breaking down my current spotify “on repeat” playlist

Happy Sunday! I’m trying to get you to give me money, so let’s get to know each other a little better, shall we? My musical taste is that of a fantastical nightmare creature. Enjoy these selections from my Spotify “On Repeat” playlist:

  1. “Break My Stride” – Matthew Wilder

Y’all, I DO NOT KNOW. I woke up one day with this song inexplicably stuck in my head and now I can’t stop listening to it. I mean, I was trying to go perform in China so the opening lyrics (“Last night I had the strangest dream, I sailed away to China…”) were a real source of hope and comfort for a minute there.

2. “I2I” – A Goofy Movie soundtrack

Powerline is the greatest pop star in the history of pop stars and I’m not remotely exaggerating. I have very fond memories of blasting this song and running through the halls of the Shakespeare Tavern with Charlie Thomas while we were warming up for some show.

3. “Merry-Go-Round of Life” – Joe Hisaishi, Howl’s Moving Castle soundtrack

Sometimes a they has just gotta be wistful and yearn-y and dream of tall, damaged, handsome creatures wearing nice capes.

(Sophie can do better.)

4. “Grim Grinning Ghosts” – THE HAUNTED MANSION

HALLOWEEN EVERY DAY, BITCHES. FOREVER.

5. Theme from Jurassic Park – John Motherfucking Williams

Look, John Williams is our greatest living artist. I feel that in my bones. There is no better morning to me than one spent drinking good coffee and just blasting this song at full volume and daydreaming of dinosaurs.

6. “Dead Man’s Party” – Oingo Boingo

I think this is my favorite song of all time? Okay, so here’s the thing:

At Six Flags Over Georgia during spooky times, there’s something called Fright Fest. And there’s a spooky-themed musical revue at Fright Fest called “Dr. Fright’s Dead Man’s Party.” I heard Oingo Boingo for the first time on the stage of the Crystal Pistol and I was horrifically enchanted right away.

I have played Rosalind, Kate, and Lady Macbeth and yet I still yearn to one day be talented enough to perform in “Dr. Fright’s Dead Man’s Party.” Sorry, Shakespeare.

7. “Leaving Hogwarts” – John Williams, again

So, this song feels super complicated in my heart right now, as you can imagine. As a trans Harry Potter fan, I listen to this ending song from the first film and I remind myself that She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named might have created this world, sure, but I am still allowed to take the meaning I want from it as I go along my travels. It’s time to grow up and leave the castle, but I will carry with me the lessons *I* learned from those books. She can’t take that away from me. (She can’t have Pumpkin Juice either. That stuff is delicious.)

8. “Affirmation” – Savage Garden

SOMETIMES I JUST NEED TO FEEL TWELVE AGAIN, OKAY? I used to jam in my dolphin-wallpaper’d bedroom to some Savage Garden.

ALSO: I AM NEEDY AND THE SONG IS CALLED “AFFIRMATION.” I AM NOT SUBTLE.

9. “Border Song” – Taron Egerton, Rocketman

As I wrote recently, you know that gay thing where you have a crush on Taron Egerton as Elton John but you also want to BE Taron Egerton as Elton John?

Because I know that thing and it is both complicated and sparkly.

10. “Banana Splits (The Tra La La Song)” – The Dickies

I missed staying up late as a little kid and watching when the old, weird shows came on Cartoon Network. Do you remember the Banana Splits? They were real and utterly perplexing and their theme song fucking SLAPPED.

11. End Credits – John Williams, E.T.

Confession: I don’t actually love this movie. (I do not care for “If you love them, let them” tales.) But I love love love this theme. It takes me back to flying through the night skies at The E.T. Adventure in Universal Studios Florida, which is just my absolute favorite forever.

FINAL TAKEAWAY: Shockingly, I might be a gay nerd with a deep enthusiasm for theme park attractions. What’s on your “On Repeat” playlist? Comment it up!

ANNOUNCEMENT O’CLOCK!

Hey there, intrepid followers! We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled geeking out and crying ASAP, but first!

Some news!

  1. I launched a Patreon today!

https://www.patreon.com/daniherd

Come check me out for early access to blog posts, thank you’s, something we’re calling #WalrusWednesday… all sorts of nerd fun! Thank you in advance for your support!

2. I WROTE A PLAY!! Check out the Gainesville Theatre Alliance on Friday October 23 for the virtual premiere of “Monster Girls at Sunshine Doughnuts.”

3. I’M WRITING ANOTHER PLAY!! The in-progress “gloria and minnie and the castle on the backlot” was selected for Synchronicity Theatre’s Stripped Bare Arts Incubation program. We’ll have a virtual offering for you on Wednesday November 24!

4. Did you know I’m on FB? (I mean, obviously.) You should come and follow my writer page for updates and fun stuff. (I mostly yell about pumpkin coffee and Oingo Boingo.) https://www.facebook.com/daniherd31

5. I’m trying to make it as a writer, Team. If you already follow this blog, if you’ve ever liked or commented or shared… thank you from the bottom of my heart. Drop me a line sometime! Tell me what about the blog works for you! Let me know what I could do better!

6. Have a wonderful day. You’re doing so super good!

love,

Dani

queer-simodo

(Title courtesy of my dear friend Kati Grace.)

Hello, I am intoxicated and I can’t stop watching Todrick Hall’s “CinderFella”from 2012.

My name is Dani and I am gay.

(I don’t know everything that means yet. I am trying.)

When I was in high school, I loved my best friend and didn’t know what to call it. When I was in college, I loved a best friend and kissed them, even, and didn’t know what to call it. When I was…

(I’m sorry. I’ll stop.)

(I’m not done. Feeling these things. I will keep them closer to the vest, I promise.)

Ever since I tiptoed into coming out last weekend… I feel like I’ve been watching the red strings line up on the bulletin board of my life. Why have I always related more to the boy-Disney “I Want” songs? “Out There?” “I’m Still Here?” “Go the Distance?”

I have often dreamed

I’m a boy, no, I’m a man

Where ordinary men walk freely walk about there

Fuck.

(Liquid courage and all. Here we go:)

I long to say this to you:

“My name is Daniel Elton. I don’t know everything else yet, but can I take you out for ice cream?”

How afraid I am of being unlovable. How afraid I still am that I’m “wrong.” Though, as someone dear pointed out to me recently, do cis people think about gender this much?

(I can tell you. It’s something of a secret. It’s okay. It’s okay:)

I think I might be a boy.

(When I think about it, it makes a lot of sense.)

And it makes me sad. Because maybe I’m not courageous enough to “do” anything about it? I don’t know yet. I long for a flatter chest, a deeper voice…

Fuck.

I don’t want to disappoint anyone more than I already have. This is my fear. This is what trips me up. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to make anyone sad.

But I want to sing with this lower, righter voice. I want to see what he sounds like.

(I’m sorry.)

(I love you.)

If you’re out there, and I know you are: I am proud of you forever. Whatever you call yourself, whatever you decide. I will defend you forever. I will fight for you. You made me consider being brave. You made me consider telling the truth. Thank you. I adore you. It’s going to be okay, for both of us, I think.

I don’t know. I still don’t know for sure. I don’t want to make anyone sad. But… I don’t know.

“Daniel.”

I wonder what he’s like.

I wonder if he’s brave.

september bi, bi, non-bi: and i think it’s gonna be a long, long time OR: fuck you, j.k. rowling

Originally performed for The Come Up Show ATL’s birthday show on Friday September 25, 2020.

CW: internalized transphobia and mention of She Who Must Not Be Named. Guard your beautiful heart.

Non-bi, and only non-bi this month: 

Related to absolutely nothing: it’s Mark Hamill’s birthday today and I want to raise a glass for a hero who has never let me down. I am 31 and I still want to grow up to be Luke Skywalker.

A year ago, my wonderful friend Jake invited me to perform for a show in his living room. He asked me what my pronouns were and, for the first time in my life, I tiptoed into telling the truth. I remember answering him in a Facebook message and then thundering downstairs to the Shakespeare Tavern green room to hug him, to thank him.

Sometimes it just helps to be asked, you know? Because sometimes I myself don’t know which questions I’m even allowed. 

Honestly, I’m kind of scared to get into this, because fuck. Fucking fucking fuck. What if I’m “wrong,” you know? What if I don’t know a damn thing? What if the way I feel isn’t enough of how I’m supposed to feel? I know I’ve talked about this before, but sometimes I just feel like a straight cis girl looking for attention, though I know in my guts that’s wrong. Fuck that voice for being there. Fuck you, Voice. As I tell my cat in my grandmother’s voice these days, “Be sweet.”

Be sweet.

When I was a kid, I looked up the meaning of the name “Danielle” and I was so fucking disappointed. According to Wikipedia, Danielle is just the Hebrew female variant of the male name Daniel, meaning “God is my judge.” First of all, back off, God, you have more important shit to handle right now. Judge me? Get your own house in order.

So, I took on “Dani” as soon as I could. The idea of being a girly Cinderella princess, even though I loved them, made my skin crack and craw and “Danielle” was the girliest thing I’d ever heard. I thrilled when my short hair and stupid parrot button-up shirts got me mistaken for a boy. They called me “Mr. Herd” at the 8th Grade Beta Club Induction Ceremony and I wasn’t mad. I think I would still be thrilled to be mistaken for a boy except, here’s the thing, maybe it isn’t a mistake? 

It breaks my heart to think about it, to give words to it, because I think I am probably not brave enough to move forward about it. And I don’t have to in order to be valid, I know that. Honestly, sometimes I just feel lazy. This soft girl body doesn’t look the way I want it to in boy clothes, so I just drape myself in shapeless dresses and hide myself away. Is it too late for me? For suspenders and bow ties and so many buttons? I can confess to you, my sweet Come Up and Instagram witchy queer friends. I know you support me, I know you love me, and I can never tell you how grateful I am for you.

But you know how you watch Rocketman and you both have a crush on Elton John AND you sort of want to be Elton John? You know that thing? Do you not? Or that thing of how you sob so hard during Dead Poet’s Society because you relate so much to Neil Perry and you understand how much it hurts to feel like you can’t be yourself? To feel trapped? Or that thing where you scroll Tumblr at night for posts tagged #transmasc and you’re just so fucking happy for every handsome face you see? You know those things? Fuck. If you know those things, hit me up, I want to talk. 

I know what my name would be, speaking of Sir Elton. I’d keep so much the same, because the core of me is the same. Soft and indoorsy and poet-y and crying all the damn time. Danielle Elise, in another world, could be Daniel Elton and I really hope that kid is okay, wherever he is. I think he also gets up on stages a lot, but I think Daniel sings. I think his voice is probably really beautiful. 

Sometimes it is enough to be able to imagine these many multiverses. There is that one where I’m dancing with you, and I don’t even care what my name is there. That one’s my favorite. 

A year ago, my wonderful friend Jake asked me about my pronouns. As of tonight, I accept them all. I promise to keep you posted if that changes. Honestly, y’all will probably be the first to know. Thank you.

It’s The Come Up’s birthday, it’s Mark Hamill’s birthday, and the Force is with us. Always. 

In conclusion tonight, because I am a simple bastard for a theme, I offer you a new Sorting Hat Song. Because fuck you, J.K. Rowling:

Oh, you may not think I’m valid

But don’t judge on what you see

I won’t back down, not then, not now,

I’ll stand for Him, Her, Them, and Me

She can keep her sequels lame

Her viewpoints cruel and small

I’m a trans Harry Potter fan

And I’m still standing tall

There’s nothing hidden in your heart

That you yourself can’t see

Please tell us your pronouns and your name

The truth will set you free

You might feel best with she and her

Wthether you’ve known always or not

Maybe you wear dresses, maybe you don’t

We still love you a lot

You might feel better with him and he

You handsome, daring souls

We’re proud of you forevermore

(Fuck traditional gender roles)

Or yet with singular they/them

If you’re somewhere in between

Maybe gender just doesn’t fit you at all!

My friend, you still are seen

Or perhaps there’s some words else

That best capture how you feel

We promise to use any means

To make sure you know you’re real

Tell us your truth! Don’t be afraid!

We’re proud you’ve come so far

The Sorting Hat is just a hat

You decide who you are

hallelujah, by and by:

So, it seems increasingly likely The Thing isn’t going to happen.

(Okay, we can talk about it: honestly, I was trying to skip town and perform at an international theme park for a year. I am nothing if not terribly predictable.)

I am contending now with the reality of staying. Of moving forward even if my feet do not physically touch down on another part of the planet. Because, honestly, I just might not be able to afford moving away anytime soon.

(I haven’t given up hope entirely. I look at Chicago job listings not infrequently…)

Sometimes it just hurts too much to be here, and I’m sorry to tell you that. I’m sorry to confess that I spent a good deal of last night buried into my pillow, choking out sobs. It’s just a thing that happens, it’s okay, I promise. I’m okay. I have deadlines and ideas and probably more hope than I recognize. I’m okay.

But I’m also really sad and tired, and I dream of something like a rest. Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever let myself rest while I’m still here, so I think a lot about going somewhere else.

I didn’t go out of state for college, never studied abroad… I’ve never really had the chance to roll up all shiny and faux-confident into a new city with an aura of mystique about me. I’ve never had the chance to not be the crying kid at the box office. I’d just like a day to go by before you figure out what a wreck I am.

I long to breathe different air.

There are so many things I have always felt too scared to do and leaving is one of them. My truest fear is being forgotten. And I finally don’t think that’s a thing that actually happens when you love someone, so I think that means it’s time to take this longing seriously.

(You are all songs, but these are the lyrics in my head the most right now:

If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time
)

I know I’ve said too much. I know my big mouth is a problem. So, I need to get out of here and word-vomit where it can’t hurt anyone, I think. Because I need to keep talking. I feel like I’ll explode if I can’t.

I feel lost, so- fuck me- I feel like I need to go find myself.

But please know the biggest fantasy is in coming back. Is in presenting you with a happier, shinier version of myself. If you’ve already made up your mind about them, that’s totally fine, I get it. But you make me so happy and I want to go strengthen up, so I can prove it to you? I don’t know if that makes any sense. I long to go learn how to be strong and brave and good, and then I will come back with gifts and stories.

I’m gonna go learn how to fly. When I come home, I won’t be scared anymore to join you in the stratosphere.

i have often dreamed…

So, runDisney is officially moving the 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon to a virtual event, which, yeah, is the correct choice. And I have the option to get my money back and all good things.

But, honestly, I’m pretty gutted.

Which is weird, because I haven’t been running. I was supposed to re-start my training plan yesterday morning, but, in the interest of being super upfront, I was sleepy and still a little rum-tipsy from the night before.

It’s been such A YEAR, you know? I know you know. This just sucks.

I always put a lot of pressure on a long distance race. Because it always feels like the opportunity to outrun all the bad shit. It feels like an opportunity to be strong and fast and free. It’s something I’m proud of myself for doing and I can’t argue my way out of it having been cool.

I’m really tired.

I don’t know what’s stopping me from running on my own beyond still feeling like I don’t deserve to feel that way. I still feel bad and wrong and foolish and evil, so why should I get to do anything that makes me feel good about myself, you know? Why should I get to feel proud of myself?

(I wanted you to be proud of me too.)

I walked this morning. Twice, even. I walked once while talking on the phone to my mom and then I walked in person with my best friend, sipping my pumpkin coffee and talking about, of course, Disney World. And my kind voice says that’s all something worth being proud of. That four nice miles with people I love is worth celebrating.

One day I will run a marathon at Walt Disney World. My training goal by then, I think, is now less about the times or the distances, but about getting myself to a place where I can enjoy things without feeling that I need to earn them. I don’t have to deserve feeling good and neither do you.

Last night I cried again. It still happens a lot. But I’m working on it. That’s part of what writing here is. This is part of the training. Pumpkin coffee and daydreaming with friends is part of the training. I think my heart is so much stronger than I believe. I feel weak and creaky in my knees and I feel heavy and slow, but my heart is fucking shredded.

I will find my way, I can go the distance
I’ll be there someday, if I can be strong
I know every mile will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong

I was supposed to run four miles tomorrow morning. I’m still going to try, I think. Going to try to let it be okay if I’m slow and teary. And I’m going to drink my pumpkin coffee and try to challenge myself to be proud of each step.

Because they’ve each gotten me this far, haven’t they?

We might be stopped, but we’re not turning around. Drink some water. Stretch your legs.

Keep moving forward.

i don’t know. i was just sad. (volume: again)

(I don’t always know what these are anymore. Maybe something closer to a poem:)

(For you, Uncle Walt, I suppose. And for you. You know that, right? We don’t have to talk about it.)

The simple truth is that it hurts. It hurts all the time. I’m okay today. Listening to Disney songs, sitting on a soft couch, pillow in my lap, mimosa on my tongue.

(Have I changed? You were there. You saw me. Am I the same? Am I better? Am I worse? I’m probably not trying as hard as I should.)

(I’m no good at keeping a secret diary. I’m sorry.)

I’m still not ready to talk about The Thing. I haven’t heard yet and it’s the 20th of the month, and so I am worried. I feel trapped. I have to go, I think. Need to crawl into some other pocket of the Earth for a while. I think I’m going to go even if The Thing doesn’t work out.

It smelled like fall today. Like apples and promises. I promise.

I really want to write something GOOD. Something marvelous and wonderful. And I will, I think. I feel so far away from acting, from Shakespeare, and it breaks my nerd-heart. So, I’ll keep writing. This is sort of home now. But I just have all this muck to wade through before I can get back to any sort of pretend.

Because it’s still sort of everything, you know? I think I have to suck it all out until I can do anything else.

It’s good, it is. I am at a lake with my friends and I am okay. But I can’t stop reading You-Know-What and it takes my mind somewhere so specific and part of me just wanted to hop off the dock this morning. Just sink peacefully to the bottom and sing my woes to the fishes.

I’m kind of over dramatic and boring, right? Which, fine. This is practice. I am keeping my writing fingers sharp until I think of a story that isn’t this one. I am repeating myself, I know. But part of me feels like I haven’t made sense yet. Like… I have to find the exact perfect words to get this story right. I haven’t gotten it right yet and it wrecks me.

I don’t even think it’s the depression today. It wasn’t hard to peel myself out of bed, to wander downstairs to start coffee for everyone. It wasn’t hard to recognize the tears pricking my eyeballs and to get myself to the water’s edge. It’s fine. I’m fine.

I’m fine.

But I am deeply melancholy. I just want to write sad words today and listen to sad songs and bask a little in my own capacity to feel. I believe so often that this is what’s wrong with me, that I need to put a stopper in it. Today I am just grateful and sad. Today I am thinking of one of my favorite lines from As You Like It: “My affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal.”

I’ll keep you posted about The Thing. I haven’t given up yet. I am stronger than I think I am, I suspect. You are too. You are… I don’t think you understand. You are wonderful in the most literal sense of the word. I don’t know where you’re going, if you ever decide you need A Thing, but I will be rooting for you no matter how far away I am.

Always. I really hope you believe me. Always.

a little hope at the lake

I don’t hate myself today and that feels worth cataloging:

Let me tell you about it, friend, if you’ll indulge me.

We’re at a lake. It is green and blue and beautiful here. We spent last evening drinking rum and singing karaoke. It was easy to sing, it was easy not to hate my imperfect voice. It was easy to laugh and to curl up on a couch and to eat another slice of pizza just because I wanted to taste more cheese and pineapple on my tongue.

It was easy to wake up this morning without dread already clawing at my guts. It was easy to slip into my blue dress and not hate the curve of my belly, the new-ish rolls of fat which are soft against the cerulean fabric. It was easy to hop downstairs and to get coffee started, because I knew I would be sharing it with my friends. It was easy to mix up flavored creamers and chocolate syrup and cinnamon dust and not worry that it wasn’t “perfect,” that it wasn’t EXACTLY WHAT I EXPECTED.

It has even been easy to work, because it is Friday, after all, and I still have stuff to do. It’s been easy to get cozy on the couch with my laptop and my playlists and to check my e-mail and to work on tasks. It does not hurt my stomach with the promise of failure, of being a disappointment. No, today my stomach is full of coffee and breakfast casserole and more pineapple, and I am settled. It is good. Nothing hurts today.

I hope later it is easy to write, to put pen to paper in the midst of my safe circle of friendship and to let words escape. I have deadlines coming up, but I am not concerned about them today. We’ll get there, we usually do. Today it even feels wonderful to have deadlines, because it means someone wanted my words. Maybe my words have value. Maybe I’m moving nearer to where I want to be than I thought I was. I feel so slow and still lately. I feel slow this morning too, but in a sweet, happy, turtle-on-a-log sort of way. I do not feel that I am moving backwards.

The depression is still there, always. It is a part of me, perhaps forever. But today I can recognize it and sit beside it and feed it coffee and breakfast casserole. Maggie made breakfast casserole, so we must be okay, is my reasoning.

The lake doesn’t last forever, but I am contending with the fact that I would have never made it to the lake without the more permanent fixtures of love and friendship. I am loved even when I am not at a lake. So, I suspect, are you, my heart.

It’s okay. I’m okay. We’re okay.

okay

CW: Severe depression. Go gently, dear heart.

“I’m sorry” is the refrain of my 11:30 pm sob session. (This is why I’ve been going to be at 9 o’clock lately, I suspect.)

I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know why I need to tell you any of this. I’ve never been religious, but maybe this is my sort of confession? You don’t have to be here if it’s too hard to hear. But what I think I hope? I think I hope that anyone who finds this might feel less alone. We’re not alone we’re not alone we’re not alone. Even at 11:32 pm at night on a Saturday, bawling against our stuffed penguins.

This isn’t anyone’s fault, even when I’ve been eager in the past to point blame. You see, I have so desperately wanted this to make sense and if I could just throw an easy capital-V VILLAIN under the bus, then great. Wonderful. Because if it’s no one’s fault, it’s just mine, right?

It feels like my fault.

I feel like a disaster. Sitting here on my pink unicorn flannel sheets, eyes swollen again from crying. I feel like a mess. I am struggling at work, I am struggling at everything. I am struggling. I need you to hear it.

I’m not okay. And that’s okay.

I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m sorry for worrying you. But I know the answer (for me, at least) isn’t to hide. I know what it meant to me to read the words of someone else like me, I know what it still means.

I’M NOT OKAY. I want to climb on top of my roof and fucking scream it until my throat is jagged.

I think sometimes I will always feel this way and I don’t know if I can do it, you know? But I can. I’m strong and so are you. We are stronger than this stupid fucking bullshit fucking disease. FUCK YOU, DEPRESSION. FUCK YOU, MENTAL ILLNESS.

WE ARE STRONG. I WILL SCREAM THAT FROM MY ROOF ALSO. Someone will be sad if you’re not here in the morning, so wake up, please, sweet friend. I will make you coffee whenever you need it. All you have to do is show up. Keep showing up. I’ll keep showing up.

And maybe that’s the fucking thing and it fucking sucks: Maybe we don’t have to be “good” at anything right now. Maybe it’s enough to survive. To drink a mug of coffee and make it through another day. Maybe that’s as beautiful as any play or poem or symphony. You are an achievement exactly as you are.

You are beautiful. YOU. You are a fucking marvel and I’m so happy you’re here. Tell me how you take your coffee.

I’m not okay. I’m so sorry if you aren’t either. But we’re not giving up, okay? Even if not giving up looks like staying in bed tomorrow. Someone wise reminded me recently there’s no set timeline to any of this. We don’t have to do this in any particular order. There aren’t any rules so long as you make it out, okay? I will bring you ice cream for fucking breakfast in bed.

(I think sometimes I’m just talking to myself. Thanks for bearing with me.)

I think I write about this so much because, maybe if I can make it into something sort of beautiful, it will all be worth it? I’ll have been worth it? I feel like I have to earn everything, I have to DESERVE it. I’m so tired.

Depression is a monster who lies. Like frogs and snakes and baby penguins, you have intrinsic value. You’re valuable because you’re here. If anyone ever makes you feel differently, they suck and that’s the truth. (I’m sorry. I feel more urgent than eloquent tonight.) Wherever you are… just stay with us, okay?

Okay.

(I’m sorry.)

again

I’ve cleaned everything. I’ve Swiffered and dusted and wiped and laundered and lit nice fall-smelling candles and showered and poured a glass of water and chosen the right playlist and put on the comfy sweatshirt and the comfy socks and gotten cozy under the Spider-Man blanket and this is when the words are supposed to show up, right?

No.

In absence of any more distractions, the nerves return to my belly, growling and insistent. The cruel refrains in my head are as loud as ever and I am tired of them. I’m just tired. I am at the bottom of the pit this week and I know there is a “way out,” but I just end up here again, so what’s the point, you know?

Again again again: I feel ungrateful. I feel selfish and petulant. I feel like a liar. Nothing is wrong with me, right? Nothing has ever been wrong with me, right? I’m just an overdramatic weirdo who has made a series of overdramatic weirdo choices and I here I am in bed again, sad and worried and ashamed and tired.

(I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.)

Maybe this is just an accountability post, because I need to talk to someone, but I’m too nervous to reach out directly. (Fuck this stupid brain disease.) I have a therapy appointment tomorrow. I promise to fill out the consent form for the new meds. I’ll go for a walk. I don’t know what else I can promise.

Tonight… I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like I have to keep writing to hang on. This word vomit is all that keeps me tethered. Because if I’m willing to keep talking about it, then I haven’t given up yet, right?

Right?

I don’t know. I sort of envision packing a bag and just hitting the open road. There are too many ghosts here and I’m too tired to be brave. Is there somewhere to go just to rest?

There’s this thing I might get to do and I can’t tell you all about it just yet. I hope I get it. I hope I get to tell you all about it. And that thing feels like an opportunity to rest, honestly. A chance to slow down and free myself from some of the heaviness of grief.

It’s been pointed out to me recently that I’m still grieving. That I get to for as long as I need. And, okay, great.

I don’t know who this is for. I don’t know the “why” always of these posts. Only that I feel really lonely and I don’t want to fell that way and maybe you’re sad too and I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re really, really not. I feel too heavy and tired to pick up the phone and call you or even to answer when you call me, but… like, I love you, okay?

You are not alone. You are of value and wonder and I’m glad you’re here. Sometimes I just need to tell you the things that I myself need to hear. I would be so sad if you weren’t here, for whatever that is worth.

Again: you are enough. It’s going to be okay. I wish I knew how.

the queer kid power of nicknames

In high school drama, my nickname was “Hero.” I didn’t really earn it in any meaningful way. Our teacher called attendance that first morning of ninth grade with the instructions: “And if you want to be called by another name… if you want to be, I don’t know, Hero or something…”

So, when he called for Danielle, I stuck my hand in the air and admitted, “I want to be Hero.”

And so I was.

To be fair, I had, like, four nicknames in high school. I have always bristled against “Danielle,” not that there’s anything inherently wrong with it. But I knew in the 4th grade that I was a “Dani,” even if I couldn’t really tell you why yet. But I was also all my early fanfiction and role play-ish names. I have always been eager to lose myself in other identities. I have never been content to settle for one name.

Dija in my Tamora Pierce fanfic-world. Dai to my bestie Jane/Jai. Ron to my informal cafeteria HP role play group. (Of course.) Hero in theatre class.

There’s this picture of me in 8th grade that I think captures my forever-awkwardness best. We had hiked Stone Mountain on a field trip and I am squinting into the camera and into the sunshine. It is pre-braces, so the gap between my two front teeth is in prominent display. I have a jean jacket wrapped around my waist, I’m wearing a basketball camp t-shirt, my hair was short and a disaster for the first time.

I know you already know this part of the story, but 8th grade was the first time I tried to come out.

I wish I had a picture of that awkward little baby queer sitting on top of a mountain in the sunshine. I was definitely in love with my best friend at the time, though I didn’t know I could call it that. (Aiki, if you’re reading this, I wish we had just been each other’s dates to the 8th grade formal.)

I don’t want to speak for everyone, because I’m still really new to this, but… I don’t know. As a queer kid sort of going through a second adolescence, I get the obsession with nicknames and with playing pretend. With losing myself entirely in fantasy worlds where I felt like I could be anyone and anything. Specifically in fantasy worlds where I could dress like a boy and carry a sword and be worthy of love anyway. Where I could call myself whatever I wanted and still be a hero.

It should be Dragon Con this weekend and I should be able to put whatever name I want on my badge. I should be buttoning up my Aziraphale waistcoat and preparing myself to swelter blissfully in the Peachtree St. sunshine. I should be wearing the costume that first inspired me to be who I think I’ve wanted to be for a really long time.

That “second adolescence” thing, by the way? Oh, man. I am hiding my AFAB body in oversized flannel shirts just like I did back in middle school. My shaved head is growing back awkwardly, so I’m wearing baseball caps most of the time. My stomach is upset with nerves and guilt almost all of the time.

BUT BUT BUT.

I know I talk about this all the time, BUT: There is going to be a day when I really, truly accept this non-binary body for exactly what it is, even if it is softer and bigger than I want it to be. I will buy exactly the clothes I want and I will not wait only to do so when I am granted the freedom of expression inherent in cosplay or playing pretend.

Maybe in the fall. Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe the leaves will change and the air will cool down a bit and I’ll wear cardigans and vests and ties and I will sign all my e-mails “they/them” and I will drink my pumpkin coffee in something like peace.

I’m still sorry. I don’t think I ever won’t be. But I am going to try to stop apologizing for who I am, awkward and queer and not small and all of it.

Because “Dani” isn’t short for “Danielle.” “Dani” is all of it.

these are your first steps (again)

Hey, remember that time I was supposed to be training for my first marathon?

Yeah.

So, here’s the thing: I’m still sad. As I’ve mentioned before, I really thought I’d be “fine” by June, the starting month of my original training plan. But I wasn’t. And I’m still kind of not?

But I am better. Today I went on a long friendship walk and had an excellent breakfast taco, and I feel better. It is getting easier to cook and to enjoy the new Muppets series and to wake up with my alarm. It is getting easier.

So, what about running? As with writing, I have a hard time getting started with anything when I don’t already feel perfect at it. Knowing and anticipating that I’m going to struggle with something is a hard mental block for me to overcome. Because I know I’m going to struggle when I start actually jogging or whatever we’re calling it again. It’s going to be hard and boring and my knees are going to creak and it’s not going to be FUN.

I’ve been walking a lot. I’ve been covering my original training plan’s distances, so, for example, a dear friend and I walked 9 miles together this past Saturday. And it was really lovely. We talked about all sort of things and the weather wasn’t too bad and (again, always) there were tacos at the finish line.

I’ve got a new potential start date: September 21. I picked a shorter plan which involves more mileage per week. If we’re friends, I apologize in advance, because I am going to be super not fun for those couple of months. I’m going to be going to bed early in order to wake up early and shove a banana into my face. I wasn’t ready in June, but I suspect now that this isn’t really a question of being “ready.”

It’s been a struggle to allow myself to feel good, to feel proud, to feel enough. I am still punishing myself for crimes real and perceived.

To run/walk/stumble through an entire marathon would mean to feel inarguably proud of myself. I want that. It’s what I like best about long distances. I cannot argue with myself about the accomplishment of it. I cannot talk myself out of it having been hard, but that I did it anyway.

I don’t think I am ready. But perhaps I am determined to free myself from the expectations of readiness. I will cover these distances, short and long, and sometimes I will feel fucking terrible, and I suspect I will still choke on my own sobs in the middle of the night sometimes, and I think I will probably still eat more bagels than I will eat sensible meals of lean protein and vegetables.

This marathon, in my heart, is meant to be a celebration. It is to celebrate one of the longest and most special, enduring friendships of my entire life. It is to celebrate my life long love for all things Disney World. It is to celebrate MY BODY EXACTLY AS IT IS, not an inch smaller or lighter or anything. Each part of this machine will be a part of my undeniable joy on that January morning, belly, hips, every squish and angle.

My friend and I are still figuring out how we want to costume ourselves for the race, but… I mean, I really always knew, didn’t I? Friendship discussions pending, I think it’s probably RIGHT that I do this thing as an homage to my guy, Kermit. I already have a hat and a tank top and a backpack and…

(Breathe, nerd.)

All my favorite Disney or adjacent quotes are variations on the same theme, after all:

Keep Moving Forward.

Go the Distance.

I guess I was wrong when I said I didn’t promise anyone. I promised me.

(All that said: dear Julie, if you’re reading this, Monsters, Inc. would be entirely perfect for us. I really wouldn’t have nothing if I didn’t have you.)

I’m not giving up on my marathon dreams and I’m not giving up on my training. I am opening new doors and doing new things and I am moving forward. Slowly, yeah, but forward all the same.

Because I have this impractical fantasy (of course) that I will cross that finish line and maybe I will have simply sweat some of the goblins out of my system. Maybe finishing a marathon will be a step forward in teaching myself how to love and live with myself. I want that. I really want that. I want that more than I want Dole Whip or riding Tower of Terror or watching fireworks.

It isn’t up to the marathon to transform me. It is up to me to allow myself to experience joy and want and pride again. It is up to me to crawl my way from the finish line back to our hotel with one of my very best friends and to mutually bemoan our inability to move. It is up to me to release the grip of shame and hatred I have so tightly on my own heart.

September 21.

I promised me.