We-all-know-were-goingFor me, like so many others, this is always going to be a day of remembering. I was born and raised in NYC, and there that morning, thirteen years ago. And I can remember every detail, including every minute of the four and a half hours we didn’t know if my stepdad was okay (he was), because he worked in the World Trade Center, and all the phone lines in the city went dead. But I don’t want to talk about the specifics. I’ve done that before. I want to talk about what it’s like to be shocked by violence, because so many people in the world right now are living that experience every day.

You might not have had an idyllic childhood. Maybe you lost your innocence too soon. Maybe burdens were placed upon you at an early age, or you had to take the role of parenting your parents, or you saw and heard things no child should have to see or hear. That’s one way of being stripped of your innocence. Once you know something, you can’t not know it. And it’s the same when we’re shocked as a people, as a culture. I believe we all thought we were invincible in that way, that we were the super-cop of the world, that we were impervious to violation. But because of the way we’ve set things up, no one is immune. And no one is innocent. When we turn our backs, we aren’t innocent. We have a cultural idea that only the strongest survive, and that we have to compete if we want to succeed. We have lots of ideas that have led us to where we find ourselves today, with too many innocent children dying, too many parents grieving in the streets, too many people suffering.

How it is within us, is how it is around us. If you’re filled with love, you’re going to spread love. If you’re filled with pain or rage, so too, you’re going to spread those things. Anything we see around us is a reflection of something that exists within us, either personally, or culturally. This is why I believe it’s essential that each of us does the healing and the work to make the worlds within us loving and peaceful places to be. Of course that makes each of our individual lives easier and happier and more fulfilling, but it’s also a gift we give to each other. We love to blame “society’ for its ills, but society is made up of human beings.

There are some people who will never do this work. They’re too far gone. Rage has infected their hearts and eaten their brains and made them capable of inhumane thinking and actions. So be it. But that’s a small percentage of the human population. And I have no doubt that if the large majority of us got to work doing a better job of finding peace and steadiness within, we’d begin to do a great job of spreading that around. It’s not the tiny percentage of violent extremists who pose the biggest threat to our well-being. It’s the huge percentage of people who numb out so they don’t have to feel the pain of being human. Because it is painful. It’s also incredibly beautiful. It’s wildly interesting and unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen from day to day, and you can let that reality terrify you or inspire you to live fully. We’re afraid of pain. We’re averse to discomfort, let alone suffering. But we’re all going to suffer to some degree or another, and we’re all vulnerable. It’s not a level playing field as far as what happens. Some people are born with amazing advantages. Some people endure knifing, piercing losses that make you wonder how they’re going to move forward. But as far as vulnerability goes, we all get the same parameters. We’re all going to die at some point. We all have an incredible capacity to love. Everyone we love will die eventually. We don’t know how long we have, we don’t know how long they have, we don’t know what happens after this. Welcome to the human race, these are the rules of this game. How we live up to them is what defines us.

When you numb out, you turn your back on your own precious heart, and the hearts of all the people who hold you near and dear, but you also turn your back on your place in the whole. You turn your back on all your brothers and sisters. Because as far as I’m concerned, we are one huge family living on one planet. We have some members who are bat-sh&t crazy and full of venom, and there’s no denying that. But most of our family members are decent people with beautiful hearts struggling to manage their own vulnerability and fear. And we could help each other so much by simply acknowledging that.

We don’t need more people who feel alienated and alone, we need more connection, empathy, compassion and understanding. We need that individually, and we need that as a people. Everything you do, matters. You’re an energetic being, and you spread and take in energy wherever you go. The more accountable each of us is for the energy we’re spreading, the more we mindfully try to up the happiness quotient of the world around us with our small actions every day, the more we contribute to a better and more loving world. So don’t underestimate your own power. You’re one of seven billion people, and you’re completely unique. You have a spark to offer that only you can. But if enough sparks come together, we have a raging, burning fire of love we can let loose together. And I really believe the time is now. We don’t have time to keep feeding the old story of us versus them. We need to be a we. Sending you love, and sending extra love out there to anyone who’s lost a family member to an act of violence.

Don’t Chase Love

chaseloveWhenever you find yourself trying to force or control an outcome, it’s time to perk up and take a look at what’s happening within you. We’re all going to be attached to certain ideas; this is the nature of being human. For example, we’ll all want our loved ones to be happy; perfectly understandable. But if we start to assume that we know what will make someone else happy, then we’re in trouble. The minute you try to manage someone else’s path, you’re losing a chance to keep your own side of the street clean.

A lot of the time, we’re taking things personally. Maybe there’s someone we really care for, and we’re chasing. Right there, it’s a problem. You don’t chase love, you open to it. If you have to take off after it, that’s a huge red flag. Instead of spending your time and energy wondering what you can do to be perfect for this other person so you can get their attention and make them fall in love with you, you could be examining why you’re feeling so badly about yourself you’d tie up your Nike’s and chase your worthiness. You’re worthy. You’re the only one of you we get. You think you aren’t worthy of love? If someone isn’t offering it to you fully and openly, what are you doing? Have you ever talked to a couple who’s in love, and has been for thirty, forty, fifty years? I have. I make a habit of it any chance I get. I love to see couples who make it, and not once, in all the conversations with all the people I’ve met over the years, has any couple told me a story about a beginning that involved one person feeling deeply insecure all the time, and the other not treating them well. That’s not a solid foundation, and it won’t lead anywhere good. Also, it isn’t loving to race after someone who doesn’t want to be caught. If you love someone, you have to want for them what they want for themselves. If someone is making it clear to you that they aren’t available the way you want them to be, it’s disrespectful to refuse to accept that. It’s not just disrespectful to them and their feelings, it’s disrespecting yourself to keep trying.

It can hurt like hell when people we love don’t want what we wish they would want. This happens when we relate to the world and the people around us as if it’s about us, as if we’re in the center of this thing, and everything is happening around us or to us. When you can remove yourself from the center of the story and look at it from the sidelines, you’ll see it usually has very little to do with you. People want what they want. They are where they are. They have the tools they have. They may not want you, or anyone else the way you wish that they would. It’s also a bit nuts of us to imagine we can ever know what’s right for someone else. Isn’t it hard enough to grapple with what you need for your own inner peace? As long as a person isn’t intentionally hurting you or anyone else, you really have to assume they’re doing the best they can to work life out in a way that will feel good to them. Sometimes people don’t know what they want, and that can be hard to watch and hard to walk away from if you’re hoping maybe they’ll finally realize they want you, but you aren’t here to wait, because there’s not enough time for that.

When we start to try to control situations or people, when we find ourselves attempting to manipulate or cajole, or dance like a monkey to get what we want, it’s time to stop and check ourselves. Life is not about forcing the picture in your head onto the people around you–that picture of “how things should be.” No one will thank you for trying, and not many things cause us more pain than our attachment to that picture. It can be so hard to let it go, I really understand that, but grasping and waiting and hoping and struggling and doubting and obsessing….that is no way to live.

It’s brutal to have to release an idea, or another person, or a hope we held close, but you can’t cling and fly at the same time and you don’t have all the time in the world. I wouldn’t spend too much of it refusing to accept and open to things as they are; there’s so much power in that. Your self-respect is in the mix. So is your self-esteem. This is the stuff that has far-reaching consequences for your life, the way you move through the world, and the way life feels to you, day in, and day out. Let life feel good. It might hurt a lot in the short-term, but intense pain for a little while is so much better than a lifetime of suffering.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Just Be There

Compassion-is-hardSometimes the very best thing we can do for someone is hold some space for them to be where they are, to listen intently, and reflect back our understanding with love. To say, “Yes, of course that would hurt. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” That’s often the best we can do for people, reassuring them that they are not alone in their experience, that we get it, that we’ve been there, or that we haven’t been there, but still, we can mourn with them, or just be there to make a meal, or take them for a walk. It’s very hard when people we love are suffering, or grieving, or enraged, or feeling bitter, or maybe all of those things at once. It’s natural to want to get in there and fix it, to brainstorm about solutions, or to offer our unsolicited opinions about what our friends should do. The reality is, we never know what another person needs for his or her own healing or grieving process or growth. Sometimes people are in so much agony, the people around them become uncomfortable, and this discomfort propels them to give their friend a push to “get back on their feet.” That’s really the last thing a person needs to hear when they have no way of doing that for themselves. As Earl Grollman rightly states, “The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

Some wounds are self-inflicted. Sometimes we need painful lessons again and again until we get it. That isn’t easy to watch, and of course if someone you love is harming themselves, we’re in a different territory. Then, you step in and do everything you can to get them some support, or you find some for yourself so you can honor your own needs and boundaries while you try to offer a hand up, or a shoulder to lean on. But you can’t save anyone, and if you’re confused about that, you’re in a precarious position. We can never carry the burden of another person’s pain, nor can we be responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Each of us must do our own journey. We all have to find a way to be at peace within ourselves, and sometimes the journey to that peace is fraught with roadblocks, self-imposed, or provided by the twists and turns and losses of life.

Whatever we have to bear, having loyal and understanding friends with whom we feel safe can be such a comfort. Knowing that there’s at least one person we can share our fears or insecurities or doubt or shame or guilt or jealousy with, without hearing a solution we didn’t ask for and don’t want, is really a gift. It’s hard to just listen. I think a lot of people feel like that isn’t enough, that if someone is coming to them in some pain or discomfort, implicit in their sharing is a request for advice. People will ask for our opinions if they want them. Most of us don’t listen to advice, anyway. We tell ourselves that’s the way it is or was for our well-meaning friend, but it’s not the way it is or will be for us. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking close friends when they share with me, “Do you want me to just listen, or do you want to know what I think?” People will tell you. Most people just want a safe space, and some understanding. Hoping we can all be, and have, friends like that, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton


thichloveIntimacy requires bravery, and not everyone is up to the challenge. In order to be close to people we have to be willing to bare ourselves. I don’t recommend you do this lightly or quickly; it takes time to know someone. Your heart is tender and precious, and not something you want to treat recklessly, but if you’re building something real with someone, whether it’s a friendship, or a romantic interest, or the developing and always growing relationship with your children or your parents, speaking from your heart is always the way.

In order to be seen, known, understood and cherished, we have to be real about who we are, how we feel, what we want, what scares us, excites us and inspires us. We have to know ourselves, we have to be intimately acquainted with who we are, before we can share our hearts fully, and we have to feel safe in order to do that. Let me just say that many people struggle with the underside of intimacy—the messy, in-your-face realities of being human that we must acknowledge and lean into, in order to heal and grow. Some people run screaming from that kind of work. Timing has a lot to do with this stuff. Most people don’t get up one morning and decide this is the day they’re going to face their demons head on. Most of us have to be pushed to do that, and when I say pushed, I mean we have to get to a point where it becomes obvious that avoiding this work only prolongs the pain.

If you try to force someone to face their stuff before they’re ready or able, no matter how loving your approach, do not be surprised if they lash out or take off. It’s never our job to manage another person’s path. We may want someone to be ready to get right with themselves so they can be right with us, we may want that desperately, but if they don’t want that, our job is to get out of the way. If a person wants to walk away from you, let him, let her. I know it’s heartbreaking. When we love people, and truly love them, we want them to be happy. That’s natural and beautiful, but we don’t get to choose the timeframe, or manage the way it happens. Everyone has to do their own work in their own time. We never know what another person needs to learn and grow, and sometimes in our attempts to alleviate a loved one’s pain, we also rob them of an experience that would have helped them make a shift. It’s brutal to watch someone we love as they suffer or make mistakes or pick roads we don’t understand, but sometimes that’s exactly what love asks of us.

It also hurts when we offer someone a chance to come forward, when we reach out a hand and let them know we’re there and we see them and they’re safe to open to us, and they say no. It’s so hard not to take that personally, but usually in those cases, a person is saying no to the work of being intimate. It feels like too much. Being close to people is not like it is in the movies. It’s not all fun and light and running through fields of flowers. Some of it is deeply uncomfortable. A willingness to reveal the places that aren’t so pretty, to fight back when old coping mechanisms arise that don’t serve us, to say we’re sorry when we blow it, or allow our past to come crashing into our present—none of this stuff is comfortable or easy. Love is the most beautiful, freeing feeling in the world, but sometimes you have to get on the battlefield so you can fight the barriers you’ve built to protect yourself, because those walls might prevent you from getting hurt, but they also block the love. If a person can’t meet you on that field, they don’t belong there with you yet. Maybe the timing will never be right, and maybe it will, but what we have is right now, and the least painful path is opening to reality as it is, which is not always as we’d like it to be. Nonetheless, I’ll take truth over fiction any day. I want to know the people in my life so I can love them fiercely, and I want to be loved that way, too. Life, in my opinion, is too short for anything else.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

See and Be Seen

brenebFor most people there’s a struggle between wanting to be known, and being afraid of that very thing. We all want connection, it’s natural to us, but how far we go is up to us. How much we share or edit or hide or are willing to expose our most painful places, our most absurd doubts, our perceived, or very real weaknesses. The places where we might still suffer from shame or doubt. If I share this, will I still be loved? Wanted? Understood? Do I really want to be seen in all my allness?

I’m not just speaking romantically. I’m speaking about one person knowing you all the way, whether it’s your mother, or your best friend or your partner or your sibling or your ex. Is there anyone in your life with whom you feel totally and completely safe to bare your fear and be yourself? Your real self?

A lot of people say they want intimacy, but when push comes to shove, they back out. They get nervous or they run, or use humor as a defense mechanism, because, of course, if you really let someone in, you also give them the roadmap to hurt you if they ever choose to go that route. There are few things worse between people than that kind of betrayal of trust. If you were once close to someone, and they shared their real stuff with you, in my book that is off limits forever, no matter what. You do not go for someone’s jugular. We all know where that line is. Once you speak words that land like knives, you’ve crossed a line you can’t uncross.

I understand the fear, because most of us have been heartbroken, disappointed, discarded, or surprised by the hostility or indifference of someone at one time or another. You don’t have to be hurt too many times to start to build walls around your heart. How else to keep it safe? The thing is, walls keep out the joy, too. So now you’re safe but alone. No one knows you and no one sees you, not really. And that’s not the same as living.

Sometimes people have a perception that everyone else is having this great life with these amazing friends and great job and annoyingly perfect dog to top it all off, while they are just basically sucking at everything. The truth is, most of us are blessed if we have a small group of people who truly, deeply know us and love us, and I’ll tell you, that little group is enough. I wouldn’t forsake it for all the safety in the world, because the sh&t will hit the fan whether you try to make yourself safe, or you venture boldly into the world. Be particular and take your time, but when you meet those people with whom you feel safe to be yourself completely, do it. That’s the best stuff in life, being able to look into the eyes of someone you know without having to look away because there’s not enough truth between you to hold the gaze.

See and be seen, love and be loved,

Ally Hamilton

Find my books here <3

How’s Your Side of the Street?

opdramaIf you have some idea that you can save people, or make another person feel happy or whole or healed, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, and maybe worse. Wanting to help people is beautiful; we could use more of that in the world. That impulse is the catalyst that leads someone to share, to listen, to offer support or encouragement, but thinking that you can swoop in and make things right for someone who’s in pain, just with the depth of your love and concern, is a recipe for disaster.

I say this whether we’re talking about your best friend, your new friend, your child, your parent, your partner, or your new romantic interest. Each of us must do our own work, and sometimes when we try to make things right for someone, we unintentionally rob them of an experience that might have helped them grow. It’s brutal to watch someone we love suffer. It’s natural to want to comfort and nurture, and if you can see a clear path toward happiness, of course you want to point the way. It’s fine to offer tools that have worked for you if they’re open to your ideas, but people do things as they’re ready. You can’t micro-manage someone else’s journey.

When we spend lots of time and energy focused on what someone else is, or is not doing, saying, or being, we conveniently stop paying attention to our own growth, our own needs, and our own healing. We all have work enough to do, just keeping our own side of the street clean. Life asks us to rise up every day, to show up and be present, to listen, to reflect, to respond, to engage. You have this one life, and what you do with it is up to you, but if you allow years to go by where you’re so caught up in someone else’s life that you forget to live your own, that’s time you’ll never have back.

Sometimes you have to ask yourself if you want a partner, or a project. If you grew up thinking that love was conditional, that it had to be earned, and that it could be taken away if you didn’t measure up, you probably have a lot of work to do in your current relationships, romantic or otherwise. When we don’t value ourselves, we gravitate toward people to whom we might become invaluable. “I’ll just be perfect for this person, I’ll give them everything they need, and then they won’t leave me or hurt me or betray me.” That isn’t love, that’s a project.

When our children are young, we have to lean over the plate and cut the pancakes, or halve the grapes, or put lids on the cups so everything doesn’t spill down the front of these people we love. If you find yourself metaphorically doing these things for grown adults, whether they’re your children or your friends, something is off.

Try to get very clear about what you want. If you want love and peace in your life, you won’t find those things by trying to control other people, or circumstances. Love can’t exist in a vise grip, because love needs room to move and expand.

Wishing you enough trust to allow for that expansion, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Communication 101

peacealderWhen it comes to relationships of any kind, honest communication is everything. If you want other people to know you, you have to be willing to show yourself. It’s not realistic to expect others to read your mind, and as much as you might think you have someone pegged, the only way to truly know how anyone feels, is to ask. Sometimes we repress something we need to say out of fear of hurting someone else, and other times we don’t ask questions when we’re afraid of the answers, and what they might mean for our tender hearts.

We’re taught that certain emotions make people uncomfortable (“Don’t be scared”, “Don’t be angry”, “Don’t be sad”), and many of us started editing ourselves as children. If you have care-taking, codependent tendencies, you probably really need to work on your ability to honor your own feelings, and act on your own behalf when necessary, which is pretty much every day. Saying what you mean is a gift you give yourself, but it also extends to all the people in your life. It’s so nice to know where you stand with someone, and to relax, and trust that if something comes up (and it always does), they’ll talk to you. This is how we develop a bond with another person. Being able to say what’s true for you, calmly, and with compassion, is a strength worth working on, because it just simplifies everything.

Life is challenging and confusing enough without having to try to figure out where someone else is at, or how you should act in order to elicit the response you desire. Being unable to stand up for yourself feels terrible, and it’s debilitating. Playing games is fine if we’re talking about cards or chess, but if we’re talking about human emotions, that’s really not the way to go, not if you want true intimacy, anyway. If you want anyone to know you well and deeply, you have to be able to say how you feel, and ask the scary, uncomfortable questions when they arise.

Sometimes the games we’re playing have nothing to do with hurting anyone else, or being reckless with someone else’s heart. Sometimes we don’t want to admit our own vulnerability. We cover our real feelings with an air of indifference or toughness, so no one will know the depth of what we feel, or how much power they hold over us. That’s fear. That’s a fear of trusting that anyone else could hold a space to really see you, in all your beauty and occasional absurdity, with all your strengths and all your flaws, all your history and all your mistakes, and still. Still cherish you. And if you let that fear run the show, you’ll never know. You’ll never give anyone the chance to prove to you that they can do it. Not your best friend. Not your mother. Not your partner. No one.

Life does not have to be like that, but you have to be willing to stop hiding. Everyone likes to put his or her best foot forward, but we all screw up sometimes. We all have fears, some unfounded, some based on past experience, some flowing from a sea of self-doubt. If you don’t ever admit your humanness, chances are the people around you will be reluctant to own theirs, as well. But the truth is, we’re all more alike than we realize. We all cry ourselves to sleep sometimes, or despair, or have our existential crises. It’s really okay. Show yourself and free yourself, and the people strong enough to do the same will show up in your life, and those who can’t do it will fall away. But while you’re here, you might as well be you, don’t you think?

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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