The Blame Game Has No Winners

I get emails from grown adults with children of their own who are still blaming their parents for who they are. I get emails from people who are entrenched in a battle with a family member and from those who cannot forgive a former partner. The more you dig your heels in and cling to your opinions, your version of events, your list of ways you’ve been wronged, the less chance there is to let some love in and to shine some light on your own participation and what it is you brought to the equation that led to a painful outcome. We always bring something to any situation, even if that something is our inability to stand up for ourselves, to value ourselves or to put an end to abusive treatment (assuming you weren’t a child at the time — in which case your work is simply to heal, not that it’s easy).

If you’re over 25, it’s time to stop blaming your parents no matter how bad it may have been. People do the best they can with what they’ve got. Sometimes the best they’ve got kind of sucks. This is not about you, and it does not reflect anything lacking in you. Not everyone is going to be lucky enough to have loving, mature parents who are ready or able to put their children first. We should also acknowledge timing, here. You may come into a person’s life at a time when their capacity to love, to extend themselves, to care, is just really limited. I say that in the context of parent-child relationships, friendships, and romantic partnerships. People can only be where they are. If you experienced neglect or abuse as a child, it’s hard not to feel enraged and I think you need to allow yourself that rage for awhile. I think you need to sit with whatever feelings you’ve got, whether they’re feelings of resentment, bitterness or blame and examine all of it. Mourn the childhood you didn’t have. Grieve. But if you get stuck there, if that’s as far as you take the journey, you just land yourself in a world of pain. I think very few people intend to hurt anyone, very few parents intentionally screw it up. Sometimes you just get caught in the storm of someone else’s journey through no fault of your own and you get hit in the face with a lot of hail and end up throwing up over the side of the ship, but you don’t have to stay in that storm for the rest of your life.

There are so many healing modalities available. Yoga, meditation, therapy, journaling, reading and anything else that works for you. Hiking, windsurfing, painting…whatever causes you to lose yourself for awhile, and tap into that larger feeling of being in the flow. Of course we all have different responses to trauma, not everyone handles it the same way. If you need some help, reach out. Don’t allow yourself to stay rooted in the dark, alone and shut down and in despair. There’s no need for that. There’s no reason that your past has to control your present or your future. Love can happen right now, in this moment if you let it. If you don’t believe that, put your hand on your heart and close your eyes, and when you breathe in, think, “I am whole, and I am lovable,” and exhale out some pain. You don’t have to hold onto it so tightly. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

In the context of romantic relationships, let me say this. It is never one person’s fault. If you think that’s possible, I guarantee you you’re missing a great chance to know yourself more deeply and to take some valuable information into your future partnerships. We all have stuff. We all have work to do, places where we could go deeper or show up in greater alignment with what’s true for us. The end of a relationship never tells the whole story. You can’t separate out the beginning and the middle, the alchemy between you and the other person which creates the third thing, the relationship between you. Timing, circumstances, where you were on your path, and where your partner was on theirs. Your participation. Your level of appreciation, patience, kindness, support and understanding. Your actions, things you said, did, didn’t do. What was motivating you. If you want to dig your heels in and point angry fingers that’s always a choice, but it’s not a choice that’s going to lead to growth or a deeper understanding of where you still have some healing to do.

With family members I recognize it can get complicated, but I think it’s so sad when siblings don’t speak to one another for years at a time. Over money, or someone’s spouse who said something hurtful when they were drunk at a family wedding. I know a guy who didn’t speak to his sister for ten years because they were arguing over the money their mom left behind. They both had children during this decade and countless beautiful experiences. These were siblings who grew up playing together, loving each other, sailing together over the summers, climbing trees when they were kids. And then the sister died. Horrendous. Un-dig your heels in life wherever possible so you can keep moving forward, which life asks of you every moment. So you can keep responding to what is, with your mind, heart and hands open. It’s not all going to go the way we want. People will let us down. We are all going to make choices we’d love to do over from time to time. Say things we’d love to take back. All of us. Forgive. Recognize that, and forgive. Or really, you’re in prison.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Where are You Rooted?

Yesterday my six year old son asked me if I knew about the “walking palm trees of the rain-forest.” He told me that these trees were able to “move their roots” if they saw a spot that looked better to them. I told him that was incredibly cool, and that I did not know about these trees. Of course, I had to go Google it, because palm trees walking around the rain-forest seems like something I’d have heard about somewhere along the way. So it turns out the Socratea exorrhiza, or, “Walking Palm” is native to tropical Central and South America, and it has stilt roots that allow it to grow in swampy areas of forest. Some people think their roots exist as an adaptation to flooding, and others believe the roots allow the palm to “walk away” if another tree falls on the seedling and knocks it over. If this happens, the palm produces new vertical stilt roots and rights itself, the original roots rotting away.

I think life asks us to do this very thing again and again; to start over, to respond to the ever-changing nature of things, to move our roots when we need to and right ourselves. But a lot of the time we resist. We cling to the dying roots that don’t sustain us or nurture us anymore, that cannot support our growth any longer. Sometimes we do this out of desperation. We love someone, or many “someones” and can’t bear the thought of hurting them. Or we’re afraid of all that is required to pick up and move toward the unknown. In relationships, it’s incredibly painful. The roots grow down directly from our hearts. But if you aren’t growing, you’re dying, and if you’re dying you can’t nurture anyone else because all your energy is going toward your withering and quiet destruction. Without living, healthy roots, you just won’t have the strength to rise up and reach the light and so life becomes very dark indeed.

I know so many people who keep feeding those dying roots, though. It’s all swampy and murky and nothing new can grow there, but still, they try to shore the thing up, to feed it whatever they can. Sometimes it’s old stories that have become rooted. They’re poisoning the tree, the branches are hanging low, the leaves have mostly fallen off, but the roots of blame, anguish, fear or sadness, of bitterness, shame or guilt keep the person rooted in the Forest of What Was. I spent a good decade in that forest, so I can tell you the main thing that grows there are weeds. The kind that climb up your trunk and strangle your branches and steal all the light and all the nutrients, until you are just this Tree of Blame with sour fruit. “I am this way because this happened, and then that happened, and then this other thing happened, and so now when you say you love me I don’t believe you because everybody leaves and everybody cheats and I’m just going to stay rooted here in the darkness.” Or something like that.

Fear will keep you paralyzed in that forest if you let it, but it’s such a shame because old stories are old. They don’t have to control your present or your future. They may have created some grooves in your trunk, but they don’t have to overtake your ability to produce the sweetest fruit you can imagine; the fruit of, “I Got the F&ck Out!!!” for example. That is some sweet fruit. You may feel stuck and powerless. You may even be rooted to those feelings; there may be some pay-off for you in staying stuck. Attachment to sympathy or attention, a reason not to do the brave and difficult thing so you can stick with what you know even if it doesn’t feel good, or an excuse to numb out are some possibilities. But I have to let you know, the pay-off of digging deep, to the very bottom of your soul, gathering up your courage and your stilt roots, and moving your a$$ to the Forest of Life is Freaking Amazing has a much greater pay-off. If a tree can do it, I have zero doubt you can do it, too.

Sending you a lot of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Choose Hope.

choosehopeI watched some raw video from the Boston Marathon yesterday, instead of just reading about it, which is what I’d intended to do, and so I heard the awful screaming of people in shock and dismay. The shaking voice of the man taking the video and the way his breath was shallow, and my own heart-rate went up listening to him. We all sound different in that state. I learned that the one and only time I watched the birth video a girlfriend took during my labor with my son, which was scary and violent and full of moments I wasn’t sure we were going to make it through. All you can hear after the birth is me sobbing and asking again and again, “Is he okay?” in a voice I do not recognize as my own. But it’s the exact same voice I heard yesterday in someone’s video footage and it went straight through my heart. Panic, fear, despair and shock take such a toll on us and we really are all the same in our humanness and vulnerability.

When things like this happen and we look around at the state of the world in general, it’s easy to say, “It’s just too much. Everything is broken and violent,” and to feel hopeless about it all. I went to a screening of a powerful film I’ve seen three times, “Children of War” by filmmaker Bryan Single. He spent the better part of three years in Northern Uganda, filming the work of Jane Ekayu (you can check out her website, childrenofpeaceuganda.com) and other counselors working with children who were abducted from their homes and forced to become soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army. They targeted children 5-15 years old because they’re the most tender and the easiest to control. I can’t tell you what these children have been through. Some were forced to kill their own family members. But human beings have an incredible capacity to forgive and heal and people like Jane who care and take action make all the difference in the world.

I realize when we see violence like this it’s natural to want to crawl into a hole or distract ourselves. I saw people yesterday getting angry at those expressing sympathy and bringing up other places in the world where violence is a way of life. One is no more or less distressing than the other. I experienced some of that myself in December, when I wrote about Sandy Hook Elementary and someone said there’s no reason to weep if it doesn’t affect you directly. It’s all direct. Sometimes people don’t feel the impact of how awful something is until it hits close to home; there’s no reason to have contempt for someone who suddenly realizes the heartbreak of violence and destruction. Realizing is the thing, whenever and wherever it happens. What’s happening in Iraq directly affects us all. And what’s happening in the Congo. Do you want to know the truth? It doesn’t matter where it’s happening. Borders are meaningless and something we’ve made up. Skin color is meaningless. We are one people on one planet, and we are all connected. The root of almost all of our problems is that we’ve separated ourselves from each other. If one of us is suffering, we are all suffering.

The thing is not to give up. Not to decide it’s broken and too much, and what can one person possibly do, anyway? You can’t fix everything, that’s for sure. But you can do something. I mean, anything, really. Any way you can extend some love and some hope and some care, matters. It can be the smallest thing. You can hold a door open for a stranger, that matters. You can let someone merge while you’re driving, that matters, too. You can treat everyone you encounter with kindness. If you feel really inspired, you can pick one organization and volunteer. Give your time and your energy and your heart. A secret thing you might not know is that spending your energy trying to uplift someone else will make you feel incredible. Like your life has some meaning and that won’t just be a feeling you have, that will be the reality. We can heal and we can care about each other, and we can impact the way the world around us looks and feels. But hatred won’t get us there. “Us vs. Them” won’t get us there. Demonizing people who are severely troubled or mentally ill won’t get us there, either. Focusing on what’s different won’t do it. But do you have any idea how much is the same? We all love our children. We all breathe the same air. We all have dreams and hopes and fears and nights we cry ourselves to sleep. We could all use a hand reaching out in the darkness sometimes. And we could surely use a lot of people who don’t give up and numb out. I think we have a whole bunch of them on this page.

Sending love to all of you, and to anyone, anywhere, who is suffering,

Ally Hamilton

Marriage, Divorce, and Little People

Yesterday I posted about lies, deceit and betrayal and as I expected, it stirred up a lot of feeling in people. Today’s post is focused on marriage, divorce, and children because I got a flood of emails from people related to this topic. It seems many people are in relationships that aren’t growing anymore. We could talk about that quite a lot. How is it that our divorce rate is so high? It’s over half of all marriages that fail now and I believe a large part of it is cultural. We’re taught to keep looking for bigger, better, newer, shinier. So much of what we value is external. A lot of the time, we aren’t looking at the gifts right in front of us.

We’re living in a time when everyone is busybusybusy, racing from one place to another and then it’s Monday again. And again and again and again, and wow. A whole year just went by. Three, five, wait. How old am I? This year I’ll take that vacation. Hmm, maybe next year. This weekend I’ll hang out with my family. Oh, wait, I can’t, I have a deadline. We also have a broken system where you have to work your a$$ off to be able to afford health insurance for your family and to keep food in the fridge and a roof over everyone’s heads. It’s not like I don’t get that, but still. A walk after dinner. A dinner without devices on the table. A story before bedtime. Something. A card for your spouse for no reason once in awhile. Date night. A touch on the arm on your way out the door and a moment to really see each other, remember each other. Or it’s going to die.

I dated a guy who was a runner once. Every morning he’d jump out of bed and go for a run. Then he’d come back and jump in the shower and race out the door with barely a goodbye over his shoulder. He’d race the entire day until he collapsed in bed at night. He raced through everything. I’ll leave it at that, but I mean everything. The only time he slowed down is when he’d travel for work. Then he’d call me and want to talk because he’d be lonely in some far-off place. You can’t race through life and prioritize your to-do list and come home and zone out in front of the television and never give the people in your life your full attention and expect a relationship to keep growing. You have to water it. You can’t have the attention span of a flea and think that’s going to cut it. If you don’t see and appreciate what you have, you’re probably going to lose it.

Weddings are easy, marriages are not. You have to choose to marry the person every day. To see them and hear them and cherish them the way other people do, people who are not taking them for granted and who don’t assume they know all there is to know. It’s funny, I’m lucky enough to have some friends I’ve known over twenty years. I don’t ever think I know all there is to know. Yesterday, I was supposed to talk to a girlfriend I’ve known since I was twelve years old and we couldn’t make it happen with her kids, my kids and the time difference. But when we do talk, it’s not going to be static on the line because things have happened since we spoke last week. She’s not the same today as she was seven days ago when we talked about everything, and neither is anyone else. People felt confronted yesterday by what I wrote. People who may be engaging in email flirtations or more. You think I don’t understand? I fully understand, believe me. It’s painful to live in a house with someone who doesn’t see you anymore. I’ve been there more than once. More than twice.

What do you do? You go to the person you built a life with, even if the walls are starting to crumble and you say four words: I am in pain. And with as much kindness as you can, you tell them exactly where you’re at, even if you’re petrified, even if you have children, even if you would rather suffer yourself than bring pain to your family. Because I promise you, if you are in so much pain that you’re resorting to desperate acts with other people, your family is already feeling that. If you have children, on some level they know. They may not understand what they’re feeling, but they are feeling it. They’re on the ship with you. My parents got divorced when I was four and I remember all of it. If the space between you and your spouse is charged or dead or full of anger or lies or heartbreak or utter disappointment, realize that’s the space your children are growing in. Children have no defenses, they aren’t hardened, they feel it all. Maybe your spouse will storm out. Maybe they’ll hold your hand and cry with you, and it’s possible you’ll touch on something ancient between you that hasn’t been stirred in a long time. At least you’ll be communicating honestly.

If you feel like you can’t have the conversation without support, ask to go to couples’ counseling. I’d highly, highly recommend that in any case. If you have children, I think it’s a must, even if you end up talking about how you’re going to end things, but if you can save it, save it. Try with everything you’ve got. Read the book, “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 year Landmark Study”. We want to say that children are resilient and what matters most is that they have two happy parents. That’s true, but I can tell you honestly the best thing for your kids is keeping the family together if there’s any way possible to do that and be happy. I say that as someone who wasn’t able to do that.

Sometimes the best thing for everyone is for mom and dad to live in two different places. I just think people go a little too far with this kids just need mom and dad to be happy. I hear about schedules that are convenient for divorced parents, but so insane for the kids. Here one night, there the other, back and forth so much it would make anyone’s head spin. I grew up three nights here, four nights there, and even that was really hard. There’s a line. If you have to split because staying in your marriage requires the crushing of your spirit and your children’s too, then yes, you need to end it, but put the kids first. If you have a co-parent who won’t do that, that is so, so hard, but then your job is to rise to that occasion the best you can and be a rock for your children. A safe space (and to get support with that if you need it). Being a single parent is not at all easy. Depending on the other parent, it can be very, very painful, or it can be manageable, but as with everything in life, you cannot give your power away to someone else, or make everything someone else’s fault. Your ex is your ex for a reason. If there’s no support, understanding, respect or consideration coming from them, that is rough, but then your job is to figure out how you’re going to deal with that with grace and strength. You’re going to have to figure out who and what you can lean on to get through so your children do not pay the price, or pay as little as possible.

There are three kinds of adults I meet. Those whose parents got divorced, those who wish their parents had gotten divorced, and those lucky people who grew up with two parents who were able to pull it off. You know what? Everything you go through will open you and teach you something if you let it. As much as we may think we do, or we may want to, we never know what someone else’s path is supposed to look like, even our own children’s. Yes, your job is to put them first. Always. And to protect them as much as possible, and to nurture them and hold them and share with them anything and everything you’ve got. Your job is also to teach them what it looks like to be a happy, kind person. Isn’t that what we all really want for our children? We want them to be happy, right? To live life with their hearts open. To be able to recognize what’s true for them, and to live guided by their own inner yes. How will they be able to do that if you don’t show them what it looks like? It’s not impossible, but they’ll have to work a lot harder to figure it out without an example.

No matter what happens or how you feel, your ex will always be your child’s other parent, the other most important person in their world. Do you know people who don’t have good relationships with their moms or their dads? It’s a heartache that never goes away, and it wreaks havoc on all their interpersonal relationships unless they work on it a lot. You don’t want that for your children. (If we’re talking about a situation where there’s abuse and you are dealing with concerns about your child’s physical and emotional well-being, then we are in a different territory altogether, and then your job is to do everything you can to protect your child). Once in a parking lot I saw this little girl, probably about three years old, crying in her stroller and saying that she missed her daddy. Her mom looked really stressed out and yelled at her, “It’s a mommy day, you’ll see your dad tomorrow!!!” I couldn’t help it. I went over to her and said, “She just misses her dad, it’s totally normal. She loves you. Why don’t you take a time out, I’ll stay right here with her for a few minutes.” And her mom started crying and sat down in the drivers’ seat of her car, and I squatted down right outside the door and had the most amazing conversation with that little person. When her mom came out of her car she handed her cellphone to her daughter so she could talk to her dad.

The best thing you can do for your children is support a healthy, nurturing relationship with their other parent, even if their other parent is a rat-bastard, no-good @#$SB(&^$%. Okay? I understand that might be your reality, but even then. Your children will figure that out for themselves if that’s the case, your job is to help them get the best out of their other parent while they’re little. To feel loved and supported by that person, even if s/he has a limited capacity to love anyone. Also try to remember you have your experience with your ex, and your children will have theirs. Putting your kids in the position where they feel they have to choose sides is brutal for them and not loving. If you can work out a way to be friends with your ex, that is so ideal, but I know that’s not always possible.

What is possible is that you never, ever say a negative word about your ex to your child. Ever. I know exes who launch an intentional campaign to turn their children against their other parent, and I want to say if that is something you are doing, I can absolutely guarantee you will pay for it dearly at some point. It may not happen until your children are eighteen, nineteen, twenty, but as soon as they’re old enough to look back and think about what was said and done and by whom, you will pay for it. That is not putting your child’s best interests at heart, that is allowing your rage, bitterness and disappointment to poison you and to bleed into your children. They will never thank you for that, and if you cost them their relationship with their other parent and steal from them years they could have had love and support that were denied to them because of you, that is going to have a very damaging effect on your relationship with them. Right as you enter your golden years, right at the time when you hope those relationships will blossom and you and your grown children can develop a deeper bond based on a greater, more mature understanding of what it means to be a human being on planet earth, right then…that is when they’re going to understand what you took from them, and right then is when you will pay. Do not let that happen to you or to them. If you are enraged, talk to a therapist, your best friend, your mother or anyone else who can lend a sympathetic ear, but do it when your children are not within earshot. And do your best in the face of everything to work it out so that your children have as much stability as humanly possible.

Sending you love, as I always am.

Ally Hamilton

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

The Person You Decide to Be

I’ve had two weddings, but only one marriage. My first wedding was to a man who kept the antique mirror I (painstakingly) had restored when I was nineteen years old, the one that belonged to my grandma whom I adored and lost long before I met him, and who also kept the vintage diamond necklace that belonged to my great-aunt, which I’ll never be able to pass along to my daughter. I call him Mirror Guy. I didn’t love him and I can’t tell you what I was doing with him because it feels like another lifetime and because I was in a fog fueled by outrageously painful migraines, percocet and a stubborn desire to cling to stories that didn’t serve me, to blame my parents and my childhood for my brokenness, and a general sense that I had no clue what I was doing here. I was coming off of some of the darkest times of my life and I was very young and totally lost. I’d been in that damaging victim mentality for too many years, blaming other people for my poor choices and behavior, numbing out, denying, running. I wasn’t an awful person or anything, I’ve always been kind, I was just a bit of a mess.

You know the syndrome, right? I am this way because this happened, and then that happened, and then this other thing happened, so when you leave the room, I think you’re leaving for good and that’s why I’m freaking out. As if that makes sense. This thing that should have happened did not, so I have fear that no one will love me and nothing good will happen, so I’m just going to sleepwalk, okay? Because I don’t know how to do the ‘awake, I’m-going-to-take-responsibility-for-the-way-my-life-unfolds-thing yet, so if you want to marry me, sure. Sounds good.’ Or something like that.

Of course I thought I loved him or I wouldn’t have worn the Cinderella tulle dress and gotten myself to the beach club on time. But you can’t love if you’re sleeping. You can stick your arms out in the darkness and hope you run into something good, but you probably won’t. If you’re in darkness, you’re most likely going to fall in a ditch and break something, like your heart or your ability to keep sleeping. Something will give, that’s for sure. Nor can you see that the person you’re about to marry is incapable of telling the truth in any form about anything or of being honorable or kind, or of loving you in any capacity at all. I should have known because he told me he was separated when we started dating, but actually he wasn’t and it took two years to sort it out. Somehow I became fixated on that and never realized I didn’t love him and it would have been just fine if he’d stayed married to that other woman, thanks very much. I should have known because my therapist at the time asked me what we did together that was fun, or what it was that I liked about being with him and I literally could not think of a single thing. I should have known because too many of the things he said to me did not make sense and often came back to bite him in the arse later. It’s not like there weren’t signs. I begged for signs. Do you realize if you’re asking for signs that’s a sign? I didn’t.

I have to share about the signs because it’s comical. I’m going to the store to try on wedding dresses with my mom weeks before the wedding and she has to wait in the car because I’m throwing up. I’m throwing up. Nauseated at the thought of buying a dress to marry the man who turned out to be Mirror Guy. I can’t get the song, “You Don’t Know Me” out of my head for weeks. The morning of the wedding it is sunny and gorgeous and I think, “At least that’s good,” because we are getting married on a deck overlooking the water in front of 250 people, most of whom I’ve never met. At 4pm the sky turns black. I’m not exaggerating. Black, and then the sky opens and there’s rain like I have never experienced in my life, not before, not since, not anywhere, even in the jungle of Costa Rica. Torrential rain so thick it sounded like someone was an inch over the roof of the minivan with a thousand power-hoses. Giant frogs dropping from the sky would not have surprised me. Oh, did you catch the part about a minivan? My wedding party left in the limo I was supposed to be in because the makeup artist wanted to do me last so my makeup was fresh, but she ran so late they had to take off, so I went to the beach club in a minivan with my parents and my little brother and his best friend.

More signs: Because there was a weather alert with a red stripe across the bottom of every television telling everyone to get home and stay indoors, the traffic on the highway from the hotel to the beach club was nuts. Like a parking lot, people racing out of the city to make it to their homes. This is in New York, mind you, where this kind of weather simply does not happen. So my step-dad drove on the shoulder of the highway for six miles. So pretty much, on my way to getting married to the very wrongest person, hundreds of people gave me the finger. How many signs do you need before you turn the minivan around? That’s like a punchline, isn’t it?

When I got to the beach club my mom and I raced to the bridal room, and my best friend and bridesmaids shoved me into my dress and someone handed me a glass of champagne because I said I thought I might pass out, and of course champagne is the answer when you feel faint and are about to make one of the worst decisions of your life. So I went down the aisle like a wind-up doll, done up like a princess, vacant eyes. Worse than that. Deer-in-the-headlight eyes. As if I hadn’t said yes to all of it. As if it were just happening to me. When the justice of the peace announced we were man and wife, there was a crack of thunder and lightning so loud you can hear it on the wedding video and everyone laughed nervously and I thought,  “Well. You can’t ask for more signs than that.”

I say he didn’t love me and I know I didn’t love him, even though I believed I did and I believed he did in my sleepwalking state. But he didn’t want a wife, he wanted a mother. Someone to make dinner and read his screenplays and rewrite all the dialogue because people don’t speak like that. Who speaks like that?

More signs:

Him: Hey, why don’t you leave your dog at the kennel this weekend, because actually, I don’t like dogs.

Him: I need to go shoot this commercial, so drop everything and come, okay? Even though it’s in Canada and you’d rather stay home since I’ll be shooting all day and sitting around a set isn’t all that fun, and I don’t want you off exploring by yourself because you’re too young to be off on your own like that in a foreign country.

Me: Um. Canada? I think I can get around because I speak English.

More signs: It was never consummated. I’m not saying we hadn’t had sex before the wedding. I’m saying there wasn’t any after, and there wasn’t much before because he preferred porn to an actual human. But I didn’t know that then, so I was busy thinking there must be something wrong with me and feeling rejected all the time. Anyway, I had the thing annulled. I should say, I woke up several weeks after this wedding and had it annulled. And Mirror Guy is actually the perfect name, because that’s what happened. I looked in the mirror and thought, How? How did I land myself in this mess? How did I not stop, at any of those burning red flags and turn myself around?

Maybe it was compounded by the fact that the much older guy I dated had come before Mirror Guy and by this point I was just wrecked, but I got the message. I got it hard and ugly and in the face. There was no one to blame but myself, because my mom didn’t like Mirror Guy and said as much, and my dad and step-dad didn’t think much of him, either. All my fingers pointed back at myself and I thought, I’d really better turn this sh&t around, now, or my life is going to be bleak and dark and very painful. No light. I’d been doing yoga for a couple of years at this point and that’s the light I used to find my way out of a nightmare of my own making, without the mirror or necklace, but you know what? Such a small price to pay. Because in the years after that I started planting the seeds that sprouted into the life I have today. I look at my life now and I’m blown away. Two amazing, healthy, happy kids. A man who is everything I ever could have hoped for and so, so much more. Friends who know how to show up, a few of whom have been there through everything with me. A community of yogis locally and around the globe because the internet is pretty amazing. And all of you.

You get to decide who you’re going to be, you really do. I’m not saying everyone has equal opportunities or that the playing field is level. I’m saying you have the power to decide how you’re going to do your life, and what you decide makes all the difference in the world. You get to decide what to dwell on, what to emphasize, what to cling to. You get to decide whether to forgive other people and forgive yourself and move forward. You get to decide whether the past is going to determine your future, or be something you grow from. You get to decide whether you’re going to blame and moan or get busy working. I hope you decide to be your best self. To own your story. To refuse to let your past dictate your future. To get your hands filthy with your pain so it doesn’t control your life, because there’s no need for that. Your life can be so beautiful. Even with heartache and tragedy, there’s still so much beauty to be found if you open to it. Wishing that for you, if it hasn’t happened already.

Sending a ton of love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Grab Your Inner Tube

onlyinastormSometimes life brings a huge storm our way. We lose someone we cannot imagine living without. We’re fired from a job. Our spouse walks out or has an affair. Our child is in pain. Other times we choose the storm, we walk into it head-on knowing there’s a need to leave the familiar shore and head into unchartered waters.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, I really didn’t know anyone out here. I moved with a guy who also taught yoga and liked cheese a little too much and when it all fell apart I ended up three thousand miles away from home with a few people I called friends, whom I was really just getting to know. And, of course, I had my dog. The ex had a serious road rage problem so for the six months we’d been out here, I’d tried to figure out some kind of reasonable solution. We had one car and would often leave for our own Ashtanga practice at 6am and head together to all the classes we were teaching the rest of the day. If I drove, he screamed at me to go faster, to take a different route, to cut this or that person off. If I took a right instead of a left he went ballistic. He became this insane person in the car, instead of the hilarious and kind-hearted person I knew, and it was jolting, because it would happen right after our yoga practice, or after a peaceful hike, or really, anytime we went anywhere.

When he drove it was generally a 90-miles per hour blur, involving the “traffic fingers” of many other drivers, blaring horns and screeching stops. Neither scenario was appealing or safe, but I truly feared we’d have an accident if I drove while he raged, so he drove and I would hope we’d get wherever we were going without a problem. Of course I spoke with him about it and he always promised to calm down, but never managed to pull it off. Then he was gone and I had no idea where I lived. I had to start from the beginning and remind myself, that way leads to the mountains, and that way to the beach. I went on a dating detox because I was alarmed I’d missed the cheese problem and some other stuff. I’ll explain the cheese thing in another post, lest you think I actually broke up with someone who liked Gouda too much. I say that as a friend of said ex. He still calls me every Thanksgiving because of a funny and crazy holiday we shared that involved his sister, my dog, and a pair of pajamas with bunnies on them. We check in from time to time. Grab a bite when I’m in New York. But when it ended, I just felt bereft and confused, like the rug had been pulled out from under me by my own hand because I’d ignored my intuition. I felt pulled to retreat and regroup, and thus began what we call in yoga my “Dark Night of the Soul”.

It’s a storm you choose because your way of being in the world hasn’t been working out too well. Friendships, relationships and jobs that don’t feel authentic are left behind, but it happens in an emotional hailstorm. When you start to change your inner wiring, the system is going to revolt. The tendencies, patterns and coping mechanisms that have been keeping all that raw emotion at bay are going to rise up. They’re going to beckon. If you have the strength and determination not to repeat a pattern you recognize gets you nowhere, not to numb out or run or deny, you’ll likely find yourself in a state of depression, which is generally confusing when you know you’re moving in a healthy direction. ‘”Shouldn’t I be feeling better?” you’ll think in despair, “I’m doing everything right.”

That’s the storm, and if you want to come back to yourself, that’s where you have to head. In many ways it would have been easier for me to move back to NYC where my family and friends were, or to throw myself into another relationship. Instead I meditated and practiced yoga and taught my classes and hiked with my dog and wept a lot. I felt lonely and allowed myself to open to that. I felt scared and heartbroken and sometimes I wondered why I didn’t just make it easier for myself, but somewhere I knew I needed the pain. I needed to finally lean into it and swim through it so it wouldn’t own me anymore. So I could come back to myself. It is a storm. Sometimes you get pulled under and are thrashed into the rocks and you can’t see the surface, but if you want to really know yourself, you have to embrace everything. You have to accept and integrate all parts of yourself. It’s not easy work, but when the sun emerges and you take a deep breath and know you’re home, the kind of home that’s with you wherever you may go, it’s so worth it.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If You Have a Pulse, You Have a Chance

paulnewmanchanceJust a quick hit of love for you, today. Don’t ever give up on yourself. Not ever. Don’t give up on life, or love, or the possibility that you might forge a peaceful path for yourself. No matter how big a mess of things you might have made, no matter how incomprehensible a loss you’ve endured, no matter how confusing and lonely things may be right now, don’t give up. Life is going to bring everything.

We want the stuff that feels good — the love, the feelings of joy and delight and passion and excitement, and we resist the stuff that hurts; the pain, the confusion, shame, grief, loneliness, rage, guilt and doubt. But it’s all coming at us. Unless you’ve worked on it quite a lot, you’re probably going up and down with external conditions; happy when things are going the way you’d like and depressed, angry or bitter when they’re not. Life is under no obligation to give us what we want, to unfold the way we expect it to, to cooperate with our plan and there’s no power in being a victim of circumstance. You have the tools you need to figure it out. To put it back together again.

Underneath all the fear and resistance is love. You might need some outside help. There are some losses that are so knifing, just getting out of bed is a feat. Just remembering to breathe in and breathe out. I get that. Compassion for yourself is the thing in those instances when your heart and spirit are crushed and you think there’s no way it could ever be okay again. And, listen. Some things will never be okay. Accepting that is the key to moving forward, even if everything in you wants to head back in time to the before of the thing. For awhile, just brushing your teeth and taking a shower is a big deal. Just getting dressed and giving yourself time to feel all your feelings without rushing yourself to feel better.

But short of those losses, which are real and devastating and very difficult to comprehend, much of our suffering is coming from our thoughts. The ability to quiet the mind so you can get in touch with your intuition is so liberating. So you can tap that inner yes of yours. So you can live with your heart wide open and have the courage to say no to the things that don’t feel right. The mind is like a washing machine, spinning around and around, recycling the same thoughts, loud and full of shoulds and can’ts and there’s no way I can do that’s. It will keep spinning and spinning and send you in circles or keep you paralyzed by fear, feeling overwhelmed by all the noise. It’s relentless if you don’t gain some mastery over it.

When do you lose yourself? When do you feel that feeling of being so immersed in something there are no thoughts? For me it’s yoga, but for you it might be something else. Hiking, wind-surfing, cooking, singing or skiing. Whatever it is, make time for it because those are the moments when your intuition rises.

Have you made mistakes? I’d be shocked if you hadn’t. I’ve made plenty, some big. Mistakes are part of the growth process. Some of the biggest growth I’ve experienced has come out of some of the worst choices I’ve made. Sometimes you have to screw it all up so you can put it back together the way that feels right. The way that opens your heart. Did you ever take something apart and realize you can’t put it back together? You have no idea how the parts fit and the directions are lost somewhere very safe you put them so you wouldn’t lose them? And you sit with pieces in your hands and think, how do I do this? How do I put this back together so it works? The answers are inside you. You may need someone to kindly hold up a mirror so you can find them. To reflect back at you your own darkness and your incredible light so you can see yourself. So you can know yourself. So you can find your way. So you can sort through the pieces and let go of the ones that are blocking your ability to give and receive love.

It’s never over in this life until your final exhale. My feeling is, if you can do one thing, even one tiny thing like hold a door open for a stranger, your day was worthwhile because you contributed to a happier, kinder, more thoughtful, caring world. Start there if you need to. But don’t give up.

Sending you love and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton