birdsingsongChoice involves loss, and for many people, paralysis at a crossroads is a desire to choose without losing. It’s not always easy to let go of ideas or feelings or questions or desires, and boldly pick a path. For most people there’s some fear, and a need to grapple with all the pros and cons of moving one way or another.

Commitment to anything—another person, a job, your life’s purpose, a move to a new city, a lease on a house, or a car, or a new way of being, also involves the decision to release other options, at least for a time. If you decide to commit to a romantic partner, you’re also deciding to forego explorations with anyone else. If you live in one place, you’re giving up the culture, geographical benefits, aesthetics, flavors, smells, rhythms, and personality of any other.

If you decide you have to start living your life in a different way, and you commit to that journey, you’re also saying goodbye to your old way of being, your coping mechanisms, your comfort zone, your dynamics with all the people who’ve known you forever. Choosing and changing aren’t easy because we can’t predict the future, and sometimes fear becomes overwhelming. What if we pick the wrong path? What if we commit our time and energy to something or someone, and learn down the line that it just doesn’t feel right? How will we recover, or shift gears, or handle the guilt of disappointing the people in our lives, or ourselves?

The thing is, you go with your gut, with all the information you have at hand, and with a willingness to give a thing everything you’ve got. If it turns out it’s not the right path, then you’ve learned a tremendous amount, and you change course again. It’s never too late until your final exhale, and most people don’t have it all figured out when they graduate from college. We start asking our kids at two, three, four years old what they want to be when they grow up, and we ingrain in them this pressure to know, but we’re always in process and the story is always unfolding, and if you can’t roll with it at least a little bit, you’re going to suffer.

You’ll never know if something is right unless you give it a go, and as human beings we are fallible and vulnerable and we each grapple with our own pain. Life isn’t linear, it’s everything all at once, and so are we. We’re confident and scared and happy and lonely and full of love and judgement and beauty and shame and joy and sometimes deep insecurity or self-loathing. At the very center, I really believe there’s love, and I don’t think we have much time to waste longing for a crystal ball. I think you’re better off choosing boldly, and trying with all your heart than you are agonizing and having the same conversation nine million times. Pick Paris, and if it doesn’t work out, give Positano a go. Pick Jack, and if that doesn’t work give Sally a go. Just pick something, and go for it.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Keep Going

hellchurchillIt’s brutal when someone we once loved beyond words can no longer see us for who we are. Breakups are often agonizing for people on so many levels. There’s the loss and the grieving, even if you’re mourning something that didn’t exist. Sometimes we look back on a thing with rose-colored glasses, or we rewrite history, or we dwell on those times when things were good, and edit out the pain, neglect, abuse, betrayal, or disappointment. We cling to some idea we had, or still have, of how things could be, or might have been, if only. Sometimes our “if only’s” are insane. If only the other person were completely different at the core of their being, for example. We torture ourselves over the idea that this person stopped seeing us clearly, or has rewritten history in some way that reflects badly on us, as if their version holds weight, and maybe it does, or maybe it doesn’t. You know how you showed up. You know what you did or did not do, and hopefully, you know no one is perfect. If you’ve owned your end, if you’ve apologized for those times when you disappointed yourself, or the other party, if you know in your heart you did the best you could, at a certain point, you have to let that be enough. If their version doesn’t resemble any reality you recognize, why continue to feed it power by fighting it?

Sometimes my four-year-old comes to me and tells me her brother called her “poopy-pants”, or some other undesirable name, and I ask her if it’s true, “Are you a poopy-pants?” Most of the time she’ll start laughing, and I’ll say, “There you go. If it isn’t true, why let it upset you?” I know that’s easier than shrugging it off if someone you still have feelings for calls you a “manipulative b%tch”, as happened to one of our readers this weekend, but if a thing is not true, there’s no reason you have to receive the insult. Anyone who communicates by calling names is still in the sandbox, anyway.

It’s normal to want closure. One would hope that two people who once cared deeply for one another could honor the relationship that once existed by parting lovingly and respectfully, but sometimes things have eroded to such a degree, the ending is bitter and nasty and heartbreaking. People only have the tools they have; not everyone knows how to communicate, or to truly listen. So many people just want to be right, as if that’s going to be comforting at the end of it all. “Here lies someone who was right.”

Endings are hard for most people; change rarely comes easily. Sometimes what we want diverges so sharply from what someone else wants, there’s bound to be pain. Some people shut down, some people feel guilty and use anger as a defense mechanism. Sometimes people start other relationships thinking they’ll avoid the pain of the last ending, not understanding there is no avoiding it. It just waits, and bites them in the a$$ months later, when the heat of their new relationship dies down, and they realize they’re going to face challenges and work with any partner. Intimacy isn’t easy. Neither is loneliness. You kind of have to figure out which work you want to do.

Try not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, or trying to convince anyone that you really are wonderful. People will remember who you are eventually. They’ll look back just like you do, and if you were good to them, believe me, they’ll see that at some point. That’s not your job, or your work. Your job is to show up as your best self as much of the time as you possibly can. That means you have to nurture yourself, and it’s hard to nurture yourself and torture yourself at the same time, as you might have noticed. Take yourself off the block. If you can look yourself in the eye and know you’re doing your best, keep going. If you blew things badly, stop and get some help so you can figure out what drove your choices, and make different ones the next time. That is all.

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

Icehole Alert!

iceholeFor many people this time of year is loaded with triggers and painful memories, with the desire for something lost, or something yet to be experienced. We have this Norman Rockwell image of “how things should look”. And there are people who do a decent impression from the outside, but every family has its stuff. Because every family is made up of people, and people are complex and vulnerable. Often confused and scared and motivated by their own desires, sometimes unknown even to themselves. But if you’re feeling alone already, there’s nothing like the idea that everyone else has this safe haven, this warm fold in which they’ll be embraced and understood, heard and celebrated, to make you feel like the loneliest person on earth. Few things get us in greater trouble than the picture in our head of how things should be. Things are as they are.

If you talk to people with happy families about heading home for the holidays, they’ll still roll their eyes and let you know they’ll need to sneak away to do their yoga in order to stay sane. And those are the lucky ones. There are people who don’t want to go home, because home sends them back in time, to when they were fifteen, feeling belligerent and powerless all at once. Grown adults with children of their own can revert back to bickering with their siblings like they’re reading from a tattered, ancient script. Old competition for attention or affection can rise to the surface, and even those who’ve done lots of work on themselves can be thrown off center.

There are people with nowhere to go, because going home just isn’t an option. I have a friend whose parents won’t accept the fact that he married his boyfriend. He’s not welcome home. I can’t wrap my head around that. You have a child. Your child is healthy and happy, or trying to be. It’s not easy when your own parents reject you, no matter how much work you do to be okay with it. But sometimes you simply have to make your own family. Just pick the people who know how to love you for who you are. And learn to live with the pain in your heart that the people who brought you into this world can only love you and accept you if you do what they want you to do. If you feel and think the way they want you to feel and think. If you want what they think you should want. That isn’t love. Those are people who don’t understand how to do it. And it’s an incredibly sad loss for them and for you. But it’s not a reflection on you, it’s on them. Let’s drink to that, shall we? Raise a little non-alcoholic, or regular, or vegan eggnog and toast that idea.

And don’t get me wrong. There are people who love going home. People who have healthy relationships with their parents and their siblings. Once in awhile, a couple of people come together, and they figure out how to make it work. How to see each other and hear each other, and feed the love between them so it grows. People who guard and prioritize their love because they understand what a gift it is. When that happens, you have the foundation for something amazing. When you start bringing other people into a mix like that, you’ve got the makings of a happy family. You may not have had one growing up, but you can create one if you want to. My point is, much of our pain comes from our own thoughts. Not all of it; there are things in this world that can just gut you. But a lot of the things we suffer over are our own creation. Our own fantasy of how things are for other people, and how much we don’t have that in our own lives.

I would say compassion for yourself is the number one gift you want in your stocking if you’re having a tough time this year. If you’re spending the holidays on your own, and the sight of people bustling around humming holiday songs to themselves, or cutting you off in traffic on their way to the mall for that last gift is depressing you beyond words, give yourself the gift of some yoga. In fact, I’ll give it to you. Sign up here if you’d like a free 15-day trial to practice yoga with me and all of our amazing teachers. Sneak away from your drunk Aunt Marge, fire up your laptop, and center yourself. Because creating some space between your thoughts is often a lifesaver when you’re in a mental tailspin. It’s like hitting the reset button, so your attention and awareness shift away from what you don’t have, and back to what you do have. The feeling of lack, of longing, is so painful and debilitating. It makes us feel sick. The feeling of gratitude is so beautiful. When you start to focus on anything that is right and good, like maybe your health if you have it, or the love of at least one person who really knows you, or a place to call home, or food in your refrigerator, or the ability to watch the sunrise or set, or to take a deep breath, or go look at the ocean, or hear the laugh of a little kid and remember yourself at that age, your tender heart and your curiosity and your belief in yourself and in other people, your expectation that the world would be a safe place–if you can get a hold of any of that, even for an instant, you can start to feed it.

Don’t let your past hold you hostage. Also, you’re not alone. Really, you’re not. We’ve all had holiday seasons that tested us and made us feel small and scared and sad. It’s called being human. Don’t let it make you hard and closed. Let it soften you. Let it soften your heart so you can be kind to yourself. So you can acknowledge and hold the feelings of heartache or despair or rage or resentment. If you lean into them you’ll see they won’t kill you. Avoiding them could, because that’s when you have to back yourself into a little corner and squeeze your eyes shut, and cover your ears and hold your breath. Let it be how it is, because how it is now is not how it will always be. Sending you love, and hoping you’re having a beautiful holiday season, but letting you know there are people who care if you aren’t. In case you weren’t sure. Ally Hamilton

Don’t Drown in the Ripples

Sometimes the pain we inflict upon ourselves is worse than any other pain we face. I know so many people who grapple with self-loathing, who feel shame, guilt, despair and rage because they’ve made mistakes and don’t know how to make things right. An unforgiving internal dialogue is a painful and relentless prison, and sometimes it seems the key is somewhere far, far away.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes we make huge ones, with lasting ripples that follow us way into our futures. The worse you feel about yourself, the harder it is to pull yourself out. You can drown in those ripples; people can drown in two inches of water. We all have pain, and some people have more than others; it is in no way a level playing field. Some people are more resilient than others, human beings are not robots, and life doesn’t follow a formula. Judgement about another person’s mistakes is nothing more than self-loathing turned outward. We never know what it is to walk in someone else’s shoes, and we don’t have the skinny on what other people need in order to learn and grow. Each of us has plenty of work to do keeping our own paths clean.

I know people who feel undeserving of love; unlovable. I want to be clear. There are people who don’t make it easy, who are cruel or cold or uncaring. Do you know what it takes to get a human being to that place? I’m not talking about personality disorders, that’s another topic. I’m talking about people who’ve given up on love, and have decided you can’t trust anyone, and no one cares, and life is brutal, and they will be, too. Usually the people who hurt us the most are the ones in the greatest pain. That doesn’t make it okay when you’re on the receiving end, but it helps to understand what’s motivating a person who has let you down, broken your heart, or left you without any sense of closure or understanding.

The people I’m talking about feel unworthy of love because they can’t forgive themselves. If you’re coming out of pain, if you’re filled with despair, you’re going to spread it, that’s just how it works. When we aren’t loving ourselves, we tend not to take good care. Sometimes the pain is so great, the desire to numb out and make it go away is intense. When we’re in a fog we don’t think clearly, we can’t see straight. Fog might be a relief for awhile, but eventually that’s a prison, too. Life isn’t meant to be endured in a haze, it’s meant to be lived with an open heart and mind. How else to see the beauty? To receive the love? To have your breath taken away? To be overcome with gratitude just for the experience of being alive? A fog robs you of that. A haze blurs those edges, too.

At a certain point you have to forgive yourself. It’s never too late to start again. We all do it, every day, every moment. The whole thing is shifting all the time, nothing stays the same. If you were in pain and you caused pain as a result, you do your best to make it right. That’s all you can do. You show up, the best you can and you say you’re sorry, but if you aren’t forgiven, eventually you have to forgive yourself. Otherwise it’s a vicious cycle of hating yourself and needing the haze to blur the awful feeling of hating yourself. That’s prison.

You’re a human being on planet earth. Whatever time you have ahead of you, make it count. Turn things around. Remember your kind and beautiful heart. Did you mean to hurt anyone? Were you just lost? Turn your attention to any and every gift you’ve got. Your health if you have it. People in your life who love you and believe in you. People you love beyond words. A place to sleep at night and food to eat. The sunrise, or sunset, or rain on your face. The way the wind moves the leaves of the trees. You are not the same you you were ten years ago, ten days ago, ten minutes ago, and neither is anyone else. Everything is in a constant state of flux, including you. Move toward beauty. Open to love. Forgive yourself, forgive yourself, forgive yourself. Then start again.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

The Best Time is Now

I used to think I’d be “done” at a certain point. If I just hit a few milestones and managed to make good choices, if I just had a small amount of luck, then the changing and shifting and sometimes agonizing uncertainty of it all would cease, then I could just live out my happy ending. The milestones looked like graduating from a good college, finding something to do with my time that was fulfilling and would also sustain me, meeting the right person and having a family. I figured if I managed to do any or all of that, then I’d be happy and my life would really begin.

I had all these flailing questions about what I was doing here, what we were all doing here, what the point might be, what happened after this. I wanted stability, something I could count on, so I met many of those milestones, and I realized I wasn’t done, I was still in process, still changing and growing and learning and screwing things up, and sometimes surprising myself with clarity. I had been so focused on this future that was waiting for me if I could just get it right, I had been missing my present. Joy lives in the current moment. So does gratitude and love and every other great feeling we long to have.

Human beings are never done. Life is always there to offer opportunities to grow or grieve, to expand or close, to begin again. Whatever has happened in your past is behind you. It may have changed you, affected you, shaped you, but it does not have to define you, or dictate the way your story unfolds. Life is not just happening to us, we get to co-create it; we get to decide how we’ll respond to what it is that we’re given. There’s a lot of power in that. Your particular story will not be over, you will not be “done” until you exhale for the final time, and maybe you won’t be done then, either; none of us will know for sure until we get there.

What we do have is now. So many people get caught in this trap of thinking life begins when happiness is achieved, and that all depends on external factors. I’ll be happy when I have a great job or I live in a big house, or I drive a fast car. I’ll be happy when I meet the right person, or lose ten pounds. I’ll be happy when I have kids. In the meantime, in my misery and feelings of craving and longing, I have to work toward those goals, even if they feel way out there somewhere, and the path between here and there isn’t clear. How could it be? When you’re so focused on things out in front of you, you’re missing all the wisdom that’s within you. If your mind is full of lists and places you need to be and things you need to do, it’s very hard to hear the quiet, abiding voice of your own intuition. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals or intentions. It’s good to know what you’re trying to do with your life, and what you want to offer, but that’s different than chasing brass rings other people tell you you’re supposed to want.

Getting quiet is the key to knowing yourself. It’s incredibly simple, but it isn’t easy. So many people have fear about stopping, breathing, tuning in. Maybe the path you’re on isn’t the one that feels right for you. Maybe it’s a path you chose to please other people, maybe you chose it because it seemed like the one you should want. The most common regret of people who are dying is that they didn’t live their life in alignment with what was true for them. Sometimes people feel trapped or paralyzed, like they’ve walked too far down a particular road to stop now. You can always stop and turn around, you can always change direction if the way ahead feels like a slow death. Since you’re never going to be done, why not start over at any time? Co-create a new story, take a path that doesn’t make sense to anyone but you, because ultimately, that’s your job.

I’m not saying it’s okay to do whatever you want without thinking about how your actions affect other people. I’m saying, at the center of it all, your heart longs to be free to expand and if you find yourself in a state of compression or brokenness, if you find it’s hard to breathe or to move or to find a way that feels right or good, it’s time to speak out. It’s time to ask for help if you need it. It’s time to be honest about how you feel and where you’re at; to confront your fears head on. No one can blame you for what you feel in your heart. People around you may wish you felt differently, but no one can fault you for being human, and as such, vulnerable.

We get a limited amount of time in the bodies we’re in, with the life we’re living. I’m pretty positive at this point we’re here to love: to feel it, to spread it, to move with it. To connect and share and lend a hand or an ear or a shoulder or whatever you’ve got. You really can’t do that if you’ve taken so many twists and turns you’ve become lost to yourself. That’s the darkest, loneliest thing in the world — to be a stranger to your own heart. It’s never too late to plant a tree. A sprout on a branch is the beginning of something beautiful. Trees planted in love blossom pretty quickly.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

You Have to Be You

Sometimes you’re so full of gratitude you can feel your heart swell, and other times you’re so full of despair you can feel it breaking. The heart is amazing, pumping away for us through all of it, steady and there and just under the surface of everything. You could put your hand over your heart right now, and close your eyes and take just a moment to feel that, because it’s easy to forget what a gift it is just to breathe. Just to be alive, even if nothing makes sense right now.

What makes you tick? What is it you really want, when you don’t worry about what other people are expecting of you? What would you do with this day if you could do anything at all? I think the answers matter, even if you aren’t living them right now. Your heart has a song that will pour right out of your mouth if you let it, but sometimes we don’t let it because we have fear. Fear of what people will think, or what people will say, or what we’ll do with the life we’re leading now, if it isn’t the one we know is calling to us.

You don’t have to want what other people want, or even what other people want you to want. You’re you. You have to live your life, you have to be able to face yourself in the mirror as you brush your teeth. What you see there will calm you, or it will leave you with a deep sense of unrest. If you’re living from your heart, you’ll be able to relax, because you’ll be doing this one, very important thing: trusting yourself. When you betray what’s true for you, what’s dying to come out, when you try to live your life to please other people, or to fit in, you turn your back on yourself at a very core level, and diminish your faith that you can act on your own behalf.

Do you ever feel that you just give yourself away? That someone or something comes along and you’re just swept away in it with no anchor and no way to right yourself? Your heart is your true north. Wherever you go and whatever you do, your heart goes with you. It’s your center, but it’s also the key to your flight. If you don’t know how to stand on your feet, how can you ever fly? If you don’t know who you are, or what you want, or what lights you up, there’s a good chance you’ll give yourself away, because for most people, some plan is better than no plan. I know people who’ve gotten married and lived the life their partner wanted because they couldn’t figure out how to hear their own plan. Maybe it turned out all right, or maybe, late at night when the house is quiet, they sit up and wonder how things could have been, if only.

Pain is part of life, and the heart is asked to bear it. Some hearts are asked to bear more than others. There’s no escaping pain, though. Trust in your ability to face your pain because it won’t do you in unless you run from it. If you do that, your pain owns you and your heart pays the tab. If you trust in your heart, in its strength and its steadiness, if you let that song pour out, your fear doesn’t stand a chance. Your song will knock it right on its ass, and all those people you worried about will be inspired, or maybe they’ll be threatened because you’re changing, and things are changing, but that’s their journey, and you have yours.

Cars and diets and other people and flashy things won’t ever make you happy for long. Coveting is an endless game that makes you sick. Trusting your heart is a sure bet. Being yourself is the best thing you can be, and the payoff is your happiness. It’s worth quite a lot, because when your heart is full and open and you know you can trust yourself, you can lend a hand to people who need one. When you’re trapped in fear you need your hands to protect yourself. Here’s to wishing you the strength to follow your heart and let your song spill out, for the world surely needs to hear more of that sound.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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