There Are No Postcards from Limbo

In order to open to something new, to completely throw yourself into it, generally you have to let go of something old. The something old might be an idea you’ve had about yourself, a relationship that’s ended but hasn’t ended completely, a way of being, a job you’ve had forever, or a role you’ve played for someone that just doesn’t feel right anymore. We human beings are complex, and sometimes we try to jump and hold on at the same time, and then we lament the fact that our arm really hurts, and wonder why we can’t fully land in the new adventure, but seem to be swinging in agony somewhere between what was and what is.

I get emails from people who have gone through a breakup, but are still sleeping with the ex, because no one new is on the horizon, and it feels familiar and comforting in a scary, uncertain world. I think many people can look back on relationships that just wouldn’t die. The break up and make up thing, the going back once more, just to see, and just once more after that. Or people who stay in jobs that don’t inspire them at all because the idea of looking for something else seems daunting and overwhelming. People who are tortured and depressed because they’ve told themselves they can’t or shouldn’t pursue their dreams, some of whom are convinced they aren’t worthy of love, or happiness, or a life that feels good to them. People who think their past trauma renders them broken.

The only thing that comes from trying to leap and cling at the same time is pain. You’re attempting to perform diametrically opposed actions at once. You leave yourself suspended, hurting, neither here nor there. Limbo isn’t a great place to hang out. Change can be scary and it can really hurt if it isn’t wanted, but as always, the only power we have is to face reality as it is, and try to be fearless. Fearlessly open, accepting, heartbroken, afraid. Fearlessly afraid, that’s a concept, huh? But what I’m talking about is the ability to embrace and examine your feelings, and to accept what is true for you, and also what is true for other people.

When you know yourself and you know how you feel, you can speak about it calmly and with compassion. That’s really all you can do. You can’t control circumstances or other people. You can’t make anyone happy, you can’t force someone to love you or open to you, or decide to go for it with you. You can’t expect to forge a new path for yourself if you’re clinging to the old one. At a certain point, you have to let go and leap. It isn’t easy; few things in life that are worthwhile are also easy. Love isn’t easy, it requires bravery and a willingness to be vulnerable. Sustained gratitude isn’t easy, it demands that you pick your mind up and bring it back to all the things that are going well, that you do have, again and again. The birthing process isn’t easy, whether we’re talking about birthing a person into this world, or a new way of being, or a work of art. All these things require your willingness to go through the pain of opening, but you know what’s worse? Hanging out in the birth canal where you can’t breathe deeply and you can’t see the light. Where you feel like your head might explode, and where, if you screamed, no one would hear you. That’s not living, not in a way that’s sustainable.

If the journey is the thing, and I believe it is, hanging out endlessly at the forks in the road isn’t likely to fulfill you. There are all these amazing views and experiences and new languages and tastes and roads to be traveled. I understand it may break your heart to leap off the road you’re on, but you never know what’s around the bend, and clinging will never lead you to happiness. Trust that if you let go, you’ll land on your feet.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

Secrets of the Second List

Everyone enjoys the sweet stuff in life: the love, the joy, the fun, the excitement, those times when life is giving us exactly what we’d hoped for, or more than we’d ever imagined. Nobody wants the tough stuff: the pain, loneliness, confusion, fear, shame, doubt, guilt, suffering, those times when life is taking from us more than we think we can bear. That seems perfectly logical, after all. Why would anyone want anything off the second list?

The thing is, when you crave the good and feel aversion for the challenging, you’re bound to suffer because life brings both. Many people go through this experience of being human as victims of circumstance, happy when things are going well, and depressed when they aren’t; there’s no power in that. Of course there are things so knifing in this world, they rip your heart apart, and you do whatever you can to survive and find your way back to love, somehow. I’m not talking about those incredibly heartbreaking events. I’m talking about the normal ups and downs of life. If you don’t gain some mastery over your mind, you’ll believe your happiness and your unhappiness are the result of things outside your control.

Most of the time, happiness is a choice, but we have to define our terms. Happiness to me is being at peace. Waking up and feeling grateful for, and excited about the life you’re living, even if, and maybe especially if, everything isn’t going exactly the way you’d like. Happiness is knowing yourself well, and deeply. It’s tapping into your gifts, and sharing them any way you can. It’s knowing what’s true for you, being able to speak about that kindly but with conviction. It’s having relationships in your life with people you love, and we have to define that term, too. Love meaning the ability to see and understand clearly the people with whom we’re close, being able to accept them and cherish them and celebrate them for exactly the people they are, and not for our ideas about who we’d like them to be someday, if only. Happiness is knowing you also have people in your life who really see you and hear you and want nothing more than your full expansion so they have that much more of you to cherish. The things that define happiness are inside, they aren’t outside, and they can’t be taken from you over a bad day, or a tough week, or a rough chapter in your life. (With the exception of those gut-wrenching tragedies I mentioned above. Those could throw anyone off their happiness game for a good long while.)

How do you get to happy? Strangely enough, I think you have to have experienced at least some of the pain on list number two. Pun intended. For most people there’s a time when you come up against it, whatever it may be for you. It could be that things don’t gel personally; relationships with family members, romantic partners and friends are fraught with disappointment, dysfunction, and pain. Or it could be a struggle to find your purpose, to find the meaning in life for you. Very few people sail through, healthy and whole and unscathed, knowing themselves well, and ready to rock it. Many people are so attached to the idea of happiness, they seek it and chase it and work for it like it’s a destination or a possession, or the result of having or doing the right stuff, and because they long for happiness, they run in the other direction when the painful parts arrive. We aren’t taught that the painful parts are markers for where we have healing to do. We don’t talk about the need to heal as a prerequisite for happiness. We talk about houses and cars and diets. You want to know why? It’s a lot easier to chase that stuff than it is to turn around and face your dragons; your fears, your insecurities, your doubts about yourself, and life, and what the point of it all is. Life presents big questions, some you can answer if you’re willing to be brave, and some you won’t know for sure until you exhale for the final time, but if you pretend they don’t exist, you’re living in a false reality. I don’t believe you can experience happiness there.

You have so much power in this regard. Many people rob themselves of the chance to feel it, though. Your power lies in your ability to face reality as it is, to look with your eyes, your mind, your heart and your hands wide open. Not to turn away. Not to deny, or cling or re-write or insist or manipulate or will it to be a different way, but just to look, and to breathe, and to let the tears spill when they come. To hold the fear even though it sears your hands and your heart. Holding it and breathing is the key to releasing the heat so that stuff doesn’t own your ass. So you don’t have to be on the run from those things you’re trying to hide from the world, and even from yourself. People on the run aren’t happy. People in denial aren’t, either. People who numb out are numb. If you want to be happy, you have to feel, and you can’t just cherry-pick the good stuff. You have to be willing to feel it all. The places that are painful will become less so if you give them your kind attention, a lot less so. No one can force you to do it. You have to want to do it. You may need to try the other path first, I certainly did. You may have to try buying your happiness or amassing it or starving yourself for it. You may have to seek it in others, but eventually, if you really want it, you’ll have to sit with yourself.

The dark night of the soul is not easy and it’s not fun, it hurts. It’s lonely and scary and confusing and you’ll meet storms of shame and guilt along the way. You may find in the very eye of the storm the belief that you are somehow unworthy of love, or easy to leave, or fill in the blank. If you look in that eye long enough, you’ll see it’s a lie, it’s not even real, it’s made of vapors, and this very funny thing will happen. You’ll find you’re smiling through your tears and you can take that happy on the road with you. You’ll find a perspective shift in most cases, where your eyes and your mind go to everything you do have, that is going well. You’ll look at the people in your life with a new appreciation and understanding, and a lot more compassion and empathy, because this work of being a happy human is not easy, it takes enormous determination but it’s totally doable.

Wishing you the strength to be happy, and sending love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

Use Your Key

The best way to meet fear is to allow yourself to feel it. For many people, social situations are a nightmare. What to say? What to wear? What to do if you’re left in a corner and no one is talking to you? What to say or what not to say if someone is talking to you? Whether you’ll get that call, and how badly you’ll feel if you don’t. Public speaking, lots of people are terrified about that. There’s fear of intimacy, the risks required to tear down your carefully constructed walls. Fear you’ll never live a life that feels good to you, you’ll never reach your potential. Or the fear that you will, and then what? Fear of spiders, challenging conversations, hurting other people, rejection, dying alone. There are all kinds of things that might scare you.

Being scared isn’t a problem; running from the feeling is. If you’re panicked, there’s a reason, and you have an opportunity to know something about yourself, probably something very important. All the shadow emotions are markers. They’re like burning flags, waving in the wind patiently, waiting to be examined. They’re marking those places where you still have some healing to do, but so many people are so averse to feeling uncomfortable, they flee. They fling the feeling away, or numb it out, or deny that it exists. They run from that flag like their life depended on it, when in actuality, their life depends on their willingness to walk right at it. If you can’t sit with your sadness and allow the tears to spill, how can you relieve your pain? If a close friend called you in real need, do you think you’d help them by hanging up the phone? Or getting them drunk, or taking them shopping or getting them laid? Yes, I said that, because many people seek relief from their pain in those ways, and no, none of those things would help. Dr. Earl A. Grollman on this, “The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

When I say the “shadow emotions”, I mean fear, rage, shame, guilt, doubt, insecurity, jealousy, bitterness. The feeling of having been betrayed, or judged or shunned — any of those feelings that have some heat to them. Culturally, we aren’t trained to sit with that stuff. We’re told, “Don’t be sad”, “Don’t be scared”, “Don’t be angry”, as if we could just snap our fingers and make the feelings vanish. We learn some feelings are not acceptable, some feelings make those around us uncomfortable, and so we should hide them. In our crazy framework, men aren’t supposed to show fear, and women aren’t supposed to be angry. You know what we call an angry woman. We have a word for it, and it isn’t nice, but this premise is so nuts. We will all feel everything, regardless of gender. We will all have moments when we wonder what we’re doing here, and what happens after this. We’ll all doubt our ability to have an impact on the world around us from time to time. We’ll all wish we could do certain things over again, and differently. This is called being human. We aren’t robots. We can’t edit out or shut off the parts that are unwanted.

I met an eighty-seven year old woman today. It’s not the first time I’ve met her, she’s the mother of a good friend, but it’s the first time we really talked. Her husband died this year, and her brother, and his wife. She told me she goes out every night. Goes to the theater, goes to her bridge club, volunteers. She said it doesn’t change anything, but it makes the people around her feel she’s okay. Can I tell you my heart broke a little? She was married for sixty-six years and her husband never wanted her to have lunch or tea or anything at all with any other man. She told me that while she laughed and shook her head. I told her he knew he had a good thing. My point is, this life makes you vulnerable. That’s what’s asked of you. To open your heart, even though you understand your time is finite. Feel your feelings. Feel all of it. The heartache, the despair, the uncertainty. Feel it so it doesn’t block you, because life is simply too precious for that. You don’t have years to waste being stuck. It might take you years to heal, but that’s different than time spent on the run. What you run from, owns you. That’s clear, right? Anything you won’t face controls you. You’re not meant to be controlled, that’s why it doesn’t feel good. You’re meant to be liberated, but you have to use your key. Hoping that you do, and sending so much love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

Being Dragged Kind of Sucks

Sometimes we’re so attached to an idea, it blinds us. Maybe we’re in love with someone, and we so want them to be in love with us, we deny the nagging feeling that it doesn’t seem to be the case. We think if we chase, or hang in there, or show up exactly the way we think this person wants us to, then it will work out, then we’ll “have” them. We start to try to fit into some kind of mold. We obsess and doubt and worry about everything, and we lose ourselves.

Attachment (“raga”) is one of the five “kleshas”, or obstacles that prevent us from experiencing oneness, that deep sense of being in the flow that Patanjali lays out in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras. That, to me, is the real peace. The surrender, in the bravest sense, to what is, and the ability to open to it and join in it. Some of it is very painful, and not at all as we’d like it to be, and some of it is so piercingly beautiful, it takes your breath away. The work is to hold it all, embrace it all, even when you don’t understand, recognizing that you are not in control of circumstances, or other people, or the way the story will unfold. Letting go of your grip on things. That’s the good kind of “losing yourself.” What you get to work on is your response to what you’re given, your ability to return to love again and again, even if your heart is broken.

The other four obstacles are ignorance (“avidya”, a disconnection from what’s real, an inability to see things clearly), egoism (“asmita”, identification with our ideas about ourselves, our judgments and “shoulds”), aversion (“dvesha”, a rejection of, or desire to avoid those things that are unwanted, whether they be particular feelings, reality as it is unfolding, other people, a certain outcome, or a way of being), and fear of death (“abhinivesha”, the fear of loss, fear of the unknown, fear that we will leave important things unsaid or undone).

The yoga practice is about stripping away those obstacles. When we’re attached to a particular outcome, we close off the possibility for anything else. We stand there with our eyes shut tightly, gripping onto our vision of how we want things to be, and anything that doesn’t fit into our picture must be rejected or denied. When you reject reality, you leave yourself in a world of darkness, you become the architect of your own suffering. If you want to know which way to go, you have to open your eyes, because there’s nothing to follow but the truth; the truth of each moment, the truth of your particular situation, the truth that’s in your heart. When you start following those truths, you pave the way to experience the bigger truth of your connection to everything, your part in the flow.

When I started practicing yoga, I was a person who was trying to chase happiness. If I just do this or that, then I’ll be happy. “This” might be meeting the right person. “That” might be losing just a little more weight, or nine million other things that all had to do with external stuff. I had this idea that happiness was somewhere out in front of me, and that it would present itself if I just worked hard and made it to certain milestones. When you live your life that way, you begin to understand that’s all a lie. You hit the milestone, and it’s still not enough. Happiness is never outside of you. It’s inside. It’s not something you need to create, it’s something that’s already there, just waiting to be uncovered.

The stripping away process can be painful. It can sear you a little, or a lot. You may have to burn away all kinds of beliefs about yourself and other people, about the world and your part in it. The gift of yoga, if you practice long enough, is that it makes you hungry for the truth, whatever it is. Even if it’s painful. Even if you have to face a reality you’d do anything to avoid. When you’re in love with someone and they aren’t in love with you, somewhere deep down you know that, you feel it. That’s what makes you feel sick and doubtful and hooked in that awful way. You’re blinding yourself to reality. You’re cutting yourself off from your own intuition. So you might go through some pain, but eventually there’s a real liberation when you just open your hands and your heart and your mind to the truth, whatever it may be. The truth burning away in your heart. The acceptance of someone else’s truth, even if it means you must let go of some vision you had.

It’s a liberation because it’s exhausting to push down what you know. It’s like trying to hold back the waves of the ocean; it simply cannot be done. When you accept that, you can relax and swim, you can be in and of the flow, and then you can devote your energy to living each day fully, to loving each person in your life fully, to sharing your gifts freely, with abandon, to leaving nothing unsaid or undone, so that if it were your last day (and I hope you have countless days ahead of you), you could end it with the sense of having done all you could today, to live with your heart wide open.

Wishing that for you, and sending so much love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

Forgiveness is an Embrace

Directing your energy is one of the most powerful ways you can decide to be happy, and often, it really is a decision. If you’re grieving, if there are things happening in your life right now that are so painful you question your ability to get through the day, this does not apply to you. Short of those knifing losses we face sometimes, the ability to choose one thought over another is like a super-power we too frequently forget we have.

It’s easy for the mind to latch onto ways we’ve been wronged, disappointed or mistreated. You can get snagged on thoughts like those and let them grow in your mind until they’re so big, thorny and uncomfortable, you feel you may burst or suffocate. We are human beings on a spinning planet with no real idea what will happen next. That’s not an easy gig, but I wouldn’t want to miss it. If you can embrace the vulnerability of this thing, your own exposure and lack of protection, you free up so much energy for the joy in life. When you let go of the pretense that you’re in control, that your carefully mapped out plans will all come to fruition exactly as you’ve envisioned, life becomes so much easier.

Some people want to be angry, to hold onto the pain and feed it and strengthen it. Maybe there’s a payoff. Maybe being angry like that excuses them from action and accountability, or maybe it protects them from being hurt by others. Maybe they get sympathy and that feels almost like love, or maybe it feels like home. Just because something is familiar to you doesn’t mean you have to curl up with it. You’ve made mistakes, I’ve made mistakes, everyone you pass today, no matter how shiny or perfect they may seem, has made mistakes. It’s part of the deal of being a human.

There are also people who don’t want to be angry, but aren’t sure how to stop, how to shift gears; the thing is to catch yourself. When you’re driving, or folding laundry, or taking a shower, to notice where the mind has gone, particularly if it’s taking you down a path of pain. The past is in the past. It’s absolutely worth examining so that you can glean the information you need to move on and make informed choices in the future, but sometimes something is so painful we obsess over it. Betrayal is like that. When you’re shocked because someone close to you has done something you never thought possible, it’s hard not to turn that experience around in your mind over and over again looking for clues, because things like that make you question everything. You wonder about your own judgment, the relationship, whether there was anything real there or if you were confused, other relationships in your life, your ability to discern what’s real from what isn’t. Betrayal is a tough one, as are breakups, the loss of a job, rejection, any of life’s tougher experinces. But the reality is, once you’ve looked at something carefully and learned all there is to learn from the experience, nothing productive comes from dwelling on it. It’s easier said than done, and time definitely helps remove the sting, but at a certain point you just have to pick your mind up and consciously turn it to something else.

When you boil it down, you can feed your fear, or you can feed your love. Feeding your love feels so much better. A huge step in that direction is simply to practice forgiveness. When you forgive people, it doesn’t mean you have to tell them, or have them in your life. It just means you’re committed to your own peace, and you hope they find some, too. It means you’re unhooking your story from their actions. Sometimes there is room for reconciliation, it’s case-by-case. Freeing your heart is the thing, and forgiving yourself, as well. You don’t want to walk around with a closed or hardened heart. We don’t get a lot of time. Even if you live a “long” life, it’s not a lot of time, so I wouldn’t waste too much of it looking back. Regrets are normal, but that’s also a form of looking at things with rose-colored glasses; if only I’d changed this one thing, then…and the truth is, you can’t ever change “just one thing”, if you go back and undo one decision, there are a million others connected to it. You’d have to unravel your whole life, and the truth is, you’d just be trading in one set of circumstances for another. Every single path has some pain, you can’t escape that.

The jagged edges of your life, the decisions you made in desperation and with longing, the unexpected joys, the surprises, it’s all part of your adventure. The whole thing isn’t going to be fabulous, some of it is going to be really heartbreaking; that’s called being human. The thing is to move toward joy, to grab it with both hands, to celebrate it when it shows up in your life, to try to create some for others, and to be kind. I wouldn’t use too much of your time pining for the past or worrying about the future, because whatever is behind you is behind you, and who knows what’s in front of you? I think I’d focus on how much love I could give today, that seems like the best plan to me.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Embrace it All

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” ~Lao Tzu

Sometimes it’s totally obvious to us that we need to set our sails in a different direction. Maybe it’s a way of being that isn’t working, like the stance that everyone is out to get us, or no one cares, or everyone leaves or cheats, or the world is a cold and unsafe place. It could be a relationship that we know we can’t save or a job that just doesn’t feel right and hasn’t for a long time. When those are the kinds of shifts we’re facing, it’s not a surprise to us when we feel depressed, scared, defeated or totally paralyzed. We expect to feel dreadful during a breakup, or when we’re fired from a job, or faced with the reality that we’ve alienated the people who love us most with our own actions. What surprises most people, though, is the feeling of sadness or anxiety that can creep up around positive changes.

A couple of years ago, a guy who takes my class came up to me one night and asked if I had a minute to talk. He told me he had this job opportunity that was very exciting to him. He’d be making more money, and he’d also have more free time, and the best part was that he felt very inspired by the kind of work he’d be doing. He felt stuck because his current job was one he’d had for years, and he was used to the non-stop pace and high pressure, the lack of any kind of down time, and the boredom he felt most days. Then he told me he wasn’t sure what he should do. So I just repeated back to him what he’d said to me and we started laughing, because really, the choice seems obvious, right? But you have to be ready and willing to step into a new life, a new adventure, a new way of being. He told me he wasn’t sure he’d know what to do with all the time he’d have. The unknown is a funny thing. We can fill it with all kinds of ideas, or we can open our arms and say yes (which he did).

I know women who longed to have babies, only to feel confused, guilty and ashamed when the baby came and along with all the feelings of thankfulness and joy, was also the dawning realization that the old life was over. Long lunches with girlfriends, sleeping in, walking out the door without having to think about anything except their phones, wallets and sunglasses, lazy Sundays reading the paper, nights out with their spouses on a whim, gone. The new role of mother feeling overwhelming and confusing and like this huge responsibility of being enough, weighing down upon them. It’s all normal. It doesn’t lessen one iota the joy, gratitude and excitement around welcoming this little person you may have been waiting to meet for quite sometime, but it’s the death of your old life in many ways, and the birth not just of your child, but of you as a parent, and of a whole new life that includes the well-being of someone else. A baby’s first birthday is a milestone for most parents, too, because it’s the celebration of the beginning of a new chapter now that everyone has picked up the thread of the new plot. Most parents have also discovered by then that the joy, love, fulfillment, connection and absolute awe you have for your little person or people far outweigh any long lunches you might be missing, or hours of sleep.

Sometimes people experience sadness as they start to fall in love after having had their hearts broken. The heady, intoxicating feelings for the new person, intermingled with sadness about what’s in the rear-view mirror because falling in love is the definitive sign that the old chapter has come to a close. Human beings are funny, some more than others. We can never be sure of anything. We come to a fork in the road, and maybe it’s a good one, and maybe it’s been forced upon us but you can only go one way, right? I mean, you could just stand there, looking at the fork for an interminable time, but that’s really just a slow death. You have to keep moving at some point, and you can only go the way you go. You don’t get to take two paths simultaneously and then choose which one feels better, so for many people, the doubt and questions can be crippling. They’re walking and wondering and looking back over their shoulders. They’re circling back to examine that fork one more time even if the chosen path feels pretty great; the what ifs and relentless imaginary scenarios can take a lot of energy if you let them.

The thing is to allow all your feelings. So many people reject the stuff that isn’t wanted and wonder what’s wrong with them for having feelings that conflict with the happiness and the gratitude, but it makes sense. Everything is always changing, and one day we’ll exhale for the last time, and we know that, even if we don’t want to know that. So we embrace something or someone, but even as we do, somewhere inside we know, this too will change. Maybe it will change for the better, maybe it will be beautiful, but nothing can be grasped and that’s difficult to acknowledge. I look at my children and I’m so blown away by them and so inspired, so thankful to watch them grow and learn and open, and yet part of me thinks I’d love to just slow it down and stretch it out. Get to do this part when they’re four and almost-seven for three years instead of one. Another part of me knows the next part will be just as amazing, and that if you parent well, you do it in a way that teaches your children to soar from the nest when they’re ready. The beautiful parts slip through our fingers like sand, just as the heart-wrenching parts do. It keeps shifting and changing, and if you let it, the mourning and the melancholy can inspire you to take nothing for granted; to be present and engaged and aware of every single gift you’re given, because you don’t get to own the moments, you just get to experience them.

Sending you love and the hope that you experience it all,

Ally Hamilton

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

Life Without Love

When I look back on my life so far, I’ll tell you what stands out for me: relationships. Relationships to people, and to the things that bring me joy. My parents, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, and my amazing cousins. My first best friend and her family, and their cat, Muffin. My little brother who’s now taller than I am and has been making me proud since the moment I laid eyes on him. Girlfriends I’ve had since high school who are like sisters to me. My first crush. My first love. Every love I’ve ever had. Teachers who changed my life. People who’ve practiced with me for years and are now like family. The women in my life who are strong and compassionate, and there when there matters. My beloved dog, and most of all, my two incredible children. Life is about love. That’s the stuff, that’s the glue and the point. There’s the love that you give to all the people in your life, and the love you receive, and then there’s what you love. That thing that lights you up, whatever it may be (and maybe you haven’t discovered it yet), but that’s the joy in life, to share what you love. To the extent that you’re able to open your heart and follow your heart, and give and receive from your heart, you will love this life.

That doesn’t mean you won’t suffer. The more you open your heart, the more you allow yourself to love deeply, all the way, with everything you’ve got, the more you take the chance that you could be hurt, devastated. My grandmother is gone, and way too soon. She taught me about hugs where your face gets crushed into huge, perfumed bosoms and you don’t care because you’re three and you understand this is what safety feels like, and about singing someone to sleep even if you’re totally off-key, just because you love them, while you trace their face with your fingertips. She taught me about iced tea in summer, from a pitcher, with some kind of magic mixed in, and the smell of tomatoes growing on the vine, and she taught me about loss, because even though she died just before my fourth birthday, the world I knew changed so profoundly there was no way to miss it, even at that age. I think of my mother, who’d lost her dad at thirteen, and then her mom at twenty-eight, when she still needed her, with a four year old on her hands. I still think of my grandmother every day, with gratitude and the hope that I’m teaching my kids about love the way that she taught me.

Earlier today as I was walking with my four year old daughter on the street, a man stood to the side, watching us. My girl was telling me about something very important to her, waving her other little hand around and I was listening intently. Sometimes she comes out with stuff that blows my mind. The man had all of his belongings in a shopping cart, and as we passed he smiled a huge smile and revealed a missing front tooth. “That’s it,” he said, “that’s right,” and I smiled back and said, “It is, isn’t it?”

Without love, you’re sunk in my opinion; you may as well throw in the towel, but it need never come to that because you are love. That’s really what I believe. I believe we’re made of energy, and the energy is love, and if you open to that, life will make all kinds of sense. If you don’t, it will be like a puzzle where none of the pieces fit, no matter how many times you turn them this way or that, or try to jam them in out of frustration. The pieces don’t always fit, the puzzle may never come together exactly as you see it in your head, but if you open to love, you also open to the possibility that life might bring all kinds of wonders in your direction. I could never have imagined my son’s smile, or my daughter’s, and how they would light me up and bring me to my knees at the same time. The feeling of those little arms wrapped around my neck, the emotion that rises to the surface and out the corners of my eyes at the craziest times, without warning, over moments that might seem meaningless from the outside. Love makes you face your own vulnerability, acknowledge it, tip your hat to it, and plunge forward regardless.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the details, worries and responsibilities, in the deadlines, plans and work, and lose sight of the whole thing. It’s trite to talk about what will be on your gravestone, but sometimes that’s not a bad way to check in with yourself and your priorities. Life and love can be found in the details, as long as you’re paying attention to the right ones. Look closely, and may your tree bear all kinds of fruit and blossoms.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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