The Human Heart (A Love Story)

It-is-only-with-theYesterday morning I sat down after my kids had gone to school, and forced myself to have some tea and a piece of toast. I was trying to center myself a little, so I could teach my morning class. The house was quiet, and so was the street outside, and as I sat at my dining room table, I wondered what Elias A. Zias, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon I’ve never met, might have had for breakfast. Or whether he’d had any. Or if he was having a good day, or if he’d been up all night worrying about his teenage daughter. If he even has a teenage daughter. I wondered all kinds of things about this man I don’t know. I wondered if he might have sat at his dining room table, looking at his list of things to do for the day, counting amongst them holding two human hearts in his hands. Especially because one of them would be my step-dad’s. That’s crazy, right? That your job, the thing you do every day, could be to save two lives. I think I’ll mow the lawn, drop my kids off at school, break someone’s chest open, and give them twenty to thirty more years with their family and friends.

Anyway, I should back up, I guess. My stepdad was feeling some pressure in his chest and he went in for a stress test last Tuesday. I could give you all kinds of details, but yesterday, a week after his stress test, he had quadruple bypass surgery. I’ve been educating myself over the last week, so I’d know more about the procedure, the odds, the recovery, all the normal stuff you’d want to know if someone you loved was going to be on a table for six to seven hours with their heart outside their body for at least some of that time. And I spoke to a number of people who all reassured me that this is like a root canal these days. Or an appendectomy. But still. It’s the heart, right? The heart, the brain, the spine, all surgeries you can’t help but worry about.

Tuesday night, the night before the surgery, I stood on the baseball field during my son’s practice talking to my step-dad. If he was scared, he did a bang-up job of hiding it. And I didn’t want him to be scared, and I didn’t want to scare him with my own fear. But, y’know, you have to say what you have to say in a situation like that. So I tried to get everything out without crying, and then I just went ahead and cried, but I said what I needed to say. I wanted to make sure he knew how much I loved him and how grateful I was to have been watching him love my mom from the time I was seven years old. He’s taught me a lot about sticking to it. Whatever it may be. He loves my mom. We had hard times in the house like every family. But there was never a second in my entire life where he gave me any reason to question whether he loved her. Even if they were fighting. He’s taught me a lot about devotion. And about loving people at their best and their worst, which is really the thing. Loving people when they’re at their best is easy. No one is at their best all the time, and certainly not for thirty, forty, fifty years. If you want a long-term thing, you have to be willing to fight for it.

We have our ideas about how things should look or be or feel, and sometimes reality matches those pictures in our head in no way whatsoever. Love isn’t linear or pretty or glowy all the time. Love can be an act of will. I’m not talking about allowing yourself to be abused, here, so don’t get me wrong. I’m saying, if you really want to love people, you have to figure out how to see them and accept them as they are. And I think you have to do that for yourself before you can do it well for anyone else.

So I’ve been thinking about all of that. On the way home from baseball practice, my seven year old asked me if Grandpa’s operation was serious, and I said it was. I said his doctor was great, though, and that he performed these operations every day. I said I thought Grandpa would be okay. And he said, “But there’s a chance he won’t, right?” And I said yes, there’s a chance. Because you can’t lie, right? This is reality. I told him we’d call when we got home because I wanted my kids to say goodnight to him. And my son said he was going to tell him he loved him. He said, “He’s probably not going to sound scared because he won’t want me to be scared, right?” I said that was probably true. Anyway, when I picked my son up yesterday afternoon and told him Grandpa was okay, he threw his fist in the air and said, “Yes!!” And my daughter, who’s four, said she “knew it”, and hadn’t been worried.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to hold a human heart in your hands. To understand you’re holding a life, a life full of beauty and pain and joy and heartbreak and disappointments and love. A life that overlaps with so many other lives, that affects the way a seven year old and a four year old view the world, that reduces someone to tears on a baseball field in front of strangers, that touches the lives of people all over the world. And that’s just one heart. Multiply that by seven billion, and you start to understand the potential we have to love each other and heal and grow something so unbelievably beautiful between us that we’re all in awe.

I think acceptance and clear seeing are the things. Forgiveness helps a lot. Awareness that you don’t have forever and neither does anyone else. The understanding that the absolute best thing you can do with your heart and your time and your energy is to love. I don’t know what Elias A. Zias ate for breakfast yesterday. But he has my heart and my gratitude. May we all cherish each other’s gorgeous hearts. Sending you love. Ally Hamilton

Leave Nothing in the Tank

The tendency to look around comparing and contrasting our lives, accomplishments, and troubles against someone else’s is not always easy to break. Those feelings of being on the outside looking in, of thinking other people seem to be having an easier time, of wondering whether we measure up, can be brutal. I get so many emails from people in pain; people who have a dream they don’t pursue because some voice inside doubts they could ever pull it off.

Fear and doubt are perfectly natural feelings, it’s what we do with them that determines whether we live our lives in alignment with what we know in our hearts will bring us peace, happiness, joy and meaning. Sometimes we’re so scared, we just toe the line, but life isn’t linear, there’s no quid pro quo. You can do everything “right”, and still, your life could be turned on its head on a random Wednesday morning, without warning. We’re here, and we don’t know how much time we’ve got, or what happens next. We’re here and we have the capacity to love each other, which makes us vulnerable. We’re here, and some of us are dealt one set of cards, some another. You’ve got, what? Somewhere between seventy and one hundred-and-eight years if you’re lucky. That’s not a lot of time, in the best-case scenario. How much of it are you going to allow to pass you by because you’re scared of being judged? Scared you’ll never meet your potential? Scared it will come and go before you can get it together?

Envy is a terrible feeling that suggests we are less than. When we’re envious, we’re also assuming a lot. Things may look easy from outside a person’s life, but everyone has pain, and everyone struggles. You may encounter someone who’s worked through a lot of their anguish, and has figured out how to live life in a way that feels good to them, but maybe if you’d met them five years ago, you’d have thought they were a mess, or maybe things look shiny and perfect from where you’re standing, but the reality is completely different. It really doesn’t matter. I mean, it would be great if we could all wish the best for each other; it’s not like someone else’s success diminishes your chances of realizing your dreams.

I suppose we ought to define our terms; to me, success is having people in your life who see you clearly and love you for who you are, people you can have entire conversations with through a glance alone, people you love with your whole heart. It’s also finding personal meaning and purpose, figuring out what it is that lights you up, and then pursuing it, because even the pursuit feels right, the journey itself is enough. On any given day, if the rug were pulled out from under you, you could say you loved with everything you had, you left nothing in the tank; I think if you have any or all of these things going on, you’re a success.

We’re slammed with messages all day, every day about what society defines as successful. Tons of money, a huge house, a really fast car, a “perfect body”– it’s all external stuff.  The truth is, you’re either happy on the inside, or you are not. To me, tapping into that well of love within you, and sharing it wherever you go, makes for a happy and successful life, and if you’re coming from that place, you can celebrate other people’s good fortune, even if it looks like what you want for yourself. You can let other people inspire you to put yourself out there more, to shine your light even more brightly. You can let fear stop you, or you can let it inspire you. We’re all made of the same stuff, but no one else, not a single person, is just like you. Only you can offer your particular gifts, and you don’t have all the time in the world. You’re not going to look back on your life and think, “Mine was pretty good, but that guy over there really had an awesome time.” You won’t care anymore. You’ll only know if you gave everything you had, if you pursued your dreams, if you loved the people in your life the best way you could. You’re not going to be counting your pennies or thinking if only your corpse could have a six-pack. Don’t waste too much time. It’s precious, and so are you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Open Heart, Open Hands

No-one-told-me-you-canSometimes in the name of love, we seek to control. We may do this because we can see a loved one is about to head into a brick wall, and we long to save her from getting hurt. Parents do this all the time, especially with their firstborn child. It’s a natural instinct to want to protect your children from pain; if you don’t have that instinct, I worry for you and your little ones, but if a parent is always there to say “no!”, “stop!” and “don’t!”, what results is a fearful person. You don’t want to scare the curiosity out of your children, or rob them of any sense that they can trust themselves. Eventually, we all have to learn that if we run too quickly, we’re probably going to trip and fall, and it’s going to hurt. That’s how we learn.

Sometimes we see a friend stuck in a painful cycle, and we throw our hands in the air. What are they doing? How can they not realize they’re repeating this destructive pattern? How many times will we have to be there when it all falls apart? I’m not saying we shouldn’t kindly hold up a mirror when someone we love is hurting themselves, but you can’t force a person to see something they aren’t ready to see, you can’t manage another person’s journey. You never know what someone else needs in order to learn and grow and strengthen; sometimes we need painful lessons over and over again before we get it. Sometimes we have to have our hearts broken badly, until we finally say, “That’s it. Enough.”

Communication is beautiful. “I love you, and it hurts me to see you treating yourself so badly. It hurts me to see you in such a self-loathing place, because I see you so clearly, and you’re beautiful.” Say it, go ahead. Maybe, hopefully, some part of that will seep in there. Maybe a tiny little root will grow, and one day the person will start to see themselves the way you do. If you’re dealing with someone who’s harming themselves, of course do everything you can to get them help, but understand, ultimately, everyone has to do his own journey. Healing is inside work. A person has to be open to help, or no help is available.

None of us knows the interior world of another person, we only ever know what someone is willing to show us. We all have pain, some people do a better job managing their pain than others. Some people have more pain handed to them, that’s a fact. Sometimes a person is up against so much grief and despair they reach for anything to numb it, anything to avoid feeling the abyss. Desperation and loneliness and a certain kind of personality, along with possible trauma, a person’s resiliency, and so many other factors can lead to the kind of numbing that’s hard to comprehend. No one wants to be addicted to something that has the potential to ruin or end their lives. Addicts are prisoners of the object of their desire. They get hijacked by it. They’re owned. Their pain owns them, and the agent that numbs the pain owns them. Unless they find the enormous will and strength and love for themselves to fight back, and even then, it takes a Herculean effort, a lot of support, and a decision every day to choose love, to choose health, to choose freedom. Sometimes people just don’t win the fight. It’s heartbreaking. Addiction robs us of so much beauty.

Have you ever been in a destructive, abusive relationship that you wanted to end, but you just couldn’t find the strength? You just weren’t feeling good enough about yourself to say, “F&ck this. I don’t deserve this”? Maybe you tried to end it a bunch of times, but the pull was so strong, you found yourself dialing that number, even when every part of your being was screaming, “No!” It’s not easy being a human being. It can be gorgeous and beautiful and wildly interesting, but it isn’t easy. Love the people in your life. I mean, really love them. Honor them, cherish them, see them, hear them, support their growth and their joy. That’s all you can do, and sometimes, you’ll have to do it from afar if someone you love is hurting themselves and won’t be stopped. Don’t ever think a person is choosing between you and a drug, and that you must not mean much to them if they’re choosing a drug over you. You’re not even in the fight. You’re not in the mix. It’s not about you, so don’t get confused. You’ve been left on the shore. They’re out to sea with this thing, fighting for their lives. You’re outside the thing, so try to grasp that. How much they love you has nothing to do with it. It’s how much they’re able to care about themselves. May all beings be free from suffering.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton


We all have our moments when we don’t show up as our highest selves; choices we’d make differently, given the opportunity to choose again. Times when we were tested, and failed in our efforts to handle it well. We have people we’ve hurt, hopefully unintentionally, but also sometimes because we were young and thoughtless, or careless or selfish, or simply didn’t realize who we were yet, or the ramifications of what we were doing. Most people, given the chance to talk freely and safely, will tell you they carry shame around something. It could be the way they parent sometimes. It could be the way they show up in relationships, or don’t. It could be around a specific incident, when they had a choice to make, and regret their course of action. It could be that something happened to them and they feel broken or ugly or marred in some un-fixable way. This is life, this is being human; it isn’t easy, it isn’t always pretty, and sometimes we need help in order to see things clearly.

Shame is debilitating and nothing productive grows out of that feeling. What results is usually self-loathing or a feeling of being totally alienated, or both. You don’t have to share every dark moment from your past, but if you feel the need to hide things from those closest to you, or worse, from yourself, that’s a well of pain you’re going to have to dip into at some point if you want to be free of it. There’s a big difference between healing something so that there isn’t any need to talk about it anymore, and hiding it, running from it, numbing it out, or denying it. There’s a difference between taking your time and building trust with someone before you make yourself incredibly vulnerable, and rejecting pieces of yourself so completely, no one knows they exist, and even you deny them to yourself–rewriting history in your mind, pretending it happened a different way.

There’s something about the internet that makes people feel free to say anything. Sometimes that can be a horrible thing, when people lose all compassion and empathy for the person on the receiving end of their tirade or judgement or cruelty, because they’ve forgotten there is, in fact, a human being at the end of it. Other times, it can be liberating and beautiful, like when an email arrives from someone who shares something with me they’ve been carrying around for years. Maybe their heart is racing and their hands are shaking when they hit “send”, but at the same time, their heart is saying yes, finally. Shame is heavy; dragging it around with you requires a lot of energy and effort, energy that could be used for something productive, like living life in a way that feels good, developing the tools to heal, and realizing you are not broken.

Here’s the thing–the past is over; it can’t be rewritten or redone. If you’ve made mistakes, welcome to the human race. That’s how we learn. You might look back and wish with all your heart you hadn’t needed to learn certain lessons, but I wouldn’t get stuck looking back for too long. The thing is now. Now has a ton of potential, and it’s weightless. Nothing has happened yet. You can start again at any time. If you have regrets, I think it can be a beautiful exercise to apologize when possible, even if it’s ancient history, and you think the other party has completely moved on. You may not get forgiveness in return, but that isn’t the point. You might not even send the apology if you think it would be hurtful to disrupt the person’s life. Like anything else we long for, it really has to come from inside you. Forgiveness, I mean. Sometimes just going through the effort to write a thing down, so it’s not in your head anymore, but there on paper or on your computer screen in black and white, can be enough to cause a shift. If you’re dealing with something that happened to you, writing it down can also be powerful. Expressing your rage or your pain or the many ways this thing has affected you can be freeing. Unhooking your journey from the person who hurt you; it’s the carrying this stuff that gets you. It’s the weight of it.

There are some things that will never be okay, that’s just reality, that’s just life with all of its everything. Maybe there are things you can’t make right no matter how much you’d do or give to have it be otherwise. Maybe you’ve suffered a loss so great nothing will completely heal it, maybe it’s a scar you’re going to bear. It’s the shame you want to release, because shame brings it into the now. Shame takes a thing and makes it part of your present, even if the event or the tendency or the choice is way back behind you in your rear-view mirror. Shame says you’ll never be different and you aren’t capable, and you aren’t worthy of love or joy, and you’ll never get it right. Shame is an anchor and it can also be an excuse not to try, it can suck the try right out of you. Shame lies and it usually travels with guilt, and if you expect to be able to get far with those two as your traveling companions, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. There may be a mess behind you. That doesn’t mean there can’t be beauty out in front of you. Sometimes, you just have to take the wheel.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Truth or Dare

Attachment to a particular outcome and fear of abandonment are such huge issues for so many people. This is only natural; we love people with our whole hearts, and we want to know they’re ours to keep. We want to know our children will grow up safe and happy and healthy, and that they’ll still want to hang out with us long after they don’t need us to drive them around, or read to them, or make their lunches for school. We fall in love with someone and want to count on that happy ending. We want things to go the way we want them to go, and we think if we just try hard enough we can bend life to our will, but every day we’re reminded this isn’t true or possible.

When you’re faced with the choice between love and fear, I’d pick love every time, otherwise you’ll never be fully happy in any moment. You might fall in love with someone, and as you’re falling you’ll think, what if they leave? What if this doesn’t work out? What if they see me for who I really am, and decide they aren’t into me after all? So here you are, falling in love, but gripping at the same time. Those are two opposing actions you’re putting yourself through–love opens you, fear closes you. You’re already mourning the loss of something you haven’t even fully experienced yet, and maybe it is yours to keep. Maybe you and your partner will keep choosing each other every day for the rest of your lives. So why muck it up with clinging and insecurity? I mean, we’re all insecure, by our very nature. We have unknown expiration dates, and the ability to love each other. There’s your recipe for inherent vulnerability. Why let that scare you?

If you know you’re going to die, why not let that inspire you to live? To love with your heart wide open? To give every ounce of every single thing you’ve got every day, since you don’t know how many days you’ll get? To make sure the people in your life know how you feel about them. To be of service in any way you can, to up the happiness quotient around you by sharing your particular gifts freely, and with abandon? I don’t see the point of trying to nail everything to the ground. No one wants to live in a prison of ideas. A house of “This Is How Things Should Be.”

Things are as they are. You will have your heart broken, badly, at some point or another, and you will break someone else’s heart, too. Hopefully neither you, nor the other party will do that on purpose. More likely it will happen through confusion, but it could also happen due to immaturity, fear, self-loathing, despair, old wounds, betrayal, or really crappy circumstances. You will also be insanely happy at times. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few people in your life you can call at any time of day or night, who understand what it means to show up when you’re really hurting. If you find the strength to follow your intuition, you will figure out what lights you up. Since you’ll spend a lot of time working, it’s a huge gift if your work can be that thing that sets you on fire. Then it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like this energy inside you that you want to release. If that thing that fulfills you can also serve other people, then you’re really onto something awesome, because I’m pretty sure the best use of your time, my time, anyone’s time, is to love, to share, to embrace, to uplift, to laugh, to hug, to cry. To have conversations that matter. To listen deeply. To sleep well and deeply is also really really good. Amazing hugs. Kisses that taste like yes. I mean, you have this time, so why not give everything you’ve got?

When you’re in despair, you learn about friendship and loyalty, patience, compassion and understanding. You figure out who those people are who actually care and know how to show it without being asked. When your heart is broken and you don’t know how to keep breathing, some part of you can also rejoice that you’re able to love so deeply. If someone is taken from you too soon, that’s a pain you may carry forever, but you’re also changed by love like that, you get to carry that, too. Also memories. There are certain bonds that cannot be broken by anything.

You will be abandoned, count on that, and things will not go exactly the way you planned. So let’s use that as the starting point. Life is going to bring it all. Embrace your vulnerability so you don’t have to waste too much time or energy clinging and worrying. It won’t change a thing, it will just rob you of peace and joy.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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

Love Is

love-is-a-better-teacherYears ago I remember talking to a friend of mine who was newly pregnant and worried. She said she didn’t really like kids, and was afraid she wasn’t going to like her own. My son was about one at that time, and she asked me if I was grossed out when I had to change his diapers. It made me laugh. I asked her if she was grossed out when she went to the bathroom. “Are you like, ‘Eeew! That’s so disgusting, I can’t believe I did that!’?” She looked at me like I was crazy, but I told her it was kind of like that. Anyway, I was thinking about that conversation, because my daughter has had a nasty stomach virus for the last day, and the poor thing is having projectile vomit every few hours. I’ve spent a lot of time on my hands and knees cleaning walls and floors. I’ll leave it at that, but never once have I been grossed out. And, by the way, my friend who didn’t like kids couldn’t be more in love with her own.

When we’re really loving someone, we’re celebrating them. We’re seeing them for who they are and saying yes. Sometimes it means we kindly hold up a mirror if they aren’t showing up for themselves, or us, or other people, in the best way they can. Sometimes it means we have painful, challenging conversations even if we’re scared, and sometimes it means we’re boiling stuffed plush cats in Rit dye on Christmas Eve. Stay with me, here. My daughter woke me up Christmas Eve morning and told me she hoped Santa was bringing her “Crookshanks”. This, after I’d been asking her for weeks what she wanted, and she hadn’t had many ideas. (It’s not because she already has everything, it’s because she doesn’t watch commercials ;)). Anyway, even though I thought I was done getting gifts, I felt I’d better take on the quest of finding Crookshanks, who, if you don’t know, is the cat belonging to Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series, which I read with my son this past fall. My daughter fell in love with the story, too. Anyway, Crookshanks isn’t some ordinary-looking cat. He’s kind of got a “squashed” face, sometimes called a “pansy face.” Apparently, he’s a ginger Persian cat.

So I called a store in Hollywood that carries tons of Harry Potter paraphernalia, but couldn’t get anyone on the phone. I drove up there, only to find out that Crookshanks could only be purchased at “Wizarding World” in Florida. I made the mistake of asking the woman helping me, “Who would fly to Florida for a stuffed animal?!” You can guess who, right? So after I took my foot out of my mouth, I walked to a store she had recommended that sold lots of plush toys. She thought I might find a decent match, or at least some kind of cat I could pass off as Crookshanks. When I got there, I pored over shelves and shelves of stuffed plush cats, and finally found a weird, smushed-face white one. But Crookshanks is ginger, so I called JoAnn’s, a fabric store in Santa Monica to see if they carried Rit dye, which I knew about thanks to an ex-boyfriend of mine who used to randomly decide to dye a t-shirt or pair of shorts a totally different color whenever he felt like it. Everything you know comes in handy, eventually.

Sure enough, they had it, so off I went with this cat to continue my quest. Back to Santa Monica, directly into JoAnn’s, which was like a ghost town. I found a color I hoped was a close approximation of ginger, and went home leaving all these items in my car until after my kids were asleep. At about 10pm, I went to my car to get the cat and the dye, pulled out a huge pot, and opened the directions. And this is how I found myself, boiling a stuffed cat in orange dye on Christmas Eve. You have to stir continuously for thirty minutes. Then you wring it out and throw it in the dryer. I have to tell you, by the time I was done it was midnight, but that cat looked like Crookshanks, and I wrapped it and put it under the tree, and when my daughter opened it the next morning, her face lit up and she squealed, “Crookshanks!!” She’s been carrying him around ever since. She’s curled up with him right now, all sweaty and feverish. Anyway, my point is, I think that’s love.

If you’re really loving someone, you’ll want for them what they want for themselves, even if it isn’t convenient for you. In fact, you’ll want it for them even if it breaks your heart. Sometimes a person wants to leave us because that’s what they need for their own growth. That’s not easy, but that’s part of the risk you take when you enter a relationship with someone. Open hands, open eyes, open mind, open heart. The paths don’t always converge, and sometimes your job is to let someone go; sometimes that’s what love looks like.

If you’re really loving someone, you’ll go the extra mile without thinking twice about it. I think a lot of people confuse love with ownership. You can never own another human being. “I love you” does not have a secret part at the end that goes, “when you do what I want you to do, or when you want what I want you to want.” You either love someone, or you do not. You accept a person, as they are right now, and not as you think they should be, or you do not. Love is not conditional. It’s confrontational and challenging, and loving people makes us very vulnerable, so it takes courage. You could be hurt, that’s reality, but love doesn’t cling and control and demand. It doesn’t weigh you down, it lifts you up. Love makes you want to listen with your heart and not your ego. It inspires you to look at places within yourself that are still in need of healing. It asks you to be honest and naked and there, with all your beauty and all your flaws. Love is an embrace, it’s not a stranglehold. Love is cleaning up walls and floors and boiling stuffed plush cats sometimes. Love makes you do things you’d never imagine you’d be motivated to do.

When we really love someone, we give them full freedom to be themselves. We don’t want to hear what we want to hear, we want to know what is really true in their heart of hearts. We want to be our best selves. Everyone deserves to have someone who will go on a quest for their Crookshanks, y’know? I think the best way to learn how to do that for someone else, is to do it for yourself, first.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

A Wall is a Wall

BEATING-ON-A-WALLIf you’re involved in a relationship that’s crushing you, you already know it isn’t sustainable. If someone is treating you badly, you have to get out, or you’re going to die. I don’t mean literally, although there are sadly too many cases where physical violence is a real issue, but your light will go out. Without that light, that love, that intuition, life becomes very dark indeed, and it’s nearly impossible to know which way to turn.

Sometimes the biggest problem is that relationships of this kind become addictive. If you think you’re physically attracted to someone who’s tormenting you, I’d challenge you to go a little deeper. You may be attracted to the way a person looks or smells or touches you, but if that same person demeans and abuses you, you’re hooked on something a lot more menacing than their looks. It’s the dynamic. There’s something in the interaction between you and the other person that’s familiar, and probably harkens back to something very old for you. If you don’t figure out what that original wound is, you’re going to keep playing it out in your present, looking for a happy ending, a resolution, and release from your suffering, but you’ll never find it like that, you’ll just have your heart broken again. You’ll participate in the crushing of your own spirit, your own resounding yes. If you want to be liberated from your pain so it doesn’t own you anymore, you have to turn inward. You’re the only one with the key, but before you can do that, you have to create an environment where you feel safe.

You’ll never feel safe when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone who has a history of hurting you, and if you’re loving yourself, you’ll never be attracted to a person who belittles you. I really do understand the pull of something like this, because I’ve been there. When I was seventeen I dated a man who was thirty-seven, who came after me with everything he had, but once he had me, he was incredibly mean to me. He said very hurtful things on a regular basis, and he made choices that brought me to tears on more occasions than I can count. He was cruel, and yet, I was so thankful when he was kind and loving; I craved those times. I waited for them, and then I’d tell myself, “See? He can do it. I just need to help him be more loving more of the time.” I can look back and say with absolute certainty he was in a lot of pain himself. That’s obvious to me now, but at the time I took it to heart, I believed there must be something lacking in me, I allowed his words to get inside my head and play on my deepest insecurities until they were so large I really couldn’t see anything else anymore, and I got hooked on his validation. Tell me I’m lovable. Love me so I know I’m okay and I exist, and you can see me. When you’re feeling awful about yourself, it’s very difficult to act on your own behalf, to think, “I don’t deserve this, and I’m going to pick myself up and get the f&ck out of here.”

So people get stuck, until they’re in so much pain the survival instinct kicks in, and then, with barely anything left in the tank, they drag themselves out the door and collapse somewhere, and wonder how things got so bad. That’s the beginning, that’s the entryway. As Rumi says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” That’s the ideal time to start to figure out why you’re feeling so badly about yourself that you’d put yourself in a relationship like that and then stay there.

If you’re stuck in a situation like this, even if it isn’t this extreme, get yourself some support. I get so many emails from people who tell me about relationships where they’re waiting for their partner to grow or change, to show up differently. They keep participating in the interaction, expecting or hoping for a different outcome, even though no one is showing up with different tools. Some people will never get unstuck. Maybe because they can’t, or because they think they can’t, or they don’t want to enough. It could be any or all of those things. If you cannot accept a person as they are, then you have to let them go. If they’re in pain, and that pain has been spilling all over you, you can love them and accept them and recognize their pain, but you have to get out of Dodge. Because if you allow your light to dim to nothing, you may as well be dead. You are not here to be the walking dead. You, who could shine so brightly. You, who have everything you need to heal and forge a new path and begin again. Don’t succumb to the pull of what slices right into the most tender part of you. Protect that. That’s your gift. Don’t participate in its destruction. Don’t break your own heart. Don’t sleep with a person who would cut you down to nothing as the sun rises. You’re a gift to this world. Don’t throw yourself away.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton