When I was seventeen I began dating a man twenty years my senior. He came after me with everything he had, but once he had me he treated me terribly. I didn’t leave because I was convinced I was in love with him. I stayed and endured treatment no one would if they were feeling good about themselves. He lied to me and cheated on me, but was also controlling and possessive. He was emotionally distant and verbally abusive and he scheduled himself every waking moment of the day.

He was in pain, I have no doubt about that now, and he was running from it. But I didn’t have the understanding to recognize that, nor the tools to not take it personally. He leaned on me and wanted me to be there for him, but there were times he was incredibly cruel. We were still together for his 40th birthday and I planned a huge surprise party for him. By then we’d been together three years, and I was close to all of his friends and most of their girlfriends, although a few were hostile to me because of my age. I rented a pool hall and called a caterer. I ordered a cake and sent invitations to all his friends letting them know it was on the down low. I also made reservations at a restaurant I knew he wanted to try, and planned on heading to the pool hall after.

I’d saved money for months so I could afford to do all these things and I was excited like a kid on Christmas morning. Of course underneath all of it was the hope that maybe once I did this he’d really love me. Really see me. Really appreciate me. I wish I could go back and give my seventeen, eighteen, nineteen-year-old self a hug. Grab a tea and say, “You know what? Get the f&ck out of here. Amazing things are going to happen in your life and this man isn’t going to be a part of them.” Except he is part of them because he’s part of my story. A week before his birthday he confronted me in our kitchen. “I know about the party at the pool hall. Tell me who you invited so I can make sure you didn’t forget anyone.” He said this to me in a strange, angry manner, as if my efforts to surprise him with something special and sweet were somehow a betrayal. I burst into tears. He laughed. Maybe he was nervous, I don’t know. Maybe he felt unworthy underneath it all, but it was a nasty laugh and it broke me. He wouldn’t relent until I pulled the guest-list out of my purse and threw it on the kitchen counter. I hadn’t forgotten anyone. Then he asked me about the pool hall and what kind of food I’d ordered. He didn’t want to be embarrassed. I’d ordered sushi from his favorite restaurant and had a friend of his who was a pastry chef bake him his favorite cake. By the time he was done grilling me, testing me, laughing at me, I felt like I was made of bones. Like he’d stripped the heart right out of me and thrown it on the counter alongside the guest list. Like I could break into a million pieces and his housekeeper could come by and sweep me away. Like I was nothing. I told him everything, including the time of our reservations at the restaurant he’d been talking about for months. It had taken me months to get us in there. A few nights later, before the night of his party, he went to that restaurant with a friend of his who was a food critic. So the night we went, he’d already been there. He robbed me of any bit of joy and he was remorseless.

A few months later things got worse and I finally found the strength to leave. Not because I was in a healthier place, but because I knew if I stayed he would kill me. Not literally, but my spirit. My ability to open and grow and become myself. He was, in the end, so mean he left me no choice. Leaving was the hardest thing I’d done up to that point and I was shattered. I had played out some old history with him and it was as though every heartbreaking thing that had ever happened to me happened again. But little by little I started coming back to myself and eventually I landed in a yoga class. The rest is my history. I don’t regret the experience, but I do regret that I needed to learn the lessons in such a painful way.

Once I left, he begged me to come back. Said he realized what he’d lost. That he’d change. He said every single thing I’d hoped he would say when we were together, but it was too late. His words were like dust and my heart was a stone to him. We all make mistakes. Depending on the kind of pain we carry and our inclination to face it or run from it, we all have the potential to spill our pain all over the people closest to us. Even if they love us and would do anything for us. Even if they aren’t equipped to deal with all that pain. Sometimes the mess we make is so great, there’s simply no cleaning it up. There’s just the sad understanding of what has happened and the possibility to grow from the pain, or not. We always get to choose. Hurt people hurt people as the saying goes. If you’re in pain, you know it. Running from it doesn’t work, but it is a choice. Pushing it down or numbing it out doesn’t work, either, but those are still choices. Being accountable is a choice. Doing the work to heal yourself so you can love yourself well, and by extension, love the other people in your life well, too, is a choice. Whatever you choose, you will have to live with the result of those choices. Again and again and again I say, choose love.

Sending you some love right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Be the Architect of Your Own Joy

If a person is crazy about you, you’re going to know, it’s not going to be a mystery. I get emails from people every day who ask about various situations they’re in. This guy barely calls. This girl doesn’t make a lot of time for the relationship. This person is probably seeing other people. This one is separated or divorced, but still hanging on to their ex. This one used to like me, but I didn’t like her and now I do and she doesn’t. I like this woman but she likes other women. I have a huge crush on this guy but he’s gay. Or married to my sister. Or dating my best friend. I like this woman but she has a boyfriend, but really she’s in love with me she just can’t hurt the other guy’s feelings. We used to go out and now we’re both dating other people, but last week we fell into bed and now it’s a mess. I like this girl but my family doesn’t. I like this guy but I’m too scared to tell him. I went out with this guy and it was amazing, but I never heard from him so now I stalk him, but just a little. Mostly on Facebook. Okay, sometimes I sit across the street from his house. He may have gotten a restraining order. But I’m pretty sure he’s gonna come around.

I’ve loved people who were distant, inattentive, or frequently mean. I’ve liked people who sent very mixed messages. I’ve liked people who didn’t call. I stopped doing all that a long time ago. It’s a good thing to stop doing. Please take the mystery out of this for yourself. If a person wants to be with you, they will find a way.

The real, painful issue to examine is why you’re giving so much of your precious time and energy to anyone who isn’t running toward you with everything they’ve got. Perhaps you’ve forgotten you’re made up of 37 trillion or so cells that have never come together in exactly the same way to be YOU at any time in the past, nor will they again at any time in the future. There are seven billion people on our planet, and only ONE, particular, amazing you. So why would you second-guess your value? If you undervalue yourself and accept treatment that really isn’t what you deserve, you, my friend, are the architect of your own suffering. The story to look at is never what the other person is doing; the story to examine is always the story of your participation. Participate in joy, freedom, recognition and celebration. In understanding and appreciation, and oh, wow, I’d almost given up hope I’d find someone like you. Choose love. You’re too incredible to wait around on stand-by for a boat that couldn’t dock where you are, anyway. Get out of the airport and head for the ocean.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Hold It All

beautifulpainWhen I was 12 years old a guy grabbed me on my way to ballet class. I was walking in the same door I’d walked in for years on West 83rd Street, with my hair in a bun, and my tights and leotard under my jeans, and this young guy walked in ahead of me. The door opened right onto a narrow, steep staircase. At the top of the stairs to the right was the ballet studio. I could hear the piano. I can tell you, even at 12, or maybe especially because I was still so young, I had a vibe. An intuition. I remember the feeling of something being off, and I probably did exactly what he’d hoped I would do. I passed him on the right and started racing up the stairs. But he grabbed me from behind and put one hand over my mouth and another between my legs and told me not to move and that he wasn’t going to hurt me. For a minute I froze. Panicked with the taste of tin in my mouth. Fear undiluted. His hand over my mouth as he started fumbling with his jeans, and all I heard, like an explosion inside my head was, “NO”. Not that I understood exactly what he was trying to do, just that animal part of me, of you, of all of us, that part knew. And then I bit his hand and screamed and threw my elbow into his ribs as hard as I could. He let me go immediately. I don’t believe he expected a fight. I faced him, still screaming, tears and adrenaline and a racing heart, and backed up the stairs, right hand, right foot, left hand, left foot, fast. I remember his face, and I remember being shocked that he looked as terrified as I felt. Eyes wide so I could see more white than anything. He took off down the stairs and when I saw he was out the door, I turned and raced/crawled up the remainder of the staircase as fast as I could. I busted into the office, hysterical, unable to speak, but the guys there, the dancers, they knew. I just pointed and they took off, and three girls who were in the company ran to me and held me until I could speak. Not that I could fully make sense of what had happened. They weren’t able to catch up to the guy, and I don’t know what happened to him.

I share this with you because it exists in this world, and because it happened. Clearly, it could have been a lot worse. I hope it was never worse for someone else who didn’t scream, or couldn’t fight. And I hope he found the help he desperately needed. I believe if someone had photographed my face and his as we stared at each other, they would have looked incredibly similar. I believe he was as shocked and sorry about what he’d done as I was. He looked like an animal with his leg caught in a trap. There are people who are deeply troubled, who need help but don’t get it. Because they fall through the cracks. Or are able to hide their pain from the people closest to them. Or maybe those people are in denial. I don’t know what his story was, but I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t a good one.

The reality is this world can be incredibly violent, but it can also be achingly beautiful. If you want to be awake, you have to hold it all. I’m not a fan of this amazing pressure to be positive every waking minute of the day. Not everything is positive and light. Some things will rip your heart right out of your body with no warning and no logic. People who demand that you be light every minute are running from their own shadow, and it’s only a matter of time before it bites them in the a$$. My thoughts did not create that experience, it was completely outside my frame of reference. There are people who would point to karma, or God’s plan, or everything happening for a reason. I don’t know about any of that for sure, and neither does anyone else. What I do know is that sometimes horrendous things happen to beautiful people. Maybe someday it will all make sense and maybe not. Until then, the truth is we live in a world with darkness, and incredible light. To deny one is to forsake the other. It’s not about being positive, it’s about being authentic. Open. Real, raw, vulnerable. It’s about understanding sometimes you will be so scared out of your mind you’ll crawl up a staircase backwards, not even fully knowing what you’re racing from. And sometimes you will be blinded and amazed by all the beauty, all the gifts you’ve been given, the taste of gratitude like sugarcane in your mouth, and the feeling of sunlight like it was poured directly into your heart. Don’t worry about being positive. Just be awake. Hold it all. Sending you love, for real. Ally

Nothing Can Stop You

willingtolearnLast year I volunteered once a week in my son’s Kindergarten class. Sometimes I’d do yoga with the kids which was awesome, and other times I’d read them a story, which I also loved. One day when I showed up, I was handed a book to read, and about midway through I realized it was going to be some story about a prince saving a princess, and I just could not finish the book. I made up a different ending where the prince and princess worked together to solve their problems, and in the end, he went one way and she went the other, and they stayed great friends for life. Because, honestly, the stories we’ve been telling are just so lame. They’re set-ups. And we do it all day long. We are taught that we have to compete to survive. We are taught that we don’t look right or feel right. We are sold an idea that if we could just get it together and make enough money and diet enough, and live in the right house and drive the right car, and eat at the right places, and work out enough and get ourselves to make everything on the outside as perfect and shiny as possible, we’d meet the “right” person, and well, then, we’d be happy! And do you know what I want to say to you? Those are all fat lies. And this is the stuff we grow up on, and feed ourselves, and feed our children.

So unless you were home-schooled, or your parents kept you away from television and radio and fairy-tales with stupid endings, or you grew up in some nirvana where these things didn’t exist (let me know where that is if you did), at a certain point, you are just bound to come up against it. “It” being the lies at the heart of this thing. Because you can do all that stuff. You can live in a huge house and drive an expensive car, and meet an amazing person, but if you are not happy on the inside, and if you have not figured out that you are here to spread love and kindness, you will still be miserable. Because there’s a void when we are not living in a truthful way. The void can be filled temporarily with any of those highly-coveted items from the above list, but the feeling of satisfaction, elation, and “rightness” won’t last. You are the right person.

It’s much easier to think if you work hard enough and stop sucking so much, then you’ll be happy. Because it gives you something to do, some sense of control. That’s a lot easier to deal with than the reality that there are life’s big questions that you will have to wrestle with if you want to be at peace, that nothing is certain in this life, and that one day you will die. I think I’ll take, “working hard and not sucking behind door number one, please!” But you can’t because door number one is a closet full of illusions. At a certain point, if you open to your own sensitivity, your own intuition, you’re going to realize there’s another door. It’s at the end of a path that’s painful to navigate. It’s hard to see where you’re going because it’s dark, and you probably won’t have many tools at your disposal as you leave the land of Should. It’s likely that many of the people closest to you will tell you to wait, to come back and sit down and stop being crazy. The only way to buy the lies is to numb out. There are so many ways to do that. Alcohol, drugs, sex, over or under-eating, shopping, the internet…doesn’t it seem obvious that we’ve found a million and one ways to distract ourselves? What are we so scared of? Why are we afraid to sit still? To breathe? To open? To remember who and what we are?

There’s so much love within each of us. They say we use 10% of our brains, and I think most people use 10% of their hearts and their intuition, too. Any questions you have about yourself, your purpose, or what it is that’s going to feed your soul and set you on fire, are inside. If you’re willing to work, no one can stop you from healing. If you’re willing to see clearly, to keep your eyes open even when you’re confronted with your deepest pain, to lean into the darkest places you’ve got and open to them, receive them, embrace them, so that there is no longer any need for secrets, then no one can stop you. Door number one only seems easier. It’s sleep-walking through life, and people do it all the time. Behind the second door is your happiness, your peace, and your healing. I really hope you find the determination and courage to head toward that door. Because when you heal yourself and open up to all that love within you, you won’t be able to help but spread it. Sending you a big hug and a lot of love right now, Ally Hamilton

Please Do Not Feed the Fears!

Please-Do-Not-Feed-theUnless we’re talking about the good kind of fear that stops you from being reckless with yourself, or makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up because you’re in danger, fear is nothing more than a bully. I’m talking about the kind of fear that stops you from doing what you know in your heart you must. The kind of fear that tells you you’re not good enough, you don’t have what it takes, you can’t do it. That kind of fear can kiss my a$$, and it should kiss yours, too.

Fear puts the mind and the heart in a grip. It shuts down our vision so we can only see what isn’t going well, what could go wrong, all the reasons why we are stuck. Fear travels with doubt and resentment and envy, with a healthy side of criticism. Fear is not kind, and neither are people living in fear, because fear puts you on the defensive. Sometimes when we don’t get what we hope for, we become afraid. “I had a vision of how this thing was supposed to go, how I wanted it to go, and now what do I do?” And the mind starts racing with how awful everything is, how nothing is going right, how things are easier for other people (because fear feeds that comparing and contrasting mind). If you want to shut yourself down and close yourself up and do life in such a way that you’re always wearing blinders and feeding yourself can’t, then fear is the way to go. But, seriously, who wants to live like that? Shut down and numbed out and hopeless and frustrated? Alone and angry and confused, waiting for that magical time when “things will get better”?

Things are not going to get better unless you open to love. And you cannot do that if you are wrapped in a tight little ball with your fists clenched and your eyes scrunched up, and your head full of shouldn’t. Or stories about why you can’t. Why you’re incapable of change. Or so numb you really can’t feel anything. So addicted to distraction the weeks fly by, then the months, then the years, and oh crap, now it’s too late. Anyone who is not suffering from afflictions beyond their control can heal. I’m going to say that again. Everyone. Can. Heal. Love requires courage, participation, and ownership of your own experience.

Love is not for those who won’t be vulnerable, because when you open your heart, there is always the possibility you’re going to get hurt. But you know what? I’d rather have my heart broken fully, deeply, right through the center then live my life asleep and curled up in a ball in a corner wondering what, exactly, I’m doing here. I’d rather be awake with my heart open wide and my head full of Yes, than numbing myself out to avoid my pain. The pain is the path to healing. The pain is where you head. You walk straight into the center of it, and you do not come out until you have faced that sh&t down. Or it owns you. Those are your choices, there is no third, “Can it be a little easier because I don’t want to work that hard?” option.

I refuse to allow any person or any circumstance to rob me of my purpose here, and I hope you do, too. Because anything else is a pure waste of your time, and you aren’t given enough to waste. This is your beautiful, complicated, confusing, joyous, sometimes deeply lonely, other times amazingly incredible life, where sometimes you have your heart broken, and sometimes you feel it expand so much you think, it’s going to come right out of your chest. “This love is so much, so full, so deep it’s going to carry me up above the trees, and over the ocean, and oh, wait, it IS the ocean.” Why, why, why would you deny yourself love like that? Because of some fear? Totally not acceptable. I hope you got a taste of the love I’m sending your way. It has a side of a$$-kick, I know. But sometimes that’s the kind of love we need. If you just need a hug right now, I’m down for that, too.

Ally Hamilton