Head for the Eye of the Storm

Many of the feelings we’re going to experience in this life are not comfortable — rage, grief, shame, fear, doubt, jealously, envy, loneliness, bitterness, feelings around being betrayed, abandoned or neglected — none of these are easy feelings. Sometimes we’re in so much avoidance around this stuff, we flee. We keep ourselves insanely busy, or we numb out all the time, or we cling to a false reality and insist those who are close to us do the same. None of that works, assuming you want to be happy and at peace.

The desire to feel good can be so strong, we excuse and explain behavior of others that we really shouldn’t tolerate. Forgiveness feels better than rage. Gratitude feels better than the feeling of lack or bitterness. Being in love feels better than acknowledging something at the core is just not right. What we know is more comfortable than what we don’t, even if what we know doesn’t feel good, but forced joy is not the same as true joy. Should you be happy because it’s the holiday season? Should you get married because you’re thirty and all your friends are doing it? Should you be careful around the word “should”? You feel how you feel, and your best bet is to deal with it.

If you’re enraged because your spouse had an extramarital affair, you can’t race to forgiveness; you have to be with all the other messy feelings that come up first, and see if you can work your way toward forgiveness later. If your grown child is determined to head down a painful path, you do a disservice to everyone if you deny that reality and insist everything is okay. Clinging to positivity is a sure recipe for suffering. It’s not all positive and light, some of it hurts like hell. Some of it makes your blood boil. Being spiritual does not mean you shun those feelings or push them down or feel shame around them, either. The greatest gift of a spiritual practice, whether it’s yoga¬†or seated meditation, hiking or salsa dancing or cooking or whatever speaks to you (and yes, anything that you do consistently that helps you quiet your mind and tune into your own intuition, that helps you become a part of the flow, and lose your sense of separateness, can be defined as a spiritual practice), is the ability to face reality as it is. It’s not about being positive and thinking positively every second and clutching at the light like it’s going to save you. Being able to be with the darkness can save you. Sitting with what is real for you and owning it and allowing painful feelings to arise so you can understand yourself is incredibly liberating. If you don’t do that, you’ll be driven by unconscious forces, and wonder why it is you keep making choices that send you headfirst into brick walls.

The pressure to be happy is enormous. It’s all around you. Watch what you feed yourself, and I don’t just mean food. Everything you take in through your eyes and your ears is food for your mind. If you feed yourself a constant diet of “everyone else is happy and I suck”, you’re probably going to feel pretty badly. Not everyone is happy, many people are suffering in silent agony because they don’t know how to get from here (despair) to there (peace), and very few people talk about the shadow stuff. I think it’s the responsibility of people in the spiritual community to get their hands dirty and shine a light on the stuff that hurts. Knowing yourself can be a deeply painful, lonely process. You may have made a series of choices based on what you thought you should want, or what other people wanted you to want, and you may have a lot of unraveling to do to get back to what’s true for you. That hurts. You may have old wounds that are unhealed that need your kind attention, and that hurts, too. You may find that certain relationships need to be examined from the roots up, and that they may not survive the move to new soil. Birthing anything into existence is uncomfortable at best, whether it’s a new way of being, or a new life that feels more authentic to you.

Too many people are hopeless and numb, internalizing their own rage, walking around feeling depressed, and wondering how all these shiny people on Instagram are doing it. No one posts the pictures of days they shuffle around in their pajamas, feeling lame and alone. You don’t see many status updates that say, “I feel scared because my life is going by and I don’t know what I’m doing”, but everyone has pain, fear and questions. That’s the stuff you run toward, although that might not be intuitive. If you want to be at peace, you have to be willing to walk through the storms, too. They don’t kill you, they don’t wash you away. Avoiding them does.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Out to Sea

When I was seventeen I began dating a man who was twenty-one years older than I was. My parents tried to stop me, but they have nineteen years between them, and even though they divorced when I was four, I was positive my relationship was different, because I was seventeen and thought I had all the answers. My previous boyfriend, who had been kind and sweet and awesome in every way, also tried to stop me, but he had moved across the country to go to college, and the truth was, I was heartbroken. I felt abandoned, even though he was talking about Christmas break, and calling every day. No matter; he’d left, and it stirred in me something old and raw and completely unhealed. So I let this guy who was so much older come at me with his cars and his boats and his private plane to his house in the Hamptons. He had a terrible reputation for cheating on everyone he dated, and I signed myself up for the task like I’d be able to fix that. Also, something inside me was believing the idea that I was the kind of person someone could leave, so who cared, really?

The first time we were together it was strange and sad. We flew out to his house, and went directly to the beach where we got in his speedboat. He drove us out to the middle of a secluded bay area. I knew he’d done it before, all of it. It was like some kind of ritual, something to get out of the way. I knew he didn’t love me. That came a few years later, after he’d broken me and it was too late, but I let him have me, even though I felt nothing. I was hooked in, I was playing out all kinds of ancient history, but I wasn’t in love with him, and I certainly wasn’t loving myself, not even a little. When it was over and I was swimming in the ocean, tears came streaming down my face, unexpectedly, without permission. I dove underwater, trying to wash them away, trying to wash the whole thing away. I don’t remember much else about that day, or that night. I think he spent most of the afternoon working, and I curled up in front of the fire with a book. I felt dead to myself, and also strangely satisfied that I’d done something so unlike me.

I stayed with him for three years. Once he had me, he kept a tight leash on me. It’s funny how people without integrity assume other people also have none. He was threatened by the guys at Columbia who were my age. He’d drop me off on campus sometimes and get upset if I was wearing lipstick, or tight jeans, or short skirts, or pretty much anything that wasn’t a sack, but he cheated on me regularly. He was good at it, I could never prove it, but I always knew when he was with someone else because it hurt. It hurt in the way that sends you under the kitchen table, holding onto yourself as you sob and wonder what the hell you’re doing in this situation, and why you don’t get out. Getting out wasn’t even possible at that point, because I was so attached to getting my happy ending. If I could just be perfect enough to get him to love me, if I could just hang in there long enough he’d finally realize I really did love him…because after awhile, I did.

I began to see this insecure guy who felt he wasn’t enough, regardless of how many women he took to bed, or how much money he had, or how many sparkly, shiny toys. Nothing did it for him, not even the unwavering love of a good girl. I can’t call myself a woman when I think about this experience, because I wasn’t yet. I had a lot of healing to do, and a lot of growing, but I was very kind to him. The longer I stayed, the more he gave me reasons to leave. For his fortieth birthday, I planned an elaborate surprise party. I rented a pool hall, had it catered from his favorite sushi place, and ordered dessert from an amazing pastry chef. I sent invitations to all his friends. I made a reservation at a new restaurant that had opened downtown that he was dying to try, and planned to take him to the pool hall from there. I ordered a bottle of champagne to be waiting at the table. It took me months to save up the money to pull it off.

A week before the party he confronted me in the kitchen in East Hampton. He told me he knew about the party, and he wanted to see the guest list to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anyone. At first I tried to deny there was a party, but he kept coming. He laughed at me. He knew it was at a pool hall. He wanted to know if I’d ordered food, and all the other details. He didn’t want to be embarrassed. I stood there in that kitchen and I felt everything fall away from me. I felt like I was made of bones that could disintegrate into a pile of dust on the floor, that his housekeeper could just come along and sweep away, out the door, into the ocean, to meet up with those tears I’d cried the first day. I told him every last detail. He took away any shred of joy I might have felt at having been able to give him something. Three days before the party, he went to the restaurant I’d made reservations at a few months before, so that the night of the party, the only surprise was that sad bottle of champagne, waiting at the table.

You cannot save anyone. All the love in the world won’t get the job done. You can’t make someone faithful or kind or compassionate or sensitive. You can’t make another person happy. They are, or they are not. You can harm yourself. You can allow yourself to be abused, mistreated, neglected and betrayed, but I don’t recommend it. A healthy, happy, secure person wouldn’t have been on that boat with him in the first place. Of course, he preyed on a seventeen year old, and when I look back on it I have all kinds of compassion for myself, but it took me years to get there. It also took a lot of yoga, therapy, weeping, writing and reading. Anything you repress, run from, or deny, owns you. It owns you. If you don’t turn and face that stuff down, you’ll call it into your life in other ways. The truth wants out. Your heart wants to heal so it can open for you again. Whatever is in your past does not have to define your future, but it probably will if you don’t do the work to liberate yourself. We have such fear. We think these things will overwhelm us, that we won’t survive, but what you won’t survive is the not facing it. That’s the part that kills you. That’s the part that makes you feel you could be swept away in the wind. Looking at your stuff hurts. It’s painful and deeply uncomfortable, but if you trust yourself enough to lean into all that pain, you’ll find it loses its grip over you. If you let yourself weep out the searing heat from those wounds, your whole being can take a real, deep breath, maybe for the first time in ages.

You can forgive those who let you down, who didn’t or couldn’t show up for you the way you would have liked or the way you deserved. You can forgive yourself for choices you might have made that were harmful to you or others. When we’re in pain, we don’t tend to treat ourselves well, and sometimes that also spills onto the people with whom we’re closest, but life can be beautiful. You can close the book on the old, painful story that was just a replaying of your past and you can start working on this new creation that gets to be your life after you’ve healed. Not that the old pain won’t show up from time to time when you’re feeling triggered or tested or vulnerable, but it won’t grab you and knock you off your feet and show you who’s boss, because it won’t be boss anymore, it won’t rule your life. You’ll just see it for what it is, an echo of a very old story that came to completion. It can’t be rewritten, it is what it is, but you get to decide where to place your energy and your attention. I highly recommend you direct it toward love; that’s your happy ending, although it doesn’t end. You get to keep choosing it every day. If you do that, you’ll never find yourself sailing out to sea with someone who doesn’t know how to do anything but hurt you. Your own ship will have sailed, and maybe someday you’ll pass your seventeen year old self, weeping in the ocean next to your ship and you’ll pull her on board and show her your future which holds so much joy, gratitude, meaning and fulfillment, maybe she’ll weep there on the deck with you, not in sadness, but in relief. If you’re allowing yourself to be mistreated and you need help, feel free to email me at ally@yogisanonymous.com.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Sing it Out

I think there are two essential questions to answer if you want to be at peace in this world–what are your gifts, and how will you share them? If you want to feel like your life has meaning, and you want to feel a sense of purpose, that’s at the heart of it. Giving feels good; to feel like you have something to offer that is of value, creates a state of inspiration and gratitude. It lights a fire under your a$$. It could be as simple and profound as the love you give to the people in your life. I don’t know of anything, really, that feels better than giving from your heart, with everything you’ve got.

There are questions in this life you’ll never answer. How much time do you have? How much time do the people you love, have? What happens after this? Some people experience “paralysis through analysis” in small ways and in large. You can think a thing to death, but your intuition never lies. There are people living in quiet agony because their heart is crying out for something, but their mind is overwhelmed with the complications around seeing it through; with can’t and shouldn’t, and who am I to think I could pull that off?

It can be challenging to separate things out sometimes. What you really want, versus what you believe you should want, or what other people want you to want. If you can quiet that storm in your mind, you’ll know what to do. You might not know how to do it, but you won’t be confused about what’s real for you. The rest of it is finding the strength to face it. It’s not always easy to accept what you know, because often that means change is necessary, and even though everything is in a state of flux, there’s a tendency to resist that. We like stability so much, we can be willing to sacrifice the song in our hearts. Sometimes people become paralyzed in a larger sense. The big questions are so overwhelming, the lack of available answers so profound, a person is left unable to see the point of being alive at all. Hopes, dreams, intentions, plans, all seem absurd, and many people end up just existing, instead of living.

There are things you can know. You can know yourself, for example. You can figure out what triggers you, where you still have some healing to do. You can figure out what lights you up and feeds your soul. You can allow the unanswerable questions to motivate you, so you don’t waste the time you have. Fear is a perfectly natural feeling we’ll all experience, but the more you allow yourself to open to it without letting it stop you, the less power it will have over you as you move forward.

Obligation is a terrible motivator. Too many people get caught up in “should.” There’s something burning within them, but they push it down or deny it because they don’t want to hurt other people with their truth. When you deny what you know in your heart to be true, it’s just soul-crushing. You get one go-around in the body you’re in, I think we know that much. You have a finite amount of time. How many years do you allow yourself to live halfway? What do you think happens to those dreams you don’t pursue because you tell yourself you shouldn’t? Where do you carry the pain of that? Somewhere in your psyche, and I’d suggest you’ll also carry those things in your body. A life half-lived will make you heartsick. Every wasted day has a pull to it, a weight, a dread, because somewhere you know this is not it, and time is passing.

The vulnerability of this thing is real, you might as well open to it. In fact, I’d say the more you embrace it, the more you liberate yourself, the less likely you are to become paralyzed. Since there are some questions we’ll never answer, live all the way. Give every last bit of love you’ve got every day, for all the days you’re here. Leave nothing in the tank. Who knows what happens next, but at least your now will be amazing, at least your now will be on fire.

Sending you love, and hoping you light it up, and sing your song,

Ally Hamilton

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

The Gift of You

Dont-give-in-to-yourThere are many things that can scare us in this life, but sometimes the biggest fears we have are created in our own minds. Have you ever geared up to have a conversation with someone for weeks or months, or even years? And every time you turn it over in your head, you think you can’t. You can’t get the words out because the pain will be too much; too much for you, or the other person. Maybe you play it out in your mind, looking for some way to become clear. What you’ll say, how you’ll say it, and what you hope they’ll say in response. Maybe you imagine the worst case scenarios, too. Meanwhile, you’re in a prison, time is going by, and your whole being is in agony. Pushing down the truth, whatever it is for you, is absolutely exhausting. Any painful conversation would be easier than the suffering we inflict upon ourselves when we just won’t face what we know in our hearts.

Shame is a strangler. There is no way you’re “supposed to be”; you can only be you, fully, the most beautiful, authentic version of yourself. Other people may have expectations and ways they like to think of you. If those expectations and ways go against the very grain of who you are, if it just isn’t working for you anymore, then the people closest to you will have to change their expectations, or not. But you can’t deny the deepest longing of your soul. You can’t fight your truth and expect to win. You can make yourself sick trying, though. Sometimes we long to make changes but tell ourselves we can’t or shouldn’t. We run down the list of all the things that might go wrong, instead of all the things that might go right. We ask ourselves who we are to consider shining. The real question is, who are we to consider not shining?

Fear can be debilitating, but we’ll all feel it, it’s perfectly natural. The more you open to it, the less hold it has over you. If you can acknowledge you’re afraid, you’ll find that releases the grip and you can breathe again, there’s space again. This is not an easy gig, this business of being human. We’re vulnerable and underneath the surface of our lives exist questions we’ll never be able to answer with absolute certainty until we exhale for the final time. It’s understandable that we want to cling to our plans and visions of how things should be. Presumably that, at least, is something we can control, but it isn’t, and we can’t. We are all evolving all the time, circumstances are shifting and changing all around us, and the reality of that groundlessness can be difficult to absorb. So we make our plans, and we feel afraid when they aren’t panning out the way we’d hoped. Now we have nothing to hold onto.

There are people who cling to their pain because that’s all they’ve got. Without it, they have no clear sense of who they’d be, or how life might feel. Something we know is often more appealing than something we don’t, even if what we know, hurts. But life isn’t something to get through with our fists clenched and our eyes shut tightly. It isn’t something to be endured in quiet despair. It can be both of those things when we don’t face ourselves and embrace what’s true for us, though. It’s isolating and suffocating. The only person who can let you out of a prison you’ve created in your mind, is you.

You may have fear of disappointing people, of not being what someone else wants you to be. The worst betrayal, though, is the betrayal of yourself. Too many people spend too much time and energy trying to be something other than who they are, as if what they are isn’t miraculous. When was the last time you ran into yourself at the grocery store, or on line at the movies, or at the park, or when you were traveling on the other side of the globe? You’ve never run into yourself anywhere, because you’ve never existed before, and you’ll never exist, exactly as you are, again. You have one shot in this life, in the body that you’re in, with the experiences you’ve had and the way you look at the world. One chance to sing your song and accept yourself and shine it out. It would be a shame if you let fear stop you. Feel it, and go there, anyway. Otherwise you rob the world of a gift it can never have any other way. You rob the world of the gift of you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

You’re Always Beginning Again

The-feeling-is-less-likeSometimes I get emails from people wondering if a lack of love is enough of a reason to end a relationship. Questions like these usually come from people who’ve been with their partners for years. Sometimes children are involved. My short answer is yes. Yes, a lack of love is enough of a reason to end a relationship. I think when we’re in relationships for a long time, when we’ve taken vows in some cases, it’s difficult to figure out what “justifies” ending something, as if your partner has to be abusive or unfaithful for you to feel it’s okay to walk away. Guilt and shame are debilitating, and few people would thank you for staying out of pity or obligation; to do so dishonors the genuine gift of the human being with whom you’ve built a life, even if that life has been crumbling around you for some time, and the gift they are is now lost on you. Everyone deserves to be cherished. There are all kinds of situations that fall short of physical violence or infidelity (and infidelity isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker in certain cases) that can be crushing to the soul. Feeling invisible will do that to a person. Feeling unheard, neglected, dismissed, or verbally and emotionally abused will do it, too. So my short answer is yes.

However, I think it’s really important to dig a little. I think we throw each other away too quickly, we give up when times get tough, we drop the thread of the story we were creating. I also get emails from people who feel everything would be great if only their partners would change. Sometimes there’s a laundry list of things the other person does or doesn’t do that seems to be the reason it’s all falling apart. It’s important to remember that the mind is easily snagged on what isn’t working — what we don’t have that we want, what isn’t happening yet, the breaks we aren’t getting. It takes effort and practice to train the mind to focus on what we do have, what is going well, and the same thing can happen in relationships. Where once we saw and celebrated all that was right and beautiful about the person with whom we share a home, a life, maybe more, now we can only see the flaws, disappointments and aggravations. Sometimes people project their self-loathing onto the person closest to them. When you get to that eye-rolling place, that head-shaking, defeated place, you can be sure both parties have dropped the thread. It’s good to ask yourself what you’re doing to increase the love quotient between you and your partner. I’m sure you did thoughtful, sweet, surprising things in the beginning of your relationship, just because. What are you putting into the mix now? You can’t change other people, but you can inspire them. Perhaps if you start to focus on how you can uplift and delight the person you’re with (even if you don’t feel like it, and think they don’t deserve it), you might be very surprised by the results. Most people just want to feel seen and understood and appreciated. A little of that goes a long way.

It’s never one person’s fault if a relationship fails, and regardless of what happens, knowing yourself is the key to being at peace. The story to look it is the story of your participation. I know sometimes we want to cling to the list of ways we’ve been wronged, our chronological tale with highlights of places the other person failed, and maybe your partner did blow it. Maybe they haven’t seen you, and by that I mean really seen you, for ages. Maybe you gave them the gift of your tender heart and they weren’t gentle with it. Maybe you’ve been trying to communicate for years, and they just wouldn’t go there with you. Not everyone is ready to be vulnerable and brave at the same time, and that’s what love requires. Nonetheless, you participated, you contributed something. That’s the plot-line you want to study and understand.

If you chose someone for life when you had no idea who you were, that’s rough, but it happens every day. If you don’t know yourself, it’s very hard to choose a partner with whom you can build something solid, so that would be something to examine. Just, who am I? What lights me up, what are my particular gifts, and how do I best uncover and share them? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, I’d really start there because I don’t think you can be happy if you have no idea about that, whether you’re in a relationship or not. A lot of people expect their partners to make them happy, but no one can do that for you, and you can’t make other people happy, either. A person is at peace within themselves, or they are not.

Maybe you weren’t feeling good about yourself and threw yourself into your relationship to avoid doing your own work to heal, or perhaps you grew up thinking your role was to take care of everyone else, and you chose someone who needed you. There are all kinds of ways we can pick people for the wrong reasons, and all kinds of ways we can grow and learn from that, but if you can remember back to the beginning and there was anything good and healthy there, any spark of genuine connection and respect and understanding, then I think there’s hope. There’s potential, if both people are willing to dig and to feed that spark again.

If it was never a match, or you’ve grown in such different directions, or damage has been done that seems irreparable, then there may not be hope, but I’d check yourself thoroughly, because you want to really know why you’re ending something if you end it. If you’re not sure, if it’s unclear, that murkiness will show up in your next relationship, and the one after that, too. Anything you deny or numb out, or run from, owns you. It won’t go away just because you leave a relationship.

If there are children involved, I have to add a few things. If there’s physical violence or abuse, you have to go no matter what, and there’s no way around that (whether you have kids or you don’t). Short of that, if you’ve genuinely tried with everything you have to save your relationship and there’s just no hope, you have to go. If there’s meanness and fighting and that’s really the best you can do, you have to go. If you’re living like roommates, I don’t believe that’s sustainable either. If you haven’t given it everything you’ve got, if you haven’t exhausted every shred of potential, do that first. If there’s any chance you can save it, save it. If there’s any love between you and your partner, try to feed it, truly, because having parents who live separately is not easy on children, and if you split, it won’t be easy on you, either. I say this to you as a divorced mom of two small kids. I know so many people in this situation who say, “Children need two happy parents.” Yes, of course that’s ideal, but it’s not that simple or easy.

Children need stability, too. Going back and forth and back and forth takes its toll, it really does. I realize sometimes it can’t be helped. I grew up that way, so I can speak to you about this from inside the experience. It took me over thirty years to feel like I had a home, and that’s something I had to do for myself. It took a lot of healing and a lot of work, and a lot of screwing things up along the way. Relationships where I played out ancient history, trying to get my happy ending, learning all too painfully that’s not the way. Relationships where I was so focused on not being left, I forgot to think about the million other things that matter. The “happy ending” is inside, and it’s not an ending, it’s a daily choice. It’s doable no matter what kind of history you have, of course, but it’s not easy. If you have to split and you have children with your ex, do everything you can to ease the burden and create a schedule that puts their needs first, so they’re not pulled this way and that, week after week, year after year. Ask them what they want if they’re old enough to tell you, and give it heavy consideration. I’m not telling you to let your kids run the show, because that’s no good, either, but they aren’t possessions, they’re people, and they ought to have the feeling that they have some say, that their feelings matter, that they have some power in the way their life looks and feels. Get creative and work together if at all possible. Don’t fight in front of your kids, and don’t ever speak negatively about your ex in front of them.

Kids feel everything, even if they can’t articulate everything they feel. So if you’re in a loveless marriage, they’re feeling that. If you’re allowing yourself to be mistreated or abused, they’re feeling that. You’re teaching them with everything you do, and everything you don’t do. If you split and meet someone new eventually, they’re going to feel that, too. Will it be good for them to see what a healthy, loving relationship looks like? Of course, but along with that comes loyalty issues they’ll have to grapple with, confusing feelings about the new person in mom’s or dad’s life, what it all means for them, and how they fit into the new picture. If they have to go through that again and again, they’ll get cynical. They may worry about their other parent, how they’re feeling about all of it. The last thing you want is for your child to feel they have to take care of you. That’s a scary feeling for a kid, and they won’t thank you for it later. They’ll have to deal with different rules and different energy in each house, with not having all their stuff in one place, with a sense of powerlessness over their comings and goings, with missing one parent when they’re with the other, with chaotic holidays and a fractured life.

I know this is brutal to look at if you’re in turmoil with your marriage, but I think it’s important to face so you really know what’s involved. Think about adults you know who don’t have good relationships with their mothers or fathers. That’s pain that never goes away, and you can’t want that for your kids. Support a healthy relationship between your child or children, and their other parent. Validate their feelings when they tell you they’re sad or angry or confused. Understand you’re trading one set of painful circumstances for another. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it consciously and as well as possible, I’m just letting you know there isn’t a pain-free way. Do I think it’s better for kids to see their parents living authentically, in alignment with what’s true for them? Feeling inspired and grateful about life, fired up about their time here? Of course. I’m just saying, make sure you can’t feel those things in the context of your relationship before you give up on it. Examine your own part and be certain you’ve done all you can to clean up your side of the street before you forge a new path that will affect your children’s paths, too. If you’re steady for them, if you always meet them with love and teach them that home is on the inside, they’ll be fine. Just be sure, that’s all.

As always, facing reality as it is is your best bet. And there’s no avoiding pain in this life, so try not to beat yourself up if you’ve made a mess of things. Sometimes we have to make a huge mess so we get the lesson that what we’re doing isn’t working, and so we develop the tools to do things another way. Longing to be seen and understood, to be wanted and cherished and held are all completely human and beautiful feelings. Love and connection are the best things in life. Sharing and laughter and tears and hugs, and feeling like you’ve got at least one person in this vulnerable thing who’s with you, who gets you, is absolutely understandable, but I don’t think you can find true connection with anyone else until you’ve found it with yourself. So start there if you haven’t already.

Sending you love, as always,

Ally Hamilton

Compassion: Tastes Great, Less Filling

Once when I was fourteen, I walked to the front of the room in my science class to hand in a paper, and I heard giggling. When I returned to my seat, this girl I had always liked leaned over and loudly whispered, “You can see your panties through your skirt. Nice flowers!” And then she and another girl I’d also thought was a friend, snickered. One of the guys in my class leaned forward from the row behind me and said, “Don’t worry about it, you’re looking good,” which only intensified my embarrassment. Shame is such a powerful, uncomfortable, debilitating feeling. It hits you in the gut and makes you feel wrong and bad and unworthy of love or kindness. I remember being annoyed with myself for blushing and making it obvious I was bothered. I wanted to be tough, to act like it didn’t phase me, to deny those girls the feeling that they had any power over me; things like that seem such a big deal when you’re fourteen. My heart was racing, and I was cursing myself for not having checked my reflection before walking out the door. I felt betrayed and confused by these girls I’d considered friends, who now seemed to be taking pleasure in humiliating me. Beyond that, I wanted the world to open and swallow me so I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the day with people laughing because they could see through my skirt. I think about it now, as a grown woman, and shake my head. I wish I could go back to my teenage self in that room and say, this is so not a big deal, but it’s funny that it stands out, all these years later.

We all have moments when we feel exposed, when we’ve shown our fallibility and our vulnerability more than we’d intended; when we’ve accidentally let people see the flowers on our undies. There’s so much I could say here. We tend to be so hard on ourselves and on each other. Gossip magazines (which I never buy and encourage you to boycott along with beauty magazines which are anything but) are nothing but mean girls gone wild. Look at this awful thing this person is doing! Here’s someone else with their life falling down around them. Here are ten ways you really suck, and even though you’ll never measure up, here are ten things you can try so that you won’t suck so much, with an occasional story about a person with a fairytale life you could never hope to live. It’s a big plate of awful.

The thing is, you’re always feeding yourself. You’re feeding your body, but you’re also feeding your mind and your heart with everything you watch, read, or dwell upon. You know the old saying, “You are what you eat.” If you focus on all the things people are doing that are terrible, and all the ways you’re disappointing yourself, it’s so defeating. You really don’t want to feed the idea that, “people suck,” because they don’t and you don’t, either. It’s simply not an easy gig, this work of being human, especially when you’re trying to be kind, conscious and compassionate. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant about what you feed yourself. If you look around and find you have contempt for people easily, it’s probably time for a change in diet: Compassion: tastes great, less filling. When you have some for yourself, you’ll find you have some for other people, too. We all make mistakes, every single one of us. We all have choices we’d love to make over again. It’s easy to be the person who points a finger and has that snarky, biting thing to say, but I don’t think it feels good at the end of the day, and it definitely doesn’t up the happiness quotient. Choose love, feed that.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

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

Some Things Will Never Be Explained

When it comes to a mental tailspin, few things drive us there faster than the feelings of being misunderstood, rejected, excluded, judged, or absolutely invisible. Sometimes we feel this way at the hands of someone with whom we were once close–an ex, an old friend we thought we’d always know, a family member. Other times it can be someone we’ve just met– a new romantic interest, someone at work, or, occasionally, a complete stranger. Whatever the source, it never feels good, but the more we value the opinion of the person rejecting us in one way or another, the more we suffer.

Some things will never be explained. I feel like I should almost write that twice. There are relationships that will deteriorate suddenly and with no explanation, and the only closure you’ll get is your own acceptance of the situation. Things happen, and sometimes you’ll find you’re dealing with someone who simply cannot or will not communicate. I don’t think there are too many things worse than ignoring someone, but you cannot force a person to open up. They’ll show you the respect to do that, or they won’t, or maybe they truly can’t. There are people who just will not go there, and it could be because “there” seems a very scary and vulnerable place to head. If you’re dealing with a person attached to never rocking the boat, you may have to sail away and leave the mystery behind you.

This occurs in so many contexts. Close friends of mine used to see another couple every weekend. Their kids grew up together like brothers. There wasn’t even conversation about whether the families would see each other Saturdays, there was only talk of what the plan would be. They vacationed together, their kids went to school together, most afternoons the moms would rotate taking the kids home so the other could have some free time. One week it came to a halt. At first it seemed okay. The friends were just unusually busy that weekend, but then the afternoons weren’t working out, either, and another weekend came and went with vague excuses of tons of work, and the need to have some “family time.” My friends thought perhaps the other couple was having marital issues. They waited, confused, trying to be patient and sensitive, but weeks went by, with no straight answers, just lots of avoidance. Finally, they asked about what was happening directly, but were still met with nothing solid. So after months of wondering and worrying and questioning and obsessing, they gave up, even though the kids didn’t get it, and they were at a loss as to what to tell their son. Of course the mystery around it is the thing. It’s so hard to let go when you don’t understand.

Another friend received a letter letting him know his business partnership of almost a decade was ending, with no conversation and no kindness. When he went to talk to his partner, he was met with rage over something that had happened years ago, and his partner had held it in so long he exploded, said horrible things to all their mutual friends, and turned the whole thing over to lawyers, with gag orders and all kinds of moves that prevented honest, open communication. People leave room for forgiveness, or they do not, and it’s not like his partner lived in a glass house. We all make mistakes. People who lack compassion for others tend to have very little for themselves, and it’s sad, because righteousness doesn’t cuddle up very well at night.

People write to me about amazing first dates, when they’re absolutely certain they’ll be going out again, only to start to question themselves days later when there hasn’t been any contact. When you’re left in a vacuum and the other party won’t talk to you, it’s just natural to start to spin–to replay things in your mind, to wonder if you were misunderstood, to second-guess the things you said or did, or to start chasing, to see if you can fix your imagined mistakes.

Here’s what I want to say about all of it. Your opinion of yourself is the one that matters. You have to be you. You will find there are people who will see you and embrace you with all your flaws and all your beauty and all your pain. People who will not give up on you or throw you away, not ever. Stick with those people. Not everyone will be able to see you clearly, and not everyone will dig what they see, even if they are seeing clearly. It’s okay. It doesn’t feel good, but it really is okay. Try not to waste too much energy on people who won’t communicate with you, because there’s no potential there, and try not to give too much time to those people who won’t forgive you for being human and therefore fallible. There’s no potential there, either. People who misunderstand you or judge you or exclude you are also human and fallible. That’s how it is. Not everyone handles their pain well. A lot of it is not personal, although rejection surely feels personal. Keep your center. Remind yourself of who you are. If you screwed up and have owned it and apologized but have not received forgiveness, at a certain point you have to forgive yourself. You know who you are. You do the best you can with where you are and what you’ve got, and you put one foot in front of the other. As long as you’re doing your best to move from love, you won’t go too far astray, but don’t allow these unexplained mysteries to rob you of too much now. Now is precious, because it won’t come again. There’s so much love in the world, and it would be a shame to miss it because you’re boiling yourself. Shake yourself off and pick yourself up, and remind yourself, if you need to, that this business of being human is not easy. Send compassion to those around you, and send some to yourself, as well. Do your best to direct your energy forward. You never know what beauty is around the bend.

Sending you so much love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful you can find my books here <3