Love is the Best Answer You’re Going to Get

campbellIf it were possible to have irrefutable answers to life’s big questions, I’m pretty sure we’d have them by now. We arrive in this world, and we’re received with love, or we aren’t. We don’t have to worry about a roof over our heads, or we do. We’re afforded an excellent education, or we aren’t. We have a stable home life, or we live in a war zone. We grow up being told what to think, or we’re allowed to make our own way. The possibilities are endless, but we do have some things in common.

We deal with the same parameters, that’s one thing. We’re on this pale blue dot of a planet, and we don’t know how long we get to be here, or how long our loved ones get to be here, either. We don’t know for sure what happens after this. No one tells us the best use of our time and energy, or maybe lots of people do, but we all have to make sense of that on our own. We will all suffer to some degree or another, because this life, even if you have all the advantages in the world, is not an easy gig. It’s wildly interesting, and there’s always the potential for deep love, but along with that comes the potential for knifing loss, and that is not easy to face. We are inherently vulnerable. Some of us will experience the kind of loss that makes us question the point of it all.

But we have this incredible capacity to love, and a great desire to heal our old wounds. We might not have a lot of the answers, but most people who’ve been on the planet for awhile seem to agree that love and connection are the best experiences available to us. I mean, you know you have now. So what are you doing with your now? The greatest shortcut to happiness is to do whatever you can to uplift those around you. Giving feels good. Being seen and understood, cherished and celebrated not in spite of, but because of, all our flaws and all our beauty is a great gift, and it’s beautiful to give that to other people, too. Listening deeply, caring with your whole being, these things feel amazing and they’re available, every day. You can get caught up in your plans and ideas, you can join in the race, but I really think the better focus is the moments. How can you love with your whole heart, today?

If you’re brave enough to get quiet, to sit up tall for a few minutes, and to feel yourself breathing in and breathing out, you will feel a connection to everyone and everything. That simple act will bring you right into the now, and now is where you need to be if you want to feel love, joy, gratitude and peace. You can’t be in yesterday or tomorrow, you have to be in this moment. Being present feels good. You don’t need to buy anything in order to experience that calm, that steadiness. If you want answers, they don’t reside in a place or in another person. The answers you need are always inside, and those are the only answers you’re going to get. Ultimately, you have to make sense out of this world yourself. If you take the time to create peace within you, you’ll experience it around you, and you’ll be spreading it wherever you go. We have tremendous power to affect the way our lives feel. Of course there are devastating things that can happen to any of us, but it’s how we face what we’re given.

We experience our life as if it has a beginning, middle and end. We treat this like it’s our personal story, but that isn’t it. We’re joining a much larger story. We’re in the flow, and then we’re out of it. The flow goes on without us, although what we contribute while we’re here certainly affects it, and those ripples continue on. But it’s not your story, or mine. There are currently about seven billion of us contributing to this dance. What kind of dance are you doing while you’re here?

Being present means we’re opening to things as they are and trying to come back with love. We can focus on everything we don’t have, or we can direct our attention to those gifts we do have. Part of quieting the storm that rages in the mind involves choosing the thoughts that will strengthen us. Yes, there are things that can make us sick from the outside, but a lot of the time it’s our own thinking that’s causing us to suffer. We can argue about all kinds of things, but it’s pointless. We’re all in this mystery together. We can get caught up in names, borders, colors, religions and opinions, but love is the best answer you’re going to get.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton


kalwarSometimes in the name of love, we seek to control. We may do this because we can see a loved one is about to head into a brick wall, and we long to save them from getting hurt. Parents do this all the time, especially with their firstborn children. It’s a natural instinct to want to protect your children from pain; if you don’t have that instinct, I worry for you and your little ones, but if a parent is always there to say “no!” and “stop!” and “don’t!”, what results is a fearful child. You don’t want to scare the curiosity out of your kid, or rob them of any sense that they can trust themselves. Eventually, we all have to learn that if we run too quickly, we’re probably going to trip and fall, and it’s going to hurt. That’s how we learn.

Sometimes we see a friend stuck in a painful cycle, and we throw our hands in the air. What are they doing? How can they not realize they’re repeating this destructive pattern? How many times will we have to be there when it all falls apart? I’m not saying we shouldn’t kindly hold up a mirror when someone we love is hurting themselves, but you can’t force a person to see something they aren’t ready to see. You can’t manage another person’s journey, and you never know what someone else needs in order to learn and grow and strengthen. Sometimes we need painful lessons over and over again before we get it. Sometimes we have to have our hearts broken badly and repeatedly, until we finally say, “That’s it. Enough.”

You can’t save anyone, anyway. Communication is beautiful. “I love you, and it hurts me to see you treating yourself so badly. It hurts me to see you in such a self-loathing place, because I see you so clearly, and you’re beautiful.” Say it, go ahead. Maybe, hopefully, some part of that will seep in there. Maybe a tiny little root will grow, and one day the person will start to see themselves the way you do. If you’re dealing with someone who’s harming themselves, of course do everything you can to get them help, but understand, ultimately, everyone has to do their own journey. Healing is inside work. A person has to be open to help, or no help is available.

Also, try not to judge. None of us knows the interior world of another person. We only ever know what someone is willing to show us. We all have pain. Some people do a better job managing their pain than others. Some people have more pain handed to them, that’s a fact. Sometimes a person is up against so much grief and despair they reach for anything to numb it, anything to avoid feeling that abyss. Desperation and loneliness and a certain kind of personality, along with possible trauma, a person’s resiliency, and so many other factors can lead to the kind of numbing that’s hard to comprehend. No one wants to be addicted to something that has the potential to ruin or end their lives. Addicts are prisoners of the object of their desire. They get hijacked by it. Their pain owns them, and the agent that numbs the pain owns them, unless they find the enormous will and strength and tenacity and love for themselves to fight back, and even then, it takes a Herculean effort, a lot of support, and a decision every day to choose love. To choose health. To choose freedom. Sometimes people just don’t win the fight. They get tired. It’s heartbreaking. Addiction robs us of so much beauty.

Have you ever been in a destructive, abusive relationship that you wanted to end, but you just couldn’t find the strength? You just weren’t feeling good enough about yourself to say, “F&ck this. I don’t deserve this”? Maybe you tried to end it a bunch of times, but the pull was so strong, you found yourself dialing that number, even when every part of your being was screaming, “No!” It’s not easy being a human being. It can be gorgeous and beautiful and wildly interesting, but it isn’t easy. Love the people in your life. I mean, really love them. Honor them, cherish them, see them, hear them, support their growth and their joy. That’s all you can do. Sometimes, you’ll have to do it from afar if someone you love is hurting themselves and won’t be stopped. Don’t ever think a person is choosing between you and a drug, and that you must not mean much to them if they’re choosing a drug over you. You’re not even in the fight. You’re not in the mix. It’s not about you, so don’t get confused. You’ve been left on the shore. They’re out to sea with this thing, fighting for their lives. You’re outside the thing, so try to grasp that. How much they love you has nothing to do with it. It’s how much they’re able to care about themselves. May all beings be free from suffering.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Love is Not a Stranglehold

Love is not about control; that might seem obvious, but sometimes it’s good to get really clear on that concept, because we’re all only human, and when you love someone, whether it’s your child or your parent, your partner, sibling, or best friend, you become vulnerable; there’s no point fighting that reality. You have a body with an unknown expiration date, you have a gorgeous heart which is capable of incredible love. Human beings are designed to need each other, and to reach out, so loving is part of the equation, as is the inherent exposure to loss and suffering that go along with loving. We never know how much time we have, or how much time anyone else has. We never know what will happen next.

It’s human and very understandable that we want to control certain outcomes; we want to do whatever we can to make sure those we love are safe, healthy and happy. Those are good, loving desires, but things get sticky when our ideas about what is good for someone differ from their own. We can all step back and agree that certain behaviors are self-destructive, and are very likely to lead to pain, injury, or worse. If you have a loved one who’s putting himself in harm’s way, of course you try to step in and find help and support.

I’m not talking about that, though, I’m talking about the pain that ensues when we try to manage or control another person’s feelings. Have you ever told someone they shouldn’t be angry? “Don’t be mad.” “Don’t be sad.” “Don’t be scared.” Why do we think we can tell other people how to feel? There can be a difference between how you feel, and what is happening. Maybe you feel like your partner never listens to you, and your partner disagrees. It does not matter who’s “right”, you feel unheard. Now you have an opportunity to look at that together. Is this a theme in your life? Did you feel unheard or unseen as a child? Did you have any evidence that the way you felt about things had an impact on the world around you as you were growing up? Does feeling unheard make you feel disrespected? Invisible? There’s a lot to examine, and if your partner is willing to examine this stuff with you, without getting defensive about whether they actually do a good job of listening or not, there’s an opportunity for real intimacy to emerge. If your partner has to tell you that how you feel isn’t right, communication breaks down. Now they’re invested in convincing you that they do listen, and that your feelings are wrong. We don’t have to agree with how someone feels in order to work with their reality. If you love someone, you want to know them, right?

If you want to be right all the time, love is going to be a tough gig for you. If you want to possess or own another person, you’re in for a rough time there, too. You don’t own your children. They aren’t possessions, they’re people, with their own paths and ideas and needs and wants that will emerge if you allow them to, or become buried if you do not. When we bury what’s deep in our hearts, what’s true for us, we suffer. Love can be brutal; you may love someone with everything you’ve got, and they may leave you. Maybe that’s what they need for their own growth. Who’s to say? It may break your heart in a million pieces, but you can’t block the door, y’know? You can’t tell them they don’t feel the way they feel. You cannot control what another person will do, say, want or need.  You can’t save anyone except yourself.

Love has open hands and open arms and an open heart and mind. It doesn’t cling or manipulate or try to control. It’s an embrace, not a stranglehold. When you love someone, you want for them what they want for themselves. You want to support their growth and expansion. It requires your bravery and your trust, and your willingness to get hurt. I’m not telling you to be reckless with your heart; choose where you put it carefully. But when you love, you might as well do it all the way.

Ally Hamilton

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Love-makes-your-soulYears ago, way before I had my kids, and before I moved to Los Angeles, I let my best friend’s mother set me up on Valentine’s Day. It’s already bad, right? Just right off the bat, it’s a bad idea, but she said he was funny and really smart and nice looking and she thought we’d hit it off. So I met my best friend and her then-husband for dinner, and after, we headed to this club where said guy was going to meet up with us.

So we’re dancing and having a good time when the dude shows up. I take my hat off to him (not that I’m wearing one), because that’s no easy gig, showing up on Valentine’s night to meet a girl for the first time, who’s flanked by her best friend, and her best friend’s then-husband. It’s loud, but we try to talk, or at least I’m trying to talk, but it’s kind of useless, so we hit the dance-floor. It’s like dancing with an octopus, his hands are everywhere, and he’s grinning at me, and I’m like, dude, back off. It’s not at the point where I want to knee him in the huevos rancheros, but it’s not cool, and he’s saying something to me, but I can’t hear it over the music, and he, apparently, can’t hear me telling him to “calm down”, while I remove his eight arms from my person. He’s determined to say this thing to me, whatever it is, so I lean in closer, and he yells in my ear, “You look hot! It must be hot in there! I think we should go somewhere so you can take off your dress!!!” At which point I told him to get lost in no uncertain terms.

I share this with you in case you’re depressed about Valentine’s Day, even though I hope you aren’t. Someday, maybe I’ll share my New Year’s Eve story with you, which is even worse. But my point is, you really can’t force these things. You fall in love when you’re good and ready, when the timing works out, when you cross paths with someone else who’s also ready. It could happen on a blind date on Valentine’s Day, but it could also happen on any random Tuesday for no reason. That’s probably more likely, because when we pressure ourselves to feel something we don’t, to force a situation to be “right” because we think we “should” be at a certain milestone by now, it doesn’t work.

I get emails from people who think they “should” be married by thirty because all their friends are doing it, and that’s a nice round number, right? I get emails from people who are in their fifties and sixties, still trying to find that thing that lights them up, and feeling like they’ve failed because they haven’t. It’s never too late; if you’re breathing, you still have a chance. It’s not easy to be patient, to allow yourself to open, to allow the future to unfold. We want what we want, and usually, we want it now. The yearning for connection, for someone to see us and understand us and cherish us can be so strong, and the lack of those things can be so disheartening, especially if you’ve been waiting and wanting for a long time. I’m not just talking about romantic love, I’m talking about real connection, of any nature, but everything can change in an instant. That’s really the truth, and in the meantime, you get to be you, figuring it out.

That’s a huge thing, getting to be you. Nobody else gets to do that. Maybe you want love, but you have healing to do, work to do. That’s something you can start right now; that’s something that doesn’t require waiting. You can start nurturing yourself today. You could sit and meditate for a few minutes. If you did that every day for awhile, I guarantee you’d start to feel love and peace and connection. That might sound incredible and improbable, and in that case I’d challenge you to give it a try. You could buy yourself some flowers and a little dark chocolate, and go home and watch, “Moonstruck” tonight, since it’s a full moon and a movie that has the guts to look at how complicated human beings and love can be. It’s not always pretty, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.

Personally, if you are in a relationship, I hope every day is Valentine’s Day, every day is a day to celebrate the person you’re with, but whatever your situation, the key relationship in your life is the one you’re having with yourself. That’s a relationship that deserves your time, energy and attention, because if you aren’t being kind to yourself, I’d really start there. You have this gorgeous heart. Chances are, it’s been broken by now, at least once, and badly. Maybe you’ve been disappointed, betrayed, neglected, abandoned. Whatever it is, when your heart breaks you have a choice. You can allow that to harden you, or to soften you. I’ve tried both. I’ve never been good at being hard, but when I tried that, I can tell you it felt terrible–cold, lonely, depressing. In order to be hard, you have to close yourself off, you have to defend yourself against your own natural, inherent vulnerability. You might block out the chances of anyone breaking down your walls, but you also block the chances for joy, love, beauty, and all the other gifts this life has to offer. Softening feels so much better. It is what it is. It has been what it has been, but there’s no telling how it could be. Life has a way of surprising us again and again. Just when we give up and think, “I guess that’s it, then”, something happens to throw everything off course. Don’t lose faith in life’s ability to confound you, and maybe in incredible ways. Wishing you love and hugs and joy and laughter today and every day. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweet people. I love you. And by the way, I still love my best friend’s mother 😉

Ally Hamilton