dancing with monsters

It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know

(IS CAT STEVENS MY NEW WALT WHITMAN?!)

Just breathe, nerd.

Consider what is real.

There are no rules beyond the ones you set. There are no walls beyond the ones you build. There are no monsters beyond the ones you hide from in your own head.

Yesterday, in therapy, I was asked about The Monster. My Monster.

They are… gaunt. They are a tall, pale, clawed, vampiric sort of thing and they are starving. They do not know how to ask for what they need and so I do not know what to give to them, so they scream and wail in their little corner and it’s not so much that they are malevolent but that they are longing for relief.

I bring the monster an eclair at first. Just to try, just to see. They wolf it down right away, cream filling dripping from their jagged teeth, and they are only hungrier still.

My therapist said he pictured the monster and I in a Victorian manor library and I immediately made it clear that I get a fucking cravat in this scenario. I am Penny Dreadful-ed out in my waistcoat and cravat and I am handsome and I am the hero. And I do not know how to feed the monster yet and I am running out of things to try, and so…

We dance.

I take the monster by the claws and I am not afraid to slide my hand up their monster-skinned back and hold them. I am not afraid of their teeth or their big, unblinking monster eyes as I lead them around the library to some perfect Victorian manor library soundtrack.

And the monster is…relieved, finally. No one has ever asked them to dance before.

That’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it? I don’t need to escape to grad school or to Orlando or to any tangible place. (Like, I can, sure, and one day I will.) But that isn’t the solution. The story– the comedy, the tragedy, the love story, the epic poem- is the one between the monster and myself. It is an enemies-to-friends 90k slow burn and we don’t have to Get To The End in any particular hurry.

But we have to get to one another. We have to be willing to link fingers and claws and offer one another the comfort of a dance when nothing else will do.

I sought once to slay the monster. But, in doing so, I only risk slaying myself.

All the times that I’ve cried
Keeping all the things I knew inside
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it

(“I know,” I whisper into the monster’s ear. “I know.”)

Daniel Elton dances with monsters and he is not afraid.

I know.

I know.

adventure is out there

I’m going to talk myself out of it. I feel it in my bones.

I’m a big schemer, you see. I like ideas and plans more than I like most things. But who am I to have these elaborate dreams? Who am I to think I am worthy of them, even if they are currently just as grand as becoming a barista at the Starbucks on CityWalk?

(Starbucks baristas are heroes, let me be perfectly clear.)

I am not slow and methodical in things. I start to itch beneath my skin and either I hide under the bed or I panic and DO SOMETHING. I am either going to stay under my bed here in Atlanta like the sad catfish I am or the panic is going to overwhelm me and I am going to drive to Orlando without a Good Plan.

And I don’t know! Is that how single weirdos in their 30’s in the midst of a giant personal crisis move? Do you just toss your cat into the back of your Nissan Altima, make sure you have enough toll money, and go? Figure it out once you’re there? Improv, right! I’ve taken improv classes! I can handle it!

(I don’t know if I can handle it.)

What I know is that I cry nearly every day. I feel not just like a disappointment to Atlanta and to my people here, but sometimes like a traitor. Like I have done SO BADLY that I have actively betrayed the people I love most. And, yeah, I know, I’m not actually that big a deal, but it is still a really hard, awful thought to leech out of my heart.

So, again, I return to: making strangers Frappucinos and wishing them well before they go off to ride rollercoasters?

I can do that, I think.

But is it an escape or a penance?

Do I ever forgive myself?

Back to Good Omens, always: I wanted to be an Aziraphale so badly, but I cannot get Crowley’s text out of my head.

“Unforgivable, that’s what I am.”

I feel unforgivable. And again again again, I know you don’t think that. But I am sort of sick, with this gross thing that lives in my head and tells me lies. So, it’s enough that I think I am unforgivable, that I will ruin everything I touch.

I cannot bear to touch Atlanta anymore and maybe Orlando’s too sunny for me to tarnish.

Is it an escape or a penance?

I don’t know.

I just know I miss you already.

to t or not to t

(I mean, it’s not really a question anymore. I stopped.)

This morning I was working on picking out a monologue for Trans-speare when the ugly voices made their way into my brain again.

You stopped taking testosterone. You were never really serious. It’s as we suspected all along: you’re just a cis girl who wanted attention, right? You’re not really trans.

And man, fuck you, ugly voice.

Yes, I stopped taking my testosterone. I talked to my doctor and she was very cool and supportive and quick to remind me that I am, in fact, still trans.

So, I clock that this is an aspect of my own internalized transphobia: how hard it has been to believe myself. How hard it has been to look in the mirror at my “female” body and accept it for what I know it to really be.

My personal reason for stopping at this time is: I was looking at testosterone as a fix, as a solution. Because I still believe myself to be a broken thing. And that is something I want to challenge and fight. Because I am already good and already enough, even if I don’t have the voice or face I necessarily I want.

I thought I was already so old, so I had to get started NOW, but the truth is that I am still very new to my trans journey and I am allowed to take the time I need to explore, to question, to feel wholly and excitedly ready.

I am not broken and, therefore, there is nothing to fix. There is only moving forward to our dreams and our hopes. Me, personally? I need to get right with my brain and my heart before I think I’m ready to do anything about my body. But wherever you are… you’re doing so fucking awesome. I think it’s okay and important for us to talk about how these experiences are different for everyone. There’s not a Right Way To Be Trans. Maybe I’ll never get back on T and that would be okay. Maybe I’ll never have surgery and that would also be okay.

Today it is enough to wear my “boy sweater” and my “girl shorts” (clothes are so dumb) and to sip from my iced coffee and to listen to Journey and to consider a version of myself that is not a problem to solve.

You’re doing so good.

but your dreams may not

It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it slowly
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to go through

Can’t relax. Can’t take it slowly, THAT’S my fault.

Okay, new plan, Team. (If you can stand it. I know I’m a lot:)

I’ve been really, really low since the summer of 2019. Which is frustrating, because really great things were happening. I directed my play! It was so good! I was with my best friends all the time!

But, also, looking back, I probably needed to go to the hospital.

(Looking inward, it might not be the worst idea to go now. But I’m scared. Always scared.)

I don’t want to keep calling out of work because I can’t stop crying.

So, I’m going to try something different.

Call this accountability, thanks for being here.

I’m going to wait for the official grad school “no.” (I’ve waited this long, haven’t I?) I’m going to wait that long. And then it’s time to start plotting my grand escape down South.

The past two years have been really heavy and I am working on accepting that I need a break. And Orlando sounds like a break in my heart. Sounds like an absence of hustle, sounds like an abundance of sunshine and of being nice to people as my way to make a living.

I can pack Clementine up in our little blue Nissan Altima and head for the lack of hills.

I think I have to, at this point. I have to, have to, have to challenge my fucked up belief that, if I will, I will be forgotten. So, therefore, I stay somewhere where I am no longer happy.

I am not happy. It’s hard to write, it’s hard to say.

And I KNOW. Orlando isn’t going to “fix” me. That’s the other piece. I have to believe that I am not broken. But I am tired. I am really, really tired and I just want to ensure your safety on the Haunted Mansion for a little while and then I want to go home and sleep. That’s it.

I need that to be enough for a little while.

And, yeah, I’ve met me, I’ll probably keep relentlessly applying to weird stuff, but maybe the chorus of “no” will ring softer in my ears in Florida.

Fuck, maybe I’m just thirsty for orange juice.

But I still want to be a day’s drive from you. Want to know I can get back here if you need me. I love you. You’re not why I’m unhappy.

I’m just so tired.

When you come visit me, we can hold hands and I can ensure your safety on the Haunted Mansion maybe.

poem for friday which was originally for tuesday

(because i am trying to believe:)

1. that i can still be a poet

(because my teacher took notes last night and emailed me after our phone call and the subject line read YOUR JOB)

oh, thank goodness. someone else tell me, please.

YOUR JOB, DANIELLE ELISE, DANIEL ELTON, DANI WITH NO “Y.”

Believe That You Deserve The Things That Make You Happy

Don’t Punish Yourself By Thinking You’ve Already Failed

2. that this is truth

i examine my perceived failure daily, i poke at it beneath a microscope, i stand in puddles in bare feet and exclaim to passerby HEY LOOK AT WHAT A PIECE OF SHIT I AM.

and what if…

what if i just stopped doing stuff like that?

what is the start of the day did not begin with the minutes of yesterday’s sins but instead with the reminder of anything that could have been an accomplishment:

Accomplishment #1: I drove to fucking work.

Accomplishment #2: I ate a falafel wrap and the Falafel Gentleman and I were both really nice to each other.

and perhaps i stop there and consider that this is enough.

3. that this is enough.

a re-introduction of sorts

well, hey, friends! happy tuesday? you okay? you hydrating? (i’m drinking a juice box, they are my favorite.)

it occurs to me i’ve been rambling at you for a LONG TIME and maybe you already know everything you need to know about me, but i just wanted the chance to check in:

my name is dani. (i think I’ve settled on “dani.” my 4th grade self was a fucking weirdo-badass and they knew what was up.) i am a tall, enthusiastic, non-binary writer who loves star wars and shakespeare and muppets and baking key lime pies. (it’s so easy! my mind was blown!)

i don’t think i’m going to get into grad school, but this thing is my dream. this ability to create and to spread awareness about mental health. my thesis for this blog is: i want to write about every weird feeling i have ever had because i never want you to feel badly about any of yours.

i’ve got more blog posts to write. more plays, more poems… (yeah, more fanfiction, i love it) i don’t think i’m going to get into grad school, but that’s okay. i’m not giving up anytime soon.

i currently work two part-time jobs to sustain myself while i figure out how to make this independent artist thing work. if you enjoy this blog, please consider sharing it on social media! come visit me on patreon or ko-fi!

leave me a comment! tell me what you’re working on! let’s make our dreams come true, okay?

may the force be with you. always.

(non) binary sunset

I’ve been on a low dose of testosterone for nine weeks. And I am so exceedingly grateful that it was an easy process to start. I know that is not the case for everyone. I went through Plume and was met with nothing but trust and belief and well wishing and positivity.

So, yeah, nine weeks going on ten.

But I went on a walk yesterday. Not a special walk. Just a little loop around my neighborhood. And last week was a Big Week. Hard news and rejection letters and on and on and on.

And I realized:

I don’t think I’m ready.

And, honestly, yesterday I felt really ashamed by that revelation, but today- fueled by a mocha and The Lion King soundtrack- I just feel… good? Calm? I am remembering the initial relief of my realization that I am non-binary, that non-binary was even a thing I could be. How gender is not a thing I want to be locked into, how it makes me feel itchy around the edges.

I am grateful for each new step of this journey- grateful to have learned that being trans is a sort of freedom and that it doesn’t have to be a source of further restriction, of a deeper itch. I am trans without hormones, I am trans without surgery.

I am trans simply as Dani. I think I have been trans as Dani since the 4th grade and I just didn’t have the words.

And I think- for me and only for me- I need to continue making peace with my body as it is before I consider again changes for me which are very emotional.

I want to love this body that has been kissed by a whale, that has run half marathons, that has gotten lost in New York City and been found again by the promise of dinosaurs. This body that can rock a suit as well as it can rock a little floral dress. I am interested in loving my body only because it is mine and because I say I do, you know?

My point, I suppose, is this: You are who you are and your path is only yours and you don’t owe anyone else a damn thing. If hormone therapy is your path, you’re a fucking rock star. If you’re still not sure, you’re also a fucking rock star. It does not diminish your truth or your transness. You are enough, you always have been.

I will run a half marathon again in this body I am learning to love. I will gently pet the fur of my sleeping cat. I will hug you, I will drink too many sugary coffee drinks, I will be magnificent.

It has been over a year since I stood onstage at the Highland Ballroom and declared: Behold me. I am not a man, I am not a woman, I am an ethereal fucking being.

And so I am.

but i am having this one

There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one. Kazuo Ishiguro.

(because here is the truth of the matter, for better or for worse:)

I am probably not going to be accepted into an MFA program this year. It is already March and I have no news and I just don’t think it is going to happen. I am not going to move to another city this year and immerse myself in learning more about playwriting.

(this is most likely the truth and it hurts like a stone in my stomach, but it is okay. i will be okay.)

So. What is not the absence of this fantasy future but the reality of my present?

My family (mostly) is here, my friends (mostly) are here.

I have jobs. Good jobs that I do not always understand or feel that I am doing well, but jobs that I am learning. Jobs that enable me to order the odd iced coffee for delivery because sometimes it’s too hard to go get it by myself. There is a cat at one of my jobs, so that’s pretty cool, right?

And I have the ability to create. Not getting into an MFA program does not mean I am not free to write whatever the fuck I want. When I get the news, I am going to be super fucking sad, I know that. I’m probably going to order the odd iced coffee for delivery and cry into my pillows.

(i am steeling myself for the news. i am trying to prepare for the worst. trying not to let it be the worst, you know?)

Because this is okay. This life I have. With friends and iced coffee and cats at the office. This could be enough if I decided that I could be enough.

I think.

I think that’s how it works.

(i am often wrong.)

The world I occupy is one of iced coffee and cats and love for Captain America and jamming to AC/DC on the radio while I drive home from work and having doughnuts at the kitchen table with my friends while we talk about Disney World and our feelings.

My world is a good one.

There are other worlds I could have lived in, but I am living in this one.

And it is good. It is enough.

I am good. I am enough.

is law & order: svu my favorite show?

(short answer: yes. 100 fucking %)

LONG ANSWER:

During every period of my life when I have been massively, capital-D DEPRESSED, Law & Order: SVU has been there for me. It started with all those weekend USA marathons. (You know the ones.) The first time I was super Not Okay, I couldn’t sleep in a bedroom– either at my college apartment or at my parents’ house. That felt too… normal. Like something I wasn’t worthy of anymore. So, I slept on the couch, any couch. When I’m DEPRESSED, I don’t really get ready for bed. My teeth go unbrushed, my face unwashed… but if the lights are already off and Stabler and Benson are solving a grisly crime… it’s just easier for sleep to come to me.

Because we’ve all already seen every episode, right? It’s not like SVU requires deep focus and attention. The show has been on since 1999 and, with absolutely all due respect to Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T, let’s be real: we’re only watching the Stabler seasons and we don’t really fuck with season one, so we’ve got just 11 perfect seasons of “especially heinous” crimes.

The comforting gift of the Depression Procedural is that it’s basically adult Scooby-Doo. The bad guy is never the first guy you meet, never the Super Obvious Suspect. It’s probably the guy who’s too cooperative, who gives up his DNA sample within the first 15 minutes, you know? And we’ve got a wise-cracking team of Good Guys and the best episodes are when they’re not just co-workers, but friends. I care about the hypothetical dream of Tutuola and Munch opening up a bar together as much as I care about any other nerd fandom headcanon.

(You show up for Benson and Stabler, but you stay for Tutuola and Munch.)

I’m massively Depressed now and, again, I spend most nights on the couch with SVU. Going to bed makes me sad, so I just don’t. The lights stay on, my dental hygiene fucking suffers, I rarely get changed into my pajamas… and I spend about 20 minutes trying to find an episode I don’t immediately, instantly recognize. (It’s gross to have a favorite SVU, you know what I mean?)

Going to bed makes me sad, because my dreams are vivid and hard lately and I do not want to give them anymore time than necessary, so I drown out the voices in my own head with those of Benson and Stabler.

Also… SVU is now sort of like a shorthand for how my loved ones take care of me. Sometimes I don’t want to talk, can’t bear to hear my own voice anymore… so, if I’m at my parents’ house and sunk into the couch, my folks know it’s time for an SVU marathon. My roommate now shares SVU and pizza with me on sad, lonely week nights.

My ideal Sunday is still a day on the couch with an SVU marathon. When the episodes just roll into each other, over and over and over again. When the familiar beats and exciting guest stars just wash over me. It’s like… if SVU can keep going all day, I guess so can I? I can make it through the week if I know I get to rest on Sunday.

Because sleep is not rest right now.

(i have been here before, i will be here again.)

Executive Producer

Dick Wolf

trying to explain (kind of like a poem)

(this is what it is, i think:)

my heart feels like there’s a crack in it.

(barf. sorry.)

i feel broken, do you know how that feels? do you know how it feels to believe there is something wrong with the very foundation of you? that this thing- this thing that hurts, that bites- goes all the way down to the mud, to the guts?

and i feel like i have to keep talking about it, even though i feel guilty for talking about it, i feel needy, i feel cowardly, i feel selfish, i feel disgusting- but i have to keep talking about it, because maybe i can eventually talk my way out of it. the therapy, the writing, the chattering… if i can just get. it. all. out. it can’t hurt anymore?

(tell me that’s how it works? lie to me. i don’t even care.)

i feel broken, do you know how that feels?

i hate myself, so: it is hard to accept your love. i feel as though i have tricked you. i feel like i have fed you falsehoods and here we are and i am already sorry.

because sometimes i feel like i am trying so very avidly to repair the crack and sometimes i think i pick at it on purpose, because what if it is the only beautiful thing about me? what if it is not a wound, but a revelation, do you know what i mean? what if the secrets contained within its depth are all that matter about me? maybe these are the only stories i have worth telling.

and i re-read that and i roll my eyes, even though it feels fucking true.

hello, my name is dani and i had my heart broken by a Liar once and i believed it was the only Good Story about me and i have shaved off the corners of my own sunshine because i believed it.

i do not grieve him. no, i mourn the re-contextualization of that story. i mourn breaking my own heart in order to finally heal.

he did not love me, so it is not a very Good Story, is it?

and it’s been over a decade later, but the fact is that the nightmares are happening now. the dreams back into all my past lives as i pick apart this present life and try to make some sense of the sort-of-boy standing in the wreckage he created.

and it’s been over a decade later, but i am crying now.

the difference, i think, is i am angry now. and i wish it were sexy, this anger i feel. but no, i’m wearing fucking sweatpants and i’m covered in french fry shambles. i am no prowling great-cat, but a vicious, vindictive hippo waiting at the bottom of my ranch dressing river and i will tear you to fucking pieces if you give me half a chance, fuck you.

they said grief would be seven stages. nobody said how long each stage would take. that pain and guilt would last me all my 20’s.

i saw you nearly two years ago. you bought me too many whiskey gingers to be appropriate and i do not recall whether or not if you apologized, only that i told you it was okay, that you were okay.

because i guess i am a liar too.

but i was drinking whiskey in my favorite room and i did not want to be just a Sad Story.

you will not define me. i will stop chipping at the crack one day. i will accept that i do not have to map each and every corner and edge of the crack to understand it.

i do not have to be an expert on my own pain.

also: fuck you.

blogging for when you need to stave off a nervous breakdown

(I know it’s late. I’ve just had Dr. Pepper this time, I promise.)

Tonight was going to be super cool.

Last month I bought not just a ticket, but a VIP TICKET to see Patton Oswalt- my favorite comedian- on a livestream show. How awesome, right?! The chance to see my favorite comic for the third time from the comfort of my own bedroom? The chance to be in a Zoom room with him and, like, talk to him? Wouldn’t that feel cool and fun and close to something like normal? Like before?

Like before.

My VIP Zoom is in forty minutes and I can’t stop crying. So, I’m here to try to calm down. I’m here to try to figure out why the fuck I am having such a strong emotional reaction to a livestream comedy show.

Because the show was fun! Patton told jokes and drank whiskey and took questions from the virtual audience and it was cool. It was a thing to do on a Saturday night. I poured the aforementioned Dr. Pepper and got cozy with my laptop to do this thing about which I’d been so excited.

And, again, Patton was excellent. But as the show went on, I couldn’t get Gonzo’s song out of my head:

This looks familiar
Vaguely familiar
Almost unreal yet
It’s too soon to feel yet

Close to my soul
And yet so far away
I’m going to go back there
Someday

I don’t know where the hell we are anymore. I am in my bedroom. This is where I go. My friend suggested to me that I go somewhere else for a few minutes while I’m having these panicked feelings and she’s right, but I don’t know where else to go.

I feel trapped only by the unknown of the future. Because, personally, I don’t want to go back to Before. Before was pain and sadness and shame and regret. And I’m not having a great time here in Now, though there are cool things like livestream comedy shows happening. So, there’s only Next. Next? Please? Grad school? Something? The chance to escape? The chance to start again? I need a re-do. I need a re-set.

I don’t know where There is, which I suppose is the point. But I have to go back.

the truth is not cowardice

CW for trauma and suicidal ideation. Go gently, good hearts.

I remember almost everything about the day I met the first person I ever loved.

It was my second or third rehearsal with the Georgia Renaissance Festival and I was sixteen and excited out of my mind to be PROFESSIONALLY ACTING and I was only just beginning to know everyone. I hadn’t met him yet when he walked into that upstairs room of the Little 5 Points Community Center. Everyone was so happy to see him. He commanded everyone’s joy and wonder so effortlessly and I remember being intrigued right away. I remember, that same night, doing an exercise wherein we gave each other long, flowery Shakespearean compliments and he was my partner. He went on and on about me– this strange child- and no one had ever spoken to me like that and I think all I’d ever wanted was for someone to speak to me like that and he ended his monologue with, “And thy lip is twitching. It is so adorable.” And his face fucking lit up over how cute I supposedly was. And, again, I don’t think I’d ever made someone’s face light up before. I can picture every nook and cranny of this man’s smiling face, almost sixteen years later.

(My lip does twitch when I am shy and nervous and in love. It makes performing Shakespeare super awkward, but I persist.)

I remember the shirt he was wearing and I remember how tall he was and I remember how, on the eve of my eighteenth birthday, he asked if he could hold me and I said “yes” and I felt beautiful and treasured and finally like someone out of a storybook. 

I still think about him a lot. I think about him because I loved him sincerely and deeply. I think about him because I still feel guilty for the way I behaved when he did actually call himself my boyfriend. I was greedy and jealous and immature. I think about how, now, I am the one in my 30s and how I teach children who are 16, 17, 18 years old and how I see that they are fucking children. How, no matter how adorable they might be, I would never steal their sunshine.

Perhaps this is giving him too much power, but my sunshine feels stolen. I am nearly 32 years old, nearly twice the age I was when we met, and I still think of him. I still think it was my fault. I still have nightmares. I still feel as though he was my one chance at a True Romantic Love Story and how I was too stupid to be good enough to see it through. 

I think about how sex has come to feel like something I have to do in order to convince someone to stay with me. I think about how sex makes me cry, because it makes me sad, because you taught it to me. I think about how I touch myself at night in a way that is not tender or sweet, but in a way that makes me think of punishment because I think perhaps I am supposed to be punished. Sex is supposed to hurt and therefore love is supposed to hurt. 

I don’t blame you for everything. That would be cowardly of me and I have been accused of cowardice enough. But you taught me a lot. You taught me how to be funny. You taught me how to drive a car. You taught me how to wield my sexuality like a weapon to eke out just another night, another hour. You made me tea the first time I wanted to die and you called me your best friend and I believed you. 

I think about you. I think about how you made me feel like love is something that is supposed to hurt. And that is a hard belief to overcome and I hate you for it. 

(I think I will always love you too and I hate myself for it.)

Telling your truth doesn’t make you a coward. Being honest about your pain doesn’t make you weak. This is how people know to help you. You deserve to be helped.

Fuck anyone who tells you otherwise.