A NATURAL WAY OF BEING
Dani was born in the fall of 1986, the youngest of four children. As quickly as she had been born, her parents divorced, giving her a significantly different childhood than her siblings. Being raised by a single mother gave her ample time to explore her “outdoor” home on the Central Coast of California. She was ALWAYS in or among the trees. The Monarch Grove, up the street from her house, was her favorite location. She would quietly lie on her belly watching the butterflies while they landed on her. This was her playground for the next decade.
As a young child this coastal community was a place of innate magic. She spent endless days communing with her environment. Her sense of oneness with “all that is” was nothing that had to be learned or reinforced. It was never questioned. Where most people would approach wildlife with trepidation, Dani approached it with the respect of a fellow inhabitant. She understood nature’s boundaries. It was because of her regard that animals would often allow her physical interaction. She was blissfully unaware of the man-made world around her.
Dani had no more fear or concern of people than she did of animals. They were just creatures to be curious about and pay no attention. She always saw the best in people with no significant concept of the dangers they might present. In retrospect, she felt it was naive on her part. Nevertheless, she assessed humans based on her intuition. People were not formidable until they demonstrated through action they could not be trusted.
This was Dani’s womb of existence – her natural world.
In spite of a nomadic youth, she was able to maintain this natural way of being. The late 90s marked her freshman year of high school when she moved to a small town with her mother in northern California. Adjustment was fluid as she continued her relationship with her instinctive environment. Bonding with people, especially those in her age group, proved to be difficult. Nature did not hold the judgment, critical assumptions and the rejection that people did.
While observing the stark contrast between man and nature, she decided it was man who couldn’t be easily trusted. Nature was simple and didn’t have any need for the fear-based and manipulative insecurities she observed in people. The wildlife she connected with did not suddenly turn on her. There was always warning, even if subtle. Conversely, people appeared to strike without warning or cause. This straightforward perspective was the seed of resentment toward society that would flourish with personal toxicity in future years.
In 2003, Dani moved to rural Massachusetts. She initially found this new region of the country bewildering. She was in her senior year in a new school environment and conflicted by her social experiences. This presented a perplexing dichotomy. While enjoying her last year of “childhood,” she unfortunately observed the same patterns of back-biting manipulation in large groups, whether joined to athletic teams or participating in social activities with friends. This curbed any desire to expand her trust past her intimate circle of friends.
From Dani’s perspective, people on the East Coast had a decidedly cunning way about duality. They were thick with syrupy kindness and conservative tradition in public, while privately scathing and cruel. She observed this behavior in the West but, it had a more consistent subtlety that saw less of a transition between public and private. This social behavior caused her to distrust the sincerity of others
People disappointed Dani. Between her observations of their sincerity and their abandonment of friendship with no explanation, she became calloused against people and their motives. Dani was absolute about her opinion. Everyone was guilty of dishonor and spite. They would have to prove themselves trustworthy.
If the coast of California was her womb and the countryside of Massachusetts was her conduit, Arizona would be her thrust into a new way of being. In 2005 Dani moved to Phoenix and enrolled in college. Two profound factors prompted her to choose to be precisely the type of person she had come to despise. First, an abusive relationship in school motivated her to learn the skill set necessary to manipulate and deflect out of self-preservation. Second, she lost her innate support system by spending too much time indoors to avoid the outlandish desert heat.
Dani’s college experience was her indoctrination into society. Her boyfriend of several months gave her doubts about their relationship. Trying to end the relationship proved difficult. As she started to question events in her relationship, her inner thoughts were muddled with erratic behavior and lack of direction. She was lost. During a brief moment of clarity, while deep cleaning her apartment, she discovered a small bag of pills her boyfriend had been using to keep her “agreeable” to continuing the relationship. With swift clarity she made the decision to leave.
Just as one problem ended a new one emerged at her place of employment as Dani was thrown into scandalous office politics. The culture was undermining, cunning, passive aggressive and in total – distasteful. Enraged by the recent deceit of her boyfriend, feeling victimized by his actions and her work environment, Dani made the choice be the predator – not the prey. She became an expert at the art of exploiting the fears and insecurities of others for personal gain. It was not her proudest moment, but it was the most accessible method to learn how to protect herself from being exploited in the future.
Dani became a master of the cultural blueprint and a model of social expectations. She participated in cultural right of passages, regardless if they resonated with her. She listened intently to daily gossip with little interest beyond what needed to be understood in order to protect herself. She could never truly understand the unquestioning assumptions and behaviors of others. So many people were following the trendiest opinion or the person who screamed the loudest with no thought. She couldn’t support the notion of “following blindly” or “keeping up with the Joneses.” However, she paid attention to those who did.
Her final tipping point came during her final years in college. Meaningful bonds were not easy for Dani, yet she met a man who seemed to accept her for her who she was – idiosyncrasy and all. As much as she loved him, she resisted his pursuit of marriage. Dani wasn’t sure she believed in the institution of matrimony. She wasn’t definitively against it, but she wasn’t for it, either. In spite of her internal debate, she realized that of anyone, she trusted him the most. Dani accepted his proposal with reticence under the condition that she retain her last name.
“You never realize how unhappy you are until you reflect on it. I was really despondent in the first few years of my marriage. I had traveled so far down the social rabbit hole and so far away from the person I am in my natural environment…that it was time to evaluate my life and where I was going with it,” Dani recalled.
Multiple elements were skewed on a personal level. She didn’t like how she felt about herself as a person or her work environment. Worse, she was incredibly pessimistic about her choice to marry. Her frustration was with the rules and the expectations of what a marriage “should” look like. In her opinion, marriage was man’s design and women were property or objects. Women were to be dutiful and obedient, support the needs of their husband over theirs and check in every five minutes. That is not how Dani personally defined marriage.
Dani characterized marriage as a partnership. Partnership meant mutual needs were met and roles were determined by who best suited them. Roles were not gender specific. It took many years of bucking marital norms before Dani and her husband found common ground. Ultimately, a “traditional” marriage did not work for them. They could not be ranked into the spectrum of social acceptability and correctness if it was to survive. They discovered it would take non-traditional approaches to traditional problems to fall in sync. As the marriage stabilized, Dani and her husband celebrated the birth of their son in the summer of 2009. 2016 marks their 10-year anniversary.
The success of their marriage became rooted in quality communication and communion with nature. They took long walks, started eating dinner alfresco, enjoyed extended naps together in the desert breezes and being quiet together. Eventually, the amount of time they were spending connecting with each other in nature helped to counterbalance the negative effects of too much time indoors, disconnected, and in separate rooms.
This was Dani’s wake-up call. This was her profound “aha” moment. She was suddenly aware she had disconnected from her inborn support system for so long she had become an inflexible and emotionally numb version of herself.
Returning to her native environment allowed her to soften, trust and feel her own rhythm again. It was time for a significant change for her wellbeing and the health of her family. She and her husband agreed to move back to California. This sanctuary would be quintessential for them as individuals, as a couple and as a family. The cost of living was much higher than in Arizona, but with the support of her husband, they made the leap.
Today you can find Dani and her family thriving in the Bay Area. She has taken on her husband’s last name, while they maintain a unique marital dynamic. It is a genuine and loving partnership. As the major household contributor, Dani works in an enterprising executive atmosphere. She is supported by her “partner,” her husband. He is the caretaker and manages their domestic affairs while working part-time. They both now have a thriving lifestyle.
Living in the Bay Area allows a good balance of outdoor living (Dani’s preference) and metropolitan living (her husband’s preference). Moderate weather allows for continued open air dining, hiking, playing in the park, taking walks and running all year round. Dani’s renewed health has been a testament to living authentically by conscious choice. Dogged by poor health since she was a teen, Dani hasn’t so much as needed cough syrup.
Returning to a strong relationship with nature has improved her relationship with her son, as well. By giving herself permission to relax and breathe again, she is finally able to be emotionally available to motherhood. Between feeling detached and a difficult pregnancy, she missed his time as an infant. She regrets emotionally rushing his infancy just trying to get through it. Now, with an open heart, she is “in the moment,” forming the deep bonds that were once difficult. She is present with him, expressing the love and affection that was exclusive to her natural environment and its inhabitants.
With ongoing practice Dani has enriched her relationship with people, as well. She is slower to judge and not quick to assume they will be hurtful. There is more “Nameste” these days. Dani has more compassion for her fellow man and a greater sense of willingness to help them. Her life has come full circle – the difference being love for humanity bloomed with maturity and wisdom. She is ready to embark on a new level of the human experience with her support system firmly in place.
This is her journey; …