Water Your Plants

Any living thing you feed will grow and strengthen, and anything you starve will die. This includes relationships. If you don’t put any effort or energy into it, it won’t sustain itself, and that happens all the time; that’s why our divorce rate is so incredibly high. A relationship is a living, breathing thing that exists in the space between two people. It’s a third thing, a singular creation that could never have occurred without the intersection of two particular lives.

I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, but also familial ones, close friendships, acquaintances, colleagues, strangers. Two people come together and each one contributes something. If you put your boredom, frustrations, rage, thoughtlessness or fear into the space between you and another person, that’s a choice you’re making. No one is perfect, and no one is going to choose well, or operate from their highest selves in every moment. Sometimes we’ll regret our contribution. That’s when the words, “I’m sorry, I blew it” are brilliant. If you’re in pain, chances are you’ll spill some of that into the space between you and the people in your life. You won’t mean to do that, it’s just natural that we spread whatever is within us. This is why your healing process is so critical. It’s not just something you do so you can be a peace within yourself, it’s a gift you give to everyone you encounter. When you’re filled with love, you’ll spill that, too and you won’t have to be sorry about it.

The thing is, it’s easy to point fingers and hard to look in the mirror sometimes. You can blame the other party if things aren’t going well, or you can choose to try adding something new to the mix. Maybe your lover or friend or mother or brother has been careless with you, or neglectful or cruel. If we’re talking about abuse, you create as much physical and emotional space as you can between you and the person who’s in that kind of pain. Short of that, you could just try a different approach. You can teach people how you want to be treated by example. You could plan something special for no reason, even if you feel the other person doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes we shut ourselves down or close ourselves off. We erect barriers because the pain has become so great we don’t know what else to do but defend ourselves against it. Walls shut out the love, too. They close off the possibility for understanding, connection, intimacy. That’s not sustainable; being in a relationship where you feel unseen, unheard and unloved is so much worse than being on your own, but sometimes we give up too soon, and miss a huge opportunity to grow.

Growth hurts. This is why we have the term “growing pains.” Blame is easy. Making ourselves right, feeling victimized, bitter, resentful, those are all stances we can choose to take, but curling up with your righteousness isn’t comforting. Making yourself powerless is draining, not inspiring. You can’t control other people, or save them or make them happy. Each person has to do her or his own journey, but you can grab someone’s attention by doing something loving and unexpected, and maybe they’ll feel so grateful, they’ll see it doesn’t take much, and they’ll grab your attention next time. That’s generally a better way to go than a constant stream of criticism. Most people will not be able to take that in after awhile. Instead of listening to you with the intent to understand, they’ll shut down or storm off or go on the defensive, and you might have discovered people on the defensive have their hands up. They don’t outstretch their arms. I’m not saying you shouldn’t communicate honestly, because of course you need to do that. I’m just saying if that hasn’t been working, try something else, something completely different. Just to see. We all just want to feel like at least one person is getting us. At least one person has our back, accepts our flaws, celebrates our beauty, cherishes us. Of course we can all have at least one person in ourselves, but connection between two people is some of the best stuff in life.

When people stop feeding the space between them it becomes empty. The roots dry up, and the plant shrivels and dies. There’s no bond left, eventually. There’s just painful history, defense mechanisms, anger, justifications, and attachments to a particular version of the story of what went wrong, and it isn’t easy to come back together at that point. It won’t save every relationship, but the more you decide to offer love, the more it will blossom up around you. You can’t control what other people will want or say or do, but you can work on the way you show up, and what is is you give. You have a gorgeous heart that was built for love. If you’ve erected walls around it, you can tear them down, too.

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton

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Love Doesn’t Hurt You

Love-doesnt-hurt-you-ALove requires your vulnerability, your trust, and your understanding that you may be hurt. And to be clear, people who know how to love may also hurt you, not intentionally, but simply because people are always changing and growing, and sometimes a partnership that worked well at one time doesn’t anymore. Even in those cases, love is not hurting you. The loss of it is. Or the destruction of it.

We want to say this is forever and I will love you exactly like this for the rest of my days, but the truth is, no one can promise that. People can promise to try with everything they’ve got to dig deep and fight for the relationship when necessary, and to nurture it and treasure it, and treat it as the incredible gift it is. They can promise to keep seeing you with fresh eyes every day, to keep opening to you as you change and grow, and to do everything they can to support your growth and your full expansion and your inner yes,  but that’s the most you can hope for or expect, and that’s the most you can offer, too. And that’s a lot.

I get emails from people on a fairly regular basis and they go something like, “Everyone I’ve been with has cheated on me, so now I believe everyone cheats.” Or, “Everyone I’ve been with has left me, so I think everyone leaves.” No, the people you’ve been picking cheat and leave, that’s the story to examine. Because we always know. We may not want to know, but somewhere down deep, the alarm goes off, and we listen, or we barrel forward, anyway. I dated a guy once and we were maybe a month in, and he told me he had a guy friend crashing with him one night. I can’t explain it, but I knew in my gut something was off. I knew enough that I walked my dog over to his house in the rain, even though I felt crazy doing it, and even though I was worried he might see me, and watched him walk into his building holding hands with the guy. I watched the lights go on inside his house, and then I watched them go off. And it wasn’t the gender that was painful. Dishonesty is the thing. Without trust there’s no relationship.

If you notice patterns in your romantic life, like you keep overriding your intuition and end up getting hurt, take a good, unflinching look at what’s happening within you. Do you feel some deep shame, like you aren’t worthy of love? Do you have a belief system you’re subconsciously trying to validate, as in, “Everyone leaves, so I’ll keep picking people who seem likely to leave, that way my beliefs are held up and even though it hurts, the world makes sense this way and I can keep clinging to my story”? Are you living in the fear of what it would mean to really let go, to really open up, to allow someone to see you and hold you and accept you as you really are, and not just as you wish to be perceived? How long do you want to do that, exactly? Because you can repeat the cycle again and again, and blame this person or that person, but if you really want to know the truth, you are just breaking your own heart. You are, no one else. And you’re doing that by deflection.

When you keep picking people who seem likely to let you down, even when all the intuitive alarm bells are going off, you are choosing a ride into a brick wall. You’re getting on the train, you’re buying the ticket, and you’re taking a ride on the track marked “Reckless.” Because how many times do you think you can be careless with your heart before it starts to harden? Two? Three? Seven? If you want to love, you’re going to have to be a bada$$. It’s not an undertaking for the fearful, so if you’re feeding your fears, have a seat and let the trains whiz by you, because if you jump on, it’s not going to be pretty. Sit on the bench until you recognize, with every bit of your being, how insanely special you are. How many gifts you bring to the table, how much depth and empathy and patience and kindness exists within you, ready to be shared. How much joy. Then get on the train, but only if it’s on the track marked “Potential”, and open up to love, even though you may be hurt.

Do it anyway. Love is the most liberating experience in the world. The process of figuring out how to dive in may be painful and full of false starts, but love itself will never hurt you. The complicated, confused, very human people who are also trying to open to it may, but send them love, too. Because every experience teaches us something about who we are, what lights us up, what we want and don’t want, and how to keep going inside to open up to more of that love we all possess. Sending you some right now, Ally Hamilton

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

Be the You of You

It-takes-courage-to-growHere’s the thing. You can blame other people or certain events for your unhappiness and bitterness, or you can decide right now (if you didn’t a long time ago), that your life is yours. I’m not speaking to people who’ve weathered the pain of losing a loved one too soon. I believe that’s the kind of pain that lives in your heart forever, but I do believe it’s possible to live again. To live for those people we’ve lost, to soak in all the beauty of life on their behalf, and our own.

I’m speaking more to the people who are caught in the cycle of rage and rationalization. It’s your work to heal yourself, your business to be responsible for what you say and do, and your life to love or to wreck. Whatever may have happened in your past does not have to define you. It may shape you but it does not have to ruin you, or your chances for peace. The power is yours. I say this understanding the experiences of heartache and pain in this life are not the same for everyone. That for some people what I’m suggesting will be easier, simply because their path has not been as full of the sharp edge of mourning, even the mourning for your own innocence if you were robbed of it. And often, self-esteem is a huge part of the puzzle. Sometimes we’re taught that we aren’t of value, that we aren’t lovable, and that how we feel or what we have to say is not important. But those are lies, and they can be unlearned. Sometimes things happen, like we’re abandoned, and we take the experience to heart, and run ourselves ragged trying to be loved.

It’s my belief that almost everyone who gets serious about healing can do it. It’s not easy, and most people need some help. It’s not what I would call “a fun time.” But it’s a lot better to have some acute pain for a relatively short period, than it is to have a lifetime of misery where you are either hurting yourself or other people, or frequently both. When you don’t conquer those places within you that are full of the rage of why, you’ll just keep acting out unconsciously, fighting the battle as if it’s happening outside yourself.

I get fired up about this topic because I believe the only way to a more loving and peaceful world is for everyone in it to journey inward, and examine the catalog of their losses, their shame, their guilt, their fear, doubt, confusion, desperation, loneliness, insecurity, rage, and just face that sh&t down. It doesn’t have to own you. And the blame game is a huge cop-out. Today belongs to you. You get to decide how you’re going to show up. You can be angry, or you can dig deeper and figure out what that anger is about, because I guarantee you if you dig, you’re going to find pain. The part of this thing that requires courage is the part that demands your vulnerability. Being soft in this world takes courage. I highly recommend softness. That’s where love lives. And joy, and unguarded laughter, and innocence and kindness and gratitude. Be courageous so you can be soft, so you can open, so you can become the you of you, and get back to the business of saying yes to life. Because the rest of it is a waste of time, and time is precious, and wasting it is such a shame. Sending you so much love, and feeling very grateful to be on this whizzing, spinning rock with you, Ally Hamilton