Luck is a strange thing. Dictionary defines it as success or failure brought about by chance, not your own actions. I have always been told my own story is one without luck. I have my own thoughts about this but either way I believe I have created my own "luck" based upon how I have chosen to look at my life. Basically I have taken the scenic route in life, it is longer, harder, but it is filled with lessons, love, strength, and beauty.
Our perceptions of our own lives are powerful. A life of identical experiences can be bad or good based on our way of looking at them. I grew up in what many in a developed country would define as a "poor household", whatever that means. Every Monday I would pick up my school lunch chips. I got my first job when I was 14 because I never have and have never wanted to ask anyone for money. I was raised in a non-traditional household which is becoming more and more common these days. My grandmother raised me since I was born with all odds against her. Without a formal education, without money, without modern generational awareness, but with all the love. When I graduated I received academic scholarships that allowed me to attend a state school and worked on the weekends knowing that I would pay for my own expenses. I graduated with a degree in Economics and then went on to complete my masters. I had a committment to social justice which in this society can feel like a bit of a paradox and was unwilling to accept a job that would steal my soul for a bottom line. I have searched for a job with countless interviews for about 6 years, have always worked a few jobs at a time and still do today, I have finally found a position that I am passionate about and leaves me filled with happiness, fulfillment, and feeling as though I have made a difference--that someone's life is better because I am in it.
I had gotten a taste of international travel and fell in love with travel in unassuming impoverished nations. I don't want to sit in an all inclusive 4-star hotel and drink until I cannot remember the life I do not want to go back to--I want to sit in a village in a bar with a dirt floor and drink warm beer and get made fun of by the locals as they make guesses as to which country I am from. I want to drive into the mountains and dance salsa where not a single tourist can be found, I want to ride a horse bareback on the beach with my Argentinian friend that I just met but feel like I have known for lifetimes. I want to camp by the moonlight and make love listening to the waves and wake up in the middle of the night to chase my flip flops being swallowed up by the sea. I want to work on an organic farm pulling weeds and picking coffee and talk to the farmers about their struggles and be their advocate in a system ridden with injustice. I want to play soccer with the locals until I am so dirty you cannot tell whether I got too much sun or if I need a shower. These experiences that have been some of the best of my life have been free. The best times of our lives and our most memorable moments cannot be paid for with a square piece of plastic.
My household was maybe considered poor by a set of standards of one of the richest countries in the world but I had seen real poverty, and there is still so much that I have not seen. I never had fancy cars, vacations, or clothes but I had the best food, rustic budget adventures, and a roof over my head. Maybe some would say I had a "broken" family but to me it was anything but broken. I recieved more love from my grandmother than many could hope for in their entire lifetime. I have worked since I was 14 and have never once called out sick, I felt the value of hardwork. I have done my grandmother's finances since I was able to write coherently, I truly knew the value of a dollar and even as a pre-teen was pretty discouraged as to the miracle of my grandmother making that dollar work every month. I have never asked her for a single penny or thing in my life, she gave me whatever she could with her whole heart, she would give to me before she would give to herself. I hope one day I can have her strength, generosity, and resourcefulness. She has taught me the true meaning of generosity. She was a widow at age 40 and raised 4 children and a granddaughter all by herself, I have felt the power of independence through her. I have watched prolonged suffering and illness and held someone I loved so dear as they lay dying and felt their life leave their physical body. I know the value of life.
All of my "misfortunes" were lessons and life experiences in disguise. I have never seen my life as unlucky. We do not become who we are without this suffering, so I am thankful for the scenic route to life. I have become who I am from these "misfortunes" which I view as blessings.
As a result I would never want a yacht or a million dollars, those things do not build character. I would be just as happy in the woods, on a mountain, near the ocean, reading a used book for $1, sitting on a floor eating my dinner with some homemade italian wine which I tend to do.
As I am writing this, I am listening to a conversation as I sit at this table at a farmers market. A woman is on the verge of tears confiding in her friends that her parents have supported her and provided for her by paying for college, a car, her apartment, but that she has never once felt truly loved or heard. I am crying as well, and she has no idea why. I wanted to say something to this woman, give her a hug, she was hurting. She had what so many would view as excess, but to me she was poor, she was without love, she was empty, as empty as my bank account. In that moment I felt even more rich, more than I ever had.
The universe works in strange ways, it felt as though if in some way hearing her story reaffirmed how blessed I am. I thank the universe for leaving me without money it taught me the value of hard work and independence. Thank you for giving me a "broken home" because without it I would never have felt real uncondintional love. Thank you for giving me friends who have betrayed me now my life is filled with beautiful genuine friendships that span across borders and oceans. Thank you for giving me disloyal and dishonest boyfriends because without them I would never have recognized my worth and true loyalty and honesty. I have gratitude for the people that doubted me and said I would never make a living with my obscure major and specific interests because it taught me to believe in myself and work harder. Thank you for showing me real suffering and illness because I can appreciate health. I thank my uncle for doubting I could ever be disciplined because after his death it pushed me to work harder, I was afraid of failure. I work relentlessly each day and take a step closer to my goals, because results are not instant, they come with time, patience, and dedication.
I am humbled by all I still have to learn and the billions of people that are suffering everyday--in comparison I feel truly blessed. I am grateful for my obstacles to come and am mentally prepared to face them courageously because I know they are how I will continue to build myself into the person I want to be.
I challenge everyone to think about their "bad luck" and see if they can recognize how ultimately they came out on top, how their struggles have brought them to a place of strength and resilience. To the universe--Thank you for giving me "nothing " because in that you have actually given me everything.
I was on a beach in Puerto Rico and I was taking a walk towards the sunset on my first yoga retreat and first real travel by myself. What a beautiful sunset it was. My teacher who is a photographer asked if he could photograph me and started taking photos. I had always been the one taking photos as is obviously true with most photographers and sometimes the biggest challenge, especially for photographers is to get photos of yourself taken.
He started directing me the way he wanted me to be in the frame, and the process actually felt as if I was in a yoga class. I was directed to open my heart, bring my knee over my ankle, before I knew it I actually had forgotten that I was being photographed. I was always so impressed the way that he was able to just draw out authenticity in what can normally be an awkward and uncomfortable experience.
I always aim to as much as possible try and have my subjects forget they are being photographed and to feel like they are just hanging out with me. This goal has always been generated from that experience. It is really hard for me to have photos of myself taken, not only do natural insecurities seem to surface but my overly critical photographer's eye is also at play.
Experiences photographing others can actually be quite intense, you can learn a lot about someone by how they behave in a photo shoot. Relationship dynamics, insecurities, perceptions of others, confidence, etc.
This past weekend I had the lovely experience of giving the gift of a photo shoot for the engagement of my 2 dear friends. I had kind of debriefed them and given them my spiel of why I like to photograph this way and they seemed to agree. Mostly my friend Tim just wanted the shoot to be done, he many times suggested that we could do it without him, he even threw his shoe at one point, anyone who knows him knows what that can mean, haha
Well what was so beautiful about the shoot was their attitude, which I actually thought to be reflective of their relationship. It was raining for just about half the shoot, they remained positive the entire time, never panicked, never freaked out. There was just acceptance of what was. The shoot went smoothly, they went along with whatever crazy things I asked them to do and the photos turned out great.
Auspiciously enough anytime we would get out of the car to try a different spot the rain would hold back just long enough for us to get back into the car to move to the next location, it was actually quite incredible.
I am so happy for my two friends and I wish them both a beautiful future together. Keep smiling through the rain, it is what has and will get you guys through whatever obstacles that cross your path.
I am a lover, a hopeless romantic, an idealist, optimist, bleeding heart, empath-- these adjectives are my gifts but also a curse. I often times can see beyond what someone's actions or words may reveal. I see their light. This image deepens as I grow closer to people. Many may think because I basically am incapable of a substance-less conversation that I am on this level with many--the truth is I do go deep, I challenge others to talk about what they don't want to talk about. I want to explore who they are, learn from their pain and suffering, their gifts, help people see things from a different perspective. Going deep in this way allows for growth, it is where we build strength. How easy it is to drive to work everyday, get pissed off in traffic, stare at a ticking clock until we can turn off our minds in front of a pixelated box? What's really difficult is to look inward.
Some people have told me they love being around me because I make them feel good, light, and loved (some people have also told me quite the opposite). I think this is because when we meet people with authenticity we create a space for them to do the same. I try and make people feel as though this light that I see is attainable. I see the light in people and I try to show it to them. I see beauty in them they may have never known existed..
The problem is that this light is not necessarily a reality. There is always a gap. The space between this light and their current place in their journey. It is this gap that kills me. This gap eats away at me. I see where people are--and where they could be. Are we ever "there?" I am not sure, I am far from it myself. I know it exists and everyday I work to close this gap, that is the beauty in our personal journeys. It is the people who have this beautiful light and literally do no work to uncover it that I can't help but allow to hurt me.
I have hope where maybe others wouldn't. I talk to homeless people, I talk to crazy drunk women at the bar who tell me their life story, I talk to mentally ill on the train uncovering their delusions and I exist within their reality to bring them comfort, I listen to friends complaints when they wouldn't give me the time of day or answer the phone when I need it, I do favors while mine are left unattended-- Where do we draw the line? When am I dishonoring myself, my time, my life? I am in the constant practice of letting go. I cannot live in a space of flux but am simultaneously living chaotically.
To all the givers in the world give as much as you can but do not give away your foundation, because our hearts are huge, they have so much to give but foundation is a lot more work to rebuild. Give to those who honor your gifts and want nothing but to return them with their whole heart.
People can only meet you at their capacity, not at your expectation. So myself, and all the givers in this world must learn to let go of potential and accept reality or we will destroy ourselves. It is beautiful that we can see the light in others but we cannot pour ourselves into this potential when we have not taken a second to see the reality. Often this person is not at a point in their journey where they are ready to do the work, or even know how.
It is this difference of showing people the way and trying to drag them there. Have I known this for years? Yes, do I still allow myself to fall into this trap? We all want to believe that we are different, that we will be the amazing person that saves whoever it is. No one can save anyone, they can only support someone else to do this work themselves. The person needs to be ready and willing..
With that I put out the intention of allowing myself to let go before I have reached this point. As I get older the time it takes for me to realize this becomes shorter and shorter, someday I will learn to walk down a different street altogether. I hope all the other givers out there do as well. The world needs us, we must stop destroying ourselves and preserve our energy for those who are ready to receive it.
Be loudly, relentlessly yourself. Do not let anyone tame your fire, it is that light that burns within us that keeps us alive and makes us who we are.
I can be found waking up to the sound of my alarm immediately bursting with energy even before I begin my caffeine consumption for the day, making breakfast to the unwavering sound of my own voice singing all the wrong words to any song that comes to mind.
Driving to work my coffee in an open-faced mug likely spilling it all over my typically unkempt vehicle to the deafening sounds of what could be anything from Metallica, gangster rap (yes gangster), or chill yoga beats. The open-faced mug because I have undoubtedly misplaced what I claim as my favorite trivial possession (an amazingly well-insulated travel mug) at about 100 miles an hour unsafely passing folks leisurely on the left and right.
Arriving just on time only to welcome all those that cross my path with a giant smile and kind loving heart even if for whatever reason I am having an awful day.
More recently spending the entire day bursting with years of pent up energy of all that I have researched and experienced in my life related to the social injustices of the world--and brainstorming ways that I can make the world a better place and mobilize others to do so too.
Spending my afternoons sweating profusely in whatever varying way I decide. At the gym lifting weights--the way my favorite uncle taught me with a discipline that I have finally committed to, gliding across the water on a paddleboard, walking on a string in between two trees in a forced meditation, moving my body in sync with my breath in my yoga practice, listening to the dance of energy between myself and my partner in acro yoga, salsa dancing sometimes to the beat of the music if I can find my rhythm, hiking or exploring with my camera and capturing a frozen moment in time that I view to be beautiful.
Talking to just about everyone I can throughout the day in whatever medium because I am a social being and I thrive on social interactions and sharing all that I believe to be a part of myself and laying it out on the table for anyone to see and for anyone to either accept or deny.
Leaving what I like to call Danielle's trail of breadcrumbs which happen to be all of the small things that I forget wherever I happen to go. I guess I like to leave a little piece of myself behind for others to experience, both physically and mentally--we all leave our mark in different ways.
Listening to others with a bleeding heart and allowing others to see my bleeding heart because I cry and laugh not only for myself but for the pain and joy that exists in this world.
Sarcastically making fun of just about everyone no matter what their title because I am a human being and you are a human being and I see no borders or boundaries between us.
I embrace my femininity and gentleness because I am a sensitive being and my heart goes out in all directions, but I also have a fire that is not tameable--I am outspoken-- you will never wonder how I feel because I will tell you straight out. Not everyone can handle my fire. I have scared many a man away.
I may be kind and gentle but don't cross me because once i have been pushed over the edge there is no turning back, I don't take any shit. I am a force to be reckoned with, all 5 feet nothing of my Italian body holding my bold spirit.
This is me. Take it or leave it. Defriend me, unfollow me, tell me I am crazy, break up with me, or love me, share my thoughts and support me along this journey we are on together called life. Either way I am open. I am an open book because I believe if we keep all of the beauty we have to offer inside ourselves-- I see it as a selfish act. If we hold back from letting our inner world be seen we are doing ourselves and others a disservice.
So this is me--unapologetic-- sharing who I am with the world unfiltered and raw. Take it or leave it.
So i invite you to share yourself, your true self--unapologetic, unfiltered, and raw.
(By the way-- point of this photo is no make-up)
Why I love photography-- and no I do not mean an instagrammed picture of your food, a selfie that makes your tits look good, or your dolled up duck face--I mean real photography.. I don't mean to say every photo we take needs to involve tripods, shutter speeds, ghosting, or other photographic techniques--but I mean photos with intention--with depth.
I mean photos that jump off the page or maybe it would be more accurate to say photos that jump of the screen at this point. Photos should evoke emotion. They should transport you to that moment frozen in time.
When I take photos--they are for me. I snap a shot when I am in a place or a moment and I think to myself--"if this isn't nice what is?" (kudos to Kurt Vonnegut to this way of thinking or phrase) I take photos when I want to freeze that emotion--that experience. I want to freeze that moment and bring it with me wherever I go. I want to add it to my archive of life and allow it to live inside of me. I want to grow from that moment, allow it to become a part of me as I do with each experience, each person that crosses my path.
Of course if someone can benefit from looking at that photo, if they can imagine that moment, that experience and it brings them happiness-- well that's beautiful.
So often I am surrounded by people, chaos, moving parts, impending to- do lists, I forget to give myself space. Photography allows us to pause. To reside in space; silence--it is in that space that we often find who we are-- in those quiet moments. What comes into your mind when you allow for silence?
Well today I sat, I drove, I chatted and laughed with a good friend, I felt the ocean breeze-- its' slightly thicker texture as it carried the ocean spray sporadically onto my skin, I felt the cramping of my hand as I transcribed these thoughts- the old fashioned way. Heart drifting all the way out my hand--pen to paper, across the page in a beautifully raw and messy scrawl.
It is days like this where I believe I am truly present with my life-- no sense escaped me. No sight went unnoticed, no feeling passed me by. It does not mean that it is all pleasant or that these days can only happen when we are at our best. In fact usually these days happen when we are in our worst moments. Mindfulness and reflection forces its' way in like a storm. It floods our senses and ignites something within us that brings us to the now.
So today I sit. I sit with myself and I smile. I truly love this beautiful mess that is me.
.A few weeks back I did something that maybe many people may think I do--but in reality have never done--and that is escape. Usually when I travel I am in a state of wholeness. I travel for the sake of exploration, curiosity, spontaneity, freedom, whatever the reason--it has never been escape.
Returning from a trip I begin unpacking my bags, cleaning my room, getting ready for work. After each experience, each outing, each place I have explored, I allow space for reflection. For the endeavor to become a part of me. Some may call me an empath--emotional-- whatever the name for it -- I let it all in. I let all experiences flow through me and am in the constant practice of acceptance and letting go.
I allow space for vulnerability. Despite the hurt in my life as I am sure each one of us has gone through we cannot close our doors to vulnerability. It is the only thing that allows us to fully experience each moment. Nothing is safe. Our emotions, our body, our material posessions-- it is all impermanent. We are not invincible--if we wish to live each moment fully we must give it all of ourselves even if we know it can be broken. In that moment of surrender we can feel freedom.
Then there is society's paradox. Many condemn us empaths of exhibiting weakness. Quite the contrary, it takes bravery to wear your heart on your sleeve, to face the shadows that lie within yourself. To uncover truth in a sea of betrayal, facades, and dishonesty.
So many take all that they are and keep it for themselves--well that is selfish. When we keep everything inside we do not share it with those around us and when we do not share we prevent others from being touched by who we are. If the goal is intimacy we must give all of ourselves in each moment.
We try to control everything around us. Weaving in and out of traffic as though we all haven't seen Office Space knowing all well how that ends... further behind or exactly where we started. Okay, maybe part of it is the Boston we can't get out of our veins but that doesn't make it any less stressful or any less futile. We do nothing but piss off everyone around us and bubble up with anger that builds up within ourselves.
Maybe we are not exactly where we want to be in life-- we did not settle down as quick as all our friends, we are single watching everyone around us get married, we are married with kids and wish we traveled and enjoyed life more, we are stuck in a job that does not ignite that fiery passion within ourselves. Whatever the cause of discontent, we try desperately to control all aspects of all our external world. We ignore the most important piece--our attitude about where we are.
We are exactly where we need to be. Wherever it is that you are it is exactly where you need to be to have had the experiences and learned the lessons that have made you who you are.
Instead of trying to swim against the current and create an unnecessary struggle, why don't we flow with the natural processes that our perfect universe has set up for us. When we surrender and let go of struggle and surrender to the moment that is when we can find peace and freedom. There is a difference between being apathetic and going with the flow.
Of course I can bring this back to surfing. When we try to control or conquer the wave we wipe out. When we listen to where the wave is going and put forth effort and energy to work with it, we can ride the wave beautifully.
Be where you are. Surrender to this moment, to this life.
Waking up knowing I am going to surf, a feeling overcomes my body-- in my gut. I feel a slight sinking feeling, not the kind of feeling like when you find out someone has betrayed you, or that something bad has just happened, but that feeling of fear and anticipation that you are about to do something that simultaneously scares you, thrills you, and brings you to your happy place, whatever, wherever that may be. Well for me its the ocean. I am most scared of it because I see in it characteristics that I most admire about myself as well as what most terrifies me.
"To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision. Few, if any, survive their teens. Most surrender to the vague but murderous pressure of adult conformity. It becomes easier to die and avoid conflict than to maintain a constant battle with the superior forces of maturity."