sundays and forever

Sunday morning: Wake up with a headache. Feed the cat. Make the bed. Order a bagel (again). Do all the dishes by hand. Twitch nervously at the keyboard. Get sad. (Always, it seems, I’m so fucking sorry.)

Put on the theme to Jurassic Park (again) and try to feel something good.

It is just now 10 am.

I know you already know this (mostly because I can’t ever stop fucking talking about it), but it feels important to me to check in again. To try to explain what it feels like. Not to make you feel sorry for me. I’m okay. I have a cat to feed and bagels to scarf down and John Williams to fill my ears, and I am really fine.

But all our “fines” are different, aren’t they? My therapist (I need to make an appointment, fuck) reminds me not everyone thinks the things I do. The things that are almost just a dull, everpresent roar in my brain, picking at me, screaming at me, urging me. I do not tune them out, I can’t, but it’s sort of like I can predict what they’re going to say? So, they can’t really get to me that way, you know?

That’s part of what this blog is, I think. It’s something like accountability. If I rush here to tell Someone all the scary things, all the sad things… I don’t know. It’s like picking at a zit, I guess. (Which I also need to stop doing.) It doesn’t feel good and I am oftentimes horrified by examining the results of what I have done, but it always feels like: THIS TIME I’m going to do it right. It’ll be a clean, satisfying, albeit disgusting pop, and then I will be rid of this grossness. An appropriate amount of blood will trickle down my chin and I will only need to wipe it away the once. I will leave no scars or bumps or pockmarks behind. There will be only smoothness in my wake.

(More John Williams on the playlist. “Hedwig’s Theme” this time. Forgive me, but I would do just about anything for a pumpkin juice in Diagon Alley right now.)

I’m really sad, but it feels like nothing is “wrong.” I fear often that I will always feel this way and that, perhaps, is the hardest thought to overcome. I can deal with the nails that claw down the back of my skull and snarl into my ear that I am a failure, a disappointment, that I am nothing, that I am worth nothing, that I deserve nothing. I have heard them all before. Like, you’re not even interesting, Bitchy Monster Voice.

But this voice of Forever? That voice still stops me cold in my tracks.

It’s 10:10 am.

My face is sticky and my hands are dry and I am hunching over like a goblin. My shoulders are up by my ears, my jaw is tense, and yeah, I know what to do, but maybe this is load-bearing anxiety? I’m sure I’ve swiped this metaphor from someone more clever, but I feel like a nervous Jenga tower. Poke at the wrong piece too carelessly and this whole thing comes toppling down.

(Man, fuck that last paragraph. Where was I even going with this?)

10:12.

I pause for more iced coffee, which I basically allow myself the indulgence of every day now. It is confusing. To hate myself as I coddle myself. To look at myself in the mirror and, in the same breath, think, “Well, here we are again, you utter fucking disaster. Would a latte cheer you up, kiddo?”

Kiddo. I am not a kid anymore. I have a Peter Pan complex of which I’m not proud. I surround myself with sweets and stuffed penguins and excitement over dinosaurs, and I try to stave off the sharp edges of adulthood. Of being independent, of being self-sufficient.

If I don’t need you anymore, will you still be here, you know?

(I don’t know.)

I have this daydream lately, and I can’t tell you about all of it just yet. It’s kind of embarrassing, honestly. But it is a fantasy wherein I am brave. And I go on a long journey and I return home, I promise, smiling and full of happy stories, and you are proud of me. Everyone is PROUD of me.

10:17 am.

I don’t want to go.

But sometimes staying hurts.

I don’t know, dear one.

10:18.

happy belated national roller coaster day

Apparently, August 16 was National Roller Coaster Day.

My favorite roller coaster is The Hulk at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. I like how there’s barely any time to panic, because you get shot into the first drop so fast. This perhaps will not surprise you about me, but I enjoy not having time to panic.

Here’s a little loop:

I don’t think I am a bad person today.

It is a rare thought and I fear it must be fleeting, so I feel a powerful need to write it down and share it immediately.

(Dani, get a diary. Christ.)

It was a good day today. I didn’t even need the Decision Jar. I kind of knew what I wanted to do most of the day. And, even if I didn’t bring myself to actually do it… I still knew, you know? And that was enough today.

I wrote a chapter of my long fanfic, I went for a walk with a dear friend, I baked some pumpkin bread even though I didn’t have quite enough vegetable oil.

Now it’s raining and I feel the familiar nighttime twitch of dread, but I also feel determined to stand my ground and FIGHT tonight. To spew positivity into the void and to be defiantly, rebelliously cheerful. FUCK YOU, BRAIN GOBLINS. NOT TONIGHT.

‘Cause they got me good yesterday. I was minding my own business and then suddenly I was bawling my eyes out, gasping, heaving, snot dribbling out my nose.

Monday was a good day, Tuesday was scary, today is a good day, can I stave off the threat of tomorrow before it gets me? If I am riding this bipolar roller coaster, should I at least be grateful that I think I can see the drops coming?

Bipolar most of the time feels like one of those old, rickety, wooden coasters. If you’re a Six Flags Over Georgia person, I’m talking, like, the old Georgia Cyclone. Because the ups and downs can still be thrilling sometimes, sure, but they fucking hurt. I am gritting my teeth and bracing my shoulders constantly as I feel slung back and forth against the walls of my little box. When I wobble off the ride, my head hurts and my stomach is upset, but wait, fuck, how did I end up in this line again, you said we could go and get a funnel cake next!

(Worst Fast Pass in the world, am I right?)

I think I mostly love roller coasters because (I think) they’re fun, but I am also an English major to my core, so I need everything to have a DEEPER MEANING. So, I think I also love roller coasters because they are a series of ups and downs which (usually) mean me no harm. I can enjoy the weightless plummeting sensations and the dizzying heights because I know my feet will land back on hot, solid asphalt soon enough. It is almost literally the funhouse mirror of my dumb mood disorder.

They make you put everything in a locker before you get on The Hulk. Nothing on your head, nothing in your pockets, nothing in your hands. At the risk of being Too Much about this, when else do you get to drop all your baggage and take to the skies?

This isn’t, like, a fresh observation, but I just feel lighter on a roller coaster. I feel free. I’m going too fast to stop and obsess over my problems. I am upside down where nothing makes sense, so why should I have to either?

(I miss theme parks, I guess, is my thesis.)

What do they always tell you on the ride rules sign? “Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times?”

Done and done, Roller Coaster Gods! I will follow all your laws, only keep me safe in the skies. My pockets are empty, my head and shoulders are back, I most definitely meet the height requirement.

Breathe, everybody.

Mumblemumblemumble:

Clear for dispatch. 

 

 

the decision jar, adventure #1

Yesterday one of my best friends gifted me a magical jar. It is an ordinary (seemingly) mason jar which she’d decorated with yellow ribbon and pretty scrapbooking paper. Inside it there are more scraps of neatly folded pretty paper.

I’ve written before about how much I’m struggling with, “Oh, dear God, what should I do?!” All the time. Constantly. Being stuck still a little bit in self-punishment-mode, I feel like I can’t be my own advocate for relaxation or fun or self-care, because why do I think I deserve any of that?

But, well, if a magical, pretty jar tells me what to do… Who am I to fight it?

Yesterday was a good day, even before the jar’s intervention. I woke up when I wanted, I hiked a mountain with my friends, I drank a lot of iced coffee, I went on another walk with another friend, cooked something nice for dinner… Which is usually around the time when the day starts to lose me. Post-dinnertime. I am a hungry beast, so I eat dinner pretty early, and then the evening just LOOMS, vast and gigantic and impossibly empty. How can I ever fill it with something like meaning?

Just the presence of the jar on my nightstand is soothing. I didn’t even need it right away. I ate my dinner, did my dishes, made some cinnamon tea, and started out by reading my book. Tried to breathe through the antsiness and focus on the words on the page. I made it about an hour, which has been unheard of for me lately.

Finally, I was too excited about the jar to wait any longer. I reached my fingers into the opening and withdrew a pretty piece of paper. I unfolded it and was greeted by the sight of my friend’s familiar handwriting.

Jar Adventure #1:

Do a guided meditation.

Meditation is NOT something I have ever done with much success. I don’t like sitting still and breathing and focusing. I can be tricked into meditation via yoga, because I know we’re going to move at some point.

But dammit, the jar is the boss of me, so I searched “guided meditation” on Spotify and I found one about Letting Go.

(Fuck.)

And, you know what, I feel like I mostly did what the meditation asked of me. I sat still and focused on my breath and I noticed when my mind wondered and I noticed what I’m still clutching, what I have not been able to let go. I did not scoff or bail when the nice lady on Spotify asked me to consider what it would feel like to let go.

“Joy” is what sprang to mind. Lightness, freedom.

I did not panic and click “pause” even as the tears began to roll down my face.

I just breathed.

(Thank you, jar. Thank you, dear friend.)

When the meditation ended and my eyes were wet and heavy, I realized regretfully that I did not have enough flour to make an actual batch of chocolate chip cookies, which I very much felt I deserved. So, I looked up a little mug cookie recipe and dragged myself into the kitchen to make a tiny mess and to create a little crumbly, chocolate chip situation.

The point, I think, is that I did not let the revelation of sadness send me careening back into the arms of sleep and Law & Order re-runs. (I only watch the Stabler seasons.)

My mug cookie and I watched a few comforting YouTube videos, breathed in the scent of our pumpkin candle (I am fucking ready for fall, gang), and didn’t give in until about 9:30.

This morning, I woke up again when I wanted.

Maybe tonight I’ll make it to 10.

 

 

i don’t always know what this is.

Some days it feels like this is all I remember how to do. To start crying from that place of aching emptiness, from the most pitiful pity parties every thrown on this green Earth.

I start crying and then I come here to tell you about it. I can’t stop telling you. I know I was supposed to. You have no idea how hard and how often I have tried to stop.

I can’t stop writing. Some days/nights/whatevers it feels almost like a penance I am doing for all the wrongs I have committed. If I can write something Truly Great, maybe everything will have been worth it and I will feel something like free.

I haven’t written It yet, so I have to keep going. Have to keep exposing my bruises and veins and guts, have to keep digging around within myself to find something of worth or meaning.

When I start crying, there is a tiny, quiet, gentle voice that suggests, “Dani! Read a book! Watch a movie! Make some cocoa! Do something to feel better!”

I have it on an ignored Post-It on my bathroom mirror: You are allowed to feel good. 

I cannot heed the tiny, quiet, gentle voice.  They are complacent and lazy and they will lead me astray. You’re supposed to listen to your heart, yeah, but all I can think about is where mine has gotten me so far.

(Like I said, PITY PARTY. I’m sorry there aren’t cupcakes.)

So, I come here and I write. Hitting the “Publish” button, whether this is any good or not, will be instant relief. When you hit “like” or “love” or fucking anything, I feel less alone. I will ponder this later and I will feel pathetic, but it’s just where I’m at right now. I know it’s supposed to be quality over quantity, but fuck.

Real eloquent right?

Fuck.

(My book deal, please?)

I kept a diary in middle school. I wrote in a red pen always and I began each entry with “Mae Govannen,” because I am a nerd eternally. Back then, it was enough to talk to myself, to consider what it would be like to keep a secret, to hold on to a piece of me just for me. I don’t know when that changed. I don’t know when I decided my currency was my secrets, my deep dark fears, my insecurities.

It feels vain sometimes and I hate myself for it, but I just can’t stop. The relief, the sense of something like accomplishment, something like connection… I am hungry for it always. I don’t know where else to go right now. My eyes bounce around the page of the book I’ve been trying to read for months, I get twitchy during movies seen or unseen, fuck, I’m too sad to re-visit my favorite fanfiction even.

I go on walks and I drink too much coffee and then I come here.

I listen to a lot of music to try to drown myself out. A lot of Elton John the last few months, especially.

Don’t wish it away
Don’t look at it like it’s forever
Between you and me, I could honestly say
That things can only get better

(Can I honestly say? I don’t fucking know. Sometimes I feel as if I am going backwards.)

I guess that IS why they call it the blues, Sir Elton, but you were able to make something so beautiful out of it.

And while I’m away
Dust out the demons inside
And it won’t be long before you and me run
To the place in our hearts where we hide

I think that’s why I’m here all the time. To try to make something sad into something beautiful. It feels like a mission, maybe even a holy quest. I am hiding a little in my heart right now. I am scared, I am ashamed. I want to be able to tell you everything so that none of it ever catches you off guard, I suppose.

Well, it’s Sunday and I am an eternal Sunday-optimist. Tomorrow I’ll start doing everything RIGHT. I’ll be super good and productive at my job, I’ll exercise enough, I’ll eat all the right things, I’ll be good.

“Make me happy and I shall again be virtuous.”

(Thanks, Shelley.)

You know what’s probably going to happen, Team? I’m probably going to sleep past my alarm and then walk to the coffee shop around the corner and then beat myself up for not writing anything amazing. And then maybe I’ll take a nap.

Fuck.

Shelley again:

“Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.”

It’s going to be okay, I think. I don’t know. Obviously, I’ll keep you posted. I seem to be incapable of stopping.

You’re doing so good.

It’s going to be okay.

See you back here tomorrow, probably.

 

 

once upon a june

June.

I was going to get my shit together in June.

It would have been six months since Everything and that’s enough time, right? Half a year to wallow and to feel sorry for myself and to punish myself and to be a sad little chubby seal on my sad little chubby seal-rock.

I mean, it would have been perfect, right? One month for each stage of grief PLUS one month just for chilling out?

(You already know this story.)

June came and went, July passed me by, and it is nearly the middle of August and I am still “falling asleep” to Law & Order re-runs on my phone while it is still light outside. September looms, and I am confident I will not have my shit together yet. I am adjusting dosages and eating entire pizzas and crying to Muppet songs and doing all the depressed stuff I need to do to get there one day, but it is taking longer than I want.

This journey has already been so fucking long, and I am desperate for some sort of checkpoint, you know?

June would have been nice. I imagined being quick on my feet, prolific in my writing, sound of mind and body and fucking soul.

Adjusted. Well. At peace.

Instead:

In the criminal justice system…

Maybe October. Yeah. October would be nice.

(Side quest: Pumpkin stuff returns to Dunkin Donuts on Wednesday. I normally try to wait for actual fall for my pumpkin nonsense, but FUCK THIS FUCKING SUMMER I PUT IT IN MY CALENDAR LET’S GO PUMPKIN COFFEE.)

Breathe.

But I have a little bit of hope today and I want to tell you about it. I went on a nice walk with a nicer friend and finished with a nice bagel. (It’s always going to come back to friendship and carbs for me, you know that.)

It’s nearly 12:30 in the afternoon and I have walked my four miles, talked about dreams and Disney World, been daring enough to add MAYO to my bacon, egg, and cheese everything bagel (a game changer, btw), sort of did 10 minutes of gentle, stretchy yoga (my cat was in the way for most of it), showered, and am now sitting here in my freshly Swiffered, vanilla-scented bedroom.

And it is the rare afternoon when I feel like, “Huh. If this is all today, maybe that’s enough.” The rare afternoon when it feels like, “Huh. Maybe after this, I’ll go and read a book and that would be okay.”

(I miss books. I miss enjoying things.)

(Fuck): There’s no timeline for feeling better. There’s no clear cut path to self-forgiveness. It’s the sort of thing I always logically sort of knew and would certainly have told anyone else, but it has taken living through it to really understand it. I’m gonna get there when I fucking get there, I guess. I’m walking my marathon training and I feel like I’m crawling through my feeling better training. Crawling, plodding, stumbling, wobbling, whatever you want to call it.

But I am moving. Maybe I’m not getting in those hallowed 10,000 steps a day, but I’m moving.

Maybe one day again I’ll even dance.

Wouldn’t October be lovely?

leaving hogwarts, part II

“Leaving Hogwarts” is still on my Spotify On Repeat playlist right now and damn.

Feelings. 

(John Williams is our greatest living artist, fight me.)

ANYWAY:

If I had access just now to a Time Turner, I think I’d just go back as far as July 2007.

I would go back to the floor of Border’s, sitting huddled in the children’s section with my best best friends, giggling in anticipation and amusing ourselves by reading aloud from The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I was dressed as Professor Trelawney, I was surrounded by my favorite people in the world, and I had never been in Love so long.

It was, forgive me, a magical night.

Harry Potter came into my life when I was in the fourth grade, I believe. My grandmother saw, well, You-Know-Who on Oprah and promptly ordered me a copy of The Chamber of Secrets, not understanding that the books were a series.

My mom accidentally ran over the hardback with her car, which, you know, probably fair.

(The only time in my life I’ve ever been cool is at the 5th grade Scholastic Book Fair when I was buying a copy of Prisoner of Azkaban while the rest of my classmates clamored for Sorcerer’s StoneDani Herd, once and future trendsetter!)

I miss sitting on the floor of a book store with my best friends as midnight approaches. I miss spray painting my hair red in the bathrooms at the Mall of Georgia and putting on a homemade Weasley sweater in preparation for an opening night movie. I miss the tears in my eyes the first time I turned the corner onto Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando.

I miss Harry Potter. 

Because it hurts to re-contextualize something that you thought was Love, whether it came from a person or from a series of books. It hurts to go back and question everything that felt so true and important to your heart, to your soul, to your foundation.

I do not feel embarrassed when I express to you how fundamental the Harry Potter books were to my very foundation as a young human. I can’t go back and pretend they didn’t mean so much to me. I can’t pretend that I don’t still thrill when I hear the opening notes to “Hedwig’s Theme.” Fuck, I love that world so much that I PAID HUMAN MONEY TO SEE THE FANTASTIC BEASTS SEQUEL IN THEATRES BY MYSELF.

IT WAS AWFUL.

So, I don’t really know where to go from here. Others have already said it much more eloquently than I have, but, to re-iterate: We can’t pretend these beloved books didn’t come from a harmful person. We can’t brush away the problems inherent to the actual text. We can’t deny the fact that continuing to engage in this series adds to her wealth and power and influence.

This is what I keep coming back to:

You taught us better than this. You, maybe accidentally, taught us to be brave and to stand up to bullies, and we’re going to take parts of this away from you now.

Whether you ever decide to read Harry Potter again or not, you don’t have to be gaslit about the lessons you believe you learned. Whatever it meant to you might be tainted right now, but it isn’t invalid. You are not invalid or small or foolish for a book series, film series, amusement park section (Hi!) meaning so much to you.

As a classically strange little child, Harry Potter was one of my first friendship love languages and I will hold THAT to my soft, Hufflepuff heart forevermore. I think the books will remain on my shelves, but I might leave them alone for a long while. When I put on my Hufflepuff sweatshirt, I will be proud of myself for seeing myself within a group that extols loyalty and justice and kindness.

But the next time I visit the Wizarding World (I come from theme park folk, it’s unavoidable), I am going to wear my non-binary colors instead of my Puff colors.

Well, I guess I’ll just add purple.

Be mindful, be safe, let this mean as much to you as it does. Take your time.

Stand up to bullies, even ones who once claimed to love you. You owe them nothing anymore.

The Sorting Hat is just a hat, but you decide who you are. 

surprise, surprise; some stuff about depression

I judge myself a lot lately for writing here as frequently as I do. I don’t feel as though I have anything new or exciting or particularly thoughtful to express. I used to think this blog was going to be the beginning of my pathway to writing for io9 or some other cool online nerd publication. I used to think I was going somewhere.

I don’t always feel like I’m going anywhere anymore, but I need to keep writing here. I need to keep spilling my guts.

Thank you for the space.

(I miss you.)

Depression check in, my dudes! So, at the risk of hyperbole, everything hurts all the time. My stomach is upset, my head hurts, I listened to the entirety of “American Pie” this morning unironically. It’s just been that kind of day. And, as usual, nothing is “wrong.” Everything is fine, some things are really good even. But I cannot shake the feeling in my bones that I am a failure, that I am a disappointment, that I will forever pay for all the bad choices I have ever made. That I am being punished and that I deserve it.

My therapist has to remind me not everyone thinks these kinds of thoughts, and I am grateful for the reminder, but it also makes me feel really lonely and crazy. How could everyone not think these thoughts?! They are as common to me as old Saturday Night Live quotes or Disney lyrics. They are constant, they are unending. I don’t know when that little, blonde-headed child started to hate themself so furiously, but if I had a fucking time machine, I would zip immediately to that day and I would ply them with every positive thing I could think of.

Why am I like this? I am surrounded by love and by hot tea and by soft stuffed animals, and I AM FINE. Why am I still sad?

I feel like a liar. I feel like a traitor to my family. I should have more to offer than this. I shouldn’t be as needy as I am. I shouldn’t be as poor as I am. I should have more to show for a lifetime of love and support and for my Mom sending me Easter baskets in the mail even as an adult. Right? Right?

Please, tell me what to do. Somebody? Maybe that’s what this blog is sometimes. (I’m sorry, I am fucking feeling it tonight.) Maybe this is crying into the void and hoping there is a magical answer on the other side. (( know you might be going through it too. I don’t mean to put that sort of pressure on you, my dear.)

So, I have to keep talking, have to keep writing, have to keep swimming. I am a pelagic depression shark, and I can’t stop moving or I’ll sink, I fear. You can always dip out if this is hard to hear. I get it, I promise. I just need to talk. You don’t have to listen.

I have my cinnamon tea and I’m listening to The Beatles and this is my forever promise: I won’t go anywhere if you won’t. We have so much left to see and do. There is a layer of me that really, truly believes that. It is the weird, optimistic foundation of me, despite all the film and funk of sadness and grime. I will not take it away from myself.

Unclench your jaw. Relax your shoulders. Keep breathing. Wash your pillowcases and make yourself some tea.

We’re going to get there one day.

of dreams and courage (again, always)

Remember who you are.

(I’m sorry, Mufasa.)

(Also: no, YOU’RE watching Disney fireworks on YouTube and crying in your bathrobe. Get it together. [Don’t. You’re perfect.])

(I miss you. I guess that’s usually why I’m here.)

For my 31st birthday, my Dad gave me a framed image of Mickey Mouse and a Walt Disney quote:

“All our dreams can come true… If we have the courage to pursue them.”

I do not think of myself as a very brave person. I am terribly afraid, and I’ve made most of the choices in my life from that place of fear. I am incredibly afraid of being forgotten. It’s why I try not to leave, not to change.

But, at the same time, I am a 1989 baby of the Disney Renaissance and following my dreams and being true to my heart and wishing on stars all thrums mercilessly through my blood. I want to be brave, Uncle Walt, Mufasa, Mickey, Dad, I promise.

I don’t know how to be brave, so I tried at least being true. It’s been… fine.

You are more than what you have become.

(Am I, though?)

I feel impossibly backwards and adrift. I have this strange baby seed of a new dream now and I’m sort of embarrassed to tell you about it, because, like, it’s DEFINITELY NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. And I’m super going to cry about it when it doesn’t happen, so I’ll just keep this strange hope (mostly) to my own strange heart.

But, I mean, you’ve met me. I desperately want to talk about it.

If it happened… well, it might be the scariest thing I’ve done so far. (For all my lack of courage, I do a lot of stupid, scary shit, to be fair.) My Dad said it to me on the phone when I at least told him about it:

“Your mother won’t be able to come get you.”

I am 31 years old and I still crave my mother coming to get me nearly every day. To scoop me up and take me away from everything that hurts. What would it be like to be outside of my mother’s reach, even if just for a set amount of time? Am I brave enough to really try? Is it enough to be thinking about it as fervently as I am?

What’s your story? What’s your deal? (The questions that haunt me.)

The Cruel Voice tells my story this way: Once upon a time there was a loser-kid named Dani. They cried a lot. Like, all the fucking time. They were too pathetic to like themselves, so they cultivated an existence for which everyone else would feel sorry. 

(I know that’s not why you’re here. I promise I know.)

The meeker, gentler Voice tells the story like this: Once upon a time there was this creature called Dani and, yes, they cried a lot. Undeniable. But they told the truth and were kind to people, and that’s actually why wonderful people surrounded them.

(Depression is a liar. Don’t forget, okay?)

I don’t really know what my dream is right now, which I think is part of the problem. If I may steal as always from Kermit, I think it might just be to perform and make people happy. And I’ve done that, haven’t I? When do I believe that any of it counts? When is it real? When do I feel peace?

Life’s like a movie, write your own ending

We’re not done yet, Kermit, I know that. This isn’t the ending of anything. It never was. This is a beginning. I’m not too old or too sleepy or too sad. Which means: damn, neither are you. When we figure this out, when we decide what we want, when we decide to believe we’re worthy of pursuing it… we’re going to be unstoppable.

I promise.

Keep moving forward.

 

of lake water and forgiveness

Yesterday I swam in a lake without really planning it.

In fact, I had actively planned NOT to swim in said-like, fearful as I was of its unseen inhabitants and of the certainty of gross and squishy shit to step in on the way back to the dock.

But how often are you on a lake with your friends these days?

I took my shirt off and marveled at the fresh air on my pale skin. I did not wince at exposing my heaviness to the clear sky. I could not figure out how to safely wriggle out of my shorts without toppling the canoe entirely, so I just left those on. (I know you were wondering.)

I set down my paddle and scooted my way carefully to the back of the canoe. (I like canoes.) I wish I could paint you a portrait of grace and ease, but in reality, I am fucking astonished that I did not upend that little boat and send poor Kati Grace hurtling into the lake herself.

But the point is that I slipped off the back of the canoe somehow and I ended up submerged in cool lake water, surrounded by unseen fishes and musk turtles, and I thought about forgiveness.

I thought of propelling myself through water with my arms and legs that are still strong, whatever else I might think of myself. I thought of laughing up into the sunshine, surrounded as I was by love and consideration. I thought I was allowed to have those things.

You would laugh at me, I know, and it’s okay, but I think I hoped the lake would fix me. I let the lake water get into my shorn hair and I let the fish nibble away my dead and useless skin.

I think maybe the lake did some healing magic, if only because I asked it to.

Because what is the lake with your best friends if not for some sunset witchy stuff? So near to the Sturgeon Moon, I wrote down what I dream of the most and I set it on fire and I watched it float along the lake that had safely surrounded my sad, soft body just hours earlier.

I don’t know if you’re supposed to tell people these things. Is it the same as wishing on a star or on a penny? If I tell you, it won’t come true? I reject that. I think telling you is the only way it can come true.

“I dream of forgiving myself” is what I set ablaze with one of those long, skinny lighters and then dropped into a little lake before holding hands with my friends and looking at the clouds.

I dream of forgiving myself.

Maybe it is less of a dream than a choice. I choose to forgive myself. And I forgive you too, I must. I think I said good-bye to you in an actual dream last night and my head and stomach hurt a little today, if I’m being completely honest, but it is okay.

I forgive myself, which I think I am just discovering only I have the power to do.

I know I talk about moving forward A LOT and I very seldom heed my own wisdom. But maybe this time. Maybe the lake was what was missing. Sometimes it’s just easier to think in a different spot, you know? Sometimes it’s just easier to breathe and be still out on a dock, surrounded by people you love, with the promise of cupcakes and wine and scary movies back at the cabin.

I am afraid of jumping, I am afraid of leaping. But I have slipped off a canoe of some kind (forgive me) more than once in recent memory and maybe I have inhaled a lot of murky water, but I have made it back to the dock each time, mud between my toes notwithstanding.

(I don’t know where this is going, but it felt important to tell you.)

It’s just this, I guess, really, what I want you to know:

I forgive myself. You don’t have to.

an important detour, and a bit of a love story

Sometimes I come here because I just need the sense of accomplishment. Like, I’m going to be super honest with you- I don’t really feel like I have anything compelling to tell you today, but fuck, I really need to do something.

(There is no going back.)

It is just past 11 am, and my eyes already sting from crying and I ordered too much delivery yesterday and I let my coffee get cold, and I wish there was a STORY here. Something to dazzle and delight you. I used to have a lot of stories. Stories have always been my currency. I will tell you literally anything. Here are my scars, here are my blue veins, here are my boiling guts… just LIKE ME, PLEASE?

Here’s a story I hope I haven’t told:

(I’m going to tell you a nice one this time. I need it.)

(It’s hard to remember the nice stories right now.)

The first time my world fell apart, Lucas and Cat and I drove all the way from Atlanta to Wisconsin just a week later. We were traveling to experience the Bristol Renaissance Festival, because we’d always heard such amazing things. My heart was broken and I was just beginning to wonder if Something Was Wrong With Me. I believe I was 21. I could look it up, but I’m really tired.

We took off in the early morning and quickly realized that Next to Normal was the wrong Broadway soundtrack for this particular trip at this particular time.

We stopped in Chicago for deep dish pizza and, at our hotel, Lucas and Cat went down to the lobby to do hotel bar karaoke, because they are brave and beautiful souls. I stayed in the room and watched that episode of SVU where Stabler gets mixed up in the animal smuggling ring. I think they eat a tiger. It’s just awful. I had nightmares.

The Bristol Renaissance Festival is a truly magical place. We ate the perfectest cheese fritters in the world and were endlessly delighted by the performer Doctor Kaboom, a science-themed stage act. I eventually tipped him on Sunday afternoon and confessed to him that his show had been the source of light in my heart during a truly terrible time. Always tell the sunbeams in your life they are sunbeams, even if they are strangers, I think.

I cried a lot, but I also got to touch a porcupine, I believe.

(And maybe that’s why I’m telling you this story. Hey, Current Dani! You have been totally despondent before and you still got to touch a porcupine! Remember that? You have to remember, please.)

When I joined the cast of the Georgia Renaissance Festival at 16, my friend Lucas handed me a wooden sword before I’d done anything to earn it and helped me to find my name and he is the older brother I didn’t know my heart was missing. And this brings us to the best part of the story.

I had just enough wobbly sparkle on the drive home from Wisconsin to playfully pester Lucas about the road signs we were passing for Six Flags: Great America. Please understand it is a 13 hour drive from Wisconsin to Atlanta and we were quite tired and sunburned from an intense weekend of nerd-ing and Six Flags is a kind of a gamble even in the best of circumstances.

The moral of this story is to never forget it when people show you how they love you. To hold those memories to your heart as you weep and drink lukewarm s’more-flavored coffee, because you are a soft, soft beast and your heart is so tired. Keep beating, keep pumping. You are loved. You have to remember. You have to hold on.

At the moment of truth, Lucas wordlessly turned off on the exit to Six Flags.

Remember the people who will take you to roller coasters when your world is crumbling. Aspire to be that person for someone else some day.

I don’t know if I’m going to get anything else “accomplished” today. I am very tired and sad and my coffee, as I’ve mentioned, is growing cold. It might be that I hit the “Publish” button here and then curl back up under my Spider-Man 2 blanket and try to forget everything that hurts.

Try, instead, to remember porcupines and cheese fritters and fairy wings and roller coasters and friendship. Because they can take everything away from us but that last one.

Damn. Also? It’s ironic, because current depressed me is watching a lot of SVU these days and I would trade it in a heartbeat to hear Lucas and Cat sing karaoke. Maybe I’d even be bold enough to join them now.

Kind friends and companions, come join me in rhyme
Come lift up your voices in chorus with mine

forgive me

CW Warning: Severe depression. 

(Forgive me. There has been some wine.)

I said to someone before a truly lovely breakfast some months ago: I am going to write my way out of this.

And I believed it. I thought it was how I could help. Myself, you, all of us.

But I see now that I haven’t written myself OUT of anything. I have only written myself in deeper and deeper. I remember these feelings. I remember the sharpness that presses against my chest when I breathe the wrong way and I always breathe the wrong way. I do not know how to do anything else.

I’m so sorry, but I’m not ready to stop. I am a pelagic heartache shark and if I stop now, I sink to the bottom, I think.

(Oh, shit, I started crying again. I’m sorry. It’s just a thing that’s been happening.)

(For ten years. Longer now? I want it to be your fault, but I logically know it isn’t. I still hate myself for remembering your favorite doughnut. Cinnamon sugar. Fuck.)

(I remember all your favorite doughnuts.)

(I remember everything. Maybe that’s why I can’t stop talking about everything. I feel haunted. I’m sorry for being like this. I let you down, I know it.)

(I should have tried harder.)

(Forgive me the parentheses. I just feel safe here, you know?)

(Forgive me.)

I don’t know what this is anymore, which is perhaps the perfectest mirror up to nature. I thought once I would start writing here and I would craft all these thoughtful, insightful nerd-essays and maybe someone would NOTICE ME. Like, maybe this could be my ticket out of here?

Out of here? Where am I trying to go?

I picture a sunshine-y spot where it doesn’t feel like there is an anvil sitting on my chest. I picture an abundance of happy turtles and golden retrievers, wandering by for happy pats. I picture never worrying about where to go next or how to get there. I picture you on the dock, toes skimming the water.

But maybe it’s that I feel I don’t deserve that sunshine or that dock until I sort all this out, you know? So I return here, over and over again, to confess, to beg forgiveness. I cannot just be enough as I am, right? I need you to absolve me. (I am quite needy.) I have to talk about every awful thing I’ve ever done, every impure thing I’ve ever thought, every hatred I have ever borne in my heart.

I long to feel something like light.

Because I have been Google-ing the scary shit again and I’m really sorry, I do not mean to worry you. I do not mean to be a burden. But there are days when I cannot imagine overcoming the mistakes I feel I’ve made, the hurts I know I’ve caused… Days when I want to sink to the bottom. My eyes ache and my stomach hurts and I am tired of my brain that tells me what a failure I am.

But I promise not to go anywhere. Here’s what happens next: I have a show tonight. I will read my words and feel my feelings and I hope you are somewhere watching. I will try again tomorrow, try again at running, try again at feeding myself, try again at feeling something like hope.

And I’ll keep writing. Forgive me, but it’s probably going to stay weird for a minute. That’s just where I’m at. But eventually I will write us stories and plays, I hope, and I will use my words to help us out of this pit. I’m not done tunneling right now, but I have not lost sight of the light at my back. I will turn to it again one day. In the meantime, I will sit in this cave I have made, sometimes quietly sipping my coffee and enjoying the nearness, and sometimes sitting stock still to keep the monsters at bay.

I just have to keep the monsters at bay.

Forgive me.

 

get in, loser, we’re going to love ourselves

I’ll get into the “why” and “how” soon enough (too soon), but the point is that I very well might be getting a car in three weeks.

I have never owned a car before.

My driver’s license test took place on my 21st birthday and, after wobbling my way through a spectacularly pathetic attempt at parallel parking, the driving instructor said these exact words to my mother:

“I’m gonna give it to her, but don’t cut her loose yet.”

Since that day, I’ve never had reliable access to a vehicle. (I’M POOR, OKAY?) So, I walk. I take the train and the bus, I call Lyft and Uber, I rely HEAVILY upon the kindness of my friends and family. Since college, I have just figured it the fuck out. I have taken hour and a half MARTA trips to auditions that lasted just ten minutes. I have walked two and a half miles to work in 94 degree heat, because I didn’t think I could justify the expense of the Lyft ride.

But I am weary. My feet are sore and torn up and my legs are tired and I am fantasizing about what it will be like to be behind a wheel, the A/C blasting in my face, an iced coffee beside me, whatever song I want playing at me as loud as I want, and the road before me.

loos’d of limits and imaginary lines

(Maybe? Finally?)

I am excited about the prospect of something like freedom, of something like control. I told my therapist that I had a silly daydream and I also told her that maybe I wouldn’t tell anyone else about it, but, I mean, it’s YOU and I tell you everything, my heart.

When this car (this dark blue 2010 Nissan Altima, to be precise; details are fun) shows up in my life, I fantasize about being comfortable right away. (I’m so fucking terrified. I have always been terrified of driving, of cars. Maybe I’m just terrified of being able to go wherever I would like.)

I daydream that it takes me just a single weekend to be an ace behind the wheel. I yearn for three days in which to feel comfy on the highway. Just three.

And then I will wake up under the cover of darkness. Maybe I won’t go to sleep at all. I will pack my mask, of course, and I will follow all the rules, I promise you. I will find a gas station, because those will be relevant to me now, and I will buy the biggest gas station coffee I can get. I will blare ELO and Elton John and all my favorites to keep myself awake. I won’t tell anyone, because it will be a sacred secret between me and the road. I’ll just go. I won’t worry. I will be brave and certain.

I’ll get myself to the Magic Kingdom just as the sun rises.

And I will sit on Main Street with a Mickey-shaped cinnamon roll and I will look at something lovely. I might not ride anything. (Okay, except for the Haunted Mansion, I KNOW WHO I AM.) I just want to sit and be and breathe. I want to prove to myself I can get there. Prove to myself that I am willing to go to strange and specific lengths to demonstrate my own self-love.

At home, my stomach hurts. My eyes are weak from crying and my stomach hurts. I feel trapped and small within my own brain. I crave the space which has always been most beautiful to me, ever since I was small. I long to sit with my cinnamon roll and my journal and to freely wonder, “How’s it going? What’s next? Where are we going?”

Because I might finally have the means to go, you know what I mean?

And oh, I will pick you up and take you anywhere you want to go. Do you need to see the beach at 3 in the morning on a Thursday? Okay, we’re going. You have taken care of me for so long and now, maybe, I can help you, too.

What are rules right now anyway? What is time? What if we just drove and drove and drove? What if we sang along all night to David Bowie and drank gas station coffee until we felt okay again?

Uncle Walt, again, always:

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?