Sometimes Acceptance is All the Closure You’re Going to Get

No one ever asks life to knock them down. You’re not going to hear anyone say, “Things are pretty good. I hope life throws a huge monkey wrench into my world. Maybe my husband will suddenly announce he has a girlfriend and leave! Or I’ll lose my job. Or something I never could have seen coming will bring me to my knees and break my heart wide open.” We don’t ask for these things, but sometimes these are the kind of challenges we have to face. Or worse.

Not everything in life is positive, and there are some lessons no one will ever appreciate. You might grow, strengthen or reach new levels of compassion or insight, but there are some heartbreaks that are so knifing, no one would ever say, “Thank you for this.” As a result, you’ll never hear me say, “Everything happens for a reason.” I used to say things along those lines, and maybe everything does, or maybe it’s all random, but I think spiritual sound-bytes like that are an attempt to wrap life up into a neat little package, and I think they’re incredibly alienating to people who are devastated. When you cannot recognize your life, when everything falls apart and you have nothing but the shards of glass that used to be your home in a pile around you, and old photographs and a sweater that still smells like what was, you really don’t want to hear it’s happened for some reason that will make sense to you some day. Some things will never, ever make sense, and some things will never be okay. Recognizing that is the only way you can conceive of moving forward. Sometimes acceptance is all the closure you’re going to get.

When you find yourself in a state like this, move slowly and have compassion for yourself. If you know someone who’s been knocked down, show up and make them dinner, but don’t tell them how to grieve or that it’s time to snap out of it. People mourn in their own way, whether it’s over the loss of a person, a relationship, a job or a way of being. There’s a huge difference between being there for someone and enabling self-destruction, so please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m simply saying when a person is trying to put the pieces of their life back together, they need love, not a whip. Because although no one would ask for everything to fall apart around them, when that happens there is the potential for something strong, beautiful and powerful to emerge. A new way of being, of seeing, of understanding. It takes time to birth those things, and it’s a very painful process, but when I look back at the most devastating things that have happened in my own life, I can recognize that I grew from them. That I would not be where I am now if I had not been where I was then.

There are a couple of experiences I’d give back gladly. I’d say, “No thank you, not this. Not this.” But I can see how those moments opened me, and turned me into the kind of person who cares deeply when a stranger sends a message about a loss. A broken relationship. A dark time. And I can appreciate that. I can be grateful for that. Hopefully we can all care more about each other without having to personally suffer too much. Maybe I needed those times to open me. I wouldn’t want to be closed. I say this to you in case you’re going through one of those devastating times. I’d never ask you to be grateful, but I would say you have the choice to allow it to soften you and open you, or to close you and harden you. Opening feels a lot better.

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton

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

How to Break Free from Toxic Relationships

If someone is breaking your heart and treating you badly eventually, you are going to have to walk away. It sucks and it’s brutal, and sometimes it feels like the absolute hardest thing in the world to do, but you have to dig deep and get it done. Love will not require that you allow yourself to be abused, mistreated, betrayed, disrespected or demeaned. Apologies do not make up for that. Yes, there is no doubt when a person treats you badly it’s because they’re in pain, and they are not loving themselves well, either. You can have all the love, understanding, compassion and forgiveness in the world when you’re in love with someone who hurts you, but you can’t stay because eventually there will be nothing left of you.

I wouldn’t say this to you so strongly if I hadn’t been there myself, and more than once. I fully understand relationships like these can be intoxicating and consuming and that the passion doesn’t wear off. You want to know why it doesn’t wear off? Because you’re addicted to the interaction. You’re hooked on trying to change the person and get yourself that happy ending, and since you can never satisfy that desire, you’re never done. It never slows down or cools off to that place where you can love your heart out and also live your life. Where it’s still hot, but sustainable. Instead, you’re in that crazy, can’t-get-enough phase way past the point of hormones and those first few months. You have heart dis-ease. You wait for that fix, for that payoff, for that resolution and understanding and appreciation, but you’ll never get it from this particular source. You. Will. Not. Get. It.

What you will get is pain and suffering. You may think to yourself, “This is the love of my life. It must be because I’m so consumed. I’d do anything for this person, give anything, be anything. No matter what they do, I still love them.” You may love them. You may see them clearly, with all their pain and all their wounds and all their potential, but if a person abuses you, leaves you without explanation, cheats on you and comes back with an “I’m sorry, I love you,” they don’t understand what that really means. They might conceptually, but practically speaking, behaviorally speaking, they do not. Because let me explain this if it’s unclear to you. Someone who understands how to love is not going to go behind your back when you’re in a monogamous relationship, and sleep with someone else, or say or do things that are cruel and bring you to your knees. That is not loving. And if you hold on because you see someone’s potential and you have this beautiful vision of how it could be, if only…you are really setting yourself up for heartache that’s going to grow larger and larger. The longer you stay, the more your partner will believe you’ll always stay, no matter what they do or say, no matter how bad it gets.

Somewhere inside, they’ll direct some rage at you for that, some contempt. Because they don’t love themselves yet, and they’ll think you’re weak because you do love them. They’ll know that you’re hooked and they’ll push you to your breaking point. You’ll be along for a very heartbreaking ride, and you won’t even help them that way, if that’s what you’re after. You won’t change them or save them. You won’t change your own past, either. You won’t get your happy ending and you won’t give yourself an opportunity to heal, because whatever it is that’s got you hooked, that has you so convinced it’s them, is almost definitely something out of your distant past. Examine the interaction, and see if there’s something deeply familiar about it. That’s the real source of your addiction. That’s the place in you crying out for attention and love. But you won’t get it this way.

How do you leave? I wish I could say something great to you. Give you a path. The truth is, you will not leave a moment before you’re ready to, not a second before you open your mouth, and right from the center of your heart, the word, “enough” comes pouring out. When that happens, and even before that happens, get yourself some help. Find some support. You don’t need people yelling at you to leave. You already know you have to do that. Find someone who will help you figure out why you feel so badly about yourself you’d participate in your own crushing. Find someone who can help you remember you’re strong and innately lovable and capable of taking hold of your life. If you leave, there’s a possibility that will be the catalyst for real change and growth for your partner. That also might not happen. But the longer you stay, the longer you prolong your suffering and allow your light to be dimmed. Having said that, be kind to yourself while you muster the strength to go, because it isn’t easy to break an addiction, it isn’t easy to walk away from people we love, and it isn’t easy to recognize the source of our healing lies somewhere else.

Sending you a hug,

Ally Hamilton

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

Saddle Up!

Fear is a perfectly natural feeling none of us will escape. There’s that fear that makes the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up because you know you’re in danger. Then there are the very human fears we all face to some degree or another. Fear of losing those we love. Fear of saying or doing something we’ll regret because it makes us look stupid or feel ashamed. Fear of being hurt, betrayed or left. Fear of rejection. Fear that you’ll take a chance with all your heart and fail. Fear of being alone. Fear of committing. Fear of success. Fear that our past can’t be overcome, and our future will be more of the same. Fear of screwing it all up. Fear of never being seen, known or loved. Fear of death. Fear of really living. Not everyone will experience all those fears, but most people will face at least some of them.

Fear isn’t a problem, but repressing it is. “Don’t be scared” is a common mantra we’re taught in childhood, but you can’t be other than what you are, ever. You feel how you feel and denying your experience is the issue. Thinking that a feeling we’re having is wrong or that it’s socially unacceptable is where we get into trouble. It would be better if we were taught, “Feel scared, but do it anyway.” There’s an elation that comes when we head into the center of our fear, flip it the bird, and dive in. A confidence in ourselves that can’t be gained any other way. There are few things as disappointing in life as when we let apprehension, the loud voice of “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” stop us from doing something our hearts are crying out to do. When we feel paralyzed that way, our hearts get crushed because it’s a missed opportunity to grow, learn and strengthen. To know ourselves more deeply, and to be able to move in the direction of that inner yes.

People write in with all kinds of fears. This guy is afraid to ask this woman out. This girl likes this guy but doesn’t want to tell him because maybe he just wants to be friends. This woman has a dream, but it isn’t realistic and everyone would think she was nuts for pursuing it. This mother lost her first baby and is terrified it will happen again with her second, so she isn’t loving her baby the way she could. This man wants to reach out to his dad, but they haven’t spoken for thirty years, and what if he doesn’t want to talk? What if he’s dead? This woman lost her husband and her children and is afraid to move forward because who wants to risk that kind of loss again? This guy doesn’t go to parties, ever, because he’s convinced he’s so utterly unattractive no one would want to speak with him. This man is in a marriage without any love, but is afraid to tell his wife how he feels because what then?

There are some situations in life that are so complex, you really do have to move slowly and think clearly before you head off and make decisions that will affect other people in your life, but living in fear feels terrible. It shuts us down and makes us feel there isn’t any hope, there aren’t any options, there isn’t a path that could lead us to something different. I do not believe anyone can flourish from a foundation of fear, and if you’re withering, you really can’t nurture anyone else, including yourself. If you feel stuck in fear, reach out. Get yourself some help and some support if you need it, so you can start to face it down, which is totally different than pushing it down. The very funny thing about fear is that when you have your back to it, it feels like this raging, huge, fiery dragon that could take you down with one big exhaled flame. But if you’d turn around, you’d see it’s just a huge pile of blocks you’ve erected in your mind. The kind you used to play with when you were a kid. The blocks are mostly made of pain, and the tower is teetering. You could, if you found the courage, reach out and knock the whole thing down. Then you could look at the pieces, and start to build something new. Maybe a bridge. I’m not saying the fear isn’t real. I’m just saying it’s not going to kill you.

Sending you love, and the hope that you’ll saddle up if you need to,

Ally Hamilton

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

Sometimes You Need to Get Out of Dodge

If you’re involved in a relationship that’s crushing you, you already know it isn’t sustainable. If someone is treating you badly, you have to get out, or you’re going to die. I don’t mean literally, though there are too many cases where physical violence is a real issue, but I mean your light will go out. Without that light, that spark, that intuition, life becomes very dark indeed and it’s nearly impossible to know which way to turn.

Sometimes the biggest problem is that relationships of this kind become addictive. If you think you’re physically attracted to someone who’s tormenting you, I’d challenge you to go a little deeper. You may be attracted to the way a person looks or smells or touches you, but if that same person demeans and abuses you, you’re hooked on something a lot more menacing than their looks. It’s the dynamic. There’s something in the interaction between you and the other person that’s familiar, and probably harkens back to something very old for you. If you don’t figure out what that original wound is you’re going to keep playing it out in your present life, looking for a happy ending, a resolution, and release from your suffering. You’ll never find it like that. You’ll just have your heart broken again. You’ll participate in the crushing of your own spirit, your own resounding yes. If you want to be liberated from your pain so it doesn’t own you anymore, you have to turn inward. You’re the only one with the key, but before you can do that, you have to create an environment where you feel safe.

You’ll never feel safe when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone who has a history of hurting you, and if you’re loving yourself, you’ll never be attracted to a person who belittles you. I really do understand the pull of something like this, because I’ve been there. When I was seventeen I dated a man who was thirty-seven, who came after me with everything he had. Once he had me, he was incredibly mean to me. He said hurtful things on a regular basis and he made choices that brought me to tears on more occasions than I can count. He was cruel.

I was so thankful when he was kind and loving. I craved those times, I waited for them. Then I’d tell myself, “See? He can do it. I just need to help him be more loving more of the time.” I can look back and say with absolute certainty he was in a lot of pain himself. That’s obvious to me now, but at the time I took it to heart, I believed there must be something lacking in me, I allowed his words to get inside my head and play on my deepest insecurities until they were so large I really couldn’t see anything else anymore. I got hooked on his validation. Tell me I’m lovable. Love me so I know I’m okay and I exist, and you can see me. When you’re feeling awful about yourself, it’s very difficult to act on your own behalf, to think, “I don’t deserve this, and I’m going to pick myself up and get the f&ck out of here.” So people get stuck until they’re in so much pain the survival instinct kicks in and then, with barely anything left in the tank, they drag themselves out the door and collapse somewhere and wonder how things got so bad. But that’s the beginning, that’s the entryway. As Rumi says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” That’s the ideal time to start to figure out why you’re feeling so badly about yourself that you’d put yourself in a relationship like that and then stay there.

If you’re in a situation like this, even if it isn’t this extreme, get yourself some support. I get so many emails from people who tell me about relationships where they’re waiting for their partner to grow or change, to show up differently. They keep participating in the interaction, expecting or hoping for a different outcome even though no one is showing up with different tools. Some people will never get unstuck. Maybe because they can’t or because they think they can’t or they don’t want to enough. That part is about them, not you. If you cannot accept a person as they are, then you have to let them go. If they’re in pain, and that pain has been spilling all over you, you can love them and accept them and recognize their pain, but you have to get out of Dodge. If you allow your light to dim to nothing, you may as well be dead. You are not here to be dead. You, who could shine so brightly. You, who have everything you need to heal and forge a new path and begin again. Don’t succumb to the pull of what slices right into the most tender part of you. Protect that. That’s your gift. Don’t participate in its destruction. Don’t break your own heart. Don’t sleep with a person who would cut you down to nothing as the sun rises. You’re a gift to this world. Don’t throw yourself away.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Uncertainty 2.0

So many times in life we search for answers, look for ways to predict the future, understand the past, or ask for signs about which way to turn now. It’s perfectly natural to want some stability, to want to know there’s a point to all this, to want to feel that your past had a purpose and that your future has one, too.

You can absolutely find your purpose while you’re here, and your life can be filled with meaning. If you allow yourself to open to the ever-changing nature of things, and to the vulnerability that’s required if you’re going to embrace reality as it is, then you also grant yourself the possibility of incredible love. It requires open hands, an open heart and an open mind, and the ability to say, “Yes, I embrace this, too. Even if it breaks my heart and I don’t understand why and every fiber of my being feels it’s unfair or senseless or tragic, I still embrace it because fighting it is pointless and I am here to open. To learn. To grow. To continue to begin again, even if right in this moment, I have no idea how to do that. I’ll start by reminding myself to breathe in, and breathe out.”┬áIf you do that, your time here, however much you have, will be beautiful. You can count on the people in your life who know how to love, to give it and receive it, for as long as you have each other. You can trust that there will be beauty and experiences that stun you into gratitude. But if you want everything wrapped up in neat little packages, and you want to understand every single thing that’s happened in your past and try to exert a lot of control over what happens in your future, you’re going to have a very tough time.

There’s a difference between having an idea of how you’d like to share your gifts, and an attachment to the idea that everything is going to unfold according to your five-year plan. You can absolutely move with intention and focus, but if you don’t also factor in the possibility that your plan could easily be turned on its head on a sunny Tuesday morning without any notice at all, or on a rainy Saturday when you planned on being at the beach, you set yourself up to be knocked over sideways by life. We never know and not everything is going to make sense. Sometimes the best you can get to is acceptance.

This is true on so many levels. I get emails from people who are trying to understand why someone hurt them or left them or betrayed them or neglected them or abused them or discarded them or were taken from them without any warning or any chance to say one last goodbye. One last, I love you so much I don’t understand how to make sense of a world without you in it. There are many times I sit at my laptop with tears streaming down my face. There are plenty of times I sit at my laptop laughing, too. But there’s never a lack of the unexplained in life.

I have close friends who were ditched suddenly and without explanation, by a couple they’d known and loved for years. Their families vacationed together, their kids grew up like brothers and sisters, they had a standing dinner Sunday nights. They were at graduations and weddings together, and one day it all ended. That’s as rough as any breakup and when my friends tried to ask what had happened, what was wrong, why they were being shunned, there was no real response. Their friends were just suddenly busy all the time. The kids are left to pick up the pieces, and thankfully they’re old enough to make their own plans, but everyone is hurt and confused, and no one understands. There is no resolution or closure. There are only so many times you can go to a person and ask to talk. Eventually you have to shed your tears and shrug your shoulders and take your ball and go home and remember other people will want to play catch with you down the road. If someone won’t communicate there is no hope of working it out. There’s just painful mystery and acceptance and the rest of your journey.

There are also people who get stuck in the past, and feed it and stoke that flame, even if the past was brutal, because it’s a familiar misery. If you work at it enough, you can feed that flame until it scorches everything, even your present. Your past may not ever make sense. Maybe there are questions you have that can never be answered. We all have some. Rilke has a beautiful quote about this, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Embrace all of it. Even the mysteries and the tragedies and the lack of closure that happens sometimes. Let it open you so other travelers who are also seeking, and will also never find answers to all their questions will know yours is a safe hand to grab in the dark and a good one to hold onto when it gets sunny again. Wishing you love through all of life’s beauty and heartache and uncertainty, and through all of its joy as well.

May we all live the questions with our hearts open,

Ally Hamilton

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

Reappear

I know sometimes things can feel really hopeless, like you’ve screwed everything up, or you can’t get any traction going, or no matter what you do, you always end up feeling isolated. Sometimes there are really ingrained coping mechanisms that keep a person at a “safe distance” from everyone else. Maybe that’s how you got through your childhood. by detaching or dissociating. If you cut yourself off from what you were feeling as a kid, if you took yourself somewhere else, somewhere safer, that can be a difficult switch to flip. I know lots of people who moved into adolescence coming out of a difficult childhood and just numbed out. Turned to drugs. Shut the thing down, so to speak. So if you have a lifetime history of cutting yourself off from what you’re feeling, and struggling to really trust or open to anyone, it’s perfectly natural to feel alienated and alone and like there’s not much point to any of it.

I have a particular soft spot for children. Some people believe we pick our parents and the exact situations we need for the evolution of our souls and other people believe it’s all random and we end up as worm food. Whatever you believe, a child in an unsafe situation breaks my heart because the tools aren’t there yet to recognize pain is underneath whatever is happening with the adults around them. Pain, and an inability to handle it in a healthy way. A child can’t process that. A child who is abused or neglected or abandoned can’t understand it isn’t about them. All they can do is figure out how to maneuver. How to exist in an unsafe environment. How to disappear.

So many people coming out of backgrounds like these suffer from depression, anxiety, and addiction. But if you’re not in an unsafe environment anymore, there’s no reason you need to repress your feelings, or be ruled by panic attacks, or create a haze to get through the day. Your way of life may have become centered around this idea of, “I Can’t Handle the Pain.” Sometimes people don’t even try anymore, they just numb. Smoke pot every day or drink wine every night or shop every afternoon, or get hooked on relationships or sex or work or exercise. Schedule every minute of the day so there’s no time to feel anything, and run like hell when a feeling slips through the cracks. Life truly doesn’t have to be like that. There are so many healing modalities available. So much conversation about trauma, and ways to work with it, and through it, so it doesn’t rule your life: yoga, meditation, therapy, different ways to work with your nervous system. But it can be scary to even consider a new way of moving through the world, and all kinds of resistance can come up.

If you’re living in this kind of pain, I really recommend you reach out because too many years can go by in a haze and it’s such a shame, because when life is in focus, it’s so beautiful it takes your breath away. I’m not saying it isn’t painful sometimes, but I am saying even the pain can open you to more beauty. It doesn’t have to close you or shut you down or make you run. And if you did grow up in an abusive environment, there’s so much healing that comes from understanding there is nothing lacking in you. Nothing.

There’s also nothing lacking in you if you love a person coming out of a history like this who hasn’t done the work to heal and develop tools to manage and understand the effects of living through trauma. You just fell in love with someone who hasn’t figured out how to love well yet. They aren’t loving themselves, so they can’t really love you. You can’t save anyone, but you can love people and support them and encourage them to get help. Sometimes you have to do that from afar in order to love yourself well.

The thing is, I think we all tend to take these things on and internalize them. If someone can’t love us well, whether it’s a parent or a romantic partner, we walk away with the feeling that there’s something unlovable about us, instead of recognizing the pain that exists in the other person. We get angry and defensive and hurt, we point fingers and tell ourselves stories, and the cycle continues. Healing is a choice every day. There are always opportunities to move toward love or to move toward fear. Choose love. Seriously.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Eventually, it Catches Up with You

temporaryhappinesslongtermpainRecently I received an email from a man whose wife left him suddenly one day, just shy of their ten year anniversary. She came home and said she didn’t love him anymore and he needed to move out. He was stunned and begged her to go to couples counseling. She agreed, but two weeks into it she said it was pointless and over and so he moved out, and is now seeing his children one night a week for dinner, and every other Saturday. The kids are young, one is four and the other is two. It seems mom has a new boyfriend who’s spending time with them already. So you can imagine our friend is having a tough time.

To be fair, I’m only getting one side of the story. It’s highly unlikely this happened one morning. Mom didn’t just wake up and think, “I don’t love him anymore.” There’s more to the story. Nonetheless, the ending was hard and fast, with little or no time for understanding or closure. She may not be feeling the pain of her actions just yet, but these things have a way of biting you in the ass later. The kids are in shock, particularly their four year old who is suddenly wetting the bed.

He wrote to me asking how he’s supposed to accept this. His vows meant something to him and he wanted to fight for his family and fight for his marriage. One night he went over to his old house uninvited and begged her to just talk to him, to help him understand what had happened. She called the police, so now he can only contact her about issues pertaining to the kids. It seems incredibly cruel and unfair, but again, this is only one side of the story. Whatever the other side may be and wherever the truth lies, this man is in agony. His heart is broken, his trust is shattered, and he’s tortured by thoughts of this new man spending time with his not-yet ex-wife and their children. He misses his kids and he didn’t see it coming. Maybe he missed the signs. Maybe she had a million conversations with him and he didn’t take her seriously. Maybe he took her for granted and maybe she just got involved with someone else and didn’t look back or forward. I don’t know, but I do know he’s suffering the effects of trauma and shock and that he needs some help.

Life is like this sometimes. We’re going along, we think we know what’s happening and suddenly, the rug gets pulled out from underneath us. Betrayal is one of the toughest experiences we’re asked to withstand, whether it’s betrayal of our trust, our friendship, our marriage vows, or the worst betrayal a person can suffer — the betrayal of the self. Those times when we override our intuition, or sacrifice our deepest truth, or numb out and stick our heads in the sand. Being human is sometimes a messy, painful affair. Sometimes it’s so incredible it takes your breath away. But when life hands you a set of unforeseeable circumstances, you really have to have some compassion for yourself and ask for help if you need it. There’s nothing worse than being in shock and feeling alone. Like you want to reach out in the dark, but there’s no one there to take your hand. The feeling that no one would care if you disappeared. There are always people who care. The world is full of loving folks who would happily hug our friend, or invite him over for dinner, or meet him for a hike or a tea. We’ve all been this guy at some time or another, to varying degrees. We’ve all had our everything fall apart. All you can do in times like those is sit down in the debris of what used to be your life and pick up the old photos and a letter you wrote four years ago and the sweater that still smells like what was, and just allow your heart to break. Allow yourself to be enraged and confused and shattered. There’s no magic bullet, it’s just a process and it takes time.

Also recognize you’re not alone. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in,” Leonard Cohen. “The wound is the place where the light enters you,” Rumi. I could go on and on. There wouldn’t be so much written about it if it weren’t universal. This is it, this is sometimes what’s required as we move through this experience of being alive. We will all suffer at some time or another, and some people will suffer more than others. These experiences can soften you and open you if you let them or they can harden you and close you if you let them. The choice is yours. Sometimes when it all falls apart, something newer and stronger and more real emerges. Some secret strong place in yourself that you didn’t even know existed stands up in the middle of the storm and starts to co-create the new story. But don’t tough it out alone. When you’re sitting in a pile of broken glass that used to be your life, by all means, ask for help.

Sending you so much love,

Ally Hamilton

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