End with Love

tearscrymarquezSometimes people create stories out of thin air and anger. Maybe they’ve been hurt or disappointed, maybe life isn’t unfolding the way they wanted it to, maybe they can’t stand facing the consequences of who they are or who they’ve been or what they’ve done just yet. Self-loathing is brutal, it’s a prison, and so many people think they can find liberation through blame and rage, denial and numbing out, but that stuff keeps us stuck. Horrendous things may have happened; unfair, heartbreaking loss, or neglect or abuse. The work is to heal, and to decide what we’re going to do with what we’ve been given, how we’re going to take charge of our own life and create something beautiful — what seeds we’re going to plant now, so something amazing and unexpected might grow, like the lotus flower emerging from the muck, gorgeous and unscathed and strong and also soft, able to soak in the light, and reflect it back out. We have to figure out how we’re going to refuse to let our past ruin our present, or dictate our future. We all have our stuff, and it takes courage and determination and support and desire to face it head on. Mostly, you have to want to do that, and you probably won’t, until you try everything else first.

I received an email from a woman yesterday who’s going through a very painful break-up, and is devastated because her once-love is now calling her all sorts of names, and practicing revisionist history. Of course, I’m only hearing from her, he may have an entirely different tale to tell. Regardless, intimacy isn’t easy. You have to be able to stand naked with all your beauty and all your flaws and all your history and absurdity and fear and longing and love and vulnerability. You have to be willing to offer up and acknowledge the stuff you might prefer to hide, given the option. If you want to be known, you have to drop the armor, and expose the stuff you wouldn’t put in a status update. Intimacy isn’t easy unless you’re ready for it, unless you want it. So many people think they want to be seen and understood and truly known, but then when they get into it, when they understand the piercing nature of the thing, they feel scared and trapped. They just want the good parts to be known and seen; they aren’t ready to shine a light on the raw parts. If you’re ready, if you want it, you’ll embrace the demands of being brave and soft and accountable and honest about where you have healing to do, where you might still strengthen and grow, where you tend to deny or diffuse or keep the peace instead of confronting those painful truths. We all want to hide our shadow side sometimes.

A lot of people want the movie version. Give me the heat and the love and the joy and the laughter and the montage with the great music in the background so we can all thump to the rhythm and grin like idiots, but don’t expect me to do the work of facing my dragons when they rear their spiky heads and breathe hot fire all over everything, scorching the curtains on a sunny Tuesday morning, or a cloudy Saturday afternoon, because someone said something that landed in a way that felt like an attack, that brought out something hard in me, that exists because something soft needed to be protected. Let’s not go there, shall we?

Anyway, sometimes things end in that fire, and a person has to create fiction around it to survive. That seems easier than walking back into the fire at the time, maybe. You can’t make a person want to do that. Maybe they need you to be the villain, even if you aren’t. Even if, actually, you loved them and you tried with everything you had. Even if you apologize for every way you also blew it. It feels horrible to walk away from a person with whom you were once close, with whom you were once trying to build something, knowing that they’ve created a character that bears very little resemblance to you. It would be nice if both parties could honor what once existed, and allow things to end with dignity and even love, but if a person can’t face their own flaws, sometimes someone needs to be the bad guy. Try not to worry about it too much, even though it isn’t easy. I know what it feels like when people throw daggers at you; even if you know there isn’t any truth to it, it’s hard not to defend yourself when spears are flying through the air. You won’t win that battle, because it isn’t between you and the other party. It’s between them and their pain. That’s a battle only they can fight.

Sending you love, as always,

Ally Hamilton

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


lovelistenOne of the great gifts of an intimate relationship, and by that, I do not necessarily mean a romantic one, is that it constantly offers us the opportunity to grow; anyone you’re close to will challenge you to show up as your best possible self, for you and for them. That’s part of the joy and the pain of having people in our lives who know us and see us clearly. These people may be your parents, your siblings, your best friend, your children, or your partner. The most intimate and enduring relationship you’ll have in your whole life, though, is the one you’re having with yourself.

The thing about intimacy is that it demands honesty. There’s no hiding if we want to be seen and heard and known, and those who truly love us want us to shine. This means there will be times when we have uncomfortable conversations, because no one shows up as their highest self in every moment. We all make mistakes, say things and do things we wish we hadn’t, or get ourselves worked up over imagined or real slights or wrongdoings. Sometimes we want to hide from ourselves. Maybe there’s some tendency that doesn’t serve you, some way you’re moving through the world, or thinking about yourself or other people, some way you’re showing up for yourself or not. When we love people, we also hold them accountable, not in a cold, shaming way, but in a loving, compassionate one, “I know you and I see you, and this is not the best you can do.”

When we love, we have to want for the other person what they want for themselves, even if it’s at odds with what we want for them, what we want for ourselves, or what we wish they would want, and I believe it’s also our job to kindly hold up a mirror when someone we love is not making choices in service to their highest good. That’s intimacy. Clear seeing, and the ability to communicate when things are not clear, “Help me understand what’s happening with you. Help me see how things are for you right now.”

This isn’t the shiny, glossy stuff we’re sold in the movies. If you’re close to someone, you’ve seen them crying until their nose runs, or you’ve seen their face twisted by anger or despair or frustration. You’ve seen them in the midst of struggle, when they’re triggered and trying to come back to center, and you’ve seen them at their best, too. Maybe you’ve seen them lie to themselves, or watched them lie to your face out of fear or an inability to say the hard thing. Love isn’t always pretty. For a long time now, I’ve tried to practice unflinching acceptance of the people with whom I’m closest. Just let me see the truth of how things are for them, then I’ll deal with the truth of what that means for me. That’s a practice in and of itself, but I believe it’s worth exploring. This does not mean I allow myself to be disrespected or abused, although there have been times I’ve let the lines get blurry, because compassion for someone else can turn into abuse of oneself if you aren’t careful. I’m certainly not recommending that.

Sometimes we really fight reality. We want to stuff everything into neat little boxes that are all labeled, “My Plan.” Sometimes we try to stuff people into those boxes, too, but you’ve probably noticed, since you are a person, people don’t like that very much. Sometimes we dance like monkeys and bend over backwards and try to sell ourselves or other people on the idea that, “everything is okay”, when really, we know it is not. Sometimes, as we all know, the truth hurts, but I’d take the truth over a lie any day of the week; I’d rather deal with a painful truth than a pretty lie. I want to stand on solid ground and know I can trust myself.

The only way that happens is to know yourself, too, to do your best to see yourself clearly and understand what’s driving you, what’s blocking you, what’s lighting you up. There’s nothing wrong with getting some help if you need it, because sometimes we’re so close to a thing, we can’t see clearly, and sometimes we’ve grown up in situations where we pushed our needs and wants down, and focused on survival. You may not have a clue what you want. Maybe you’ve spent your whole life responding to what other people want, or you’ve been “shoulding” yourself for so long, you wouldn’t recognize a cry from your intuition if it was in surround sound.

I really think you have to start there — self-acceptance, self-compassion, clear-seeing, and sometimes you’ll be terrified by what you want, or paralyzed by it, or maybe even ashamed or disgusted. That is totally fine. Feelings are not facts, and you don’t have to act on every feeling you have; in fact, you’ll probably create a lot of pain and turmoil for yourself if you do. However, anything you reject within yourself is going to push back four times harder. The truth wants out. There’s a drive within all of us to heal, if we open to it. Underneath the layers of pain, confusion, darkness, doubt, rage, grief, loneliness and despair, you will find love. That’s what healing is in my opinion–it’s a return to your natural state. Love, acceptance and compassion thrive on truth, that’s how you make that stuff blossom.

Chasing happiness is like sprinkling yourself with that “flower food” they give you with cut flowers. The flowers aren’t rooted. Maybe that stuff will make things look pretty on the outside a little bit longer, but if you want to feed your soul, you have to find your roots and plant them in soil soaked in truth. Once you accept what’s real and right for you, it makes it inevitable that you want to do those things for the people you love. You want them to know you can see them and that you understand them. You don’t have to agree with how someone feels or what someone needs in order to accept that’s how it is for them, you just have to be willing to face it, and then you figure out how to love them and still honor your own tender heart. There are no boxes in this thing. Love has open hands, open eyes, open ears and open arms. May we all be strong enough and brave enough to love ourselves and the people in our lives.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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


We tend to think of “home” as the house or apartment where we grew up, and “family” as the people with whom we share a bloodline; those people who were in that house or apartment before we got there. See also: those people who were supposed to love us and protect us and nurture us. When it works out that way, it’s ideal and such a gift, but it doesn’t work out that way for so many people.

There are tons of variables; trauma and abuse can be passed down from one generation to the next. If a person grew up in an unsafe environment, that’s what they know, and that feels like home. The pull to recreate that familiar feeling can be strong, especially when there hasn’t been an opportunity to heal. So sometimes home is a scary place, and family are the people you maneuver around as you try to stay safe. In a case like that, the longing for home, the desire to be loved and seen and heard can feel like some kind of mystery to be solved. Isn’t it funny how we can yearn for things we’ve never had, and miss people we’ve never met?

Anything unhealed within you wants your kind attention. We long for closure and resolution, but underneath that what we’re really wanting is peace. We want to know we’re worthy of love. There are those lucky people who’ve never had to question that, because love is all they’ve known; it’s not common, but it does happen. Someone who is raised knowing they’re treasured and cherished is likely to have an easier time with later heartbreaks. They still hurt, of course, but the person isn’t as likely to question whether there’s something at their very core that’s unlovable, something about them that makes it easy to leave, neglect or abuse them. A person who is securely attached to his or her parents and siblings isn’t as likely to take rejection as proof that he or she is really disposable, after all, but a person who’s never felt loved, who struggles to trust and be vulnerable, can take a heartbreak as that final blow. As if it’s up to someone else to determine their worth.

Roughly thirty-seven trillion cells come together to make up a human being. They’ll never come together in that way again, and they never have before; that’s a miracle in my book, scientific or otherwise. We arrive here needing to be held and fed and clothed and rocked and soothed. We come here needing each other, we go out needing each other, and in between, you can bet we need each other. I truly feel our purpose here is to love — to open, to grow, to heal, to learn, to strengthen and blossom and share whatever we’ve got with each other; to dig until we uncover that limitless well of love within us, so we can spread it as we move through our days. Home is inside you. It’s not a place, although you may feel attached to the house you grew up in if you were happy there. The bonds between family members can be strong, but that doesn’t always mean they’re healthy; sometimes you have to negotiate your boundaries. Sometimes you have to love people from afar in order to love yourself well, and sometimes you have to create a family of your own, with those people who’ve shown you what love looks like. Ultimately, you want to feel at home inside yourself, comfortable in your own skin.

When life throws you a curve-ball, you want to know you can catch it. You want to have your own back. You want to know how to root for yourself. You want to be able to nurture and cherish your particular thirty-seven trillion cells. “Home” might be something you have to create out of your imagination, you may not have a frame of reference for it, but home is inside you. You can visit any time you like.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Free Yourself

Most of us struggle with control and attachment to some degree, thinking if we just try hard enough, we can get life to bend to our will. We start dating someone and want this to be “it” before we even know the other person, before they know us. We’re ready to have a baby, and expect to get pregnant on the first try, or the second. If it hasn’t happened by the third month, we start to get upset. We have our plan, and life needs to get with it, right? Or we want our kids to do well, but maybe our idea of well, and theirs, is different. We want to be promoted, we deserve it, but our boss is a fill-in-the-blank.

I’ve given this a lot of thought. When it comes to human beings and to life, force is a sure recipe for suffering. It’s fine when you want to open jars of almond butter, or remove a tiny Lego piece for your kid, but you can’t force another person to love you or do what you want them to do, or to want what you want them to want, or feel what you want them to feel. Setting intentions is great. It clarifies what it is you’d like, and can inspire your actions every day. That’s a lot different than gripping to an outcome. Things have to go this way or I’ll be miserable. Nothing clouds the vision like attachment. You’re going to be attached to people, that’s part of the human condition; one of the more beautiful parts, actually. Anyone who says differently is fooling themselves or you. We want to be able to hear the voices or the laughs of the people we love most in this world. We want to be able to hug them and kiss them, and if they’re taken from us, we are going to suffer. If you have children, you will be attached to wanting the best for them, wanting them to be healthy and happy and strong. If they are not any of these things, you will suffer.

So some attachment is just part of the gig, unless you want to move to a cave, but as much as possible, open hands, open heart, open mind. Attachment to people comes after love, not before. Loving an idea of a person is not the same as loving a person. Sometimes we meet someone and want them to be this magical person we’ve been waiting for because we’re thirty and the plan was to be married sometime around now, with kids on the way by 32. That’s the kind of attachment that you want to nip in the bud: attachment to our idea of “How Things Should Be,” to that picture in our heads. Life is how it is. It’s not obligated to go along with your plans, and it probably won’t. Maybe something more amazing than anything you’ve planned will unfold.

Sometimes we’re attached to how things were, to a relationship that’s come to an end, for example. We long for the way we felt. We think maybe there’s some way we can get back there, but if a person doesn’t love you for who you are, if they can’t see you anymore, if everything has become dark and no one is shining, allow yourself to be released, even though it hurts like hell. There are some things you’ll never understand. The more you can face reality as it is and work with that, the less you’ll suffer. Be attached to your own discernment. Be attached to working with the truth of a thing even if it breaks your heart. Be attached to the people in your life whom you love beyond words, and understand it makes you vulnerable, and do it anyway. Try to let go of the rest. Life is an adventure. Sometimes it breaks your heart, and sometimes it hits you in the face with so much love it knocks you off your feet and fills your heart with yes. You can’t force that stuff.

You can treat yourself well, though. You can be kind and patient with yourself, and you can do that for other people, too. You can explore what it means to really love someone. Practice on your parents or your friends or your nieces and nephews or a person you’re just getting to know. Practice on yourself. Be curious about acceptance, about looking clearly at someone and listening without allowing your own opinions to block you from hearing them, without allowing your own defenses or wants or needs to prevent you from seeing theirs. Most of the stuff we become fixated on is so meaningless. I think we just lose the thread. Life is to be experienced and examined and explored. Trying to control it is like trying to control the weather.

Sending you love and a giant hug,

Ally Hamilton

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

To Be Seen

If you want easy and comfortable, forget about intimacy, because in order to be truly known by another person, you have to be willing to be honest, even if that means shining light on some part of yourself that isn’t fully healed. If you want to be understood and seen, you have to be willing to show yourself, and in order to do that, you really want to feel safe.

Your heart, your time, your energy and your attention are the most precious gifts you have to offer anyone. There are only so many hours in a day, and so many days in a lifetime. You will spend the large majority of your time in the company of your own internal dialogue, processing the data you receive from the outside world, and from the people you encounter; those closest to you, and those you meet in passing. You will do your best to make sense out of what is coming at you. You can only know what you know, and you can only be where you are. Your experiences have shaped you, they’ve become part of the way you understand what’s happening around you. Sometimes the lessons we’ve learned are damaging; we’ve only seen a sliver of reality, but it’s all we know, so we make our assumptions, we fill in the blanks, we project, and we tell ourselves stories. These are ways we might close ourselves off, keep people out, keep ourselves safe, or make ourselves miserable.

I get so many emails from people who feel alone and alienated and angry, or at a total loss. People who feel no one sees them or cares one way or the other, but that’s just the people they’ve known, or maybe it’s just the way they’ve experienced those people. You can’t assume anything. What seems obvious to you or me may be a total mystery to someone else, because we are alone unless we actively reach out. No two people have had the exact same life, memories, experiences and feelings. How vulnerable are you willing to be, and how truthful? I mean, there are some things better left unsaid even if you want to be known, some things that only cause pain, but short of that, how much are you willing to open yourself? To speak up when you feel uncomfortable or hurt or angry or confused? To try to articulate, calmly and with compassion, your own experience? How much are you willing and able to open to the idea that your view is only that; that there’s the distinct possibility you missed something, or crushed something unknowingly beneath your words or with your actions?

Most people do not set out with the intention of hurting anyone. I’d say the majority of people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got and what they know, to piece together some fulfillment, meaning and happiness, to live a life that feels good to them, to figure out what lights them up, and what brings them down, and to do more of the former, and less of the latter; to know themselves. It’s a process, all of it. Usually we’ve just gotten lost. We’ve followed the shoulds instead of the yeses. We’ve dropped the thread, or we’ve become a player in someone else’s story, or we’ve landed in a ditch full of rage and blame. Most people do not follow a linear path. You have to screw up in order to understand your own humanness, and to have compassion for other people when they blow it. You have to grow enough to realize it is not your job to judge or control or try to manipulate another person’s journey.

Whatever happens, happens. Maybe you’ve had your heart broken badly. Maybe you’re in mourning for something you’ve never had, or for something that was robbed from you. Maybe someone was ripped from you too soon, with no warning on a sunny Tuesday morning, or a rainy Friday afternoon. These things can crush you, crush the breath and the will out of you. It could be that you were abused, neglected, ignored. There are stories in this world that are hard to hold in your head and in your heart, but human beings have an incredible potential to heal. I asked my four year old daughter why she was so sweet the other night while we were cuddled up. It was rhetorical, but she said, “That’s the way nature designed me.” Like it was the most obvious thing in the world, and I really believe that to be the case. I think at the very center of you, there’s love. I think if you peel away the layers of blame and rage and shame and despair and loneliness and confusion and fear, you will hit the jackpot. Love is the most freeing, accepting, powerful force I know. If you want to get things done, let that power you. You just might have to dig for it for awhile.

Love gives you the courage to bare yourself, to embrace all parts of yourself, even the stuff that you wouldn’t post in a status update. To be able to share those parts with the people closest to you is really the only way for you to feel known. Cherished. Close to people. If you just show the shiny perfect parts, if your whole life could be displayed on Instagram, my guess is you’re going to feel pretty alone. Human beings are built for connection; we come in needing each other, we go out needing each other, and in between, you can bet we need each other. When you show yourself, you give other people permission to do the same. When you can communicate how you feel and what’s happening within you, you give the people in your life the gift of being able to love you as you are, not as you think you should be, or as you want to be someday, but as you are right now. Not everyone will be able to do it. Some people are not ready to be naked like that with you, but you don’t need many. True connection between people is so beautiful. You don’t even have to know someone well to be intimate in the way I’m describing. You just have to be willing to be present and aware and open. That creates the possibility of seeing another person fully, and of being seen, and that feels pretty great.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Do You Want to Be Right, or Do You Want to Be Seen?

If-you-are-out-toAnything you push down is going to come back up four times harder; the truth will out, as the saying goes. So much harm is done when we try to deny our own reality. You feel the way you feel. Other people do not have to agree with your feelings in order for them to be valid. People in your life may be uncomfortable with your emotions or your ideas about how things are or how they were; two or more people can grow up in the same house with wildly different memories. Partners in a long-term relationship may have two very different stories to tell at the end of a decade. Only a confused person would suggest that what you’re experiencing in your own body, in your own heart and your own mind is somehow wrong or not accurate. You’ll never convince anyone that their feelings are wrong (although you might make a person question their sanity after awhile), nor will anyone convince you. You might kindly hold up a mirror if a person is sure that they feel the way they feel because of you, because that would be inaccurate.

No one else can make you feel anything, unless you let them. People can be thoughtless, cruel, selfish, neglectful, and abusive. How you feel about that, and what you choose to do in response, is up to you. People can also be loving, kind, thoughtful, understanding and there for you. How you feel about that and how you choose to respond is also up to you.

If you love someone, you have to want to understand where they’re coming from. You have to want to embrace their pain, it’s part of the deal. You do not have to agree with it. You may feel the pain is very old and has little to do with you, and you may be right, or you may be struggling with guilt and shame over your own culpability, your own contributions. When we truly love someone, we want to be close. We choose to listen and we seek to comprehend. That’s intimacy. It’s not always a comfortable process. It takes two people, willing to stand there naked, with all their beauty and all their raw, unhealed wounds. It’s extremely helpful when a person knows themselves well. It makes accountability so much easier, and I’m big on that. We are all going to screw up. No one gets out alive, and no one gets out without making mistakes, some big, some small. This is how we learn and evolve. The birthing process is painful. Being able to identify what is yours, to acknowledge when you’ve blown it, to be able to say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” is such a gift. If you’ve created a safe space for your relationship, you’re likely to be met with a hug when you do.

If the space between you and your loved ones has become polluted with rage, bitterness and resentment, with attachment to being right, then true intimacy is not possible. You cannot expect anyone to be willing to be vulnerable in a war zone when they feel likely to be attacked, especially if they’re being attacked over how they feel. There’s nothing more crushing to a person, more alienating than being told their feelings are wrong. Can you imagine telling a five year old they’re wrong to be sad when they’re crying? I mean, parents do it all the time, unintentionally (“Don’t be sad”), but when you really stop to think about it, the ability to hold and acknowledge the feeling for someone is so liberating. “You’re sad, I see that, I feel that, I’m here.” Enough said. Why is it different with a forty-five year old? If you’re sad, angry, confused or disappointed, that’s how it is in this moment, that’s real.

Not everyone is going to be able to do that for you; it isn’t something we’re taught but you can do it for yourself. You can acknowledge your feelings and sit with them. You can hold them and say, “I feel sad. That’s how it is right now,” and that can be enough, that can be so freeing. If you do that for your partner consistently, they’ll start to understand how good that feels, and they may start doing it for you, too. If you do that for your children, they will probably grow up to be adults who do that for you and for all the people in their lives. It’s a gift. There’s a struggle against it because we have so much attachment to being right, or to being seen in a certain light. Sometimes we’re attached to that for ourselves; we can’t bear to see our own fallibility. If you paid dearly for your small mistakes growing up, you may have to do a lot of work on forgiveness, on being kind to yourself, on self-compassion. Sometimes we’re attached to other people seeing us in a particular way, but if you really want to be seen and known, you have to show yourself and you have to be willing to embrace it all, in yourself and in the people you encounter. Love requires your active participation, your desire, and your determination to be brave enough to be vulnerable.

Wishing you love and wishing you strength,

Ally Hamilton