Slow Your Roll

You-can-close-your-eyesSometimes we really get blindsided by someone, and nowhere is this more likely to occur than in the romantic realm. It’s so easy to get swept away in hormones and lust and romantic fantasies, and decide two, three, six weeks in that “This is it!”. It can happen with new friendships, too, of course, it’s just that our vision is less likely to be clouded by intense desire.

The thing is, most people can do the beginning of a relationship really well. I mean, hello? The first six weeks are fun and easy! The first three months can be pretty amazing. You really don’t know what you’re dealing with until the heat wears off a little bit and you can see straight again. Also, can we all acknowledge that it takes a long time to get to know someone well?

I mention all this, because so many people dive in full throttle, only to have their hearts smashed against a brick wall before they have time to call off the wedding in their minds. If you’re a romantic person and you’re of a certain age and you know you want a life partner and maybe a family, if that’s what you’re looking for, then that’s what you’re going to hope to find. And just as scientists might occasionally and inadvertently skew their experiments to get confirmation on their hypotheses, so do romantics see things that might not be there.

When you’ve been lonely for a long time, or if you’re suddenly back on the dating scene after years of longing for love, it’s hard to take things slowly. We want. We desire. We need. Most people long for connection and understanding. Most people want to be seen and cherished with all their beauty and all their flaws and all their absurdities and quirks. So if someone shows up who looks right and sounds right and says the right things, we might just be ready to start writing long-term scripts in our heads. But it’s always good to remember that attachment leads to suffering, so you want to take your time before you form an attachment to a person you barely know, or to a picture in your head of “how things should be”.

The thing is, you really don’t want to be reckless with your heart, your body, your time or your energy. Because all of these are gifts. Your particular spark is a gift. And these are not gifts you want to squander. You probably wouldn’t hand a stranger the keys to your house or your car, so why would you allow a stranger into your bed? I mean, maybe you wouldn’t, but I get plenty of emails from people who do. And listen. I am not judging. It’s your body and you can do whatever you like. I’m talking about emails from people who are longing for true partnership. If that’s what you want, I’d really take your time. Allow a person to show you who s/he is before you give them a tour of your whole farm, is all I’m saying. Make sure it’s a person who’s worthy of your hayride. Sloooow down your roll.

Because being heartbroken is no fun. Feeling rejected hurts, and might even tap old wounds, deep fears and doubts, and raw places that could use your kind attention. That can be good if you’re in need of healing. But if you put yourself through that too often, your heart will harden to protect itself, and you’ll become jaded. Cynical people are romantics who allowed themselves to be hurt too much. And the world needs people who are soft and open, not cold and hard. Be gentle with yourself. You’re the only you we get. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

When to Hold On, and When to Let Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending you love, and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton

Say Yes to Yourself

paulocDepending on your personality, the way you were raised, your response to confrontation, your possible tendency toward people-pleasing, your desire to be liked, and many other factors, you may have a difficult time saying no when you need to, or setting healthy boundaries when that becomes necessary.

You can’t be all things to all people; you will never make everyone happy all the time. Some people will not get you, or dig your vibe, or want to take a spin around the dance floor with you, and that is okay. Rejection never feels good, but it’s not ever your job to chase people down to convince them of your worth. If you suffer from low self-esteem, that’s something you really want to address, otherwise you will likely find yourself saying yes to things when you’d much rather say no. You may devalue your own needs and wants in an effort to be liked or loved or cherished, but that never works, because if you aren’t being yourself, you’ll know that. Maybe you’ll “fool” the other person, but you won’t fool yourself, so even if they think you’re just awesome, it won’t relieve your feelings of being unseen.

Some people would rather drown than ask for help, and others have a funny sense of entitlement, and no qualms about asking you to extend yourself on their behalf, even if they barely know you. You are not obligated to comply. Your time is precious and finite, and so is your energy. These are the most valuable gifts we’re given, and they’re also the most valuable ones we give away. Squandering those gifts is a real shame. In order to survive and thrive in this world, you have to be strong. You have to find the tools to heal any raw places within you that may need your kind attention, so that you aren’t driven by unconscious forces. You don’t want to be leading an “unexamined life”, because not knowing yourself is the loneliest thing there is. It’s not a luxury to take “you time”, it’s a necessity. Healing requires energy.

I remember the first time I flew, listening to the flight attendant directing grown-ups to secure their own oxygen masks before helping their children, and as a kid, this made me uneasy. As an adult, of course I get it. If you pass out, you can’t help anyone. If you deplete yourself and neglect yourself, you really can’t be surprised when life’s storms knock you down. Anything you starve is going to weaken, whether we’re talking about your houseplants, or your relationship with yourself.

Maybe you grew up in a house where your needs were not considered. Perhaps you’ve grown into an adult who believes it’s selfish to think about what you need to be happy, but it’s actually selfish to avoid that work, because if you’re miserable or lost or confused, you bring to the world around you much less of what you could be sharing. We each have a particular spark, and our job is to turn that spark into a flame, a fire, a passion of any kind for something. Your passion can be helping other people; that’s beautiful, but you’ll find that the best way to be of service is to clear anything that might be blocking your ability to shine. The more you care for yourself, the more you can give.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

You Can’t Negotiate with a Raging Bull

crazykeysPeople can only drive us crazy if we let them. A person can spin his or her web, but we don’t have to fly into the center of it to be stunned, stung, paralyzed and eaten. Remember that your time and your energy are the most precious gifts you have to offer anyone, and that includes those closest to you, and also total strangers. Your energy and your time are also both finite, so it’s really important to be mindful about where you’re placing those gifts.

It’s hard not to get caught up when someone we love is suffering, or thrashing around, or in so much pain they don’t know what else to do but lash out. It’s hard not to take that to heart, or to defend yourself, or to try to make things better for them. But you’re not going to walk into a ring and calm a raging bull with your well-thought out monologue, you’re just going to get kicked in the face, at best, and I use that analogy intentionally. People in pain–whether we’re talking about people with personality disorders or clinical depression, people suffering with addiction, or people who are going through mind-boggling loss–are dealing with deep wounds. They didn’t wake up this way one morning. Whether it’s a chronic issue, or an acute and immediate situation, when you’re dealing with heightened emotions including rage, jealousy, or debilitating fear, you’re not going to help when a person is in the eye of the storm. If someone is irrational, trying to reason with them makes you as irrational as they are. You can’t negotiate when someone is in the midst of a fight or flight reaction. We’re all beyond reason sometimes. We all have days when we feel everyone is against us, whether that’s based in any kind of reality or not.

You can offer your love, your patience, your kindness and your compassion if someone you care for is suffering. You can try to get them the support they need. You can make them a meal, or show up and just be there to hold their hand, or take them to the window to let in a little light. But if someone is attacking you verbally or otherwise, we’re in a different territory. You are not here to be abused, mistreated, or disrespected. You are not here to defend yourself against someone’s need to make you the villain. You don’t have to give that stuff your energy, and I’d suggest that you don’t. It’s better spent in other places.

We can lose hours and days and weeks getting caught up in drama or someone else’s manipulation. That’s time we’ll never have back. Of course things happen in life; people do and say and want things that can be crushing sometimes, but the real story to examine is always the story of our participation. If someone needs you to be the bad guy, why do you keep trying to prove you’re actually wonderful? Are you wonderful? Brilliant, get back to it. If someone has a mental illness and they are incapable of controlling themselves, keeping their word, or treating you with respect, why do you keep accepting their invitation to rumble? You already know what’s going to happen. Don’t you have a better way to spend your afternoon? My point is, life is too short.

When a person is in the kind of pain that causes them to create pain around them, your job is to create boundaries if it’s someone you want to have in your life. You figure out how to live your life and honor your own well-being, and deal with the other party in a way that creates the least disharmony for you. That means you don’t get in the ring when they put their dukes up. You don’t allow yourself to get sucked in. Do you really think this is the time you’ll finally be heard or seen or understood? People who need to be angry cannot hear you. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, they have a construct they’ve built to support a story about their life that they can live with; it doesn’t have to be based in reality. Not everyone is searching for their own truth or their own peace; some people are clinging to their rage, because that feels easier or more comfortable, or because they really, truly aren’t ready to do anything else yet. You’re not going to solve that. But you can squander your time and energy trying. You can make yourself sick that way. I just don’t recommend it.

You really don’t have to allow other people to steal your peace, whether we’re talking about those closest to you, or people you don’t even know, like the guy who cuts you off on the freeway, or the woman talking loudly on her cellphone at the bank. You don’t have to let this stuff get under your skin and agitate you. You don’t have to let someone’s thoughtless comment or action rob you of a beautiful afternoon. Of course we give our time to people who need us. I’m just saying, don’t get caught up in the drama. If you need help, try this.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

What You Allow

gaskinsYou can’t control what other people will do or say, but you can choose the way you’ll respond. This comes up in so many areas. Maybe you have a family member who has a history of being verbally and emotionally abusive, and now you’ve gotten to the point where you simply don’t want to subject yourself to that treatment any longer. Lots of things can get us to that place; we’re always evolving. Maybe you’ve reached a point in your healing process where you’re ready to set boundaries. Maybe you have children now, and you’re able to speak up on their behalf, even though you’ve never been able to stand up for yourself. Whatever it is, you won’t change the offending party, but you can definitely change the way you interact with him or her.

Speaking calmly but with confidence about your experience is a gift you give yourself, and everyone in your life. Being able to say, “When you do this, it makes me feel X, and X is not okay for me anymore. So from now on, when I come to town for a visit, I’ll stay at a hotel. We’ll see how things go. If you’re unable to not do or say X, then at least I can remove myself from the situation.” You’re taking responsibility for your feelings. You’re not blaming them or making them wrong, you’re just stating how things are for you, and how you’ll be honoring what’s true for you. If the other party tells you not to come if that’s how it’s going to be, so be it. You aren’t here to be a punching bag for anyone. If the requirement is for you to subject yourself to behavior or comments that are hurtful, that’s too great a cost. If a person can’t be kind and loving, if that’s too much to ask, they don’t belong in your life. If you want them in your life anyway, then you have to set boundaries that work for you, and if even those can’t be respected, then you’re left with no choice but to walk away.

When we start to make changes in the way we relate to the people around us, you can bet there’s going to be push-back. This is especially true if we’re shifting a role we’ve always played. I used to be a lot less assertive. Sometimes people would say hurtful or inappropriate things to me, and I’d collapse in on myself and internalize the experience. I’d have the feeling of being punched in the stomach, way down where it really hurts, but no words would come out of my mouth. When that started shifting for me, I was met with resistance and threats and rage. How dare I stand up for myself? But that’s your job, that’s your work. You carve out a place for yourself and a way of being that brings you peace and joy, and you don’t sacrifice that for anyone. Most people come around. They might scream and yell and wave their arms, but eventually, most people will quiet down and shift the way they deal with you. So you’re not changing them or teaching them or making them wrong, you’re just requiring a certain level of respect and consideration. You’re changing the rules of engagement.

This is an essential component of healing. You have to be able to act on your own behalf. You have to value your own tender heart, and your peace of mind, and your ability to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day when you’re brushing your teeth. When we allow ourselves to be mistreated, we also betray ourselves, and it’s hard to face that. If you grew up feeling powerless, it’s likely that you regress to that stance when you feel confronted, and when you start trying to assert yourself, it will probably come out with more force than you intend and that’s okay. You can tell the people in your life that you’re trying to change some profound things about the way you’re moving through the world, because the way you’ve been doing it so far is not working for you. You can explain that you’re working on standing up for yourself, and speaking up when things don’t feel good or right, but that this is a new experience, and you’re still birthing into this new way of being, and it isn’t all going to be pretty. Maybe they’ll take that in, and maybe they won’t. You’re not responsible for managing anyone else’s reactions or path, you’re just responsible for your own clear communication. Practice with people you trust. Like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Moving through life allowing yourself to be disrespected is not going to work; it’s too much to bear. If you need support with this, reach out. I do coaching sessions, but I can also recommend wonderful therapists. Hitting a bag or taking a kick-boxing class might not be a bad idea, either.

Sending you love and wishing you strength and peace,

Ally Hamilton

How to Love People in Pain & Still Love Yourself

Sometimes-people-changeEarlier this week I wrote about being held hostage by someone else’s depression, addiction, personality disorder, or general instability, and I heard from a flood of people who wonder what to do when these challenging people are cherished loved ones. I heard from many mothers, struggling with their children, grown, or almost-grown, or very little, and from people who are having difficulty with one parent or the other, a sibling, their partner, their best friend.

I’m going to say the most excruciating thing is watching your child suffer. That’s a pain and powerlessness that’s simply brutal, and if that’s what you’re grappling with, walking away is not an option. If we’re talking about depression in a small child, you have to find help; a great therapist would be step one, there are brilliant people who specialize in working with children. If finances are an issue, and you’re here in the states, go to http://www.nami.org/ and get some support for yourself and your little one. This is a great resource for anyone suffering from mental illness, or loving someone with mental illness, at any age.

Parents who watch their grown children struggling often blame themselves. I’ve heard a lot of that over the last few days; the heartache and feelings of failure and shame, so I think the first thing I’ll say, is please try to stop beating yourself up. If you were there, if you were present, if you loved your child with everything you had and did the very best you could, you have to release yourself from feeling that you’re the root of your child’s suffering, whether your child is 19 or 49. If you didn’t do a great job with your parenting responsibilities because you were a child yourself when you had your babies, or because you were suffering from your own mental illness, personality disorder, addiction or depression, that’s a heartbreak for you and your kids, but blaming yourself just perpetuates and feeds the pain. Let go of blame.

We’re all going to suffer. This is not an easy gig. The parameters make us all vulnerable, and some people have a harder time with that reality than others. There are people who always see the glass as half empty. People who look on the dark side of things, expect the worst from people, and feel frequently disappointed in themselves. If you’re seeing that tendency in your little one, I’d get in there and point out a different perspective whenever you can. Keep re-framing things for your child, but also be sure to normalize their feelings. There’s such a desire to make everything okay for our little people, and loving, well-meaning parents say things like, “Don’t be sad”, or, “Don’t be angry”, or, “Don’t be scared,”, but the truth is, these are normal human emotions we’ll all experience. When we, as children, get the sense that certain feelings are not okay, like fear, or sadness or anger, we start to push things down. We start to edit ourselves, and that’s the beginning of loss and confusion. We become lost to ourselves. Also, show them what it looks like to be a forgiving and compassionate person. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, but don’t berate yourself. Our kids do what we do, not what we say.

If you see your little one feeling down, you might just speak out about it, as in, “Hey buddy. You seem a little blue today. Everything okay?” If you don’t get far with that, you can get more specific. “What was the best part of your day today?” and, “What was the hardest part of your day?” Just keeping the lines of communication open is huge. Making your child understand that s/he is safe to talk to you about anything, any feeling or any situation, or any confusion that might arise creates a foundation of trust. Naming what you’re seeing in a loving way is also good. “It seems like you’re focusing on everything that isn’t going well. Can you think of three good things that happened today? Or one thing you’re really thankful for?” Basically, you are your child’s nervous system when they’re little. They can’t always self-regulate, so you’re helping them learn how to process and integrate all the things life is putting in their path, whether that’s the changing structure of your family, a friend who’s moving away, a new school, bullying or exclusionary behavior from someone else, or their own acting out. Any intense emotion that’s flooding their little nervous system might require some help from you. The steadier you are, the easier it will be for them to lean on you, and the more you’re accepting of all their feelings, the more comfortable they’ll be to share everything with you.

If you’re dealing with your older child, and this could mean your teenager, but it could also include your 50 year old child, you’re in a different area. With depression,  I’m going to recommend what I did above; a great therapist is the place to start. If you’re dealing with addiction, then chances are the whole family is being held hostage, and you’re going to need help for everyone. There’s always a family system in place, roles each person is playing, a dynamic between all parties which needs to be examined and, in most instances, changed. If it’s serious, rehab may be your best hope, with additional support for every member of the family. Al-anon is a great resource here, both for people suffering with addiction, and the family members around them, but search for yourself, because there isn’t just one way, or one solution. There are obviously so many different situations with all their complexities, but understand when you’re living with and loving someone who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’re also in the mix. You can’t save them, but you can do everything in your power to get them some help, and I think radical honesty is a good bet in that case, too. If you have things you want to own, own them. If there’s anything you wish you’d done differently, tell them, but also let them know they’re on their own path now, and they have the power to make it great, or to stay stuck and that you’re going to help them, but you’re not going to enable behavior that keeps them powerless.

If you’re dealing with mental illness or a personality disorder, it’s rough. Certain behaviors can’t be helped, they can only be regulated. It’s not easy to love in the first place. It requires that we make ourselves vulnerable, and it’s really hard to do that, and even reckless, when we don’t feel safe. So loving someone you cannot rely upon to be steady is no easy feat. It’s hard to love and protect yourself simultaneously. I think the best thing you can do in that case is have enormous compassion for yourself and set up a solid support system, so you don’t feel isolated in your experience. Find those people you can trust, and lean on them when you need to; sometimes our feelings of being hijacked and imprisoned make it hard to reach out. Think about what you need to feel respected and understood. This is where boundaries come into play. You can love someone who’s having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. You can love someone who careens from high highs to low lows. You can love someone who says one thing to you one day, and something completely different the next. But it’s not easy. As always, your first responsibility is to your own heart. If you betray that, you won’t be able to help anyone.

Sending you love and hugs,

Ally Hamilton

You Might Not Get Everything You Want, But…

allowDepending on your personality, and many other factors including the way you grew up, your level of self-esteem, and your ability to speak out about how you feel, creating boundaries with people may be a great challenge for you. I really get that, because I struggled around this issue for years.

What makes it difficult to speak up when you want to? Maybe you’re worried about disappointing other people, or not being able to show up the way they want you to show up. Maybe you grew up and felt you had no impact on the people or the world around you, so it never occurred to you to value or investigate what you felt or what you wanted. Maybe you’ve decided that your worth as a person, a friend, and a partner is based upon how much you’re able to do for the people in your life. And maybe, you don’t know how you feel, so when you come up against a strong-willed person, you let them take the lead.

The thing is, your job while you’re here is to shine. I really believe that; you have something precious and unique to offer that only you can. I don’t think you’ll be able to do that without some belief in yourself and your own value, so I’d look at that first, if you find it difficult to act on your own behalf. If you don’t feel good about yourself, why is that, and when did that begin? Upon what evidence did you come to the conclusion that you don’t measure up, or have anything enormously special to offer? When we don’t stand up for ourselves, it’s often because we’ve grown up feeling powerless. We’ve internalized that, and sewn it into the fabric of our being. When confronted, we collapse in on ourselves. We cope, when we should fight back. But if you’re grown up, you’re not powerless anymore. Sometimes we really have to unlearn ideas or ways of being that are not based in our current reality, and are also blocking our ability to both give and receive love to our maximum capability (which is huge).

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter with me when I went to get my eyebrows waxed. This place is nice, and they have organic cruelty-free nail polish, and they’ll paint your kid’s nails while they wax your eyebrows and whatever other parts you might want waxed. So there we were. My daughter went to pick out a color, but she’s five, so she picked four colors. She wanted a rainbow. They don’t charge to paint your kid’s nails. You tip, of course, but they don’t charge for it. So I was debating whether to tell her that might be asking for a bit much, when the woman called her over, and the waxing woman started talking to me. When I turned back to my daughter, she had pink nail polish on every nail, and was looking down at her hands, and up uncertainly at the woman painting them, and then she looked at me. I knew she was disappointed about the lack of a rainbow. Before I could step in and explain to the woman what it was my daughter had wanted, this grandmotherly woman at the table next to her, also getting her nails done, leaned over and said, loudly but nicely, “She wanted a rainbow. She wanted a different color on every nail.” My daughter beamed at her, and the woman said, “Always ask for what you want, dear. You might not get it, but you definitely won’t if you don’t ask!” And the woman who was painting her nails promptly and happily gave her her rainbow.

Communicating how you feel, what you need, and what you’d like is a gift you can give to the people who are close to you. It’s so refreshing when people are just honest about where they’re at, and what’s happening within them. As my friend at the nail place said, you might not get everything you want, but it never hurts to clearly state what that is. It takes the mystery out of the thing. No one can read your mind, and sometimes we project and assume so much. We think other people must think and feel the way we do, so certain things should be obvious. But you know what? I would take nothing for granted. What’s obvious to you might not even occur to someone else.

So there’s clear communication, and then, sometimes, there’s the need for boundaries. Maybe you have someone in your life who hurts you, intentionally or otherwise. Sometimes, even when it is a family member, your only healthy option is to step away, but there are certain situations where that isn’t possible or desirable, and that’s when boundaries come in. You may not get everything you want in life, but you deserve respect. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to fight for it, but that’s not always how it goes, and sometimes we have a long history with someone, and there are ingrained patterns and dynamics. When we seek to shift that stuff, there’s always resistance. Most people struggle with change, and if you’ve been playing a certain role for a long time, don’t expect to be able to calmly give your two weeks’ notice. People in your life have probably gotten used to you being the way you’ve been. That’s understandable, but that doesn’t mean it can’t change, it doesn’t mean you can’t change. You may lose some relationships if you’re making big shifts in your life. Those close to you may feel threatened, they may feel like they’re losing you. Or they may get angry and say they liked the “old you” better. Of course. The old you didn’t confront them.

Anyway, my point is, there are times in life when you have to stand up for yourself and say, “Enough.” That’s part of the responsibility you bear; you have to be able to protect your, “little spark of madness” as Robin Williams called it. You can’t let people trample on that. If this is new for you, it will take time, like anything else. The first several times you speak up when you’re not happy with the way you’re being treated, it might come out with more force or aggression than you intend. Of course, you’ve been bottling up your voice for so long, it’s not surprising it might explode, but if you stay with it, and explain to the people in your life that you are in pain and are trying to change some essential things about the way you move through the world, the people who are meant to travel with you will support your efforts. Over time, you’ll be able to speak out with confidence, clarity and compassion about what’s real for you. It’s worth the effort. You deserve a rainbow if that’s what you want.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton