dani hides like a sneaky little weasel

Human beings are slippery little creatures. Do you have any idea how easy it is to hide from yourself?

I feel like as human beings we spend a lot of time skirting the issue, avoiding the confrontation, masking our feelings, and hiding from the things that are actually the most important to us–the things which are so important, in fact, that they are major motivators for us and dictate our behavior. But we are so clever at hiding from ourselves (and others), that we don’t even know that we are hiding! Humans are so smart!

Oh my God! In fact, the truth is that I’m actually avoiding the real point of this blog post by speaking in general terms and skirting the issue RIGHT NOW!

I have barely written a word since being back from India, either for my self or for this blog, and I’ve come up with excuse after excuse to avoid addressing it. To be honest, I’ve been deeply unhappy and confused for the past month or so. I’ve felt totally lost and fragmented. There were so many things that I unearthed in India–deep aspects of my personality and past that I discovered as things that are hidden motivators for my behavior. We all have them, and sometimes you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone in order to shed light on the things that usually lie in darkness as they dictate your behavior in your day-to-day life. My major discovery was that perhaps my biggest motivator–the dynamo that is the engine for every good thing I’ve accomplished in my adult life and for every bad thing that I’ve brought on myself as a form of self-sabotage–that motivator is a sense of self-hatred. I sense that I am not enough and so I have to do X, Y, and Z in order to prove my worth to myself and to the world.

This might seem like a heavy thing to share in a public forum, but I feel motivated at this moment to do so because I know for a fact that I am not the first person to feel that way. In many ways, it is a fundamental aspect of American consciousness, which is maybe why I needed to go to India and experience another way of being in the world in order to identify it as my personal truth. Being back in LA has been extremely difficult, and I think the major reason it has been difficult is carrying around this new self-knowledge in an old environment, and seeing my own insecurities so clearly reflected in the world around. For example, show me a twenty-something in LA who ISN’T insecure about her body and I’ll show you a thousand women crammed with false images from the media who hate their own skin. It’s not a comfortable fact, but it’s a true one.

I also feel that as a writer, as an actor, and as an artist I can’t move forward in my work until I acknowledge my personal truth. I felt artistically crippled. I couldn’t write in my journal, I couldn’t write this blog, I couldn’t be more than 90% present in my acting work because I quite simply did NOT want to know the truth about what was going on with me. I was hiding from myself.

So yeah, I guess that’s what I wanted to share with you all today. There is no point in hiding from yourself, in denying what it is that is really going on with you, because the things that you hide from the most are also the things that motivate you the most. Whatever inferiority complex I have, it has made me move to Portland by myself at the age of 17, it made me take a million credits per semester in college and get a super pimped out resume, it made me a major player in the foundation of a nonprofit opera company, it made me go to grad school and move to a city I never thought I would be ready for. It’s that inner dynamic that helps move me both towards and away from my dreams.

Even though this underlying dissatisfaction has been an omnipresent force for the last several weeks, here are some of the fun activities I’ve been doing to distract myself and lighten my spirits in the meantime! It’s been kind of a love affair with LA in a weird way, because despite the angst which has sprung out of transitioning back into my life here, I’ve been exploring all that this amazing city has to offer. And LA is actually really fucking rad, you guys.

My month:

ImageHiking adventures! We got a huge group together to go hiking/swimming/cliff jumping at Hermit Falls. This is Sean and Suzanna, who invited us to a huge warehouse party in downtown LA, successfully giving us the most “LA” day in the history of time.

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery movie screenings! Cinespia hosts huge events over the summer in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Thousands of people turn out with blankets and picnics to watch their favorite movies projected on to the side of a mausoleum, and it is AWESOME. My favorite night was all-night movie night, which was a vampire-themed triple feature of The Lost Boys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Interview with a Vampire. At least, that’s only how long I was able to stay awake. Movie enthusiasts in LA will watch obscure French lesbian vampire porn until dawn. I am not that enthusiastic.

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Beach trips! Most of the time my Silver Lake home is just too far from the ocean to see my Mama Pacific too often, but in the summer it is all palm trees and hot white sand. Bliss.

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Visiting family! I am lucky enough to have a bunch of family about 4 hours north of LA in the scenic town of Guadalupe, California. Ahhhhh the smell of broccoli.

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Reuniting with friends! That beautiful woman is one of the very very VERY best friends of Britt and I. She is now living in my house in LA, where Britt will soon join us, and she is a social activist and social worker and Master’s student at USC. We are in love. We are also both in love with Phil and Connor, two of my very best friends and two of the very best sexy man-actors in the history of the world. All of these people are part of the Portland takeover of LA. Watch out, world!

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Bachelorette Party?! That beautiful woman in white is now a Mrs., and she came down to LA to celebrate her last weekend of bachelorette-dom in the sunshine with her ladies. In a stroke of madness, she left the bachelorette party planning to me and another LA-based ex-Portland artist-friend, and we had a magical weekend of beach-time and debauchery in Santa Monica. Needless to say, Batman was our designated driver that night.

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School resumes! I just finished week 3 of year 2 of my MFA in acting, and I am pretty damn excited about all of the work we are getting to create for the next two years. How many actors in LA actually get to ACT for 13 hours a day for nine months? I am a lucky mofo. Lucky, lucky, lucky. This pic is of my ensemble playing with letter pillows in voice class. Life is good.

Much love,

Dani

dani tries to figure out wtf country she’s in

I just got off the phone with my very favorite Britt and as usual, I felt instantly inspired to write (and make movies and make art and make fun, but I have this blog to write and so I am going to WRITE).

I have felt somewhat at a loss for the past couple of weeks since being back from India because, as I mentioned, I have been experiencing REVERSE culture shock. As in, you leave your country for a while and go experience another culture and then you come back home and you’re like:

wtfamerica

And it’s hard not to go into a downward spiral that goes kind of like…

WTF is wrong with this country?
WHY did I come back?
CAN I just go back to India forever? Is that throwing away all of the opportunities I was given by being born in this country?
HOW SOON can I go back?
WHY do I feel this way?

nobodyunderstands

Except that’s NOT TRUE, Emo-Dani, it’s just NOT TRUE. We live in a global age and bajillions of people have traveled and moved and immigrated and gone through this stuff over and over again and it’s just NOT TRUE!!

So let me rewind a little bit.

INDIA IS AWESOME. It is this incredibly diverse, chaotic, beautiful, crazy UNIVERSE of possibility where there is quite literally a billion different ways of living your life and being in the world. Total FOOD for my actor-brain, and the best kind of nourishment for my soul. For the first month, Tarah and I were traveling around India like the twentysomething backpacking bums that we are:

Dani and Tarah arrive in Rishikesh

Dani and Tarah in full backpacker mode

We spent a couple of weeks doing yoga in Rishikesh when intense flash flooding hit the state of Uttarakhand, upriver of where we were staying. Seemingly overnight, the big, beautiful Momma Ganges River turned into a rageful and torrential stream of destruction.

Right as the floods started, our new Canadian friend Kelsy happened to leave for the mountains which would soon become incredibly dangerous, Tarah and I had AMAZING astrology readings with this spiritual guru lady named Amodini, and I got horrendously sick with the flu. We were completely safe in Rishikesh, but there was no electricity or internet anywhere for days, so bad news from upriver trickled in slowly–corpses of wild elephants, cars with bodies still trapped inside, remains of ancient temples… It all flowed by somewhere under the raging river a few hundred yards down the hill. And I was pretty much bedridden with a fever and no voice, the words of Amodini echoing in my head with talk of my birthright, my spiritual relationship with Jesus and Buddha, and god knows what else. It was a surreal time.

Tarah took these one day.  See that big white building? The first floor is covered in water.

Tarah took these one day. See that big white building? The first floor is covered in water.

After a few days, Kelsy came back with some terrifying tales of spending three days and two nights on the road fleeing the floods, and while she was happy to be in the safety of Rishikesh, she needed to get the hell out of the mountains and out of sight of the Ganges, and so we decided to go south to Udaipur:

IMG_0906

ISN’T IT FUCKING GORGEOUS??

Wait wait wait I’m getting ahead of myself again. So we decided to flee Rishikesh:

I swear we are not as freaked out as we look.

I swear we are not as freaked out as we look.

No really, I swear Kelsy is not ACTUALLY as upset as she looks in this picture. Or maybe she was. But I’m pretty sure we were just messing around. Anyway, here are some of the sights we saw as we left Rishikesh for Delhi, and they really help paint of picture of what I mean when I say India is a place of POSSIBILITY.

Donkeys moving bricks!

Donkeys moving bricks!

Oh sure, GIANT TRUCK you can pass that tourist van on the shoulder of this one lane road next to these stacks of bricks. Just make sure you don’t run over that unsupervised donkey that is in charge of moving all of those bricks.

Typical street scene

Typical street scene

Check out that food stall. These food stalls pop up about every ten feet and feature a cooler (or cardboard box) with some cokes in it, and a giant wok. If you own a wok, you can own a restaurant. Can you imagine trying to do that in the US? Also check out the mish mash of Indian and “Western” clothes that people are wearing, and the ratio of men to women in this picture. Both are pretty typical.

On the road...

On the side of the road…

“Hey guys I think we should start a custom cabinetry business.”

“Yeah man, I think we can set it up between those trees where the pigs hang out.”

……yeah!

Paharganj, New Delhi

Paharganj, New Delhi. Quintessentially chaotic

Amidst all this chaos, Tarah and I managed to stand out; Tarah with her pale skin and me with a mane of blond hair. We made a ton of friends, people openly shared their kindness and hospitality, and we occasionally had to avoid a hustler trying to make a buck off of the “rich white ladies.”

heid_I'm-Rich

ERMAHGERD I’M RICH

But you know, who can blame them? As you can see, if you have ANY idea of a way to make a living or a way of living your life, then India is your oyster. Being there felt completely liberating. It didn’t matter what we wore or how we acted or what we did because we stood out whether we were quiet as mice or completely ridiculous. I know that we were excused from a lot of social expectations because we were foreign tourists, but I think that in general Indian culture is more accepting of differences; the Indian imagination is much bigger when it comes to humanity…when it comes to the things they think people are capable of.

Imagine going from that to Los Angeles: the judgiest place in the human universe.

becky look at her butt

Within my own culture, and especially as one of a million blond actors in LA, I am keenly aware of the fact that people I don’t even know (without even thinking about it or without even trying to) are constantly judging and classifying me depending on my weight, on my skin, on my eyebrows, on how expensive my clothes look, on the car I drive, blah blah blah. This Sunday I was at a coffeeshop in Silver Lake watching a parade of hipsters trying so hard to BE something or to NOT be something, and then later in the day I was at a jazz night in a fancy hotel watching a parade of supermodels and wannabe starlets also trying to BE SOMETHING and NOT be a failure or something…

I guess ultimately it’s the same thing…. The people struggling to survive in Delhi are the same people trying to find there place in the world in LA. It’s just difficult. It’s not easy for anyone–from the skinny eighteen-year-old model at the bar in the fancy hotel to the skinny twelve-year-old kid in India with more tattoos than my musician brother. In the end I guess it’s just about accepting that I am another gypsy soul trying to find my place and my purpose in the world. Trying to find meaning in it all.

An ACTUAL gypsy in Rajasthan

An ACTUAL gypsy in Rajasthan

AHEM.

…..

Man, people with Emo haircuts are really keeping this blog in check today. Thanks, dude.

So I got sidetracked and only really talked about 1/4 of my trip so far… Let me explain something real quick: For the first week that I was in LA, I was LOSING MY MIND. I felt like sleeping all day (as the nice British man explains) so for some reason I decided to combat this by doing a bunch of crazy shit during the daytime in order to stay awake, but then at nighttime I was wide awake so I just continued doing a bunch of crazy shit and not sleeping. So I have not been on top of my blogging game.

yeah… like that.

Anyway! To round out this edition of Dani-tries-to-figure-out-WTF-country-she’s-in, I’m going to call in the aid of another dude with an Emo haircut to tell you about jet lag. After two minutes he changes the subject, so feel free to go about your day after that.

….Yeah. India. Jet lag. Transitions. Emo-hair.

mic drop

–dani