Life is a Limited-Time Offer

limitedtimeSometimes you fight and wait for something for so long, that by the time you get it, you don’t really want it anymore. This can happen in relationships, when one person wants more than the other, and it can happen in professional settings, too. There’s only so long we can go, accepting less than we want, or allowing ourselves to be taken for granted, before it wears us down.

Part of the burnout has to do with our disappointment in ourselves; the sick feeling in our gut when we know we haven’t shown up for ourselves the way we should. That’s really the thing to examine. We can get caught up in the details, in the linear story of what happened, and why we did what we did, who said what to whom, where things took a turn for the worse, but really, the details don’t matter that much. What matters is why we participated in the dimming of our own light. Maybe you let your boss take advantage of you for years, because at least it was a steady paycheck, and no other plan seemed feasible. Or maybe you stayed in a relationship because you were in love, thinking you could change the other party, but really, in your heart, you knew they didn’t love you all the way. So now maybe you “have them”, but not really, not in the way that matters. Or maybe your boss senses a shift in you, or picks up on the fact that you’re just going through the motions, maybe she realizes she should have treated you better, but the attempts at recognition fall incredibly short, or seem empty, meaningless.

The bottom line is that there’s a difference between working hard for something you want, and kidding yourself. If the job isn’t right, if it isn’t growing, if there’s no potential for you to learn or open or pursue your passion, it’s never going to feel good letting years go by like that. If the relationship isn’t growing, if you and your partner don’t really want the same things, what’s the point? Sometimes it’s tempting to trade in short-term comfort for long-term pain. Just let me feel okay for now, just let me have one more month where I work this way and deal with this mess, and then I’ll get out. Just let me have one more weekend where I don’t have to face the pain of this reality, just give me a little more time to find the strength to accept what I already know. The thing is, in a mix like that, the longer you stay, the weaker you get.

I think life is pretty short if you’re firing on all cylinders. If you’re following your heart, and allowing yourself to be guided by your intuition, if you’re pursuing those things that light you up, if you’re moving toward people who are also moving toward you, who are excited to be on the journey with you, if you’re loving your heart out, my sense is that life goes by very, very quickly, that there probably won’t be enough time to get all the love out, all the gratitude out, there won’t be enough time to give everything you want to give. On the flip side, if you aren’t allowing yourself to be guided by your gut, if you aren’t letting yourself be pulled by the force of those things that set your soul on fire, if you’re chasing after love, affection, approval or respect, if you’re stuck in rage, blame or shame, if you’re too afraid to say what you want, loudly and without fear, then life is probably going to feel pretty long and painful. I really think those are the options.

We’re given this body, and that’s a gift. We’re given this energy, this time, this particular spark, and those are all gifts, too. You have something to give that only you can, and if you don’t get busy doing it because you’re allowing your spark to become a flicker, you’re also robbing the world of a gift only you can bring, and you’re robbing yourself of the chance to figure out what that gift is. You won’t find it when you’re loathing yourself. I mean, you might be able to identify it, but in order to fly, you cannot be weighing yourself down with guilt or shame or fear about your integrity. You have to be unencumbered in order to fly, and only you can figure out what that means. Only you know the shape of things that will work for you. Don’t waste too much of your time and energy fooling yourself, because you’ll also be squandering your gifts. Time is passing. It doesn’t wait for any of us to get it together. We do, or we don’t, and time still passes.

Sending you love, and hoping you’ll fly soon if you aren’t already,

Ally Hamilton

Bridging the Gap

In-the-End-we-willHave you ever had the occasion to look at people’s online dating profiles? Does everyone like long walks on the beach and cozy nights at home? Does everyone enjoy cooking and watching football and traveling and trying new things, like salsa dancing? Is everyone kind and affectionate and romantic and full of fun? Does everyone like to stay up late, lingering over a delicious meal, gazing into the eyes of that special someone, whiling the night away asking those deep, penetrating questions?

Actions always tell the tale, whether we’re talking about the microcosm or the macrocosm. Words are easy. A person can say they’re loving and loyal and caring, but if their deeds don’t back that up, it’s just smoke and mirrors. The same thing holds true for organizations, communities, governments, countries. We can say this is the land of the free, we can pledge justice and liberty for all, but if our actions don’t support that, it’s just words.

If we really want to be at peace, individually, or in the context of a relationship, there cannot be a huge gap between how we’re presenting ourselves, and how we’re actually living. This comes up in all areas of life. When we meet people, we’re often meeting their ambassadors. Ask anyone who’s tried online dating, or any kind of dating. Most people are not going to show up at a first meeting and say, “Here are all my weaknesses. Here’s a list of all the poor choices I’ve made, all my fearful tendencies, all the ways I’ve hurt people in the past.” I’m not suggesting any of us should do that, but if you sit down with someone and present yourself as a person who’s available for love, when the truth is that you’re available for casual sex, that kind of sucks. It’s misleading, and if we spout lies to get what we want, that’s called manipulation.

The way to bridge the gap, if there is one, is to get honest with ourselves. To ask ourselves what it is we really want, not what we think we should want, not what other people want us to want, but just, at the core, what we actually want. It’s a relief to know that about yourself, and it’s a gift you can give to everyone in your life. Clear communication, the ability to set boundaries when you need to, your willingness to act on your own behalf—all these are essential tools if you want to be happy, and known. Usually we really want that—we want to feel at least someone is seeing us and getting us and cherishing us. It’s natural to want connection and love in your life. There’s no way to get there if you’re hiding parts of yourself you find unacceptable, because you’ll know they’re there. Sometimes, it’s hard to open, to allow ourselves to be seen, because we aren’t ready to face how we are now. We aren’t ready to take a compassionate but piercing look at those raw places within us that could use some healing. It’s not easy work. Sometimes we’re rejecting something about ourselves that’s painful to face. We’re pushing it down, we’re pretending it doesn’t exist, we’re looking away. Nothing gets better like that. Ignoring our problems, or distracting ourselves, or numbing out, or running away is a road-map to the continuation of the pain. The pain is owning us at that point. We are a slave to our pain when it runs the show.

Really, reaching out is the way to create a path toward healing. If you cannot do it on your own (and most of us can’t), you have to ask for help, support, ideas, a different map. Sometimes we have to get loud, sometimes we need a safe space to cry, to let it out, to be afraid and vulnerable, to lay out those places that aren’t so pretty without fearing that we’ll be shamed or ridiculed, attacked or shunned. When we’re talking about solving our individual problems, therapy is often a great way to go. Yoga can be enormously helpful if you’re longing to come home to yourself. Seated meditation is powerful if you want to recognize that you are not your thoughts, that you do not have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes, that feelings are not facts, and they are not forever, either. That perhaps, some of your thoughts do not even belong to you. Some of them were handed down from past generations. Some of the things you’ve learned along the way may be totally untrue.

Here are some lies you may have learned: “you are not lovable, you are not worthy of love, you are broken in some unfixable and essential way, you have no business rocking the boat, you have nothing special to offer, you are better or more important than some people, you cannot trust anyone, everyone leaves, everyone cheats, if people have different beliefs than you, they’re wrong, bad, or to be feared.” Those are just some examples of lies you may have learned that you’ll have to unlearn at some point if you want to be happy. A big part of being at peace in this life is based on how well you’re able to play nicely with others. If you think kindness is not the way, you’re lost. In my mind, the truth is that we are one huge family living on a spinning planet. We may speak different languages, we may look different, we may have different beliefs, but we are all connected. If one of us is suffering, we’re all suffering. If one of us is being violated, we’re all being violated. If one of us needs help, the rest of us are naturally supposed to help. If we want to be at peace individually, or as a family, as a community, as a country, we need each other. We need to help each other understand. We need to drop our defenses and our opinions and our clutching to our ideas and ideals, and deal with what is.

This week, I was talking to an acquaintance about my feelings around the death of Eric Garner, and the bigger problems underneath his death, and I was feeling pretty down. This person looked at me and said, “You’re a yoga teacher. Where’s the positive energy?” That is not yoga, okay? I just want to be very clear about that. Yoga is a practice that’s based on facing reality as it is, and working with the truth of a thing. We do not turn away from the hard parts, we move into the center of them and we ask how we can shift, how we can move toward love, and we don’t stop asking until we figure it out, and some of that process hurts like hell, but it’s the way toward peace. It’s the same for the whole as it is for the individual. Silence won’t get us there. Fear of getting this wrong is a poor excuse to do and say nothing. We have to get it right together, and for that to happen we cannot look away, we cannot be silent, we cannot leave a huge part of our family to try to fix injustice on their own. That isn’t yoga, folks. I would love to hear from all of you. Sending you love and wishing you a peaceful heart. May we lift each other up, and not tear each other down,

Ally Hamilton

Time is a Gift

tomrobbinsBecause our time and energy are finite assets, it’s really essential that we’re careful about where we invest them. It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s dramas, or to allow the mind to get snagged on some thoughtless or unkind thing someone said or did. We can lose hours, days or years dwelling on choices we’d like to do over, differently, or sad tales we tell ourselves about why we are the way we are, or why life is unfolding the way it is.

We can find ourselves trying to chase down love, approval or acceptance, we can allow the sting of rejection to overwhelm us, we can spend time trying to defend ourselves against lies, but it’s time we’ll never have back again. Life will bring us enough ups and downs; we really don’t need to create suffering for ourselves, but so many of us do. I am not someone who believes that there are no tragic events, or that it’s just the way we’re thinking about an event that makes it unbearable. In my view, there are things that can happen sometimes that bring you to your knees and make you doubt everything you thought you knew about heartbreak and pain and the ability to go on. Those same events remind us that there isn’t any time to waste, and that the best use of our energy is to love the people in our lives with everything we’ve got, and to follow our dreams and believe in ourselves. Life isn’t going to hand you five or ten years to be pissed at your parents or your ex or all the people you’ve ever worked for, to boil yourself and keep your rage alive by feeding it, to point your finger in blame, and then hand you back that time one day when you realize what a gift it is just to open your eyes in the morning.

People who want to be angry and bitter deserve compassion, surely, but not a lot of your time and energy. I’m not talking about people who are trying to heal or take ownership of their lives, or make big shifts. I’m talking about people who are unwilling to loosen their grip on their angry story. I had an acquaintance like this. I’d see her at different functions every five years or so, and it was always the same. She’d find a way to corner me, and tell me her tale of why she was the hero of her family and her workplace, the generous but unappreciated benefactor, the one who always got the short end of the stick. Usually she’d be quite drunk, and the more she drank, the more angry and self-righteous she became. For quite some time, I’d listen to her, even though it was exhausting. I thought maybe she just needed someone to hold a space for her to unload the pain. I really didn’t care about the details of her stories, the list of wrongs, the way this person or that person had failed her or betrayed her, but sometimes I’d try to offer up a different viewpoint, and then she’d attack me, too. You can’t help a person who’s armored themselves in bitterness. I don’t make myself available to people who don’t want to let the love in. It’s a choice.

Let me be clear: we do not get to choose what life will put in our paths. We get beautiful lessons in life, and we get brutal ones, too, and that is not a choice. Unthinkable tragedy could befall any of us. People sometimes ask, “Why me?”, but why any of us? There’s no way to predict what any of us will have to endure, and if you go through a knifing loss, I hope you don’t compound your pain by feeling that you ought to be able to get over it faster, or with fewer racking sobs or relentless tears. The more we’re present in each moment, the more we allow the feelings to wash over us and through us, the more we’re honoring our experience. Loving someone so intensely that the loss of them makes it hard to breathe, loving someone that way is a gift and an honor. The loss of the ability to express that love through hugs or phone calls or shared experiences is so painful. If it’s a sudden and unexpected loss, of course that has its own particular difficulties.

My point is, death and loss put things into sharp perspective for us. If you’re worrying about the five pounds you’ve gained, for example, perhaps that’s not the best use of your time. Hugging someone you love would feel so much better. If you’re obsessing over a call or email you haven’t gotten, maybe there’s a better use of your energy. Maybe you could do something nurturing for yourself or someone else instead. If you’re getting caught up in what other people think of you, remember it’s none of your business. When the big losses or heartaches come, you take the time to breathe, to be kind to yourself, to reach out for help if you need it. Short of those tragedies, don’t be your own obstacle by dwelling on the unimportant crap. Pick your mind up, and bring it back to right now. Choose better thoughts. Make better mistakes moving forward. Forgive yourself, and forgive other people, as much as you can. Holding grudges and carrying heavy stories around will weigh you down, and that of course, makes it harder to fly. I really wouldn’t waste too much time.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Let the Hundredth Person Go

olinmillerA couple of years ago, a woman emailed me and asked how she could stay on the Facebook page without seeing the posts. She said she wanted to see the yoga-related information, but not the “inspirational” writings, which she did not like. Of course that didn’t feel good, and my mouth fell into an “O”, but not everyone is going to dig us, right? I told her she could simply unlike the page, and just go directly to the website for classes, but she wrote back again, and said she wanted to stay on the page, but really didn’t want to see the writing. I told her I couldn’t navigate or control her Facebook feed, and I was pretty sure her best bet was just to unlike the page, or stay on it, and ignore the writing.

She wrote back a third time to reiterate how much she didn’t like my writing, and said she’d figure out what to do. At that point, I was kind of laughing and shaking my head, but I was also intrigued. What would inspire someone to take the time to find my email to repeatedly let me know they didn’t like my writing? So I went to her page, and discovered that she was a writer. Clearly she was in some kind of pain, and wanted to share that with me. Perhaps she wanted to lash out with her frustration and see if she could make me feel badly, too. After the initial sting, I just felt badly for her. I ended up writing back a final time, letting her know that I’d received her message clearly, and that it seemed important to her that I understand how much she didn’t like my writing, and I wished her the best with her own endeavors and I left it at that. Sometimes people feel trapped or angry or like life is unfair and other people are getting breaks they deserve. Sometimes people feel so hopeless or frustrated or lost, they just flail. It’s not about you, you just represent something. You can have compassion when someone is suffering like that, and I hope you do, but you can’t save anyone. We each have to do our own journey.

There are a few things that are important to remember. We are all accountable for the energy we spread as we move through the world. We’re either adding to the love, or we’re adding to the pain. Of course, when we’re suffering, we’re probably going to have a difficult time, and that’s okay. I’m not suggesting you have to go around smiling for the world when you’re hurting. The more you open yourself, the more deeply you’re going to feel things, but try not to get bogged down in someone else’s nastiness or rage. That’s no reflection on you, that’s solely a reflection on the other party. The only reason you’ d ever let an insult “land” is if part of you feared it might be true. Of course we all have our insecurities and doubts, and we all have healing to do. If someone close to you kindly holds up a mirror and suggests maybe you aren’t doing your best, I think it’s important to take a good look, but people who are intentionally trying to bring you down are reflecting where they’re at; they’re down. You don’t have to joint them.

Generally speaking, try not to worry about what people might be thinking of you, because most of the time they aren’t! Just keep your eye on the ball. The “ball” being whatever it is that feeds your soul and sets you on fire. Your time and energy are the most precious gifts you get, and they’re also the most meaningful ones you can offer. Help people in pain whenever you can, but don’t squander your gifts on people who are cruel and punishing. Screw that. I mean, let’s all hope that anyone who’s full of venom will find some relief and some help and some healing, but in the meantime, let’s also go about the business of making the world a kinder, gentler place.

If there are one hundred people in a room, and ninety-nine of them love you, give your energy to them. The one person who doesn’t get you or understand you or like you or dig your vibe is not a challenge for you to overcome. You don’t have to chase or cajole or convince or dance like a monkey to make people like you. Do you like everyone? It’s fine. It would be nice if we could all be respectful, but not everyone is up to that, and that’s fine, too. It’s not like it’s fun to move through the world with a huge chip on your shoulder. You don’t have to participate in carrying anyone else’s chip. Just be you. That’s enough, and that’s a lot.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Raise Your Words, Not Your Voice

rumiWords are powerful. They can be used as tools for healing, communication, connection, understanding, comfort, gratitude, joy and love, or they can be used as weapons, knives, arrows, or bullets. As with any tool, it’s how you wield it.

Sometimes people grow up in homes where words are used as tools of pain and destruction. It doesn’t take much to make a kid doubt his own worth, or come to know the taste of fear. The holding of breath, the desire to be invisible, or safe, wanted, protected or loved. We only know what we know. We each have a frame of reference. If you grew up in a house where your parents fought like enemies, where they cursed at each other, or at you, or threw things, or stormed out the door, you’re going to have to develop a communication style that’s different from what you saw if you want to have healthy relationships in your life, not just with lovers, but with your children, your friends, and your colleagues. Try to imagine how terrified you’d be right now if giants tore through your house screaming, and multiply that times a million, because as a kid, you can’t reassure yourself, or understand that it’s no reflection on you.

It’s a very confusing experience when we don’t know what to expect from the people who are supposed to love us and nurture us. It’s even more troublesome if they’re sometimes loving, affectionate and kind, and other times reactive, abusive or nasty. There’s no way to feel secure. There’s actually a name for this, and it’s called “disorganized attachment”, and it can follow you into your adult life, and probably will. It’s hard to relax with people if you’re always waiting for the other shoe to come crashing down over your head.

People tend to go in two directions; they either repeat the cycle of abuse, or they go in the absolute opposite direction. Either way, if you didn’t have a model of healthy communication, you’re almost definitely going to need some help with that. You don’t have to use the map you’ve got; in many instances it would do a person good to burn that map and chart a new one, but it isn’t easy to rewire the system. It takes enormous desire and dedication and herculean effort. If you come out of terror, it’’s likely you either shut down when conflict arises, or you go for the jugular. Neither of these options are going to lead you toward healthy communication.

This is one of the great gifts of a consistent yoga practice. So much of what we do is about breathing through intense sensation. I know we don’t think about emotion this way, but when we say we’re “enraged”, we’re not talking about an abstract concept; we’re not talking about some idea. We’re describing the feelings we have when our bodies are flooded with sensation. The racing heart rate, the rising blood pressure, the tense shoulders, the shortness of breath, the clenched jaw or fists, these are all physical sensations. This is why it’s so powerful to breathe deeply while you’re holding a lunge and your quadriceps are on fire. You’re training both your nervous system and your mind to stay centered, to keep breathing, and to stay curious. If you stick with the physical practice long enough, and if you use your practice in this way, you ought to find you’re becoming less reactive and more responsive. Which is really what we’re talking about. (You can take my “Yoga for Anger Management” class, here:

When we’re reactive, something within us gets triggered. Someone says something or does something that taps some raw, unhealed place within us, and BAM! We’re exploding. Cruelty and mean-spiritedness have no place in loving relationships. They have no place anywhere. Sometimes people say things that are so knifing, they leave a scar as deep as any blade. Or sometimes someone says something or does something that taps a place of intense pain, like the pain of being abandoned or neglected or unseen, and we shut down, or we flee the scene. Those are examples of reactivity. An event from our present ignites pain from our past, and it’s as if the prior event is happening all over again. All of our pain, or all of our rage comes crashing to the surface. A response comes out of the present. We might feel triggered, but we remember to breathe and to stay calm and to listen. We create a little space between the event, and what we decide to do or say about it. We take in the person in front of us. We recognize that we’re feeling hurt or angry, and we speak about what’s happening within us. Maybe we tell the other party we’re feeling overwhelmed and we need a minute. Or we explain our heart is racing and we don’t want to say something we’ll regret. We communicate rather than annihilate.

You don’t have to be ruled by your past. There are tools you can use to reverse the damage. You can create a life out of ideas you have about how you’d like to show up in the world. If you want to start to shift the way you’re speaking to other people, start with your inner dialogue. If you berate yourself relentlessly, you’re going to be filled with pain, and you’re going to spread it. Feed a loving voice. That’s something else you can do on your mat. So what if you fall? So what if your hamstrings aren’t as open as the person next to you? You aren’t here to balance on one leg, or put your ankle behind your head. You’re here to be at peace with yourself, to uncover your gifts, to share them freely, and to connect and love and give everything you’ve got. Fill your tank with love, so you can spread it wherever you go. The world needs more of that.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

What You Give

victorhugoThe best things in life spring from what you give, not what you have or what you get. Giving from your heart feels great. Keeping score is not what it’s about. If that’s how you’re doing your relationships and your life, focusing on whether you’re getting as much as you’re giving, wondering about whether you’re being “shorted”, or holding on to lists of past transgressions or disappointments, you’re probably not going to feel very happy.

Some of this has to do with your outlook in general. If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run, and six people stop to make sure you’re okay, to wait with you until the police arrive so they can give their accounts, too, if one of them runs to get you ice, or holds your hand or your head, who are you going to focus on after the fact? The person who hit you, or the people who helped you? I mean, of course you’re going to tell the story of what happened, but when you think about the world at large, are you going to say, “This person hit me in my car and took off, and people suck”? Or are you going to say, “This person hit me in my car and took off, but a half-dozen other people, total strangers, dropped everything and made sure I was okay, and people are really kind”? What’s your takeaway going to be? What are you holding onto in general? I mean, we all have stories; things we carry around, sometimes like a talisman, that explain who we are to ourselves, and sometimes to other people. “I’m this way because…” And some of these stories strengthen us, and some of them weaken us. If you carry too many weakening stories around, what you really end up with are excuses.

I know this might be a little confrontational, but sometimes it’s really good to consider the quality of our thinking. A lot of our suffering is created in our own minds. Not all of it, so bear with me. There are devastating things that happen in this life that can bring you to your knees, so I want to be clear about that. Sometimes we suffer because someone we love more than words is ripped from us. Grief is real, and appropriate and it’s a healthy response when we’ve lost someone we don’t know how to live without. Sometimes I hear people spout platitudes like, “There are no bad events, there’s just the way we’re relating to the things that are happening.” Tell that to a grieving parents who’ve lost their child in a violent act. There are events that are simply brutal, and they are real, and we will suffer, but short of those tragedies, a lot of our suffering is created by our thoughts.

If you always focus on what you don’t have, you’re going to be miserable. If you always focus on the ways your partner is blowing it, you’re going to feel lousy, and chances are, your partner will, too. It never feels good to be constantly criticized, rejected or ignored. If you throw an epic and ancient list of past mistakes into the mix every time your partner forgets to bring home apples, that’s probably going to weaken your bond, not strengthen it. If you’re giving with a motive, it’s not really giving, it’s giving to get. Am I saying you should never consider how you’re being treated or whether your partner is seeing you? Of course not. A healthy, happy relationship is one in which both people look out for each other. Each party wants the other to grow and expand and be more of themselves, not less, so if you’re in something with someone who’s mistreating you, you really have to look at that, and take some action.

I’m not talking about that, here. It never feels good when we’re small and petty and calculating. Manipulation is a poor use of your time and energy. Directing your thoughts to everything you do have makes you feel good; it makes you feel full, and like you’re coming from a place of abundance. Moving through the world focusing on what you don’t have is going to make you feel terrible, and you’ll be coming from a place of lack. That leads to greediness and hoarding, whether we’re talking about hoarding stuff, or other people’s time, attention and affection. Neediness is a poor foundation for a relationship of any kind; you can’t expect anyone else to solve your happiness issue, that’s your work. Culturally we’re trained to think that we need only meet our soul-mates, and everything will fall into place, we’ll be “complete” and happy. You are your soul-mate. I think we all need to get really clear about that, because it liberates us, and the people closest to us. We get to take ownership of our happiness issue. The Cliff Notes, if you want them, are that giving makes us happy. Be your own soul-mate, and check the catalog of stories you’re toting around, so you can be sure you aren’t focusing on the doom and gloom, instead of the love and light.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Grief, Healing & Connection

fallapartSometimes we grip and cling and refuse to accept reality as it is. We reject the truth. The more we contract against our experience, the more we suffer. It’s just that sometimes, reality really hurts, and our mind isn’t ready to integrate and accept it. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say our minds and our hearts aren’t ready.

We can do this in big ways and small. Maybe we’re dealing with the pain of rejection, and keep writing a script in our heads about what’s really happening, and how we’re going to get our happy ending down the line. Or maybe we’ve lost someone we don’t know how to live without, and it’s happened so suddenly, we’re in a state of shock. The limbs work, we can put one foot in front of the other, we seem okay to those around us, but inside we’re bargaining with the universe. We’re coming up with some way we might get back the person we’ve lost, as if that might be possible.

Some things are so painful, we look for another way, a different route, a formula that creates a livable outcome. We might do this by retracing our steps. If only we’d done or said “this”, maybe these other events wouldn’t have transpired, and life would still make sense. If only we could go back in time and redo one decision, perhaps that would have all kinds of implications that would save us from the current pain, and here’s the thing. When you’re dealing with those big losses, the loss of an entire person, for example, it’s a process, like anything else. It’s not something you can rush, and there isn’t any “how-to” book. You just have to move through your pain in whatever way you can, and hope that the people in your life show up for you, feed you, make sure you get a little sun on your face. Sometimes we go through experiences that make us feel we’re in a bubble, like there’s an impenetrable film between us, and everyone in the “living world”. Regina Brett has a quote, “You have to give time, time.” Time doesn’t heal every wound, but it helps lessen the crushing, incomprehensible nature of sudden grief. That waking up, and having to “re-remember” what’s happened goes away over time, because eventually you will integrate it, you will know it in your bones. You won’t wake up in the middle of the night, disoriented, panicked, feeling as though you’ve forgotten something urgent.

We deal with all kinds of losses in life. The loss of our innocence, whenever that comes. The loss of our trust when someone betrays us for the first time. The loss of the idea that we’re invincible. Sometimes we deal with the loss of our faith in ourselves, or the world at large. Losing your keys is just a moment you get to practice not panicking. Dealing with a car that won’t start is a chance to realize the things you take for granted won’t always work the way you want them to, or think they should. The more we accept that life is really another word for energy, and that energy is always in motion, the less we’ll expect things to be stable and predictable and safe. We all know we’re going to die, but that isn’t a comfortable thought, so we don’t always live like we know that. It’s as if we know, but we somehow don’t really believe it. That won’t really happen to us, or to those we love. Sometimes we live as though we have all the time in the world. We “waste” time, or “kill” time as if it isn’t precious. Death puts things in perspective. It shocks us into awareness, but grief is so overwhelming, and we don’t create a safe space for people to move through it. We’ve become so attached to positivity and light, it’s as if we’re supposed to feel ashamed when we feel dark and hopeless, like we should stay home until we’re ready to smile again. People who are grieving and need support more than ever, are often left to manage on their own, because grief reminds people of their own mortality.

None of us is going to live forever in the bodies we have right now, that much we know for sure, and we can allow ourselves to be crushed and devastated and paralyzed by that, or we can allow that to inspire us to really be living and loving and giving and seeing and listening and tasting and hugging and crying and laughing and grieving and cherishing the whole experience, every facet of it. If we’re grieving, it’s because we loved deeply, and there’s beauty in that. Some people will never allow themselves to be vulnerable that way, they’ll never really open, or let themselves be seen and understood. I don’t believe you have to feel grateful about everything that’s ever happened to you, but I do think every experience is a chance to grow and learn and soften. I think we can become more empathetic, understanding and compassionate. If we’re going to suffer from time to time, let’s at least put that suffering to good use. Let’s help each other. We don’t do that by rejecting the uncomfortable feelings. We don’t do it when we reject them internally, and we don’t do it when we refuse to meet people where they are. Most of the time, a person dealing with loss will appreciate your kindness, your presence, your thoughtfulness. These aren’t huge things to give, and at some point, we’ll all need to lean on each other.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton