Hungry for the Truth

mandyhaleAttachment leads to suffering. As human beings, we are going to be attached to our loved ones, and I wouldn’t recommend trying to avoid that. We’re going to be attached to wanting our families to be happy and healthy and living in a way that feels good and right to them. Connection and love and shared experiences are the best things in life. It’s just that when we allow ourselves to be attached, we also allow ourselves to be vulnerable. You can’t have one without the other, and the reality is, we are going to lose people we don’t know how to live without. Sometimes this happens because we’re in these bodies with their unknown expiration dates, and we just don’t know how much time we have with each other, and sometimes it happens because we grow apart from people with whom we were once so close, this eventuality seems impossible.

Few things cause us greater suffering than attachment to a picture we have in our heads of “how things should be”, or “how people should be”, or “how life should look.” That “should” is such a dangerous word. Sometimes we’ve attached our happiness to a particular outcome, and anything less, or anything else, just won’t do. So many people attach their happiness to externals. It’s the old, “I’ll-Be-Happy-When” formula. “I’ll be happy when I lose ten pounds, or have a different job, or a bigger house, or a faster car. I’ll be happy when I meet the ‘right’ person, or win the approval of my parents, or book that big gig…” It goes on and on, and I’ll tell you what. If that’s the formula you’re working with, happiness will always be just out of reach because it will never be enough. Anything outside of you will never equal your happiness. You plus the right person won’t do it. You plus the big house won’t do it, either. You minus the ten, fifteen, twenty pounds won’t get you there. It’s inside work.

I know this from my own personal experience. I tried the “me plus lots of external stuff” way for many years, and I exhausted myself. The funny thing is, while we’re out there in hot pursuit of that place called happy, inside it never feels right. We know, intuitively, it’s pointless, but we’re taught that this is the way, so many of us hang in there hoping, for many years. At a certain point, I stopped chasing happiness, and I got hungry for the truth. When I say “the truth”, I’m not talking about it like there’s one truth for everyone. I mean, I got hungry for my own truth, the truth of my own experience. Sometimes we think, “If only I could get this person to love me and see me and understand me and cherish me, then I’d be happy!!” And “this person” is not necessarily a romantic partner (although that’s often the case). It might be your mother or your father, or your mercurial Uncle Howard. Sometimes we start out with a parent who seems out of our reach and we repeat the pattern later in life by choosing partners who can’t or won’t commit to us. You can literally make yourself sick trying to be perfect for other people, trying to make yourself worthy, trying to dance like a monkey to earn love, trying to be something other than what you are just to get that thing you so desperately want—your happiness. But you’ll never be happy by trying to be something you are not. The alternative is to lean into the truth of whatever is real.

Maybe you have a parent who will never be able to love you in the way you long to be loved, perhaps they’re just not capable. You can receive that fact as a reflection of something lacking within you, but the much likelier reality is that it’s a deficit within them. People can only be where they are, and they can only use the tools they’ve got. If you’ve chosen a partner who can’t commit, you could interpret that data as an indication that there’s something about you that just isn’t good enough, or you could accept that perhaps this person has deep fears around intimacy, or maybe it’s just not where they’re at at this particular moment in time. Accepting reality as it is, without taking it personally, is such a huge relief. Getting hungry for the truth is a liberation. Setting yourself free of the idea that only one outcome can lead to your happiness opens you to a whole new world of possibilities. And yes, accepting that someone might not love you the way you love them, or might not want to commit to you is going to hurt, but it’s also going to allow you to breathe again, and to feel like your feet are planted solidly on the ground. It’s going to give you back your self-respect and your self-esteem, which you have to check at the bars of your prison cell when you make yourself unable to release your attachment to a happy ending that isn’t in the cards.

The other thing is, opening to reality as it is, gives you power and peace. You’re not busy telling yourself stories, or pretending things are other than what they are. You aren’t spending your time or energy pretending that you are other than what you are, and I have to say, that’s a pretty happy feeling. It puts you at ease. It allows you to release your grip, to stop your grasping and clinging. It relieves you of any notion that things are “happening to you.” It puts you back in the power seat. There’s no desire to force or manipulate or cajole. Why would you do any of that? You just allow things to flow, and trust that when they’re right, it’s clear, and if you have to force, it isn’t right. So much simpler, so much happier. I highly recommend it.

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton

P.S. If this was helpful, you can buy Ally’s books here.

Give it Time

stripyourgearsSometimes our expectations of ourselves are so unrealistic. We have ideas about how we should feel, or where we should be at any given point in time, and if we aren’t meeting those markers, we feel disappointed in ourselves, or frustrated, or we wonder what’s wrong with us. This comes up a lot around grieving, mourning, and recovering from heartbreak of any kind. There’s no timer for this stuff; there’s no formula. It’s different for everyone, and dependent upon so many factors. But the last thing you need when you’re suffering, is to feel badly about yourself because you aren’t done suffering quickly enough.

Obviously it’s no fun to be pining or longing or missing people we cherish. Death is the most extreme version of this, of course. Grieving has no time limit. As Earl Grollman says, “The only cure for grief is to grieve.” No matter how much we understand we’ll all die eventually, it’s still almost incomprehensible when someone we love is ripped from us. It’s natural to want to hug the people we love, to hear their voices, their laughter, to hold their hands. The loss of a person is like the loss of a whole, beautiful world. There’s a shock to it, it seems impossible that the earth could keep spinning, and depending upon who’s been lost to you, and in what way they were taken, and at what point in your life and theirs, the impact may bring you to your knees. The only thing at a time like that, is to ask for help. Hopefully, you don’t even have to do that. Hopefully the people in your life know how to show up for you, at least some of them, so that you know you aren’t alone.

For many people, grief is difficult to witness, because it reminds them of their own mortality, the fragility of life, and the potential that they, too, could have to hold a sorrow so great. The people who are the most uncomfortable holding a space for your pain, are likely the same people who will tell you you “should be feeling better by now.” What they’re really saying is, “I’m having a hard time being around you when you’re in pain, and I’d like you to make it easier for me.” The thing is, when you’re mourning, your only job is to allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel, for as long as you need to feel it. Anyone who can’t honor that or understand it is probably not going to be one of your cronies when you’re ninety-five, sipping lemonade in your rocker, but you don’t need tons of close friends. You just need a few.

The same goes for the loss of any relationship. You have to factor in all kinds of things. How much time and energy you invested, how many memories, shared experiences, heartaches and growing pains you went through. If you had a family with this person, it gets exponentially more complicated, but even if we’re talking about someone you dated for a few months, having a broken heart never feels good. You just have to give yourself time. Examine what happened, especially if you’re disappointed with the way you showed up, but try not to obsess. Glean the information from the experience that’s going to help you grow, and make different choices the next time. If you’re recovering from a toxic relationship, understand your oldest, deepest wounds were probably in play, and that it’s very likely you could use some support. It might be a great time to find a good therapist, and do some deep and needed work toward healing, but don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t over your ex. Some days will be better than others, and these are just natural feelings. Don’t stalk their social media making yourself sick, and try not to invest too much of your time or energy wondering what they’re doing. Focus on your own healing. As Regina Brett says, you have to “give time, time.” You know that anything you resist, persists. Of course we don’t want to marinate in pain, but denying it or running from it or numbing it out just prolongs the inevitable. Eventually you have to face it, and the more you’re willing to acknowledge and work with your pain, the faster you’ll move through it.

Be kind to yourself. Gravitate toward people who don’t try to fix things or tell you how to feel, but are simply able to listen and to be there. Nurture yourself, and spend time doing those things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Volunteer if you have it in you. Try to move your body and sweat and breathe once a day. Weep. Feed yourself well, and I don’t just mean food—pay attention to what you’re watching, reading, telling yourself, and try to have patience. One day, you’ll wake up, and the weight and heaviness of your grief won’t come crashing down upon you as you blink your eyes open and remember where you are. In the meantime, have some compassion for yourself. Life is a constant lesson in impermanence and loss. There’s also incredible beauty and joy and love, but it isn’t easy.

Sending you a huge hug,

Ally Hamilton

Healing After Rejection, Betrayal or Abandonment

oprahFew things feel worse than being betrayed, left, or rejected, and yet, most of us will experience all of these at least once. The first time something like this happens is the worst, because we don’t have a frame of reference for it; we’re left to piece together the “new normal”, even if it happens when we’re little. I still remember the morning I woke up and my mom told me my dad didn’t live with us anymore; I was four. I remember going to his drawers and closets, and opening everything up, and trying to make sense of this new reality. At four, you have no tools, you just have feelings, but it’s not much easier at twenty-four, or ever.

When someone hurts us, for whatever reason, particularly someone with whom we were very close, it’s knifing. If you have any doubt about your value as a beautiful human being with something special to contribute, few things will bring it into greater question than the feelings we suffer when someone leaves us, because the deep fear is that they got close enough to see the truth of our unworthiness. They got to know us, and actually, they decided we were not so special. Most of the time, that’s not at all what has happened, though.

First of all, if someone betrays you, they’re in a place where they are not respecting themselves. Anyone who lies to your face, or fails to communicate information that deeply impacts you, is lost to themselves. Lying feels terrible. Resorting to sneakiness because you’re unable to express what’s in your heart is a certain kind of agony. Even worse is when a person is in a place where they can justify terrible behavior by making everything your fault. Sometimes people are so desperate to feel something, anything, to break the chains of their own apathy or discomfort or despair, they just act out. My point is, a person who acts in a hurtful or careless way is not in a good place on his or her own path. Their current lack of kindness or integrity is not a reflection on you, or anything lacking within you. It’s a reflection of where they find themselves on their own journey.

If you’ve been left in the dark, that’s so painful, and I’m sorry you’re going through that; a lack of communication when something comes to an end is a coward’s choice. The inability to honor what was once beautiful is a real shame. No one deserves to be ignored or shunned, or left in a vacuum to try to figure out what’s happened, but sometimes it goes down that way. Understand that sometimes people are not ready or able to face themselves, and so they can’t face you. It’s nothing you did or said, it’s nothing you didn’t do, it’s not a character flaw of yours. Remember we can’t do each other’s journeys. People have the tools they have, that’s all they’ve got to use.

Also, closure is a bit overrated. Even if you understand every nuance of why something has ended, you’re still going to suffer. Do I think it’s easier if you are able to end something with respect and honesty and integrity? Of course. I’m just saying it takes two, and if you’re in a situation with someone who is unable to do that with you, your best hope of closure may be simple acceptance. I say simple, not easy.

Try to recognize there are all kinds of things that might lead a person to act in a way that’s so hard to comprehend. Maybe they’ve been so deeply hurt, they know no other way than to lash out or shut down or take off. Imagine if your choices were limited like that. There are people in the world who don’t feel empathy. There are known personality disorders that can lead a person to act in ways that make you shake your head. The lack of love when it’s most needed can do that to a person. Imagine growing up without feeling seen or heard. I’m not saying it’s okay when people treat us poorly, or unconscionably, I’m saying it might help you to consider the source. That probably wouldn’t be a happy place to find yourself.

If you’ve been hurt, your best response is to seek out the tools that will help you to heal, and learn and grow from your experience. Life gives us a choice: we can be hardened by what happens along our journeys, or we can be softened by it. I highly recommend softening. We don’t need more hard people. We need people who have insight and who understand compassion and kindness. We need more people who are willing to examine their participation in situations that dimmed their light. We need more people to understand they’re worthy, just by the fact of their own existence. Use the “stuff” of your life to open and grow. The human heart is resilient and we all naturally want to heal. Pain is part of the journey toward liberation from suffering, facing it and working with it and leaning into it. That’s how you release yourself.

Wishing that for you, and sending love,

Ally Hamilton

Believe Them

The-first-time-someoneA few years ago, I went on a date with a guy who travels around the country giving talks and interviews about compassion and kindness. He’s written books, he’s been on all kinds of television shows. He’s extremely charismatic and funny and smart. We met through mutual friends and he asked me out, and of course, I was very excited. I thought we had a similar outlook on life, and I liked the fact that he seemed down-to-earth.

The night of the date came, and he picked me up, and off we went. The conversation was easy and deep. Definitely no small talk. By the time we were at the restaurant, we were so in the flow, the waiter stopped asking us if we wanted to order. We never made it past a pitcher of mint lemonade. We sat at the table for three hours, drunk on conversation. He made all kinds of references to things we had to do, friends of his I had to meet, places we had to go. There was not an inch of me wondering whether we’d be going out again. We exchanged a few emails the next day, but he didn’t mention plans, and I just assumed he was going to call to do that. So you can imagine, when I hadn’t heard from him a week later, I was surprised and confused.

I decided to be direct, and sent an email letting him know I’d had a great time. I told him I was really looking forward to getting to know him better. I told him about a public speaking engagement I’d since had, that we’d discussed the night we went out, and how I was pleased I hadn’t died from fear, after all. Radio silence. He never wrote back, and I was left with the sting of having made myself vulnerable. I didn’t say anything to our mutual friends, because I didn’t want them to feel badly, and I also didn’t want anyone else to get involved. After numerous conversations with trusted girlfriends, and a couple of close male friends, I let it go. I figured it must have been smoke and mirrors or something, because it’s one thing to talk about kindness and compassion, but it’s another thing to have some.

I found out much later he’d been dating someone off and on for a long time. When we went out, they’d been off, but at some point the week after our date, they were on again. I’ve been in those relationships before, the ones that are so hard to end. The ones where you feel so hooked in you’re convinced it must be love so you keep going back even though you know nothing will be different. Anyway, when I realized what happened, I felt a little soothed, but also angry. It would have been so easy to simply shoot me an email and let me know. It would have been kinder than leaving me to second guess my own experience, to replay the night in my mind and wonder if I’d missed something.

Anyway, who knows why he handled it that way. Probably, he wanted to keep me on the back burner for when his on again went off again, because I did get an email a few months later, asking if I’d like to have dinner but by then I was done. I would never pursue something with someone who can’t or won’t communicate honestly. Most of the time people are not setting out to hurt us, and this was not a major heartbreak, obviously. It was one date. It just so happened it was my first date out of the gate after my divorce, the first date I’d been on in eight years. So the timing wasn’t great, but it was a sting, not a wound. Usually people are doing the best they can with the tools they’ve got. Sometimes people are selfish and prioritize what’s good for them over what might be hurtful for someone else. The thing is, it’s really never okay to put your discomfort ahead of another person’s heart. Awkward conversations aren’t fun, but they’re so much better than leaving someone in the dark.

The other thing to remember, is that sometimes a person presents themselves one way, but one-on-one, it’s a whole different story. This is a guy who does a lot of good, legitimately, but his interpersonal skills need a lot of work. It was a good reminder to me that we should never look at someone’s public persona, and assume that’s what’s happening behind closed doors. Not everybody has every piston firing. It’s easy to take things personally, but most of the time, it’s just a reflection of where someone is on their own path; it’s not a reflection of anything lacking in you. I get so many emails from people struggling with this stuff. The truth is, if a person is into you, it’s not going to be a mystery, you’re not going to have to wonder, or chase, or second guess yourself. I really wouldn’t waste time with any of that, life is too short, and you are too precious. Save your time and energy for people who are coming at you with everything they’ve got, and keep your eyes, ears and mind open, so you can see clearly when there’s a disconnect between someone’s words and their actions. It’s really good to remember the Maya Angelou quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Boundaries

whatuallowBeing kind and understanding is very different than allowing yourself to be abused, mistreated or disrespected. Sometimes there’s a thin line between compassion for other people, and abuse of self. Being spiritual does not mean we allow ourselves to be injured, dumped on, taken advantage of, or treated like a doormat. When you’ve lost your self-respect and you’ve allowed your tender heart to be handled in a reckless way, you’ve betrayed the most vulnerable part of yourself, and that’s the source of your light and your strength. There is no true spiritual practice that demands you hand that over.

Sometimes I get emails from people wondering where the line is. I’ll tell you what I think. I think in order to help, nurture or support anyone else, we have to be doing those things for ourselves, first. You can’t be a source of strength for anyone if you’re doubting your worth, and if someone is treating you badly, your job is to remove yourself from that situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut this person out of your life (although it will mean that in some instances), but before you can figure out what to do or how to respond, you have to get yourself to a safe space. I mean that physically, mentally and emotionally. You are not here to participate in the dimming of your light, or the crushing of your spirit.

We can recognize when people we love are in pain, and of course, it’s natural to want to help. We can’t save other people, or fix them, though, or make them see how beautiful they are. The reality is when a person is in acute pain, you’re likely to get some spillover.

This is where boundaries come into play. Standing up for yourself does not run counter to having empathy. You empathize, but you get the hell out of Dodge and do that from a distance where you can still honor and protect your own gorgeous heart. If someone is in a space where they abuse you, neglect you, belittle you, or discard you like trash, you really can’t participate in that and feel good about yourself. It’s okay, and it’s imperative to say no sometimes. No, this is not okay for me. You deserve love and kindness and respect as much as anyone else, and you serve no one by forgetting that, or compromising your own sense of what’s right.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations we never thought we’d allow. I think most of us have been there at least once. Sometimes it’s romantic relationships, sometimes it’s familial, once in awhile we allow ourselves to be abused by a “friend” or co-worker or boss. Maybe it’s insidious. Things start out well enough, but little by little things deteriorate, until one day we wake up and wonder what happened, and how exactly we landed ourselves in this painful situation.

Start where you are. If you’re being abused in any way, get yourself some support. Gather yourself up and remember your work here is to love and to shine and to connect, and do whatever you need to do to make yourself safe. That’s your baseline job. That’s the number one thing. Until that basic need is met, until it’s safe for you to be vulnerable, you won’t be living.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Consider the Source

praiseSometimes what you don’t say is incredibly powerful. I’m all for speaking the truth, but there are times when taking the high road speaks volumes. This is particularly difficult when you come face-to-face with someone who doesn’t wish you well, or with whom you have a long and challenging history. We can get so caught up in what people think of us, as if they have the final say on who we are, but you are not here to convince anyone of anything, especially of your value as a human being; life is too short for that. You’re here to be you, to figure out what that means, to uncover your gifts and to share them. Your actions speak for themselves. You don’t have to throw a lot of hours and words at a thing to reiterate reality.

We’re all human, and we will all make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow, and do it better the next time; no one is exempt from this. You truly want to grasp that there are a lot of people in pain walking around on this planet, and it’s understandable, it’s not like this is an easy gig. Life is a lesson in letting go and opening up. In learning to trust yourself, and in having faith that you’ll keep growing and evolving, and that if you listen to your heart, you’ll also keep moving in the right direction. It’s also a lesson in acceptance and impermanence. It’s beautiful in so many ways, but no one would argue that it’s easy.

Not everyone wants, or is able, to face the reality of who they are, what they want, or the inherent vulnerability that comes with being a human being on planet earth. People in pain spread pain. Mostly, it’s unintentional, it’s just that whatever we have on the inside, is what spills out of us. Most people are not setting out to hurt you, but if a person isn’t happy, if they haven’t healed, or figured out what lights them up, what inspires them, what gives their life meaning and purpose, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in their opinions about how you’re doing on your own path. Pointing fingers is easy. Pointing fingers at ourselves in a compassionate but honest way, taking ownership of our own lives and our own happiness, is not so easy.

When I was a kid, my dad taught me the phrase, “consider the source”. It’s one of the best gifts he ever gave me. I’ve encountered so many people over the years, (and have certainly fallen prey to the tendency myself), who get caught up in worrying about someone’s poor opinion of them. Especially if it’s an ex, or a family member, or someone with whom they were once close. Not many things feel worse than the idea that someone we care about thinks badly of us, but a lot of the time (not all of the time), people are blaming and shaming in an attempt to avoid their own work. I’m not saying you don’t have accountability. Only you know if you were careless or reckless with someone else’s heart, and if you know you were, I hope you own that and ask for forgiveness. When someone gives you their heart, that’s an act of trust, and not something you want to take lightly, but if you know you’ve done your best to be kind and compassionate and patient and honest, then I wouldn’t spend time or energy trying to sell anyone on how awesome you really are. Sometimes people need to make you the villain so they can get over a situation. They have to weave a story out of the ruins that they can live with, and maybe it’s a story where you’re the bad guy. So be it. It’s really not your job to get inside someone else’s head and try to rewrite their story.

If a person has terrible things or wonderful things to say about you, remember it’s really not your business. Isn’t that funny? If you do your best to be kind and compassionate, to use your time to spread as much love as you can for as long as you can, you’ll leave a wake of love behind you, and you’ll create a sea of it out in front of you. That’s your business.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

You Are the Steward of Your Own Ship

If-you-feel-lostSometimes it’s really hard to stay centered. Maybe someone has said or done something hurtful, maybe you’re being ignored, left to figure out what’s happening on your own, in the dark. It could be that things are shifting rapidly in your life, or that you’re feeling stuck. You might be wildly in love, or going through a heartbreak. Maybe you’re under incredible pressure at work, or you’re trying to figure out how to make ends meet. You might feel judged, rejected, or invisible, or perhaps you’re the object of someone’s intense desire.

Any and all of these situations can throw us off balance, and again and again, it comes back to how much we need reassurance, affirmation and love from other people. There’s nothing wrong with wanting connection in life, with wanting to be held and seen and cherished. If you need those things because you doubt at your very center that you’re worthy of love, then you’re in trouble, because if one person says or does something that leaves you feeling rejected or discarded or “stung”, you can bet you’re going to spin for awhile.

Our time, attention and energy are the most precious gifts we have to offer. We don’t get a do-over; there is no roll-over plan for wasted moments in this life. Other people can’t make us feel anything, unless we let them. To feel love, you have to be receptive to it, you have to be ready to receive, and to give, to open and to trust. If you feel insecure, ashamed, or rejected based on the actions of another person, some deep part of you is in doubt; somewhere within you, you must not be sure of yourself, otherwise why would it bother you so much? I’m not saying it’s a minor thing if someone pushes you away, or doesn’t bother to treat you with respect, consideration, and compassion, I’m just saying you don’t have to receive the insult. If you know you’re doing your best and you’re trying not to hurt other people, then you can feel centered and at peace. It won’t matter so much if other people say nasty things behind your back, or to your face, because at the end of the day, you can face yourself, that’s what matters. Of course we care about the opinions of those nearest and dearest to us, and if one of those people tells you it’s time to do better, I’d take that into serious consideration, but ultimately, you have to trust yourself.

It doesn’t feel good to be held in someone’s contempt, and it’s even worse to feel unseen, but you are the steward of your own ship, you decide your course each day. You’re a human being, so some days you’ll come up against the rocks, or the seas will be rough, or you’ll be thrown overboard and pulled under by the current. As soon as you can, grab your compass and get back to it. If you need to dock on an island for a bit so you can explore the source of your pain, fear or doubt, by all means, get on that. Otherwise, try to direct most of your time, attention and energy toward sharing whatever you’ve got to give. As long as you’re approaching life with an open heart, and doing your best to be accountable for the energy you’re spreading, you won’t have much cause to doubt yourself. I wouldn’t let someone rob you of an afternoon, a few days, a week, or more, because time is too precious, and you won’t always know or understand another person’s pain, but you can bet we all have some.

If you’re off center because of great circumstances, enjoy every moment. Just don’t lose yourself, and don’t forget about your family and friends.

It’s not possible to understand what’s driving a person unless he or she tells you. People do things that are confusing and hurtful when they’re in pain. That’s where they are on their journey; it’s no reflection of anything lacking in you. So if you’re going through tumult around that kind of storm, try to get back on your feet.

We can be rocked by circumstance, thrilled when things are going our way, and depressed when they aren’t, or we can keep coming back to steadiness. You might call that steadiness “knowing yourself”, or inner peace.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton