bi, bi, non-bi: december feels, and oh, look, i’m talking about walt whitman again

This piece originally performed at The Come Up Show ATL on December 20, 2019. 

Greetings, fellow cool kids. So, my name is Dani Herd, and I am bipolar, bisexual, and non-binary, aka “bi, bi, non-bi.” These are my adventures. 

Bi #1: I’ve known about the bipolar II the longest. This month is actually the three month anniversary of my diagnosis. Of a human with certificates on her wall sliding a piece of paper over to me that seemed to scream out into her office, “There it is! That’s what’s been wrong with you! That’s what will always be wrong with you!” I don’t drive, so Friend-of-the-Show Kristin Storla picked me up from that first appointment, brought me a fancy cinnamon coffee, and cried with me in the Shakespeare Tavern parking lot. Love you, KSto. And when I got home, I re-read Carrie Fisher’s book Wishful Drinking, because Star Wars will always be the way I know how to be okay. The General wrote, “At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

Carrie is the reason I want to talk about all of this stuff. I want to talk about every weird feeling I have ever had, because I don’t ever want you to feel badly about any of yours. You magnificent fucking weirdo. You absolute treasure. I didn’t feel courageous over the summer. I was tired a lot, so I decided to stop taking my meds. Guys. Don’t do that. I want to be eloquent and smooth and clever about what happened to me, but I just broke, and that’s it. My therapist really wanted me to go to the hospital. She even offered to take me herself. I made it as far as calling in to try to do an evaluation over the phone. I cried for a week. I researched the hospitals online, and they won’t let you take your own stuffed animals with you, and that’s what made me the most scared. 

I probably should have gone.

I made it through the summer of 2019. I stumbled and took a lot of breaks and sat down a lot, but I made it. I kept going to therapy, I started taking my meds again, I checked in with my friends. I started to function again. 

And then it was the fall.

Bi #2: Oh, absolutely nothing useful to report. I’m just listening to “Thunder Road” on repeat a lot, and thinking of things I should not say. Which, by the way, Bruce: You ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright? Fuck you, sir. 

Non-Bi: This is a love letter. 

Hey, are you guys ready for me to talk some more about Good Omens? I know I am a broken, nerdy record, but, like, what else do you do when a work of art comes along and shows you how to love bits of yourself that you didn’t even know were there? I don’t know if you have a show or a book or a movie like that, but dammit, I want that for you. 

Because, I think at my core, I am a ridiculous, soft thing who puts perhaps too much stock in the rules, and cannot throw anything away, and loves books and food, and I spent nearly 30 years hating myself, and then Aziraphale happened to me, and I love him so goddamn much. And maybe I’m off the mark– I believe that we are generally better at finding our friends in the pop culture wastelands than we are at finding ourselves– maybe I’m trying too hard to prove something to myself, but… A bunch of knots in my heart just untangled on their own as I made my way through that story for the first time. Light switches flicked on in this previously unexplored room, and there I was. And there was this magical tartan bowtie that seemed to whisper, “Your body is fine and good. And you know it for what it is. Claim it at last, and be proud. For this, you do not have to apologize ever.” 

Be curious about yourself. I had these little corners lurking within me that I ignored for so many years. I’m not even sure that I was scared. I was just apathetic. I was younger, and I thought I had my story entirely figured out. 

What’s your story? What’s your deal? Who are you?

This isn’t just a story about Aziraphale. This is a story about Keith.

A little over a year ago, I was in a weekend-long clowning workshop. One of our assignments was to come to class in “disguise.” I thought about hiding in plain sight, so I chose a pair of short khaki shorts, some old Chucks, and a short sleeved plaid button up. Because I have often been mistaken for a boy throughout my lifetime. This was my hiding in plain sight. My disguise.

I might have just been looking for an excuse.

One thing led to another, and, as my clown, I was instructed to stand before my fellow clown comrades, and share everything I know about The Hobbit. Which, if you know me, game fucking on. My left leg started violently trembling, but off I went. And looking back, I now know that those leg tremors came from the stress and weight of transformation, of growth. Of the fear within the freedom to be who I have always wanted to be: a shaking non-girl, nerd-vomiting about a book I love.

The instructor called me “Tall Boy” that day, and a little thrilling fissure of truth cracked down in my bones. I named “Tall Boy” “Keith,” and I love Keith, that complete fucking weirdo. Forgive this absolute corniness, but I think that loving Keith was an integral first step towards loving Dani. I know, I’m disgusting. 

And now I find myself thinking of Walt Whitman, as always. I wrote the first draft of this piece on the final pages of a really good notebook, so I hope you will not blame me for getting sentimental, here at the end of the year, end of the decade, end of the page, beginning of a thousand stories.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”

I will screech this until you believe it. Who are you? What’s your deal? What’s your story? You are more than you think, I suspect. It is nearly a new year, a new decade: let’s hold hands, and love one another, and beat the nightmares back. Let’s wear the faces and call ourselves the names that we have always dreamed of. We’ve made it this far, haven’t we?

Uncle Walt, one more time:

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

 

Happy Holidays, weirdos. All my love.

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