Don’t Drive the Scorpion Ferry

There’s an old tale I love about the Scorpion and the Frog. If you don’t know it, it goes something like this (though I’m taking some liberties): Once there was a scorpion on the bank of a stream. He called out to a passing frog, “Excuse me! Could you give me a ride across? I can’t swim!” The frog looked at him like he was nuts. “Dude,” he said, “you’re a scorpion. I’m not giving you a ride. If you sting me, I’ll die,” to which the scorpion replied, “If I sting you, you’ll drown, and I’ll die, too.” This made sense to the frog, so he said, “All right, climb on.” Halfway across the stream, the scorpion stung the frog. With his dying breath, the frog said, “Why have you done this to us?” and the scorpion said, “Dude, I’m a f&cking scorpion!”

The way people treat you is a statement about where they are on their journey, what tools they have in their toolbox, what things they’ve been through, what they’ve learned about how to survive in the world, and how they’ve been treated by other people. It’s also subject to change; a scorpion may not always be a scorpion. The main thing to grasp is that it’s not a reflection of anything lacking in you.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll remember the much older man I dated when I was seventeen. He was seeing other women for the three years we were together, and although I could never prove it, I always felt it. (I confirmed my fears once). At the time, I took it as a sign that I wasn’t enough. Not pretty enough or “something” enough to keep him interested solely in me. I spent so much time over the course of those three years feeling awful about myself. I was hooked on this interaction and convinced if I could just be enough for him, then I’d be happy. I didn’t realize that his inability to be faithful had nothing to do with me, or that a person who’s lying and sneaking around is ultimately having a painful relationship with him or herself. When you respect yourself and are making choices that are aligned with what’s true for you in a conscious and kind way, you’re not going to lie.

I think if you’re like most people, the tendency is to take those times you’ve been hurt, disappointed, neglected, betrayed, or even abused – personally. Hurt people hurt people, as the saying goes. A person can only be where she is, working with whatever tools she’s got. What is about you, is what you do about it if someone isn’t treating you well. Sometimes we get caught up in relationships with lovers, family members, friends, or colleagues. Maybe things start out well, but over time the quality of the interaction deteriorates. Circumstances change and you observe responses you wouldn’t have predicted. If you have a pattern of participating in relationships with people who treat you badly, then it is time to take a long, hard look at why. It’s about something. Identifying that something is the key to your freedom. Your deepest pain is your greatest teacher.

There are lots of frogs in the world, but there’s no other frog just like you. If you’ve been swimming in shark-infested waters too long, hiding in shadows and making yourself as small as possible out of fear, or some idea that you’re not lovable, or enough, or worthwhile, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to turn around and swim directly for the mouth of that shark. Otherwise you’ll never rest. You’ll keep running the Scorpion Ferry, becoming harder and less hopeful with each ride. Being a hopeless frog sucks. I know, because I was one. Letting yourself get swallowed whole by the shark of your fear is not a fun ride, but it won’t kill you, either. If you’re still hanging with my Moby Dick-Aesop’s Fables-Life of Pi metaphor, then you probably already understand the Willa Cather quote, “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” The Dark Night of the Soul is a storm. It’s also an invitation to know yourself, truly and deeply. To heal and liberate yourself from your pain, so that the next time a scorpion calls to you from the bank of a stream, you’ll be like, “What’s up, Scorpion? You need to get your ride from a shark, my friend!”

Sending you love, and the strength to swim toward your pain if you need to!

Ally Hamilton

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

Get Up!

Even-if-youre-on-theAwareness is the first step, but action is what’s needed if you want to see a shift happen. People often get stuck at the level of identification, meaning they can tell you in great detail why they are the way they are, but that’s as far as they’ll go. The past experiences explain and justify the current behavior. Except they don’t, because there’s always space for growth, and for free will.

Healing requires openness and honesty and a willingness to not look away, even when you must stare at the center of your deepest pain. It also demands vigilance, especially when you detect unhealthy patterns in your life. It means re-training yourself to feed a loving voice, and to starve any tendencies that make you feel less than, or unworthy of love. We are always in process. Knowing yourself well is a gift that makes it possible to “catch yourself” sooner, so you can make healthy decisions based on how things are, and not how they once were. To move forward with love and trust, even when the road is dark and slick and we’re traveling with no map. In order to proceed in a direction that’s going to lead to happiness and peace, you’ll have to avail yourself of some tools that give you the power to pause and breathe when you feel triggered. Yoga practice is excellent for that.

Healing also requires your creativity, and a willingness to let go of the chains that are holding you back. Sometimes we’ve been attached to a sad story for so long, we can’t imagine what would happen if we just released it. If we weren’t blaming other people or circumstances for our unhappiness, what would we do with our time, and how would we explain our lack of joy or purpose? These are tough questions to face, and getting support is a really good move if you’re in this position. The combination of yoga, seated meditation and therapy worked for me, but you may need other tools. That part is personal, and you’ll have to figure out what you need by trying different things, and staying with it until you find something that resonates with you. But that’s a much better use of your time than explaining that your current abandonment issues are based on a time, twenty years ago, when your dad left you and your mom. Identification is great, but you have to add excavation on top of that. Is it your mom’s and dad’s story, or is it your story now?

Giving up on yourself is a serious shame and an act of ingratitude. As heartbreaking as it can be sometimes, this life is a gift, and this experience of being human, vulnerable, awake, and changing is an opportunity to heal more than just ourselves. We come into this world with an insane amount of love inside of us, and I believe we are meant to uncover it, and spread it all over the place. The story of your life will keep unfolding, every day. There are the circumstances, and there’s the way you respond to them. In that way, you co-create the story. The pieces are always moving, the ground below us is always shifting, there are no promises or guarantees, and you don’t have forever. There are big questions that need to be lived, that you can never truly answer, but that you’ll have to grapple with if you want to be at peace. The key is to keep moving, keep growing, keep seeing and listening and exploring. To be willing to allow life, and your very own self, to surprise you. To recognize you’ll never have all the answers, in fact, you’ll have very few. Only a couple truly matter, anyway. How much are you going to love, and how much are you going to do what you can to heal yourself, and in so doing, the world around you? Sending you so much love, Ally Hamilton

Unpack Those Bags!

Forgiveness-is-theI don’t believe there’s any way of moving through this life without some pain, heartache, disappointment, loss, confusion, fear, and loneliness. I’ve never had the experience of getting to know anyone closely without discovering a deep well of pain within them. We all have our stories, our losses, and those places where we mourn for ourselves.The difference between happy people and unhappy people lies in their resiliency, the amount of support they find for themselves, their ability to integrate and make peace with what’s happened, and the way they respond to what they’re given. Sometimes you try to find support for yourself, and nothing seems to work. Depression is real, it’s not a choice, it’s a fight for your life. So is addiction. And sometimes people lose the battle.

There are also situations where it is a choice. You can carry your pain on your back and into every experience you have. You can keep your pain alive by feeding it and compounding it with the confusion that results from choices fueled by old wounds. The longer you allow yourself to deny, avoid, feed, or numb out from your pain, the longer your heart will wither and your soul will be crushed. Your heart is made for love. Your soul wants to dance, to expand well beyond the borders of your body. But if you’re dousing yourself with bitterness, resentment, fear, shame, guilt, doubt, insecurity and some crazy notion that you aren’t lovable, there’s just no way you’re going to be able to shine. To throw off the blinders. To realize what you know, to acknowledge what you are.

At a certain point, you’re going to have to sit down and unpack those bags if you want to find some inner peace. If you want to unhook your journey from past experiences and find the freedom and the expansion that comes from forgiveness, compassion and taking responsibility for your own happiness. You’re going to have to examine everything you’ve been carting around and find that raw place inside you that is connected to that baggage and give it your kind attention. You’re going to have to wrap your arms around your own pain and say, “I know you. I feel you. I’m right here.” And you’re going to have to let it out. To grieve until the heat of the wound is washed away by your tears. That’s the only way to stop the bleeding and start the healing. You have to honor and acknowledge that pain before you can let it go. Or it can let you go.

People who are hurting will hurt others. That’s how it works. Please get that because it’s important to grasp. If someone hurts you, betrays you, treats you with disrespect or cruelty, it’s because that is what is inside them. That’s where they are on their journey; that’s how they’re dealing with their own pain. I’m not saying that’s okay, I’m just saying you don’t have to take it on. You don’t have to accept and own it as something you caused or deserve. You don’t have to receive it as a response to you, a rejection of you. It has little to do with you, except inasmuch as you choose to participate. And if you’re in pain, you’re going to spread it. You probably won’t mean to do that, but it will happen. I have all the love and time and patience in the world for people who are struggling, who are trying in earnest to face their stuff and deal with it, because it’s difficult, painful, lonely work. I’ve been there, I know. And it’s so uncomfortable. But people who are sleepwalking through life, who refuse to own their actions, who want to point fingers or explain or justify bad behavior, who want a pass on the hard work (and we’ve all been these people at one time or another, yours truly included)…I want to get up in their mix and say, “WAKE THE EFF UP!!!” With love, of course.

Because life is going to be pretty miserable lugging heavy bags of pain around everywhere. And being too afraid or too lazy to get to work is a shabby reason to have a sad life where you end up hurting yourself and other people the whole time. What an act of total unconsciousness and ingratitude. To exist in a world where you could be living. Giving. Growing. Loving. Life is going to bring all kinds of stuff our way. Some of it is going to crush us. Some of us will go through things the mind and heart will struggle to understand and accept. And some of it is going to be amazing, heart-expanding, mind-blowingly awesome. Respond with courage. Be vulnerable. Receive it all, the storms that knock everything down, and the gorgeous sun on your face. Say, “Yes, I am Here. I am awake”. That’s all you can do. If you do the work to find your inner yes, you will be at peace even when life keeps sending you no’s. Because no one can take that kind of love away from you once you’ve found it. Please put your bags down. Don’t waste another day, another minute. Your heart, your soul, and your very life are too precious for that. Sending you so much love, Ally Hamilton