Underneath the Words

In the heat of conflict, so much can get lost in translation. When we feel attacked, wronged or misunderstood, it’s so hard to pause, breathe and listen, but if you think back to your angriest moments, underneath the rage there was pain. When people yell it’s because they don’t feel heard, seen or understood. Some part of them is crying out for recognition, for help.

Sometimes we’re like a bunch of talking heads. We get so caught up in the story we forget to see the person; to look into their eyes and maybe put a hand on their arm. Sometimes we all need a tether, a way back to the moment. We need to know we’re being seen and felt, but too often people spend time together and there’s no real connection, just a lot of words, a lot of editorializing. Have you ever walked away from lunch with a friend you love feeling lonely? Maybe you went with a story on your mind and you told your story and you guys talked about it, but your lunch never really gelled because you went with a plan, and didn’t allow for the possibility that maybe your story didn’t need to be told. Maybe you’d already told it too many times. Maybe something beautiful could have happened if you showed up and opened to the moment. Maybe you missed the fact that your friend had an energy about them. Maybe they needed you. Maybe there was a glimmer of mischief or pain or restlessness you missed and cannot have back.

People say things they don’t mean all the time, especially if they haven’t worked on healthy ways to express their feelings. Lots of people push things down until it’s too much and then they explode. Words can be very powerful; I’m not suggesting you don’t want to work on the way you communicate if what you’ve been doing so far isn’t working for you or the people in your life. Learning how to handle your anger in a way that doesn’t burn the place down, and everyone in it including you, is essential if you want to be happy, but no one operates from her highest self in every moment. I know people who write off relationships with family members because someone said something when they were drunk at a wedding eight years ago. Try to see underneath the words. Look for the pain because if you can see that in another person it will soften you and then at least you create the possibility that you can forgive them and release yourself from the burden of carrying all that anger around with you.

Last year a woman wrote in and asked how she could stay on the Facebook fan page, but not see the “inspirational posts” I was writing. She sent an email to me personally to ask. I told her the page was mostly the blog posts, and if she didn’t want to see them, she could just unlike the page. She wrote back and said she wanted to see the “other stuff” but not the posts. I was intrigued by the fact that she wanted to be sure that I knew that she didn’t like what I was writing so I went to her page and saw that she was a writer and a teacher, and I understood something about my posting and the community we have going here was difficult for her to see. I couldn’t say exactly what was going on with her, but there was pain there. So I just responded nicely because it’s terrible to feel frustrated, resentful or unseen, so much so that you want to lash out at a stranger.

A lot of the time we take things personally. It’s hard not to, especially when you feel criticized or rejected. The truth is, most of the time it has nothing to do with you, and once in awhile, someone will just not get you. I would say, always look for the feeling. Words can be misleading, but feelings are fairly clear. You don’t have to respond to someone’s pain with anger. You don’t have to take on their view as if it’s true. You don’t have to defend yourself over every slight. Most people have a lot of pain. Sometimes a hug, literal or figurative, goes a lot further than a thousand words.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Sometimes Acceptance is All the Closure You’re Going to Get

No one ever asks life to knock them down. You’re not going to hear anyone say, “Things are pretty good. I hope life throws a huge monkey wrench into my world. Maybe my husband will suddenly announce he has a girlfriend and leave! Or I’ll lose my job. Or something I never could have seen coming will bring me to my knees and break my heart wide open.” We don’t ask for these things, but sometimes these are the kind of challenges we have to face. Or worse.

Not everything in life is positive, and there are some lessons no one will ever appreciate. You might grow, strengthen or reach new levels of compassion or insight, but there are some heartbreaks that are so knifing, no one would ever say, “Thank you for this.” As a result, you’ll never hear me say, “Everything happens for a reason.” I used to say things along those lines, and maybe everything does, or maybe it’s all random, but I think spiritual sound-bytes like that are an attempt to wrap life up into a neat little package, and I think they’re incredibly alienating to people who are devastated. When you cannot recognize your life, when everything falls apart and you have nothing but the shards of glass that used to be your home in a pile around you, and old photographs and a sweater that still smells like what was, you really don’t want to hear it’s happened for some reason that will make sense to you some day. Some things will never, ever make sense, and some things will never be okay. Recognizing that is the only way you can conceive of moving forward. Sometimes acceptance is all the closure you’re going to get.

When you find yourself in a state like this, move slowly and have compassion for yourself. If you know someone who’s been knocked down, show up and make them dinner, but don’t tell them how to grieve or that it’s time to snap out of it. People mourn in their own way, whether it’s over the loss of a person, a relationship, a job or a way of being. There’s a huge difference between being there for someone and enabling self-destruction, so please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m simply saying when a person is trying to put the pieces of their life back together, they need love, not a whip. Because although no one would ask for everything to fall apart around them, when that happens there is the potential for something strong, beautiful and powerful to emerge. A new way of being, of seeing, of understanding. It takes time to birth those things, and it’s a very painful process, but when I look back at the most devastating things that have happened in my own life, I can recognize that I grew from them. That I would not be where I am now if I had not been where I was then.

There are a couple of experiences I’d give back gladly. I’d say, “No thank you, not this. Not this.” But I can see how those moments opened me, and turned me into the kind of person who cares deeply when a stranger sends a message about a loss. A broken relationship. A dark time. And I can appreciate that. I can be grateful for that. Hopefully we can all care more about each other without having to personally suffer too much. Maybe I needed those times to open me. I wouldn’t want to be closed. I say this to you in case you’re going through one of those devastating times. I’d never ask you to be grateful, but I would say you have the choice to allow it to soften you and open you, or to close you and harden you. Opening feels a lot better.

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton

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

The Blame Game Has No Winners

I get emails from grown adults with children of their own who are still blaming their parents for who they are. I get emails from people who are entrenched in a battle with a family member and from those who cannot forgive a former partner. The more you dig your heels in and cling to your opinions, your version of events, your list of ways you’ve been wronged, the less chance there is to let some love in and to shine some light on your own participation and what it is you brought to the equation that led to a painful outcome. We always bring something to any situation, even if that something is our inability to stand up for ourselves, to value ourselves or to put an end to abusive treatment (assuming you weren’t a child at the time — in which case your work is simply to heal, not that it’s easy).

If you’re over 25, it’s time to stop blaming your parents no matter how bad it may have been. People do the best they can with what they’ve got. Sometimes the best they’ve got kind of sucks. This is not about you, and it does not reflect anything lacking in you. Not everyone is going to be lucky enough to have loving, mature parents who are ready or able to put their children first. We should also acknowledge timing, here. You may come into a person’s life at a time when their capacity to love, to extend themselves, to care, is just really limited. I say that in the context of parent-child relationships, friendships, and romantic partnerships. People can only be where they are. If you experienced neglect or abuse as a child, it’s hard not to feel enraged and I think you need to allow yourself that rage for awhile. I think you need to sit with whatever feelings you’ve got, whether they’re feelings of resentment, bitterness or blame and examine all of it. Mourn the childhood you didn’t have. Grieve. But if you get stuck there, if that’s as far as you take the journey, you just land yourself in a world of pain. I think very few people intend to hurt anyone, very few parents intentionally screw it up. Sometimes you just get caught in the storm of someone else’s journey through no fault of your own and you get hit in the face with a lot of hail and end up throwing up over the side of the ship, but you don’t have to stay in that storm for the rest of your life.

There are so many healing modalities available. Yoga, meditation, therapy, journaling, reading and anything else that works for you. Hiking, windsurfing, painting…whatever causes you to lose yourself for awhile, and tap into that larger feeling of being in the flow. Of course we all have different responses to trauma, not everyone handles it the same way. If you need some help, reach out. Don’t allow yourself to stay rooted in the dark, alone and shut down and in despair. There’s no need for that. There’s no reason that your past has to control your present or your future. Love can happen right now, in this moment if you let it. If you don’t believe that, put your hand on your heart and close your eyes, and when you breathe in, think, “I am whole, and I am lovable,” and exhale out some pain. You don’t have to hold onto it so tightly. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

In the context of romantic relationships, let me say this. It is never one person’s fault. If you think that’s possible, I guarantee you you’re missing a great chance to know yourself more deeply and to take some valuable information into your future partnerships. We all have stuff. We all have work to do, places where we could go deeper or show up in greater alignment with what’s true for us. The end of a relationship never tells the whole story. You can’t separate out the beginning and the middle, the alchemy between you and the other person which creates the third thing, the relationship between you. Timing, circumstances, where you were on your path, and where your partner was on theirs. Your participation. Your level of appreciation, patience, kindness, support and understanding. Your actions, things you said, did, didn’t do. What was motivating you. If you want to dig your heels in and point angry fingers that’s always a choice, but it’s not a choice that’s going to lead to growth or a deeper understanding of where you still have some healing to do.

With family members I recognize it can get complicated, but I think it’s so sad when siblings don’t speak to one another for years at a time. Over money, or someone’s spouse who said something hurtful when they were drunk at a family wedding. I know a guy who didn’t speak to his sister for ten years because they were arguing over the money their mom left behind. They both had children during this decade and countless beautiful experiences. These were siblings who grew up playing together, loving each other, sailing together over the summers, climbing trees when they were kids. And then the sister died. Horrendous. Un-dig your heels in life wherever possible so you can keep moving forward, which life asks of you every moment. So you can keep responding to what is, with your mind, heart and hands open. It’s not all going to go the way we want. People will let us down. We are all going to make choices we’d love to do over from time to time. Say things we’d love to take back. All of us. Forgive. Recognize that, and forgive. Or really, you’re in prison.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Where are You Rooted?

Yesterday my six year old son asked me if I knew about the “walking palm trees of the rain-forest.” He told me that these trees were able to “move their roots” if they saw a spot that looked better to them. I told him that was incredibly cool, and that I did not know about these trees. Of course, I had to go Google it, because palm trees walking around the rain-forest seems like something I’d have heard about somewhere along the way. So it turns out the Socratea exorrhiza, or, “Walking Palm” is native to tropical Central and South America, and it has stilt roots that allow it to grow in swampy areas of forest. Some people think their roots exist as an adaptation to flooding, and others believe the roots allow the palm to “walk away” if another tree falls on the seedling and knocks it over. If this happens, the palm produces new vertical stilt roots and rights itself, the original roots rotting away.

I think life asks us to do this very thing again and again; to start over, to respond to the ever-changing nature of things, to move our roots when we need to and right ourselves. But a lot of the time we resist. We cling to the dying roots that don’t sustain us or nurture us anymore, that cannot support our growth any longer. Sometimes we do this out of desperation. We love someone, or many “someones” and can’t bear the thought of hurting them. Or we’re afraid of all that is required to pick up and move toward the unknown. In relationships, it’s incredibly painful. The roots grow down directly from our hearts. But if you aren’t growing, you’re dying, and if you’re dying you can’t nurture anyone else because all your energy is going toward your withering and quiet destruction. Without living, healthy roots, you just won’t have the strength to rise up and reach the light and so life becomes very dark indeed.

I know so many people who keep feeding those dying roots, though. It’s all swampy and murky and nothing new can grow there, but still, they try to shore the thing up, to feed it whatever they can. Sometimes it’s old stories that have become rooted. They’re poisoning the tree, the branches are hanging low, the leaves have mostly fallen off, but the roots of blame, anguish, fear or sadness, of bitterness, shame or guilt keep the person rooted in the Forest of What Was. I spent a good decade in that forest, so I can tell you the main thing that grows there are weeds. The kind that climb up your trunk and strangle your branches and steal all the light and all the nutrients, until you are just this Tree of Blame with sour fruit. “I am this way because this happened, and then that happened, and then this other thing happened, and so now when you say you love me I don’t believe you because everybody leaves and everybody cheats and I’m just going to stay rooted here in the darkness.” Or something like that.

Fear will keep you paralyzed in that forest if you let it, but it’s such a shame because old stories are old. They don’t have to control your present or your future. They may have created some grooves in your trunk, but they don’t have to overtake your ability to produce the sweetest fruit you can imagine; the fruit of, “I Got the F&ck Out!!!” for example. That is some sweet fruit. You may feel stuck and powerless. You may even be rooted to those feelings; there may be some pay-off for you in staying stuck. Attachment to sympathy or attention, a reason not to do the brave and difficult thing so you can stick with what you know even if it doesn’t feel good, or an excuse to numb out are some possibilities. But I have to let you know, the pay-off of digging deep, to the very bottom of your soul, gathering up your courage and your stilt roots, and moving your a$$ to the Forest of Life is Freaking Amazing has a much greater pay-off. If a tree can do it, I have zero doubt you can do it, too.

Sending you a lot of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

How Are You Walking?

howwelluwalkthroughthefireI think there are really just two choices in life: you live in love, or you live in fear. Either way, you walk through the fire. Yesterday I posted some thoughts on Monday’s bombings in Boston. Someone wrote in that she was angry. Of course. Anger is a completely sane and valid response. None of us want to live in a world where we have to wonder if it’s safe to watch our loved ones cross the finish line at a marathon or drop our kids off at school or go to a movie. These are all things we’d hope we could take for granted, but we can’t, not anymore. There’s violence all over the world, perpetrated every single day by people of all political leanings, nationalities, religions, colors, genders and ages. It’s a border-less, sadly human condition. The real question isn’t who’s at fault. The real question is, does violence exist within me, personally? Am I a peaceful human being, or am I participating in the cycle of violence? That’s what you can work on.

Trying to blame the state of the world on any one person is absurd. On any one political party. On any one country or religion or race. This is a human, global issue. We got ourselves into this mess together, and we’re going to have to get ourselves out of it together. You cannot solve it with more violence. That’s what we’ve been doing, and I would hope at this juncture we could all agree it’s not working out too well for us. We’re hurting each other and we’re hurting our planet, the place where we live.

There’s the home within us, right? The home you’re going to live in for your whole life, your body. Your internal dialogue is going to be your constant companion. Whatever you grow inside yourself is what you’re going to spread as you move through the world around you. If you’re in fear and anger, that’s what you’ll be spreading. If you’re in love, you’ll be spreading love. What do you think we need out there? More anger? More violence? More separation? The same person who said she was angry also refuted my assertion that we all love our children. She said some people strap bombs to their children and that isn’t love. I’ve never heard of a parent strapping a bomb to their child. Not ever. If that’s happened, that’s a parent who is so full of anger and hatred they can’t see straight. Who’s lost that deeply rooted evolutionary, biologically-induced determination to protect and nurture his or her child. I’ve heard about parents raising their children with the belief that Americans are terrible people who deserve to die and that life on earth is not important, it’s the after-life that matters, and I’ve heard of American parents who teach their children that people of other colors and religions who speak different languages and pray to different gods or no god should be hated and also deserve to die.

Sometimes these kids grow up to become young adults who strap bombs to themselves, under some false idea that it honors their country or their god or their parents. If you’ve raised your child to believe there’s something honorable in taking his or her own life and the lives of others in a brutal, senseless, violent way, then I’m very sorry, but you are blowing it as a person and a parent. You’re blowing it because you’re choosing fear instead of love and you’re feeding that diet to your open-minded, openhearted child and you are participating and prolonging the violence. If you didn’t teach that to your child, but you gave birth to someone who came to believe that due to circumstances, events and conditions no one could prepare for, see coming, or manage, then you did not blow it. You were given a set of circumstances no one should judge from the outside and you deserve a lot of compassion.

Fear closes us off and shuts us down. Teaching hatred is the sign of a very broken heart, and it will only perpetuate the cycle of alienation, destruction and violence. The idea that there’s an “us” and a “them.” The only way to understand where someone is coming from is to truly try to see things from their perspective. To drop your own highly ingrained beliefs, opinions, projections and assumptions for just a few minutes, and really listen and truly consider a different point of view.

How might you feel if you grew up in a completely different environment? Most people can’t listen deeply to someone with a different set of core beliefs because it’s scary or it feels intolerable to drop their viewpoint, even briefly. Who am I without my highly ingrained beliefs? Without my opinions and projections and memories? You know who you are without that stuff? You’re me. I’m you. That’s the point. You want to identify yourself as Democrat. Republican. Christian. Muslim. Jew. Palestinian. Black, White. Male. Female. American. Saudi Arabian. Chinese. Try this instead. You are a human being living on planet earth and your anger and your labels will not save you from the very vulnerable experience of being human. Of violence and loss and grief and pain so deep it makes your head spin. Of heartbreak and confusion and shame and despair. It also won’t save you from having your heart opened in ways you couldn’t imagine until you felt it happen. It won’t save you from the crushing gratitude you’d have to feel if you were awake and alive to all that’s encompassed in being a human being on planet earth. For every one person who seeks to create death and destruction, there are thousands who go running toward people in pain. To offer a hand. Their coat. Their phone, their home, the food in their refrigerator. People are good.

I don’t know who put those bombs at the finish line, and so far, neither does anyone else. It could be an American. It could be someone from another country. It doesn’t matter. Whoever it was, it’s a person in a lot of pain. Someone who’s very confused about life. About how to be a human being on the only planet we all share. As someone else said yesterday, “We aren’t okay until we’re all okay.” Please don’t go to anger and stay there. If you’re angry, I get it. Use that anger to bring yourself back to love, to get fired up about how you can help to make the world within you and around you a more peaceful place to be. Teach your children that the space between them and anyone else is sacred and shouldn’t be polluted with hatred and judgment. With anger and blame. Choose love. Again and again and again. That’s how we heal ourselves, each other, and this beautiful but hurting world we live in. That’s how we become nothing more and nothing less than what we are: Incredibly gorgeous human beings on a spinning orb. Wishing that for everyone, and sending love in all directions,

Ally Hamilton

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

Don’t Give Up.

A few weeks ago, someone messaged me on the fan page and said he was going to end his life. I can’t really explain the panic I felt, especially because his message was a few hours old by the time I saw it. He shared some details of his life over the last few years and why he’d come to the conclusion that it just wasn’t worth it. He’d suffered some devastating losses, enough that it was understandable he felt hopeless and defeated. I wrote back immediately and gave him the Suicide Prevention Hotline number (800-273-8255), my number, and also contact information for three therapists I know and trust. I begged him to write back and let me know he’d received my message and also told him there have been times in my life when I’ve felt like giving up, too. Not for many, many years, but I certainly entertained those thoughts at one time in my life. When things feel so dark you really can’t think of a reason to lift your head off your pillow, the thought, “What’s the point of it all?” is natural and understandable.

Yesterday, someone wrote in a thread, “Why can’t we talk about the miraculous sometimes, too?” and then she wrote back and rescinded her question, saying that it “all leads back to joy.” But it’s a legitimate question and there are days when I just write from my heart and send out a hit of love. Or I hope I do. I write about the shadow emotions a lot because I feel in the spiritual community there’s so much focus on being positive and spreading the light. I think it’s alienating for many people. There is so much light. There’s a limitless well of love within each of us, but to uncover that well there’s usually some digging required. A lot of people feel alone in that digging, like there must be something wrong with them and sometimes they give up. Numb out. Run, deny, try to push it all down. Or they become bitter and think other people must have it easier. The truth is some people do have it easier. We don’t all go through the same experiences. There are some people who will suffer losses that are so knifing, so brutally painful you have to hope they’re going to be able to put one foot in front of the other, and that’s usually when some well-meaning positive person will come along and smugly assert that, “everything happens for a reason,” and forget that the foundation of a true spiritual practice is compassion. There’s nothing comforting in telling a person who is trying to remember how to breathe in and breathe out that their loss has happened for a reason, or that they should focus on all the good things in their life, or that one day they’ll understand why. Some things will never, ever be okay. Some things will never make sense. There are some lessons that will never elicit gratitude. Growth, yes. If you get through it. Deeper understanding, insight and compassion? Yes. Gratitude? No. Not for some things.

It’s my belief a spiritual practice ought to be there for you whether you’re moving through beautiful, joyful, miraculous times in your life, or you’re going through blinding pain that makes you want to give up. I don’t worry about those of you feeling gratitude. I love you, but I’m not worried. I do want to reach out to those people in darkness and say you’re not alone and offer a hand. A blog post. A yoga class, a hug. An email. Whatever I’ve got. Because I really think that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to love each other, support each other, and share and grow together and I think that is pretty miraculous. When I look at my life today, it’s hard to imagine I ever wondered what “the point of it all” was, because it’s very clear to me now. The point of it is to love your heart out. To connect. There’s an insane amount of joy in all that. I’ve been emailing with the man who was feeling desperate a few weeks ago. He’s talking to someone and getting support in many areas. Sometimes we need help. It’s not easy, this business of being human. But it is pretty amazing.

Sending you a ton of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Marriage, Divorce, and Little People

Yesterday I posted about lies, deceit and betrayal and as I expected, it stirred up a lot of feeling in people. Today’s post is focused on marriage, divorce, and children because I got a flood of emails from people related to this topic. It seems many people are in relationships that aren’t growing anymore. We could talk about that quite a lot. How is it that our divorce rate is so high? It’s over half of all marriages that fail now and I believe a large part of it is cultural. We’re taught to keep looking for bigger, better, newer, shinier. So much of what we value is external. A lot of the time, we aren’t looking at the gifts right in front of us.

We’re living in a time when everyone is busybusybusy, racing from one place to another and then it’s Monday again. And again and again and again, and wow. A whole year just went by. Three, five, wait. How old am I? This year I’ll take that vacation. Hmm, maybe next year. This weekend I’ll hang out with my family. Oh, wait, I can’t, I have a deadline. We also have a broken system where you have to work your a$$ off to be able to afford health insurance for your family and to keep food in the fridge and a roof over everyone’s heads. It’s not like I don’t get that, but still. A walk after dinner. A dinner without devices on the table. A story before bedtime. Something. A card for your spouse for no reason once in awhile. Date night. A touch on the arm on your way out the door and a moment to really see each other, remember each other. Or it’s going to die.

I dated a guy who was a runner once. Every morning he’d jump out of bed and go for a run. Then he’d come back and jump in the shower and race out the door with barely a goodbye over his shoulder. He’d race the entire day until he collapsed in bed at night. He raced through everything. I’ll leave it at that, but I mean everything. The only time he slowed down is when he’d travel for work. Then he’d call me and want to talk because he’d be lonely in some far-off place. You can’t race through life and prioritize your to-do list and come home and zone out in front of the television and never give the people in your life your full attention and expect a relationship to keep growing. You have to water it. You can’t have the attention span of a flea and think that’s going to cut it. If you don’t see and appreciate what you have, you’re probably going to lose it.

Weddings are easy, marriages are not. You have to choose to marry the person every day. To see them and hear them and cherish them the way other people do, people who are not taking them for granted and who don’t assume they know all there is to know. It’s funny, I’m lucky enough to have some friends I’ve known over twenty years. I don’t ever think I know all there is to know. Yesterday, I was supposed to talk to a girlfriend I’ve known since I was twelve years old and we couldn’t make it happen with her kids, my kids and the time difference. But when we do talk, it’s not going to be static on the line because things have happened since we spoke last week. She’s not the same today as she was seven days ago when we talked about everything, and neither is anyone else. People felt confronted yesterday by what I wrote. People who may be engaging in email flirtations or more. You think I don’t understand? I fully understand, believe me. It’s painful to live in a house with someone who doesn’t see you anymore. I’ve been there more than once. More than twice.

What do you do? You go to the person you built a life with, even if the walls are starting to crumble and you say four words: I am in pain. And with as much kindness as you can, you tell them exactly where you’re at, even if you’re petrified, even if you have children, even if you would rather suffer yourself than bring pain to your family. Because I promise you, if you are in so much pain that you’re resorting to desperate acts with other people, your family is already feeling that. If you have children, on some level they know. They may not understand what they’re feeling, but they are feeling it. They’re on the ship with you. My parents got divorced when I was four and I remember all of it. If the space between you and your spouse is charged or dead or full of anger or lies or heartbreak or utter disappointment, realize that’s the space your children are growing in. Children have no defenses, they aren’t hardened, they feel it all. Maybe your spouse will storm out. Maybe they’ll hold your hand and cry with you, and it’s possible you’ll touch on something ancient between you that hasn’t been stirred in a long time. At least you’ll be communicating honestly.

If you feel like you can’t have the conversation without support, ask to go to couples’ counseling. I’d highly, highly recommend that in any case. If you have children, I think it’s a must, even if you end up talking about how you’re going to end things, but if you can save it, save it. Try with everything you’ve got. Read the book, “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 year Landmark Study”. We want to say that children are resilient and what matters most is that they have two happy parents. That’s true, but I can tell you honestly the best thing for your kids is keeping the family together if there’s any way possible to do that and be happy. I say that as someone who wasn’t able to do that.

Sometimes the best thing for everyone is for mom and dad to live in two different places. I just think people go a little too far with this kids just need mom and dad to be happy. I hear about schedules that are convenient for divorced parents, but so insane for the kids. Here one night, there the other, back and forth so much it would make anyone’s head spin. I grew up three nights here, four nights there, and even that was really hard. There’s a line. If you have to split because staying in your marriage requires the crushing of your spirit and your children’s too, then yes, you need to end it, but put the kids first. If you have a co-parent who won’t do that, that is so, so hard, but then your job is to rise to that occasion the best you can and be a rock for your children. A safe space (and to get support with that if you need it). Being a single parent is not at all easy. Depending on the other parent, it can be very, very painful, or it can be manageable, but as with everything in life, you cannot give your power away to someone else, or make everything someone else’s fault. Your ex is your ex for a reason. If there’s no support, understanding, respect or consideration coming from them, that is rough, but then your job is to figure out how you’re going to deal with that with grace and strength. You’re going to have to figure out who and what you can lean on to get through so your children do not pay the price, or pay as little as possible.

There are three kinds of adults I meet. Those whose parents got divorced, those who wish their parents had gotten divorced, and those lucky people who grew up with two parents who were able to pull it off. You know what? Everything you go through will open you and teach you something if you let it. As much as we may think we do, or we may want to, we never know what someone else’s path is supposed to look like, even our own children’s. Yes, your job is to put them first. Always. And to protect them as much as possible, and to nurture them and hold them and share with them anything and everything you’ve got. Your job is also to teach them what it looks like to be a happy, kind person. Isn’t that what we all really want for our children? We want them to be happy, right? To live life with their hearts open. To be able to recognize what’s true for them, and to live guided by their own inner yes. How will they be able to do that if you don’t show them what it looks like? It’s not impossible, but they’ll have to work a lot harder to figure it out without an example.

No matter what happens or how you feel, your ex will always be your child’s other parent, the other most important person in their world. Do you know people who don’t have good relationships with their moms or their dads? It’s a heartache that never goes away, and it wreaks havoc on all their interpersonal relationships unless they work on it a lot. You don’t want that for your children. (If we’re talking about a situation where there’s abuse and you are dealing with concerns about your child’s physical and emotional well-being, then we are in a different territory altogether, and then your job is to do everything you can to protect your child). Once in a parking lot I saw this little girl, probably about three years old, crying in her stroller and saying that she missed her daddy. Her mom looked really stressed out and yelled at her, “It’s a mommy day, you’ll see your dad tomorrow!!!” I couldn’t help it. I went over to her and said, “She just misses her dad, it’s totally normal. She loves you. Why don’t you take a time out, I’ll stay right here with her for a few minutes.” And her mom started crying and sat down in the drivers’ seat of her car, and I squatted down right outside the door and had the most amazing conversation with that little person. When her mom came out of her car she handed her cellphone to her daughter so she could talk to her dad.

The best thing you can do for your children is support a healthy, nurturing relationship with their other parent, even if their other parent is a rat-bastard, no-good @#$SB(&^$%. Okay? I understand that might be your reality, but even then. Your children will figure that out for themselves if that’s the case, your job is to help them get the best out of their other parent while they’re little. To feel loved and supported by that person, even if s/he has a limited capacity to love anyone. Also try to remember you have your experience with your ex, and your children will have theirs. Putting your kids in the position where they feel they have to choose sides is brutal for them and not loving. If you can work out a way to be friends with your ex, that is so ideal, but I know that’s not always possible.

What is possible is that you never, ever say a negative word about your ex to your child. Ever. I know exes who launch an intentional campaign to turn their children against their other parent, and I want to say if that is something you are doing, I can absolutely guarantee you will pay for it dearly at some point. It may not happen until your children are eighteen, nineteen, twenty, but as soon as they’re old enough to look back and think about what was said and done and by whom, you will pay for it. That is not putting your child’s best interests at heart, that is allowing your rage, bitterness and disappointment to poison you and to bleed into your children. They will never thank you for that, and if you cost them their relationship with their other parent and steal from them years they could have had love and support that were denied to them because of you, that is going to have a very damaging effect on your relationship with them. Right as you enter your golden years, right at the time when you hope those relationships will blossom and you and your grown children can develop a deeper bond based on a greater, more mature understanding of what it means to be a human being on planet earth, right then…that is when they’re going to understand what you took from them, and right then is when you will pay. Do not let that happen to you or to them. If you are enraged, talk to a therapist, your best friend, your mother or anyone else who can lend a sympathetic ear, but do it when your children are not within earshot. And do your best in the face of everything to work it out so that your children have as much stability as humanly possible.

Sending you love, as I always am.

Ally Hamilton

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