Slow Your Roll

You-can-close-your-eyesSometimes we really get blindsided by someone, and nowhere is this more likely to occur than in the romantic realm. It’s so easy to get swept away in hormones and lust and romantic fantasies, and decide two, three, six weeks in that “This is it!”. It can happen with new friendships, too, of course, it’s just that our vision is less likely to be clouded by intense desire.

The thing is, most people can do the beginning of a relationship really well. I mean, hello? The first six weeks are fun and easy! The first three months can be pretty amazing. You really don’t know what you’re dealing with until the heat wears off a little bit and you can see straight again. Also, can we all acknowledge that it takes a long time to get to know someone well?

I mention all this, because so many people dive in full throttle, only to have their hearts smashed against a brick wall before they have time to call off the wedding in their minds. If you’re a romantic person and you’re of a certain age and you know you want a life partner and maybe a family, if that’s what you’re looking for, then that’s what you’re going to hope to find. And just as scientists might occasionally and inadvertently skew their experiments to get confirmation on their hypotheses, so do romantics see things that might not be there.

When you’ve been lonely for a long time, or if you’re suddenly back on the dating scene after years of longing for love, it’s hard to take things slowly. We want. We desire. We need. Most people long for connection and understanding. Most people want to be seen and cherished with all their beauty and all their flaws and all their absurdities and quirks. So if someone shows up who looks right and sounds right and says the right things, we might just be ready to start writing long-term scripts in our heads. But it’s always good to remember that attachment leads to suffering, so you want to take your time before you form an attachment to a person you barely know, or to a picture in your head of “how things should be”.

The thing is, you really don’t want to be reckless with your heart, your body, your time or your energy. Because all of these are gifts. Your particular spark is a gift. And these are not gifts you want to squander. You probably wouldn’t hand a stranger the keys to your house or your car, so why would you allow a stranger into your bed? I mean, maybe you wouldn’t, but I get plenty of emails from people who do. And listen. I am not judging. It’s your body and you can do whatever you like. I’m talking about emails from people who are longing for true partnership. If that’s what you want, I’d really take your time. Allow a person to show you who s/he is before you give them a tour of your whole farm, is all I’m saying. Make sure it’s a person who’s worthy of your hayride. Sloooow down your roll.

Because being heartbroken is no fun. Feeling rejected hurts, and might even tap old wounds, deep fears and doubts, and raw places that could use your kind attention. That can be good if you’re in need of healing. But if you put yourself through that too often, your heart will harden to protect itself, and you’ll become jaded. Cynical people are romantics who allowed themselves to be hurt too much. And the world needs people who are soft and open, not cold and hard. Be gentle with yourself. You’re the only you we get. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Teach People to Treat You Well

tonygaskinsSometimes we accept treatment that’s so far below what we want, it’s hard to comprehend how we’ve landed ourselves in such heartache. This can happen with our parents, it can happen with our partners, and it can happen with our children, too. When we love people with our whole hearts, we make ourselves totally vulnerable. It’s hard to create boundaries when you love like that. If it’s your child, walking away is not an option, but if you’re being abused, of course you’re going to need some support, and so are they. Allowing yourself to be mistreated never serves anyone, but those situations are particularly painful, because of course we never think we’d need to protect ourselves from people whose diapers we once changed. You simply never know what might happen down the line; you can’t say for sure how the teenage years will go, or what kind of rage you might be facing, or what will happen when your grown children find partners. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from mothers who tell me their son has married a woman who doesn’t like them, or their daughter is involved with someone who doesn’t value the family bond, and now they barely see this person who means the world to them. It’s brutal. (Don’t worry. I hear from the wives who tell me horror stories about their mothers-in-law, too. I understand there are always at least two sides to every story. I just think it’s a heartbreak to watch a family that was once close, fall apart.)

Of course this can happen with our parents. If you grew up with an elusive mom or dad, maybe you’ve been trying to earn her or his approval or attention or recognition for years. The same holds true if you were abandoned, by choice or circumstance. This stuff can run so deep. Even if you know your mom or your dad didn’t leave you “on purpose”, even if they were taken by disease or disaster, it doesn’t change the fact that you were left. Sometimes we chase love, or we run around trying to prove our worthiness, or we try to be “perfect” so we won’t be left again, or we act out all over the place. Feeling invisible hurts like hell.

Which leads to my third example, because of course this can happen with our romantic partners. Sometimes we fall hard in the beginning, when the hormones are raging and fogging up our lenses. A lot of people think, “This is it!” six weeks in, only to realize a few months later that maybe the “person of their dreams” isn’t so easy to be with. It takes time to get to know people, but by then, a lot of us fall into that trap of having already decided this person is the one we’ve been waiting for, even if all evidence starts to point to the contrary. We keep waiting for the person who was so kind and attentive and complimentary in the beginning, so romantic and affectionate and sweet. For many people, the beginning is the part they’re great at; when things get real, they want to run for the hills. I get so many emails from people who struggle with all of this stuff. The teenage child is being hurtful, the parent is punitive, even from the nursing home, the partner is treating them like an option.

The bottom line is that we teach people how to treat us. If we allow someone to be emotionally or verbally abusive, and we keep interacting with no consequences, the message is that we will tolerate that behavior. We create an understanding, a contract. You can’t expect respect from people who’ve learned that they can treat you badly, and you’ll still be there, with the exception of your children, and I want to clarify that. I don’t know if you remember your teenage years, but unless you were one of those rare, well-adjusted teens with your self-esteem intact, you probably went through some rough moments. Puberty isn’t easy for most people. We don’t know ourselves well yet, we feel pressure to conform, or at least to make it seem that we’re the same as everyone else, even if we feel sick on the inside. The hormones rage, peer pressure can be intense, and then there’s bullying, and cyber-bullying, and texting and sexting and so many other things many of us did not have to deal with. So if you’re a parent of a troubled teen, I think it’s important to draw healthy boundaries, but I think it’s equally important to make sure your child knows you will always love him no matter what. That you might have to draw the line, or get some help, but that love will never be withdrawn.

Anyone other than your child does not automatically get that same assurance. A growing kid is going to flail and make mistakes; that’s normal, understandable and expected. Your parent is not a person from whom you need to accept mistreatment, physically, verbally, psychologically, or emotionally, and neither is your partner. You are not obligated to come back with love when someone is treating you badly. I mean, you might choose to love them anyway, but you have to love yourself, that’s a non-negotiable, and that means you must protect your tender heart when necessary. You don’t have to participate in toxic, unhealthy relationships. You don’t have to accept poor treatment. You don’t have to settle for so much less than what you really want. If you’re in love with someone and it isn’t reciprocal, don’t stick around to have your heart broken again and again. Look at a person’s actions. Words are easy, but the tale is told in deeds, not words. If you want to be someone’s everything, and instead you’re their, “fine for now”, get out.

Life is short. We’re here for a blink of time, and none of us, not a single one of us, is here to be a doormat. You have a spark and it’s your job to stoke it, not to participate in its turning to ash and dying out. Teach people to treat you well, by refusing to accept anything less.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Say Yes to Yourself

paulocDepending on your personality, the way you were raised, your response to confrontation, your possible tendency toward people-pleasing, your desire to be liked, and many other factors, you may have a difficult time saying no when you need to, or setting healthy boundaries when that becomes necessary.

You can’t be all things to all people; you will never make everyone happy all the time. Some people will not get you, or dig your vibe, or want to take a spin around the dance floor with you, and that is okay. Rejection never feels good, but it’s not ever your job to chase people down to convince them of your worth. If you suffer from low self-esteem, that’s something you really want to address, otherwise you will likely find yourself saying yes to things when you’d much rather say no. You may devalue your own needs and wants in an effort to be liked or loved or cherished, but that never works, because if you aren’t being yourself, you’ll know that. Maybe you’ll “fool” the other person, but you won’t fool yourself, so even if they think you’re just awesome, it won’t relieve your feelings of being unseen.

Some people would rather drown than ask for help, and others have a funny sense of entitlement, and no qualms about asking you to extend yourself on their behalf, even if they barely know you. You are not obligated to comply. Your time is precious and finite, and so is your energy. These are the most valuable gifts we’re given, and they’re also the most valuable ones we give away. Squandering those gifts is a real shame. In order to survive and thrive in this world, you have to be strong. You have to find the tools to heal any raw places within you that may need your kind attention, so that you aren’t driven by unconscious forces. You don’t want to be leading an “unexamined life”, because not knowing yourself is the loneliest thing there is. It’s not a luxury to take “you time”, it’s a necessity. Healing requires energy.

I remember the first time I flew, listening to the flight attendant directing grown-ups to secure their own oxygen masks before helping their children, and as a kid, this made me uneasy. As an adult, of course I get it. If you pass out, you can’t help anyone. If you deplete yourself and neglect yourself, you really can’t be surprised when life’s storms knock you down. Anything you starve is going to weaken, whether we’re talking about your houseplants, or your relationship with yourself.

Maybe you grew up in a house where your needs were not considered. Perhaps you’ve grown into an adult who believes it’s selfish to think about what you need to be happy, but it’s actually selfish to avoid that work, because if you’re miserable or lost or confused, you bring to the world around you much less of what you could be sharing. We each have a particular spark, and our job is to turn that spark into a flame, a fire, a passion of any kind for something. Your passion can be helping other people; that’s beautiful, but you’ll find that the best way to be of service is to clear anything that might be blocking your ability to shine. The more you care for yourself, the more you can give.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

You Don’t Have to Have Braids

emersonLast week, I took my daughter when I went to get my toenails painted, and they always do her nails, too. It’s a little ritual once in awhile, while her brother is in school, and I pick her up earlier from Kindergarten. As I was paying for my pedicure, I noticed that the woman who’d painted my daughter’s nails was now finishing a second braid in her hair. I went and stood next to her, and when she was done, we thanked her, and we left. We weren’t three feet out of the salon when my daughter looked up at me and said, “I didn’t want braids.” When I asked her why she didn’t just say that, she kind of shrugged her shoulders at me. My daughter is a firecracker at home. She has no problem telling any of us what she wants or does not want, in a strong, assertive way. Just ask her brother. But when she doesn’t know people, she can be shy and quiet. She’s also sensitive and caring. She’s a watcher. She asked me if she could take the braids out, and of course I told her she could.

When we got in the car, I told her it was really important that she understand that she gets to decide what happens to her own hair. Her own body. Her own nails, and that it’s okay to say, “No thank you, I don’t want braids.” I asked her to say it to me a few times, for practice. I asked her to say it a little more loudly each time. By the third or fourth time, she was yelling it out the window, laughing, and I was yelling it with her, “I don’t want braids!!” It’s so simple, right? But it’s not always so easy to say what we want, or do not want, or to ask for what we need. I will not stop working with my daughter on this, because it’s a big part of our self-esteem, understanding that we should value our feelings and act on our own behalf.

Sometimes we take care of other people at our own expense. We feel something inside, but we keep it inside because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or we tell ourselves it isn’t that big of a deal. If you make a habit out of that, you’re making a habit out of putting other people’s needs and wants ahead of your own. When we make sacrifices for those we love because it feels good, that’s one thing, but when we make it a way of life to always put other people’s feelings ahead of ours, we’re in trouble. It won’t be long before we can’t even identify what we’re feeling, let alone act on it.

There’s a difference between generosity, and care-taking or people pleasing. If you grew up feeling you needed to earn love, this may easily have followed you into your adult life. You may fear speaking up, or standing up for yourself, because you think if you do, love may be withdrawn, or people might not like you. Maybe it’s such an ingrained way of being, you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Do you say, “Sorry!” when someone bumps into you? I’m laughing, because I do that sometimes, and then, two seconds later, I’m like, “Why am I apologizing?” Am I saying, “I’m sorry you aren’t paying attention”? Or am I saying, “I’m sorry I’m taking up space”? That’s a pretty important distinction, right?

You don’t have to apologize for your feelings. You may not get everything you want or need, but it never hurts to ask. At least that way, you’ve communicated clearly, and that makes everything simpler. If a person doesn’t care about how you feel, you can then decide whether it’s a relationship you want to pursue, or one to which you want to be devoting time and energy, or not so much. If you speak up and a person cannot give you what you need or want, at least you both understand that. You aren’t left in the murky waters of wondering whether you’ve been misunderstood or disrespected or unseen.

Being accountable for how we feel and what’s happening within us is a gift we give ourselves, and everyone we encounter. There are enough mysteries in life. Even if you’re clear about how you feel in every given moment, you’re still going to be part of the mystery that’s happening around us, and you’re still going to surprise yourself by the things you sometimes want or think or dwell upon. Knowing yourself takes work and time, and so does knowing other people. Don’t ever be sorry for taking up space, and don’t ever get braids if you don’t want them. Say it with me if you need to, “I don’t want braids!!”

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

A Leg is a Leg

lincolnSometimes people come into our lives and there’s an instant and real connection there, but circumstances prevent us from exploring it. There’s no need to agonize over this. You can’t pursue every road; life is full of choices. There’s a reason we have the word “bittersweet.” Also, understand that there are times we idealize someone, or the feeling we have when we’re with them, simply because we’ll never get to really test it. Fantasy is easy, even with a real bond. Meeting once a decade for tea, or reconnecting on Facebook with someone you knew twenty years ago can bring you back. It can make you feel like you’re in a time warp, but if you really want to know how things would be with someone, you have to be in the foxhole with them at some point. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel like this would have been the person for you, if only things had worked out. Sending messages, meeting at Grand Central Station for an hour-long wistful coffee while you’re in town on business, that’s easy. Holding your baby at 3 o’clock in the morning as he’s throwing up for the sixth time in four hours, covering you both in vomit until you finally strip down to your underwear to lessen the laundry load, that’s something. Especially if your partner is there to take shifts with you, to discuss the merits of a trip to the ER, to hold you, too, because you’re on the verge of collapse—that’s when you really know, one way or the other.

Focus on what’s real in your life. Try not to take people for granted, or to be reckless with the heart of someone you say you love. If there are problems, welcome to real relationships. Life will never fail to put challenges in your path, it’s how you handle them that defines your relationship with yourself, and anyone else. It’s easy to lose the thread. You wake up with someone, day in and day out, for weeks, months, years, decades, and it’s easy to stop seeing them. I mean, to really take them in, and not just glance and nod your head like you’ve got it all figured out, because guess what? We’re all changing, all the time. Every single one of us. The person you chose to share your life with ten years ago, is not the same person today, and neither are you. We like to “peg” people, to think we “have them down”, but we’re always in process, and so are they; if you stop paying attention, you’re going to miss a lot, and no one likes to feel unseen or unheard. If two people stop showing up for each other, but continue living under the same roof, you can bet problems will follow.

A relationship exists in the space between you and the other person, whether we’re talking about your partner, your child, your parent, or the person behind the counter at the juice bar. What you put into that space is up to you. If we’re talking about intimate, longterm relationships, you have to be especially mindful about what you’re contributing, because complacency won’t get you there. Boredom, rage, frustration, blame and criticism won’t do it, either. You can’t control other people, or where they are on their own path. You can only do your end, you can only work to keep your side of the street clean, but you can inspire other people to be kind, compassionate, caring and present, by being those things yourself. If they don’t follow suit, if you try to communicate but find it’s falling on deaf ears, you may not be able to walk the distance together. It takes two people to make that third thing beautiful; that third thing being the relationship.

Maybe it can’t work, and that’s hard. It hurts. Depending upon circumstances, it can hurt a lot. If there are children in the picture, for example, it’s brutal, but understand that they live in that space between you and your partner, and if it’s polluted, they’re going to suffer. If you can’t make the space safe, loving, healthy and nurturing, it’s time to come up with a new plan. Turning your attention to fantasy won’t help anyone, but people do it all the time. They allow a flirtation at work to grow into a full-fledged situation, with heated emotion, and lying and desperation. It’s easy to justify poor behavior when you’ve felt discarded or rejected for years, but that just adds to the mess. It involves a whole other person, with all their feelings and complexities. It adds a layer of guilt and shame and hopelessness to a situation that’s already bleak. You really have to go to the source. If you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, misunderstood, it’s time to have a conversation. It’s time to sit down and get real with your partner, who already knows things are not okay. If it’s so bad you’re ready to trade in your integrity, and your ability to feel good about yourself, communication is long overdue. Some things are just not sustainable. Sometimes the foxhole is full of broken promises, dreams, hopes and potential. All that stuff has been shot up over the years, and now it’s time to see if you can piece things back together. If there’s enough there to start again, and start new, as you are now, and maybe you’re going to find that you can’t. But dealing with reality as it is, is always the place to start.

When we struggle in a relationship, we all like to think that things would be different if we had a different partner. And let me say this—maybe you chose someone when you were too young to really know yourself. Maybe you got hitched because you turned thirty and it seemed like the thing to do. Maybe you thought you knew your partner, but found out once you were in it, that so much had been edited out. Maybe you thought you wanted intimacy, but once you had it, you realized it isn’t for you. It isn’t for everyone, and that’s just reality, but if the truth is that if you’re not happy on the inside, finding a new partner won’t fix that. It’ll catch up with you. We can’t run from our pain, or gloss it over, or push it down or numb it out, and expect life to feel good. It won’t. Whatever it is, deal with it. Take it by the horns, and own it, because you don’t have all the time in the world. You want to be at peace, and you want the people you love to be at peace, and you want to be able to face yourself in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth at the end of the day and feel you can look yourself in the eye. These things are really important. There’s no judgement here. People screw up royally, all the time. Someone is making a huge, messy mistake right this second. Sometimes that’s what we need to learn a painful lesson, or own the fact that we’re miserable, and start to make hard choices. So don’t go to self-loathing, because you’ll get stuck there. Just start where you are. Yoga is great for this, by the way. One of the biggest things we work on is the ability to lean into our uncomfortable feelings, and to work with reality as it is, to breathe when we feel challenged, to trust that everything is always in flux, to understand that how we feel now is not how we will always feel, and to pause and listen before we act. When you follow your intuition, the way becomes clear.

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton

You Betray Yourself Before You Betray Anyone Else

aesopYou are not your thoughts, and you are not your feelings. You are you; your thoughts and feelings come and go. Some of them are wonderful and inspiring, and hopefully you act on those. Some of them are untrue and unkind, and those are the ones best left to arise, peak, and subside. Witnessing your experience is always a powerful way to be in tune with how things are for you from moment to moment. Not every feeling deserves your energy. You don’t have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes, nor must you act on every feeling you have.

Years ago, one of my closest girlfriends was dating a man who cheated on her while he was at an ashram, and said he was “honoring the truth of what he felt.” He said it was a deeply spiritual experience, and that he was a “mysterious and enigmatic being.” There’s nothing spiritual or particularly mysterious about that. Honoring the truth of your experience in that scenario means observing your attraction toward someone other than the person with whom you’re in a committed relationship, without acting on it. It’s either a normal, passing attraction borne of the fact that you’re a human being, a mammal, a person with desires and fantasies, or it’s an indication that you need to regroup with your partner. Regrouping might mean taking a compassionate but honest look at the state of your relationship. Maybe you’ve been taking it for granted, and both you and your partner need to direct your energy toward the space between you. If you don’t feed and water it, it’s going to starve and die, after all. Maybe it’s already dead, and there’s no hope for resuscitation, and it’s time to have that conversation. Maybe this other person really is someone with whom you’re going to have a long, meaningful, lasting relationship, but starting out with deceit and a lack of integrity doesn’t bode well for anyone.

Uncomfortable conversations are hard, but most people, given the choice, would opt for painful conversation over betrayal. Betrayal is awful, because it can only happen at the hands of those we trust, and nothing shakes your faith in your own judgement more, than the sting of having made yourself vulnerable only to realize that your heart was not so important to the person with whom you entrusted it, after all.

Having said all of that, none of us will act from our highest selves in every moment. Sometimes we screw up in a huge way, and learn a painful lesson. There are all kinds of betrayals, after all. The truth is, the only way to break someone else’s trust, is to break your faith in yourself, first. We all want to feel in our hearts that we’re good people. Not perfect, but that we’re doing our best to be kind, that we know how to be a good friend, that we understand right from wrong. When we behave in a way that goes against what we know to be right or okay, we’re letting ourselves down. We’re showing a lack of self-respect. It’s really hard to feel good about yourself when you know your actions would cause pain to someone else if they knew what you were doing. That includes unkind things you might say behind the back of someone you purport to love, or an inability to be happy for the success of someone you care about. When we’re in a petty, judgmental place, that’s always an outward expression of inner pain. Something within us feels unworthy, not good enough, less than, and instead of leaning into that and having compassion for ourselves, we point it outward, and put it on someone else, but that feels even worse. Nothing makes us want to shower more than the stink and weight of gossip and mean-spiritedness.

If you’re in a stinking ditch of your own creation, it’s really time to climb, claw, and drag yourself out. If you can’t feel good about yourself, everything else is going to erode. That’s your foundation. If you’ve made huge mistakes, own them. Apologize. I’m not talking about unburdening yourself of guilt, here, so you can feel better and someone else has to suffer. Sometimes things are better left unsaid. It really depends on the situation, but if you’ve done something for which you feel terrible, and an apology is in order, have at it. If it’s something you have to grapple with on your own, get some support. Figure out what went wrong. Maybe you acted out of desperation. Maybe you’ve been putting your own needs on the back burner for so long, you justified one reckless act. Maybe you’ll receive forgiveness, maybe you won’t, but eventually, when you’ve learned everything you can about why you didn’t show up the way you wanted to, or the way you’d like to moving forward, you really have to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, it’s part of the gig of being human. If you were selfish, thoughtless, reckless with someone else’s heart, try to make amends, and do better moving forward. One of the things that gives us compassion and a forgiving nature with others, is our own ability to forgive ourselves for those times we made poor choices.

It’s not realistic or desirable to control every thought and feeling you have; in fact, anything you reject will push back four times harder. You don’t have to be horrified by your thoughts, you just want to observe them, and choose the ones that strengthen and nurture you, and take into account the feelings of those you love. Sometimes we behave poorly because we’ve refused to accept what’s true for us, and that’s like sitting on an active volcano. You can’t deny who you are, or the song in your heart. If the people around you have asked you to do that, they’re asking too much. You have to be you. The more you’re able to do that, the less likely it is you’ll act in ways you’ll regret, because your whole life will be directed by knowing who you are and what you need to be at peace. We really only get in trouble when we aren’t clear about that.

Sending you love, and a huge hug,

Ally Hamilton

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You Might Not Get Everything You Want, But…

allowDepending on your personality, and many other factors including the way you grew up, your level of self-esteem, and your ability to speak out about how you feel, creating boundaries with people may be a great challenge for you. I really get that, because I struggled around this issue for years.

What makes it difficult to speak up when you want to? Maybe you’re worried about disappointing other people, or not being able to show up the way they want you to show up. Maybe you grew up and felt you had no impact on the people or the world around you, so it never occurred to you to value or investigate what you felt or what you wanted. Maybe you’ve decided that your worth as a person, a friend, and a partner is based upon how much you’re able to do for the people in your life. And maybe, you don’t know how you feel, so when you come up against a strong-willed person, you let them take the lead.

The thing is, your job while you’re here is to shine. I really believe that; you have something precious and unique to offer that only you can. I don’t think you’ll be able to do that without some belief in yourself and your own value, so I’d look at that first, if you find it difficult to act on your own behalf. If you don’t feel good about yourself, why is that, and when did that begin? Upon what evidence did you come to the conclusion that you don’t measure up, or have anything enormously special to offer? When we don’t stand up for ourselves, it’s often because we’ve grown up feeling powerless. We’ve internalized that, and sewn it into the fabric of our being. When confronted, we collapse in on ourselves. We cope, when we should fight back. But if you’re grown up, you’re not powerless anymore. Sometimes we really have to unlearn ideas or ways of being that are not based in our current reality, and are also blocking our ability to both give and receive love to our maximum capability (which is huge).

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter with me when I went to get my eyebrows waxed. This place is nice, and they have organic cruelty-free nail polish, and they’ll paint your kid’s nails while they wax your eyebrows and whatever other parts you might want waxed. So there we were. My daughter went to pick out a color, but she’s five, so she picked four colors. She wanted a rainbow. They don’t charge to paint your kid’s nails. You tip, of course, but they don’t charge for it. So I was debating whether to tell her that might be asking for a bit much, when the woman called her over, and the waxing woman started talking to me. When I turned back to my daughter, she had pink nail polish on every nail, and was looking down at her hands, and up uncertainly at the woman painting them, and then she looked at me. I knew she was disappointed about the lack of a rainbow. Before I could step in and explain to the woman what it was my daughter had wanted, this grandmotherly woman at the table next to her, also getting her nails done, leaned over and said, loudly but nicely, “She wanted a rainbow. She wanted a different color on every nail.” My daughter beamed at her, and the woman said, “Always ask for what you want, dear. You might not get it, but you definitely won’t if you don’t ask!” And the woman who was painting her nails promptly and happily gave her her rainbow.

Communicating how you feel, what you need, and what you’d like is a gift you can give to the people who are close to you. It’s so refreshing when people are just honest about where they’re at, and what’s happening within them. As my friend at the nail place said, you might not get everything you want, but it never hurts to clearly state what that is. It takes the mystery out of the thing. No one can read your mind, and sometimes we project and assume so much. We think other people must think and feel the way we do, so certain things should be obvious. But you know what? I would take nothing for granted. What’s obvious to you might not even occur to someone else.

So there’s clear communication, and then, sometimes, there’s the need for boundaries. Maybe you have someone in your life who hurts you, intentionally or otherwise. Sometimes, even when it is a family member, your only healthy option is to step away, but there are certain situations where that isn’t possible or desirable, and that’s when boundaries come in. You may not get everything you want in life, but you deserve respect. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to fight for it, but that’s not always how it goes, and sometimes we have a long history with someone, and there are ingrained patterns and dynamics. When we seek to shift that stuff, there’s always resistance. Most people struggle with change, and if you’ve been playing a certain role for a long time, don’t expect to be able to calmly give your two weeks’ notice. People in your life have probably gotten used to you being the way you’ve been. That’s understandable, but that doesn’t mean it can’t change, it doesn’t mean you can’t change. You may lose some relationships if you’re making big shifts in your life. Those close to you may feel threatened, they may feel like they’re losing you. Or they may get angry and say they liked the “old you” better. Of course. The old you didn’t confront them.

Anyway, my point is, there are times in life when you have to stand up for yourself and say, “Enough.” That’s part of the responsibility you bear; you have to be able to protect your, “little spark of madness” as Robin Williams called it. You can’t let people trample on that. If this is new for you, it will take time, like anything else. The first several times you speak up when you’re not happy with the way you’re being treated, it might come out with more force or aggression than you intend. Of course, you’ve been bottling up your voice for so long, it’s not surprising it might explode, but if you stay with it, and explain to the people in your life that you are in pain and are trying to change some essential things about the way you move through the world, the people who are meant to travel with you will support your efforts. Over time, you’ll be able to speak out with confidence, clarity and compassion about what’s real for you. It’s worth the effort. You deserve a rainbow if that’s what you want.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton