Struggle has been an all-too-familiar part of my life. What I have, did not come easily. Simultaneously, there is nothing I am more grateful for than my struggles. To me our struggles are what build the stronger person that must rise to meet the challenges we face.
This does not mean that in order to obtain something in life that struggle is the only way. While at times struggle can be our greatest teacher it is not the only path forward.
We may also meet the world with gentleness and surrender. We can folow. We can stop trying to command our life and we can just live, we can just be. Today my lesson is in ease, in simplicity, in lightness.
How often as a society do we only pay attention to the surface? What someone looks like? The title of an article, maybe the first few lines? The beginning of someone’s story until our attention turns to our phone? Who someone is on social media instead of taking the time to find out who they really are? What their occupation or political affiliation is? Where is our patience to go deeper? With depth there is real connection, vulnerability, and truth. We are not here for surface level, we are here for depth.
I am not my body. I love my body, that’s why I take care of it, I honor the vessel that holds this beautiful soul, but we are all so much more than that. Take the time to really SEE people, as we all really want to be seen.
We denounce an entire human with a mere swipe or passing glance, without knowing them at all.
You know what the most fucked up part is? That there is a part of me that bought that like a cheap product on amazon. There are times where it seems like my worth is directly correlated to my muscle definition or a number on a scale. It takes work to undo the unhealthy patterns of thought that society has sold to us but if we want to reach depth in our life and real connection we have to see beyond skin deep, we have to love what is underneath, because a beauty like that is timeless and can be felt when it enters the room.
A year ago the #metoo movement encouraged women to tell their stories of sexual abuse. A year later women are still sharing their stories.
I have heard a lot of amazing men listen, speak out, share, support, I have also heard a lot of anger, defensiveness, fear, & silence. The latter in some ways may ironically speak the loudest.
As human beings we need to have the courage to say the wrong thing. We make mistakes, we miscommunicate, we overreact, we fuck up. We are all just wandering this planet engaging in the human experience.
Women are setting boundaries and guess what? We don’t know what they are yet, we are still learning. Women have not always had this space. We are all just in a process of learning how to navigate it.
Women have stood up, and trust me, they are not going to sit back down.
Maybe you don’t like the way someone has phrased something, the way someone has responded to you, the post they shared, the way they generalized, well, women are also imperfect, we say the wrong thing, we fuck up. Women are angry, and for a change, we are taking up space.
We all need to be able to look beyond the cloud of swirling emotions of all genders & really hear each other. We need to look past the anger, the hurt, & we need to listen and start down a path of collective healing.
We won’t get anywhere without listening. We won’t find peace without meeting hurt with kindness and compassion. When someone is having a dramatic response, lean into that, be curious, ask questions, listen, like, really listen. Listen to their pain, their hurt, their experience, their ideas, their anger, listen to all of it, feel it.
Don’t discredit what they said, don’t minimize them, don’t try and prove them wrong, don’t try & tell them that you had the same experience or divert the conversation with your own issues, don’t ask them why they never mentioned it before. Just honor them and really hear them, we all deserve that.
I looked at the story I shared last year & thought, wow, there is a lot I haven’t shared. I thought of stories I have pushed back into the depths of my memories. Maybe I will share next week, in a year, when I am 35, maybe never. Whatever I decide is my choice.
Gratitude: I love the feeling of feeling irritated when my mom or grandmother tell me to be careful in that very human way, and the realization that someday I will miss that more than anything. I love when coffee is that perfect temperature. I love sipping espresso with a piece of ricotta pie, appreciating in that moment my Italian culture. I love my grandmothers accent that has not faded in the 60 years she has been in this country. I love the feeling of supporting someone I love by giving advice. I love realizing that my best friend is so different yet I can come to understand the unique way that she shows love. I love that I can fall in love at first sight because at this point in my life I have learned to trust my gut and I know that my experience will catch up to it. Equally I love the experience of growing into love as time can uncover truth. I love appreciating someone for all of what they are and enjoying the time I have with them knowing that they will not be there forever. I love realizing that I can go against my nature and exhibit discipline by tapping into my inner strength. I love thunderstorms in the summer, watching the lightning and listening to the crack of thunder from my porch. I love my private concerts in my car with the wind blowing through my hair and feeling the warmth in between my fingers as I hang my left hand out the window. I love when I go to my grandmothers house and feel so loved and taken care of. I love that I did not grow up with everything handed to me because it has shown me resilience, resourcefulness, and how to truly work for what I have.
I love when something I have said to someone pushes them in a positive direction. I love even more when they tell me so. I love going to musicals. I love when someone smiles and shakes their head at me because what I have just done or said is so ridiculous and can only be explained using the phrase "that is such a Danielle thing to do or say".
I love telling stories. I am a storyteller. I love even more when someone tells me a story and says, "hey listen to this, definitely a Danielle story".
I love listening to the sound of rain on my roof as I fall asleep. I love how the background appears to waver as the heat from a car or pavement rises into the air. I love the feeling of someone being so pumped to see you they pick you up and spin you around. The feeling of eye contact that you can feel from their heart to heart, fully understood. I love the feeling of being held as I cry in full support and love.
I actually love being called out, and no I don't mean it feels good in the moment, but it forces me to look at myself and question where it came from and gives me the opportunity for growth.
What I don't love?
I think it is easy to talk about the things we love, the things that make our hearts sing, but just as life is beautiful, it is also really hard, and dark, to me, the best things come from struggle. The good things seem sweeter because they are juxtaposed next to darkness. I don’t love when I am in a situation where I am forced to ask for help. I don’t love the feeling that I am not good enough, the feeling in your heart when someone you love disappoints or betrays you. The feeling of being ignored, of not feeling valued. When people lack the integrity to do what they say they are going to do. That Donald Trump is president. That our climate is changing at a rapid pace and some folks could not be bothered to think twice about it. That most of humanity suffers while a select few live the life of plenty. When I am trying to articulate myself and end up being more deeply misunderstood than if I had not said anything. When I try to improve a situation, and end up making it worse... When I think too much and build up the very thing I am afraid of into reality. When I lose myself in someone else as my altruistic caring nature is still learning to find the balance between giving and receiving.
I am going to think of this post as one that is fluid and constantly changing, because the things that I love and realize I love grow with each day as I begin to uncover the complexity of my own spirit. I challenge everyone to think about what they are grateful for, and to appreciate the darkness that helped them to see the contrast.
When we surrender, all that we have been looking for seems to just float in.
When we grip things too tightly they seem to slip right through our fingertips. When we are looking for something so feverishly, paradoxically, it seems even further from our reach.
Maybe all our spirit has been waiting for is for us to fully surrender into our truth. Part of our life's journey is to figure out what that truth is.
The hardest part is allowing ourselves to surrender to that vulnerability, to the idea that the only thing we really have control over is ourselves. Perhaps when we have so deeply surrendered to our truth then others can lead in our example.
When we become so unforgivingly all that we are, that truth radiates so beautifully, we can move mountains.
All that struggle we endured may be to realize that some day we can feel peace, someday we can let go, we can surrender to ourselves.
"It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent."- Madeleine Albright
Most people acquainted with my unique version of crazy are not surprised by my chaotic menu of daily activities. So, admittedly, it is hard for me to ever picture myself having my one "thing".
I would say there are a multitude of things where I have basically just dipped my toe in the water, maybe even a whole foot, who knows? None of these things have really yet brought me to a full plunge. If I am being totally honest, it is really not my short attention span holding me back (though that certainly is part of it), it is the fear of failure.
Throughout my life I have forced myself to the edge of my comfort zone. I try new things constantly, meet new people, jump off of things, take risks (sometimes a little too much), have traveled as much as life will allow, and put my heart out on the line more times than I can count--though, I am no braver, crazier, smarter, or stronger than anyone else.
I have just forced myself despite that gut-wrenching fear in the pit of my stomach to that edge anyway.
I mean, hell. At any point in time you might find me drumming, dancing, cheerleading, singing, performing, cliff-jumping, falling in love, traveling solo, writing poetry, and maybe a few other things I won't list here to keep it PG.
So I want to basically push the envelop again. I think by writing things down we begin to hold ourselves accountable. I want to push myself even deeper into my own fear. Actually coming full circle to a place where I really began to let go of my fear. I want to challenge myself to sing again, not sure in what capacity, or in what venue, but I know I need to.
Those who know me now would likely be in shock if I told them for half of my life I was painfully shy. At one time, I probably would have actually rather gotten my teeth pulled than speak my mind. Sticking up for myself just wasn't a thing, I basically spoke when spoken to (True story, I swear!).
I have had some pretty life-changing teachers in my life that saw me for all that I could be, and pushed me even further. One I am thinking of in particular was my choir teacher in high school. She is someone I will never forget, she pushed me--though maybe against my will haha, out of my comfort zone, really for the first time. She dragged me to where she knew I could go. She knew how much I loved singing and how badly I wanted to perform, but she also felt my crippling fear and doubt in myself.
She encouraged me to try out for solos, but the turning point was really when she essentially tricked me into trying out for the lead in our school play. I am not even sure she knows how monumental that really was.
Of course a totally mediocre school play, but that is not what was significant about the whole thing. She believed in me more than even I believed in myself. At the end of the day, a play happened, I got on stage and no one died, I was not so sure that would have been the outcome back then.
It brings me to a place of such gratitude to have been blessed with so many wonderful teachers. Not even teachers in the traditional sense, teachers can come to us in many ways throughout our life, we have to listen. Many of my teachers have dropped in and out of my life but their lessons have truly touched me, changed me. Teachers should also totally get paid more, just saying.
So if you don't hear about me singing again in some capacity in the near future, totally call me out. It is something that scares me, but there is just something that tells me I need to do it anyway.
We exist, in our entirety,
as a compilation of all there is,
of all that has ever touched us.
A wave sourced from the whole,
but distilled down to just a small part.
Like a thought that arises from our consciousness
and escapes our lips.
Experienced as the feeling of a wave
washing over bare feet
walking across the shore.
Footprints left behind
fading among the sand.
Though the energy left behind does not disappear,
it merely changes form.
Interest begins with a swipe, attention displayed with a double-tap, or a thumbs up. Communication defined by an app as it disappears in an instant, not even archived.
Commitment, solidified with the status change by the click of a button.
Lives from breakfast, to marriage, to baby--visible all in a timeline, archived in a distant Facebook memory. Yet people are shocked that their loneliness cannot be resolved with a quick swipe. Hiding behind an artificial smile in a daily selfie, a snapchat story, or Facebook post will not solve loneliness. It brings nothing but temporary gratification. Whatever you are believed to be in the world of social media means nothing compared to the reality that lies in your heart.
Most are cognizant of their addiction to technology. Claiming they don't text and drive, check Facebook, e-mail, messages, or texts--but what is the reality? We are all guilty of relying too heavily on technology and are aware that the most meaning is drawn from the world that lies outside of our devices. Yet, we still don't break up with our phones.
Build the kind of relationships where you forget to check your notifications-- where the ding of your phone goes unnoticed. Build relationships that leave you so filled with love there is no need to quantify your worthiness in the number of likes on Instagram.
Build the kind of life that pulls you so deep into the moment that you have no choice but to give that moment your undivided attention. Like a passionate first kiss by the ocean shore with the soft breeze dancing across your face. You stand as one in warmth as you dig your toes into the sand, as the cool ocean waves trickle past your ankles. You feel your breath shared in the space between as you pull away and feel the energy--pulsing. You lock eyes as your heart beat rises and falls in sync, even if just for a moment.
Build a life that draws you out of the pervading virtual one and into the real one. Live life outside of your device.
When I connect with someone I want to hear the emotion in their voice, I want to see the look on their face, their body language, not question what lies on the other end of 3 blinking dots. I want to connect when I see fit, not in the amount of time that society deems as appropriate.
I refuse to mask who I am after X number of dates. I will lay it all out on the table, and for some it will be too much, maybe more than they are ready for or know what to do with, but for others it will be just right. I will not hold back any part of myself so that it is easier for someone else to swallow.
I won't wait to show my heart. I will leave it there, right on my sleeve.
To get all that we want out of love and life we must put our hearts on the line, we must be vulnerable and open. No one's soul has ever felt full from a snapchat of your breakfast, or a play-by-play of your morning traffic experience--we are human beings.
We want to be discovered, we want to be understood. We want someone to see us naked and love us for all that we are.
We cannot expect depth unless we give it first. Someone may break your heart-- you may end up lost--but we all have these fears. We are all searching for the same thing-- but maybe someone just has to be brave enough to open first.
It's sometimes but not often, where an opportunity presents itself in which you can actually make a dream come true for someone you love. For those that know me even remotely--well you have no doubt heard me do a hauntingly accurate impression of my 82-year-old Italian grandmother. Today is her birthday. This past weekend as a surprise Mother's Day/Birthday gift my cousin and I took her to see the Statue of Liberty for the first time. This woman means the world to me, you will hear me probably tell as many funny stories as frustrating ones about this woman--but I think we give the people we love the hardest time. I see this woman as an extension of myself and as one of the best--but also most difficult woman I have ever known.
Over and over again my cousin and I would hear her story. She came here on the Andrea Doria when she was 18 years old, alone. Her mother sent her here to give her a better life. She came from an agrarian family that at that time was in the midst of war. My grandmother never wanted to come to America, if it wasn't for the family she has created here she probably would be in Italy sipping an espresso with a little Sambucca, pinky out. To be honest-- that sounds damn good.
Well finally my cousin and I rallied and said now-or-never. We knew it was not going to be easy dragging an 82-year-old stubborn Italian woman crippled with negativity, brutal honesty, complaints, and just all the italian swear words through the streets of Manhattan. Oh and not to mention her knee surgery she will never let you forget-- that happened over a decade ago...
Well we knew it wasn't going to be easy but we didn't know that this valiant attempt to make this woman's dream come true would result in a complaint about virtually every aspect of her life not just in that moment--but starting from the womb. I think my frustration with this negativity stems from love. When we love someone with our entire being, their pain is our pain.
Well--weather conditions were not ideal this weekend--to put it lightly. Rain, the whole weekend-- the word of the weekend was pluviophile. As the weekend started off with many wasted attempts on some sort of life lesson about learning to dance in the rain, well yeah, that just message was not getting through. Long story short, I found myself frustrated and had snuck onto the 22nd floor of our hotel through a window because for just one moment I wanted to be alone. As much peace as can be found in the Big Apple I stood there--in the rain 22 floors up. I stood there to recoup my spirit that had been broken down, by probably the only person capable of that--a 4 foot nothing tiny adorable little meatball of an italian woman.
Well at the ripe old age of 82 just as I realized I was wishing with my whole being that she would learn to dance in the rain, It has only just dawned on me that I should have been telling myself the same thing. Though not in the rain, but dance with the plethora of complaints, negativity, and curse words pouring from my grandmother's mouth. It's hard to watch someone you love choose suffering instead of freedom and happiness. When it comes down to it, we cannot literally give someone the gift of happiness. They need to choose it on their own, and we must learn to dance in the rain as well.
Post 22nd floor soaked reflection, I had to laugh. The complaints of the rain did not stop, but my attitude did. The same woman who would tell you that your shoes looked like that of a man, is the same woman who also would give you the last dollar she had. Many a plate at a restaurant sent back, ended with the entire restaurant being our friend and somehow leaving with an entire bag of delicious biscotti.
On the upside we went to a restaurant where my grandmother both loved the waitress and the food-- and it was a Jewish deli, go figure. I can probably count the number of people my grandmother likes on one hand and that woman is now one of them, a miracle in itself. We ate delicious ice cream and my cousin and I watched the beauty of human connection and positivity.
Despite the complaints, it was all worth it to see the look on her face when she saw that statue--Lady Liberty. Maybe it took an old broken down flowered umbrella faced forward like a sword fighting the wind in my left hand and dragging little italian nana in the other-- but nothing will ever parallel the genuine smile that even she could not hide at the sight of that statue, a dream come true.
PS- My cousin and I totally get front row seats to heaven, ha!
For me photography has never been about anyone else, its always been about me. Maybe that sounds selfish, what I mean is, it has always been about freezing a moment in time. A moment I am admiring so much I want to freeze it in a frame of focused attention.
It seems like just a 2-dimensional organization of pixels that we scroll past moment-to-moment on our screens but to me it is a time capsule. Of course once this is captured the intention is to share, but its not to share how good your ass looked or to convince everyone else of all the fun you are having-- its to transport people to a moment, my moment. It's to share with them the joy, terror, magnificence, or whatever else made up that moment. I am hoping to share a piece of my world as it stood in that split second.
Books also have this power to bring us to another realm, this is what photography does for me. When I reflect back on my photos not only do I remember the aesthetics but it brings me right back to how I felt when I was in that place--that moment, who was around me, what adventure I was about to embark on, or what beautifully ordinary occurrence showed me its brilliance.
Well today I looked back at some old photos. It is funny to look back at your old self, at times it can feel like you don't even recognize that person you once were, like that person is some sort of stranger. Though today that wasn't where I landed. I saw the beaming smile, an innocence, a naivety--a mental state at times I wish I could revisit.
It's funny as we get older what continues to unfold is some kind of a paradox. On one hand we grow wiser, and we experience all of the beauty and darkness that life has to offer. Though at other times it feels like life would be better spent on the playground at recess playing tag, or in class where we would actually pass notes to each other-- yes physical notes--not virtual bastardizations of modern day communication. Sometimes I wish to return to the innocence of that person in the photo, when life seemed so simple.
In bad times there is always a glimpse of light, and in light there are shadows of darkness. My grandmother always says to me when you go down you go up, when you go up you go down, so simple--yet so wise in its simplicity. Things seem to happen this way don't they? A series of unfortunate events or sometimes we are on a roll, on top of the world even.
Today I looked at this photo and I saw beauty, a beauty that I still have and can access at anytime even in the darkest of moments. Even when it seems as though there is not even a glimpse of beauty, we are alive and in a constant process of ups and downs, the illusion is that someday we won't be. Life is about taking a step back in each of these moments-- whether up or down, it is realizing it is all impermanent and in just a moment everything that we have become accustomed to could be pulled out from under us, or all that we are suffering could heal and bring us to beautiful places.
No matter what though, we are alive, and there is always beauty in that.