wishing you peace, and hoping for peace everywhere, Ally Hamilton