I’m Dani Kelley,

and I do lots of things.

Writing

I spend a lot of my time trying to learn how to be a better human, which leads to lots of thoughts about lots of things. I work those things out in writing, sometimes also journaling and critiquing media.

All you can do is survive

The final product: calligraphy and hand-lettering by me (with help from Showcase Sans for the smaller text). 2016.

It’s been a rough year so far. There’s been a lot of life changes and personal crises and accomplishments. Lots of good, lots of bad, lots of change.

As a creature of habit, change doesn’t usually bode well with me.

I’ve taken time away from 99% of freelancing work, aside from the occasional lettering commission that I take on only because I want to. I’ve cut out every single thing from my life that isn’t necessary for me to survive — because right now, all I can ever guarantee out of any particular day is that I will survive it.

The circumstances of my life aren’t shameful. And if all I can do is survive, I’ve done more than enough.

Want a free print-ready poster file?

Support me on Patreon by the end of the week, and I’ll upload Saturday morning!

The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture and Shame.

I had a very eye-opening conversation with my mom recently.

We were talking about my marriage to my ex, and she asked me if her hunch was correct that I’d have married him anyway if my parents hadn’t given us permission. (You see, in our iteration of purity culture, even as a 22-year-old adult, I needed my parents’ permission to marry.)

I thought a moment and answered honestly: yes, I would have still married him. Then I clarified, “I honestly thought I had to.”

“You didn’t get that from us!” Mom responded in astonished confusion. “You don’t have to marry someone just because you slept with them.

Let me state up front: that’s an entirely true statement. I agree with it 100%.

And yet it was my turn to be shocked.

Because that statement flew in the face the entire narrative of my first 20+ years of life..

The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture Edition

Purity culture: a definition.

As defined by the excellent No Shame Movement,

Within the conservative Christian context, purity culture is simply the view of any discussion of things of a sexual nature outside of the context of heterosexual marriage as taboo.

Those with in purity culture must adhere to a strict heteronormative lifestyle that forbids most physical contact with significant others, as well as engaging in self pleasure, or holding lustful thoughts about another person that is not a spouse. This view is generally enforced and policed by the family and church community. Purity culture includes an insistence on female modesty and responsibility to shield boys and men from sexual temptation.

To be blunt, purity culture is distinctly religious and sexist at heart. As Dianna Anderson states, “Purity culture is, in brief, the linking of religious piety with virginal status, particularly in young people, and the association of sin and shame with sex.”

As such, it operates with an awful lot of assumptions about the world and how people do and/or should belief and/or behave:

When I must be “The Bad Guy.”

I could explain my thought processes for every step of these various journeys. I’m very prone to explaining and dissecting and hoping beyond hope that I can just make you see why and how, make you see cause and effect, connect dots for you, connect dots for me. I want to feel justified, validated. I don’t want to be The Bad Guy. I don’t want to accept that to so many, I am petulant and over-sharing and running away from problems that could be fixed if I would just try harder.

But I can’t change, even if I tried. Even if I wanted to.*

And so…here I sit. The Bad Guy. It’s not comfortable. I don’t like it. But if this is who I have to be in order to be me, then so be it.

On being kind to myself.

It’s New Year’s Eve, so of course I must write.

Y’all, this year has been hard.

I started the year planning to write more, letter more, draw more, do more. Instead, I started the year barely being able to breathe, and it’s honestly been one health crisis after another.

On the one hand, I’m getting medical care. I have access to good care. That’s amazing.

On the other hand, I’ve been cycling through new meds AT LEAST monthly since the summer, almost ALL of which have had drastic affects on my life. (At least 2 of them made me suicidal, and this latest one has helped my depression but increased the intensity of my migraines. I haven’t been able to be present in a fully-lit room for weeks.)

I feel like I can’t complain. After all, I am getting help. I’m doing a lot better than I was a year ago or two years ago.

But I feel like a failure, honestly.

I haven’t written the way that I want to, because I’ve just been emotionally incapable. I haven’t created nearly as much art as I’ve wanted to, and I’ve only been able to do it in spurts. Most of my days look like me barely making it through the work day before I come home and collapse.

I’m a writer. I need to write. I’m an artist. I need to art. I’m a designer, I’m our only source of income, I’m dealing with a lot of personal life things that are so, so draining.

And it’s December. December is terrible, and historically the month when I am the most hopeless.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I’m trying to be kind. But it’s hard. I look and sound healthy, but I’m not. I’m just not. And I don’t know how to manage being kind to myself without driving myself sick with worry over how others will perceive my inactivity and sporadic creation of words and art.

In the words of wise old Bilbo Baggins, “I feel old. Thin. Like butter scraped over too much bread.”

So maybe, in 2016, I can work on beating myself up less for things that aren’t my fault in the first place.

I have chronic migraines. I’m allowed to ask for less noise and fewer lights.

I probably have fibromyalgia. I’m allowed to say that I can’t do activities that require I put myself in a position of being bed-ridden the next day.

I have anxiety, depression, PTSD. I’m allowed to care for myself when these problems arise.

I’m allowed to ask for help, like when I texted Paige at midnight the night I realized one of my medications was driving me to suicide, and when I called my parents the next day telling them something was horribly wrong and they and Paige both took care of me.

I’m allowed to be alone, for my introverted sanity.

I’m allowed to cry when things hurt or are scary. I’m allowed to laugh when things are funny. I’m allowed to not participate in activities I don’t want to do, and I’m allowed to give myself time and space to just be and breathe and recover.

May 2016 be a year in which I choose to be kind and gentle with myself, and therefore give others like me permission to love themselves, as well.

I love you all, so very much. My online communities breathe health and care and love into my life. Your presence, your words, you care and love…they all keep me going. I’m so grateful for you, and I hope to grow closer to you all in this new year as well.

I contain all of me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my various passions, the segments of my life that sometimes mesh together and sometimes seem not to. There’s been not just a little worry about writing so openly about my mental and physical health problems, particularly on a site that also contains my professional portfolios of work.

It’s difficult for me to really nail down an accurate picture of myself. I know who and how I’d like to be, and how I’d like to be perceived, but despite all my intuition, I can’t often intuit how others actually perceive me. Which, of course, can present problems. Particularly when fighting an anxiety disorder.

What if my writing turns away prospective clients or alienates colleagues? What if my insecurities illegitimize my experience and expertise in others’ eyes? What if they see all my selfies and talk of video games and makeup and think me another shallow millenial? What if my self-preservation techniques are misunderstood? What if my feminism or humanism are seen as obnoxious? What if I am simply not enough of a Normal Adult, and too much…me?

Great expectations: basic human decency.

In short: the lowest common denominator in all relationships ought to be basic human decency.

When Christians tell me that it’s not fair for me to expect them not to trample on my boundaries or treat me with disrespect for my autonomy as a human being, all I can hear is, “You can’t expect basic human decency from me or my people.” More than that, I hear, “You don’t even qualify as human enough for us to consider treating you differently.”

Christians? This is a problem.

How will the world know you as loving if you refuse to act lovingly? How can you say you possess the love of Jesus Christ when this is how you treat unbelievers? You claim that you’re no better than us, yet treat us like you’re the Designated Adult and we’re the naughty children you must put back in our places. You insist that for me and other unbelievers (or even liberal believers!) to write and live and share our authentic selves is a direct attack on you, and so you try to control us through silencing tactics and what you must think are counter-attacks. You can’t see the difference between someone being honest about who they are and someone exerting control over a person? How can you not see the disrespect of that? How can you not see the condescension? How can you pretend to be sharing Christ’s love when you refuse to see the image of God in anyone but those who look and think and act like you?

Despite being an atheist, I do think the Bible has a few nuggets of wisdom here and there. And one of those nuggets is this: “Let us not love in word…but in deed and in truth.” In other words, don’t tell me that you love me while showing me that you don’t.

Microaggressions and fat-shaming.

It is no one’s goddamn business what I eat, except for me and my doctors. I owe no one explanations for my food choices. I owe no one an explanation for my body. I’m not obligated to share my financial availability for Good Food, nor my health surrounding ability to lose weight or process nutrients in a way ignorant people think I should. My body does not require an explanation or an apology, and it shouldn’t elicit the spouting of erroneous information or meaningless advice from friends, family, or strangers alike — and it most certainly shouldn’t inspire complete strangers to pressure me into eating things I don’t want to eat and adjusting my restaurant orders to something they’re more comfortable with a Fatty McFatperson like me eating.

If I ate nothing but fruits and vegetables, I would not be worthy of more respect.

If I ate nothing but fried foods and sweet, I would not be worthy of less respect.

If I incorporated regular intensive workouts into my daily life, I would not be a more worthy human.

If I did nothing but sit on the couch and eat Cheetos all day long, I would not be a less worthy human.

And I hate so much that, despite working constantly on body positivity and self-care for the past 4 years, all it takes is one terrible person to make me second-guess the validity of my existence and self-worth as a fat femme person.