November 29:  Friends come over to chat with us in our bedroom

Someone is a visitor; someone else is visited.

Understanding that Yukon and Bumble’s bedroom is their former living room, you can see why they might also entertain friends and guests there. Anyone with a studio apartment might know what I’m talking about too, as your bedroom is the living room and kitchen too.  But doesn’t this remind you of when you were living with your folks?  When I was a teen, having friends over meant having them in my bedroom. It was the only place with privacy, and it felt too formal to meet “in the parlor” (I never had one of those anyway!) or in the living room. We wanted to be able to talk to each other, laugh, look at my Stuff (comics, art, computer). Okay, technically I had no friends in high school, and no one came over to see me, but YOU all did, right?  My brothers and sister had them—and they all met in their bedrooms.  And from watching TV, I know this is what kids do—they live in their bedrooms with their friends.

Here is a hairy fairy seated comfortably in the garden-gloved hand of Yukon. (As you might remember, there were a few ginger-bearded fairies with red butterfly wings in my fairy paintings from last year). He’s come over to chat.  If you also recall, these fairies are in a special place that doesn’t connect well to the rest of the world, and they were also afraid that they might get lost if they ever left their own protected garden.  But sometimes it takes a brave soul to try— and be the explorer, see what is out there, and then attempt to get back. Sort of a Fairy’s Hero’s Journey!

Who said there were only two stories in the world: someone comes to town, someone leaves town? (I know Cory Doctorow has a novel by that name!) Someone gets a visitor, someone is a visitor. While I may not have had many visitors growing up or later–I have been a visitor many times. Let me tell you how much joy there is in visiting someone at their home. (I miss it. COVID sucks. )

I am so grateful to have been invited into so many homes, so many living rooms, given coffee or water or tea or pop, or food, and had great conversation for hours.  I know the most amazing people! I always felt welcome.  I always felt loved.  I feel very blessed to know good people. I like being able to see people in their “natural habitat.” LOL.  We don’t get to decorate the outside world much–or put in it what we would enjoy–but a home, and a bedroom especially, is very reflective of the individuals who live there.  (I’ve barely tapped what is actually IN Yukon’s and Bumble’s bedroom/living room besides a HUGE bed, some chairs, dresser, and some paintings done by Bumble.  I didn’t see much of Yukon in there…  I need to talk to them about being a bit more even-handed in the way they decorate!)  You can tell a lot about a person by what they have in their living room–and what they have in their bedroom? Are they different things?  Since the bedroom is usually more private–what do we have in there for decor?  As a teen, of course, your bedroom always reflected you–posters of your favorite movies, crushes, heroes, musicians.

What is in your bedroom that reflects you?  (I move so much and live with so many people that lately I have not had a bedroom that reflects me as much..,)  When I had a bedroom, I did have paintings that I made in it. I also had paintings by other people.  I also have a special “chest” of what I think of as sacred pieces— little things that have meant a lot to me over the years that I collected in one place… gifts others have given to me, or little things that remind me of them. I keep them all in a special little chest I picked up in a Tuesday Morning once.  It is made, I think, for a young girl and it has written on it DREAMS, ADVENTURE, with clouds and maps and things in purple and pink and cream—but I liked it! lol.  This chest though, meant that I could make my Room MOBILE. I could always put my “things” in my new room, wherever I was, and make it feel like me for whatever time I was there.

I hope this fairy has a great time visiting Yukon and Bumble and that they can show him how to get back “home” so he doesn’t have to think of visiting others as the consolation for never having a home again.  I would love for him to tell the others that it’s possible–if they want–to leave and come back again.

I hope one day to have a home where people come and visit me, so that I can return the favor of being the guest, the visitor, in so many other places.  I hope to see you all again soon.  I also hope YOU have visitors who come to you and give you joy. I hope you are visitors to others to bring your joy to them.  I hope you entertain and are entertained this holiday season. I hope you know what it is to be the guest, to be the host, and to savor both those opportunities to know other people.  Love generously. Befriend hugely. Spread love and joy.  We need to spread something good this year.

November 28:  Just what kinds of possibilities are we letting into the bedroom?

Our bedrooms are private vaults–we keep our secrets in here. We only show them to people we trust. We don’t let just anyone in. Safe to be ourselves in our room, we relax knowing we are in a private sanctum. This room is locked tight, we think. Except… that balcony… that window.

“What is happening in this painting, Jerome??”

Why is it that, in movies, supernatural entities all seem to have a key to every balcony door and bedroom window? The strange things enter in through windows of the bedroom–whether it is Dracula at the balcony of Mina’s bedroom, or Frankenstein entering through the balcony to kill Victor’s wife, or George Hamilton’s Dracula in the 70s alighting on Susan St. James’ balcony saying with a sly smile as the breeze pushes the curtains away, “With you, never a quickie. Always a longie.” It is the beating on the bedroom window of the gnarly tree in Poltergeist, the giant vulture who brings a cage every night to the balcony of Andromeda to carry her away to see Calibos in Clash of the Titans, The Snowman coming to take James on a magical flight to the Arctic, Romeo climbing up to see Juliet, Aladdin alighting on Jasmine’s balcony, Salem Lot’s child at the window, Phantom of the Opera, Peter Pan, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

The bedroom, inaccessible? Every rogue, bandit, and monster knows how to get into an upstairs window! These three moth men have no trouble. Maybe Yukon left it open because it was hot. It makes sense that horror movies capitalize on bedroom windows–the only way into our security from the outside. But erotic and romantic stories also play with balconies–as the passage into the forbidden room, the access to the Lover that bypasses the guards, the parents, the doors. Romantic fantasies quiver on the possibility of love working hard to find us, especially when we’ve failed to find love before. Fantasies use them as launchpads and gateways to the mysterious and wondrous waiting just outside. “I can show you the world…”

Are we frightened or intrigued by these access points? Something has gotten in and sees us–sees the private things we hide! Oh my. Just what kinds of things are we letting in to our bedrooms?

Our thoughts are the real access points–the other window into our rooms, our sleep –and those we can control, sometimes.

***

I’ve had a lot of bad dreams and scary moments in my bedrooms. Being a sensitive, imaginative kid, I experienced my share of nighttime paralysis where I would see things in my room that would frighten me–still frighten me. Heads rising up the wall, children coming in and out of the closet, covers being pulled off by invisible hands. I’ve heard voices in my room fly down from the ceiling and whip past my ear telling me I was not safe. It looked like a fortress, didn’t it? Who let these things in?

However, I’ve also had some good dreams of someone coming to take me on journeys, flights, or back up to the Enterprise to live my new life. I’ve imagined lovers, or werewolves that just need a place to stay until the hunting party leaves the forest, or angels watching over me, or fun dreams of wandering through castles, or dogs that I know from the past finding me. Some of us pray in our bedrooms, allowing a safe protective spirit of God or Spirit to enter and comfort us. We want to have good things in our dreams, our thoughts, our hopes! We want to imagine the positive possibilities. We want to have choices about what gets in–what gets access–who sees us–what gets barred.

***

This was my second painting in the Yukon series, back in art school. The surprise on Yukon’s face! The three moth men coming in through the window to scare him?? to cuddle with him?? I got a lot of kidding by my fellow artists about the magically-supported sheets up against his legs. I swear I just didn’t get the folds right, and now it looks like something else is holding them up. How much fun it was to create this painting!–kind of a taboo for me to break. A giant naked man. My first. I still get asked if this is my body. Why do people want to know? That’s a very private question! I think they want to know because they assume I’m making the private public and that I want public question about what should be unknown. They think they’ve seen something private from my bedroom. They think I’ve given them access to a private fantasy! HAHA, they say! I’ve let them in. Any question is okay now….

Well, mothmen coming in my window, hmm; it is a nicer thought than the fears I used to have about things in my bedroom. I used to be afraid to go to sleep because of recurring nightmares. But I’ve gotten into the habit of thinking of awesome things happening–or reading happier, cozier, fantasy books before bed, or watching something light and fun before I sleep. I fill my room with fantasy and imagination before I sleep. I laugh.

Our dream life and our fantasy life need to crowd out our Fear life. If we have to think about the future in the face of the unknown, let it be warm, inviting, magical and mystical things that mean us no harm. The fantasies (or horrors) we allow into our minds color the way we experience the world–as a place of hope or harm around every corner. They can give us good sleep or no sleep. I choose to believe that there is hope around the corner because I want to open up my window to the fantasies and the magic and be vulnerable to the possibility of joy.

May good thoughts and good fantasies fill your minds and rooms this holiday season!

____________________________

This is part of the “The Bedroom is Our Living Room,” as part of “The Further (Queer) Adventures of Yukon Cornelius” series of paintings I did, reimagining the prospector from the Christmas special as a gay man whose whole life is helping “Hiddens” (or as other people put it, Monsters) as they adapt to life in a world of often fearful humans. My way of talking about queer issues and queer life.

November 30:  We take care of each other in the bedroom

When I was a sick kid, I would stay in bed and my mom would put a plastic cup of 7-up and a wrapped stack of saltines by my bedside. She would often come in, sit beside me, and take a cool wet cloth and press it to my forehead.  That cool damp cloth absorbed all the heat. That sensation lasted much longer than is physically possible from a wet cloth because her presence was really doing all the absorbing. 

The bedroom can be the place of recovery. Studies show that sleep heals. Getting enough sleep is important to proper brain function, but also helps the body do its work while we are busy dreaming.  But in case of a greater illness, the bedroom is where we gather our strength among all our sacred and familiar objects.  Many of us have spent quite a long time in our bedrooms feeling sick, especially these last few years.  Except, with COVID, it was difficult to be able to tend to each other because it was highly contagious.

During the plague in the Dark Ages, people who tended the sick, or stayed with those who were dying, would catch it and bring it back with them. They didn’t know how it was spread.  Our very acts of compassion and community were being attacked. Still–(though not the plague)–my mom would stay with me through the flu or strep throat or whatever else knocks a kid off his feet. She endangered herself in order to care for me.  I don’t remember if she ever caught the flu from us. I don’t think so. But she didn’t know she wouldn’t.   

No one likes being sick. Some of us don’t like to bother the people near us with our sickness either–we choose to bear it alone so that no one has to be endangered because of us.  Deep down, though, we want someone with us–someone who doesn’t mind us at our worst, or helpless, or dependent.  These are traits that are so strongly hated in America today that we are embarrassed by our need and desire for each other.  But we ache with needing each other too.

I remember every person who stayed with me when I was sick.  I have forgotten a LOT of things… but I remember Dave in the ER when they couldn’t find a good vein and poked me three or four times in each elbow and on both hands and how I cried.  I remember my mother standing beside the dentist when I had three wisdom teeth removed. I remember Doug who sat most of the night with me as I dealt with kidney stones in the ER of Whitehorse Hospital. I remember the first doctor who gave me lots of morphine when I had my first kidney stones. Thank you thank you. I have a skill at making them. (I should sell them!)  My Dean of Student Services followed the ambulance when I had a panic attack (which we thought was a heart attack) in college. He was there when they told me to breathe in a paper bag after all of that drama and fuss. My heart remembered these people staying with me when I was hurt.  

It seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it? To sit with someone. To be with someone.  Not to entertain them, but just to endure with them the space of time that hurts.  That time counts.  It means everything.  Maybe we don’t feel abandoned. Maybe we feel protected. Maybe we feel safe.  But that presence beside us when we sleep binds our injuries, holds our bodies together, so they can heal.  

The bedroom is a place of healing. And caregiving. And love expressed through easing each other’s pain.  We hate when it happens, but it does open up a way to love each other that no other moment offers. It does not embarrass us to see each other dependent or make us hate them.  Instead, it makes us value each other more, and each other’s health more. For a fortnight, we become a sentry, guarding each other, fighting off the illness together, till stealthy health comes sneaking back through the gates again. 

November 27: We are sometimes by ourselves and sometimes lonely and in our bedroom

Not every moment in our bedrooms is filled with Joy ™ or Love ™ or Companionship ™. Those we love and care about could be far away from us for a while. I know that Yukon and Bumble both have, sometimes, long assignments apart from each other. This can turn into a lot of long-distance conversations over a laptop or phone, lots of pizza, soft drinks, feelings of loneliness. How do we cope with missing someone—or not having someone?

Here are ways I’ve found helpful to keep long distance relationships going—and they can fluctuate between being together and enjoying being apart. I find if I balance those two things, it helps both of us. We need other ways to be happy outside of the relationship (that took me a long time to understand). These are just my suggestions—and I’m sure others have great ideas too. These may not work for everyone.

How to be TOGETHER, even apart:

JITSI/ZOOM/SKYPE/FACETIME: at least once a week, we try to meet in realtime on a video to talk to each other.

When we can’t or don’t have the time for ZOOM/SKYPE/JITSI, we use Telegram to send pictures, and write notes and send Voice Messages. We find Voice Messages to be the most effective way to communicate back and forth—you get to hear the full idea of your partner and then respond. We find that if it’s more than 6 min it looks scary—so we try to break it into parts; also if it does get above 6 min, we say “12 min message coming, all good stuff” so that no one thinks there’s a hard discussion hidden in there.  We often share really deep stuff in voice messages—because they are like mini essays. And this encourages the other partner to share too. We also sometimes tell each other collaborative stories (because we both love scifi and fantasy)—that are just plain funny, or sometimes titillating. Sharing in a collaborative story can be very bonding.

If we have to have a hard discussion we NEVER use voice messages anymore… it’s too easy to rant, or to get longwinded or to misunderstand and then be 12 min behind the problem moment. ALWAYS CALL if there’s a disagreement… so you can talk it out together.

We watch movies or TV shows together—but apart. So we time when we’re going to watch a show we both like—and then we watch it together separately (not on a share program, but just both hit PLAY on Netflix etc at the same time) and then we send each other Voice Messages to discuss it!  We did this with Andor and House of the Dragon.

We try to hear each other’s voice or see each other’s short video message (Telegram has 1 minute video messages) every day. Seeing a face, a smile, and hearing a voice can do wonders.

We send each other articles that we think the other would love (but NOT articles that “prove our point”—that doesn’t seem to be good.)

We send photos about our day. We share messages about our agendas for the day. Mundane, yes, but relationships are built on mundane stuff too.

We try to get to see each other physically at least once every 3 weeks—but we know that’s not always possible for everyone. We live 6 hours from each other. We have gone as long as 2 months without being together physically. It’s doable. But it takes a lot more screen time and message time.

We rarely use email—and he doesn’t have social media, so facebook and Instagram, etc are not on the table. So you may use these too to stay in touch with your partner.

How to ENJOY Being APART:
I date myself when I’m alone. It’s like self-care—but with LOVE and INTENTION to make me happy.

I save good movies that I like and my partner isn’t into for times when we’re apart.  I’m a big Marvel fan and Disney fan, so Disney + is a feel-good channel for me. Also Netflix and HBO Max. We both love Indie films so I save those for when we’re together… but Moon Knight and She-Hulk and the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special are for moments by myself. I watch all my Tarot and Astrology and HOW TO ART videos when I’m alone.

I listen to my music. Sometimes loudly.

I work on pet projects. I have art and writing to get done. I do that when we’re not able to be together. (But I also do some of it when we are together, if I’m going to be with him for more than a couple of days.) I get to stay in my studio for 7-10 hours a day!! It’s fun!

I see Museum Exhibits, go to Coffeeshops, walk in the park—do things that I LOVE doing alone. I sometimes send him pictures of it afterwards, but I try to value my alone time too.

I buy foods that I love. I give myself little gifts of food—usually involving chocolate!

I buy myself little gifts online or in stores, when I’m in a store. Just something I know I will use or love. Like new paints (if I can afford them) or erasers!I read when I’m by myself. I love being able to be involved in a book. Deep and undisturbed. I may only be able to do this apart from my partner.

I call other people—my mom, birthmom, friends, or write them—or I arrange to have coffee with them or hang out with them. My partner can’t fulfill all my desires for company and conversation and friends are awesome. Having time with other people keeps us from also being “lonely.”

Church and clubs—if you have a social group outside of your relationship, it can help strengthen your resiliency when the two of you are apart. I always feel better knowing when my partner is visiting friends, his family, or is part of a group that is meeting. Then I know he is happy.It took me a long time to realize that happiness WITHOUT your partner is not just okay, it is good, and needed.

We may not always get rid of the lonely feelings we have when our partner is not with us—that’s okay. That’s natural. That’s love too. But we can minimize them when they become uncomfortable.  We are fully rounded people with outside interests and ways of getting joy enhances our time together— two people ADDING to each other from all the outside things we do, not just our shared experiences.

Don’t worry, Yukon! Bumble will be back before you know it! Eat your pizza and hang out with the satyrs!

November 21:  We Sing (and Bust up Laughing) in the Bedroom

I had best hits of the 80s playing when I drew this (“I was dreaming when i wrote this…”) so I was singing hard in my studio… and I pray everyone else in adjoining studios was okay with that!  But I know the lyrics to hundreds of 80s songs… embedded in my core memory forever. Not useless data. Valuable data. Shared experience  data.  You know old folks homes for Gen Xers are gonna be filled with the best music.  Nobody will come in there on weekends to play “a bicycle built for two”–they’ll bring in a cover band and play Journey, “Someday love will find you, BREAK those chains that BIND you!” And all us old Xers will be rockin’ out and singing along.

Do you sing in the bedroom? If you have a partner, do they sing in the bedroom?  Do you sing together in the bedroom sometimes? (I count the shower as the bedroom in some houses!)  Then do you  bust up laughing because it’s so wonderful and funny?  70’s-80s songs, Broadway, Disney and church hymns…. that’s my on-call repertoire. Some Irish ballads… folk songs… and okay, Dan Fogelberg and the Beatles can be pulled up when necessary.  Currently, songs from Nathaniel Rateliff, Rag & Bone Man, Taylor Swift, and Adele run through my head–because they got me through the pandemic by dropping albums into our difficult times like rocks into a still lake. (And now—Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ “Unholy” is so damn catchy, I’ve been playing that over and over while I work on the big King O the Cats painting)  Anyway!  When I have had someone who likes to sing, it’s fun to sing with them. (Some cute guy I know enjoys singing in the car!  And it’s nice to blend with him down the curvy road.)

Where do songs come from inside us? Are they stored with feelings? I don’t think they are in a bin called “music” in our brain because if someone asked me what I know by heart I couldn’t tell you… that file is empty… but let me have a feeling, and wow, I get songs with lyrics that match that feeling flood my brain.  If I hear three notes outside from a windchime–I can sing a whole song in full. Or turn on the car radio and all my notes are there.

There are songs appropriate for every feeling we’ve felt and I thank musicians for cataloguing those experiences and feelings so well.  When I have to clean, I turn on the music to get me happy enough not to mind the cleaning.  When I am sad, I turn on music to purge the sadness, to reflect in it, to bleed it out.  Music puts us on a collective train of a feeling–and the lyrics and our lives merge in the windows of the shared landscape passing by. By the end of the song, we know the singer has “felt” our experience, and we theirs, our shared music of the moment

In the bedroom, we have a chance for many duets. Yeah, our voices aren’t perfect all the time. (But I bet opera baritone Bryn Terfel’s morning voice can be froggy hilarious too!)  But I love my partner’s voice. I love singing with him. I love laughing about how we know all the lyrics, or- or- or- or… stay with me… how I memorized the lyrics ALL wrong… and those can be really funny too.  Music allows us to share feelings– in a way like no other. We are full-throated blasting the Joy of our “Summer of 69” or we are harmonizing and synching in the sadness of our “Mercy Street” together.  It puts us, for a moment, on the same page as our partner.  And they know, even when they can’t express their feelings in words yet, that yeah, we “feel” their music too.

November 18:  The Bedroom as Invitation and Welcome

nvitation to what? Rest, relief, comfort, recharge?  While I imagined that Yukon was thinking of/looking at Bumble when he put the card there, like a place-setting, like an invitation to come to bed, like the pat his hand might be doing on the sheets there to indicate that Bumble is welcome, I know that’s a card in everyone’s bedroom— even when I’m alone, the bed always looks like it welcomes me to my spot. We look to the bedroom to hold us and give us comfort and rest till the morning.

I also know that when there’s a partner involved that we like to know we are invited, even if that place is “always” ours.  We share it with someone.  The Bedroom–as a sanctuary–is sometimes a shared sanctuary where we have to be comfortable with the person sharing it.  It’s nice to see the smile of someone inviting us to the place they’ve saved for us–even after a 1001 Nights.  It’s reassuring to know they enjoy the seating arrangement!

November 17: We try out new versions of ourselves in the bedroom

New looks, new hair-cuts, new fashion, new experimenting with how we look—can happen in the bedroom. We may not all get our hair cut through a special house-call from Goody Goodknife who insists she can give Yukon the makeover he will Love, but we do try out new versions of ourselves, practicing, experimenting, before we go show them to the public.  It’s always good, too, to have a supportive partner who can make us feel like even the mistakes look great—and we can get through them.  

(Don’t worry. This isn’t his look for the rest of the series. Just a one time moment.)

October 31:  Yukon Cornelius (and Penny) confront the scariest monster

If we hadn’t been raising three orphaned chupacabras at our house, I wouldn’t have gotten so involved in the investigations happening in our area regarding cattle deaths and mutilations. I knew though that the authorities would eventually come here, looking around. I sat down with the “kids” and asked them hard questions. “Is everyone here sticking to eating just the magical goats the Babas created for you?” They all nodded. The three of them were about the size of ten- year-old human children, but with fangs and spine ridges and big round eyes on either side of their heads and a forked tongue. Dylan, Aidan and Aerosol (she chose the name, honestly) sat on their handmade stools in front of Bumble and me. Dylan had his goat in his arms, and he was petting it gently. They named their goats too, the ones that could be killed and resurrected easily if I just planted a seed in the ground next to the three holes in the backyard we kept reusing for the nightly carcasses. “Don’t forget to plant the seed. That will bring the goats back to life in the morning,” the Babas told me. I had told them not to let the goats too far out of their sights, or they might go hungry. I didn’t know where the Babas were right now and I couldn’t create a new magical goat. “And the goats are enough for you every day, right? You’re not snacking on something else too?” They shook their heads. Aerosol said, “I love the taste of Angelfire. She’s all I need.” Okay. The other two nodded as well. Aidan called Skippy into the room to show me how much he enjoyed sucking blood from Skippy the resurrectable goat. “No, no, no,” I said, “you don’t have to prove it to me. I believe you.” The blood that the goats produced did not come out of the carpet, so we limited their eating to outside in the yard. Bumble and I had been eating our dinners out there with them as a family. We’d been doing this for about three months, ever since the Babas came back with three chupacabras in their arms, wrapped in blankets and sucking on bottles of goat’s blood, telling us. “We found them near death. So, of course, we brought them here to you.”

We tried to always make sure one of us was here with them, but when we couldn’t the Babas babysat, and the Monster Under the Bed took shifts as well, taking them into his lair under the bed, which was a lot roomier than I imagined and playing Gotcha Games with them.

I went to the local town meetings where folks talked about the cattle mutilations and deaths. I couldn’t make out which were rumors and which were actual sightings, but they included black helicopters, UFOs, chupacabras, and black hooded cult members. Chupas often got blamed for the deaths of cattle and goats. Granted a chupacabra might eat ONE, but they were loners by nature and killing fifteen or fifty cattle at a time—that wasn’t a chupa. I listened for what evidence they had. Frankly, when it was all finished—even after the government sponsored scientists told us what they suspected—natural causes, some sort of disease—I couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. “Surgically removed the testicles of all my bulls? That’s natural causes? Why—it was a clean cut, better than Dr. Homer ever did to my steers,” someone said giving shade to the veterinarian in the room. “You never hold them still enough,” he murmured. I came away from the meeting knowing two things: the whole town, our neighbors, were on alert for weird happenings and watchful on their property, and two, they would believe anything at all—with just a little evidence.

“They have government investigators going farm by farm,” I told Bumble. He said, <We are not a farm.> I knew that, I said, but they were being thorough and would probably want a statement. “I tried to give my statement at the meeting, but they weren’t taking them.” I worried that the investigators would come on a day when the Babas’ house slunk back into the yard, or that the chupas would be playing soccer in the yard. Or that Bumble would be doing anything at all. <People know about me,> he said. “Yes, but these kinds of things have a way of making people change their mind about people they know. Give them enough reason to think you’re responsible for a natural disaster or other unexplained event and they’ll agree you were a shifty critter all along.”  I wasn’t even thinking about ANYTHING else coming into the yard or by my house while they were here. That could happen. What if the Boogeyman showed up for tea? Oh god, what if Penny came back now, six years later, flying right over their heads, just to say hello? I can’t turn my inner beacon off.

Bumble put a blanket over my head. I said, “It doesn’t dampen my signal to all the Hiddens, Bumble.” I took the blanket off my head. He said, <No, but it hides you from the investigators and maybe it will comfort you a little. It’s a comforter.>

I laughed, “Who will meet them at the door?” He touched his chest. No, I told him. I couldn’t take the risk that he would be misinterpreted. “I appreciate that, babe. But they might not have an interpreter. We can’t take that chance that they see a ten-foot Yeti waving his arms at them and growling.” He rolled his eyes. He could dress up as Chewbacca.  I squinted… hmmm. “Let me think on that.” Meanwhile, the plan was for me to speak to them alone and everyone else hide.

Too often for my liking, Hiddens were blamed for things that humans did or things that naturally occurred. How many times had I heard that Hurricane Elmo, or whatever, was brought on by “the unnatural people living in our midst”? Or some people die mysteriously and no one can come up with a good government conspiracy? They have to start talking about how Mr. or Miss Hidden came into the neighborhood about that time and there went the neighborhood! People will fall back on their prejudices in hard times. It’s one of our worst traits. And dead cattle? That was such a Chupa signature in the mythology they’d created. It’d be like if Harold liked ice cream and someone stole a truckload of ice cream—oh, it must be Harold!

The chupas killed their goats at dinner, Aidan slurping so loudly I thought the farmers hiding in the bushes three miles away could hear him. We always made a fire. We always sang silly songs that we made up. Tonight it was about Santa’s sleigh being led by magical goats. I brought out the guitar and set it to music as we were creating it. I knew that the kids would have to go back out into the world when they were adults—in about five months. I would miss them. I wondered what kind of a world I was sending them out into.

***

Three inspectors came to the house in a couple of black vans nine days later. I’d told the kids that since the goats made goat sounds we needed them to be easily seen, and we would watch them. The Monster Under the Bed took the chupas down into his place.  I met the inspectors in the front yard. I introduced myself. Immediately, I told them, “My partner lives with me and he’s a yeti, and he doesn’t speak, but he does sign.” They stopped talking. “I’m telling you this because my partner is going to come out of the house in a moment. He’s ten feet tall and is not a threat to you.” Bumble and I decided that he was probably known enough in the area for his absence to look suspicious, and we wanted to come out to meet them as a couple. “Mr. Redeker,” the lead inspector looked at me. I said, “Call me Yukon.” He saw the three goats playing in the yard. “Oh they’re adorable. Pets?” I nodded. “I love little goats. Did you name them?” he asked. I introduced him to Angelfire, Skippy, and… Lunch. He didn’t laugh so I tried to laugh a little harder. He asked if we had seen anything suspicious. “What would be suspicious? A group of people in a couple of black vans going from farm to farm stealing vital organs from cattle?” He stared at me. “Or do you mean something else?” We had them out on the back deck. I didn’t want them in the house. “We just waxed the floors.” Bumble had acted out Slippery for them. “Did you see other black vans?” he asked. I shook my head. I said, “I just wanted to know what suspicious would be? I’m very far from anyone’s farm, so I didn’t see what might be happening.” He pointed behind the house. “But the roads all connect. Did you see any suspicious vehicles–?” He placed a pen ready on the notebook he carried, “…people… creatures?” He didn’t have to look at Bumble for me to know he was thinking of looking at Bumble.

“If I had anything I could add to aid your search, I would,” I said. He smiled, “People have stories about you and this area. They say there’s a lot of activity here. You work with Hiddens, don’t you?” I nodded. “Yes, I work with them.” He nodded too. “And have any of them looked suspicious to you?” He really believed someone I knew was involved because… of course. That would be nice and simple for him. Everyone would believe some Monster did it. Did I hear what happened in Russia? With that fire burning a town and then the forest coming back? What if that happened here? “Can we trust them? In your opinion. I mean, you work with them,” he said.

I told him, “I think you should work with them too. I think your suspicions would go away. Yeah, you should have a Hidden on your team. I bet they have ideas you haven’t even considered. Maybe they have some thoughts.” I turned to Bumble and asked, “Do you have any thoughts on what might be happening?” Bumble said, <He is a dickhead.> I said to the inspector, “He doesn’t know, but he hopes that you find out how it is happening.” The inspector looked at Bumble, “You’re a big one. What do you eat, I wonder?” Bumble signed, <Inspectors.> I said, “He is really fond of banana bread, actually.” The inspector looked at me, “Does he like beef?” I said to the inspector, “Tell me, Inspector, did any of those cattle actually have meat taken from them—or was it just balls and intestines and other organs? Did it look like anyone got a good fat juicy steak off them?” He said no. I looked at Bumble, “He likes his steaks grilled and we get them from the grocery store.” Bumble signed, <I could make an exception and eat him now.>

“Tell me, Yukon, have you ever met a bad Hidden? An evil Hidden?” I looked at him, “I’ll tell you if you tell me first if you’ve ever met a bad person or an evil person.” He didn’t answer. “I bet you have. I bet you don’t arrest every person just because you met a bad one once.”

He stood up. His men stood up. “Well it was nice meeting you, Yukon, and Mr. Bumble. If you hear of anything or see anything that seems out of whack–,” he gave me his card, “give us a ring. We want to get to the bottom of this Cattle Mutilation thing. Someone, or something, needs to be brought to justice.” We walked them back to their black vans. I said, “Good luck,” and Bumble signed <I see something out of whack.> The inspector waved back to both of us and they left.

I breathed a sigh of relief until I caught Bumble’s eye. <Where are the goats?> I looked around and realized neither of us had been watching them. It was getting late in the day too. The kids would be hungry. I called out for the goats. Bumble quickly ran around the outside of the house. No goats. I called inside the house. No goats. The kids came out. “You lost the goats?” I told them they wandered off. We needed their help to find them. But don’t go too far. I couldn’t risk a farmer seeing them. They called for their goats. The kids had never been off our property, or even known where the boundaries were. That seemed now like an oversight. What would magical goats do if they were found by other people? Would they just act like regular goats until something killed them? I told Bumble we needed our friends in the forest to help us find the goats, so he went down to the forest. I told the kids that we needed them to stay close to the house and that we would look for the goats.

But the goats would not be found. Not even our friends in the forest could find them. Hours passed. No goats. Kids hungry. Three teenage Chupacabra biting their lips, needing blood to drink, preferably from cattle or goats. “Anywhere we could go buy some small goats?” they asked. I didn’t know. It was getting dark. “Gang,” I said to them, “This is going to be a rough night. But I need you to stay strong and stay in the house.” They got dressed for bed. I tried to give them the blood from some cold pork and a steak… they didn’t like the taste. I wasn’t sure if it was really safe for them to drink anyway. Bumble and I decided not to eat dinner either. We wanted to show them we could get through it together. I told Bumble that if the goats had gotten killed somewhere, then I should plant a seed and maybe they would come back in the morning. <We don’t have their bodies.> I told him we would call out in the morning and see if they answered. I planted the seed. Bumble told me when I came to bed that I was glowing. I looked in the mirror and couldn’t see anything. Bumble said he could see it. And feel it. In fact, it kept him up the whole night. I slept. He didn’t much.

In the morning I found Bumble asleep on the floor with headphones on. <They helped.> We both immediately went outside and called for the goats. Nothing. I told the kids to stay in the house and Bumble and I would go recruit our friends again and call around in the area. I didn’t even have a chance to get very dressed. I knew if they didn’t feed soon, we would have a big problem on our hands. I called for what seemed like hours.

It is such a precarious balance Hiddens have in the world—if things are going well in the place they live, they are fine. But economic downturns, riots, natural disasters, even basic dissatisfaction could bounce back on them. And a death, or an assault from a mysterious source? Hiddens always felt like they were one mistake from being hated again, of people being frightened of them. The Inspector proved that the thought isn’t far from their minds.

I heard a big whoosh above me, and there was a full-grown gold dragon flying above me. It was Penny. She swooped and turned on a dime and landed beside me in a windburst. I laughed—and I needed that laugh—“You are enormous!” I yelled. Her voice boomed back, “Thank you! I feel great!” She brought her head down to my level. With her chin on the ground, I only stood as high as her nose. “What’s up? You are sending out waves of distress.” I was? “Some goats have gone missing,” I said. “We have to find them so that three Hiddens can eat, but–,” I held up my hand, “there’s a catch. Everyone in the neighborhood is freaked out about some cattle killings in the area and so they are looking for a Hidden to blame. If you fly and they see you, they will think it was you who did the killing. So we have to find the goats without attracting any attention.”

She lifted her head, “I think I hear a little chaos.” Oh, that’s awesome! I thought, assuming the chaos was goats. “At your house.” She immediately lifted off. “No, no, Penny. They’ll see you.” She called back, “I hope they do.” I was running just to keep up with her

I came up from the forest to where I could see the house. So many cars and trucks—I could count seven of them. I started running to the house across the meadow. “Wait!” I said.

I was out of breath, and running as fast as I could. I couldn’t yell. I was about fall down when I felt three sets of hands catch me. I looked up and saw my friends, the satyrs. I couldn’t say anything. “We got your signal,” they said. “We knew you were in trouble.” I saw behind me Sabitha, the Baba’s house on cat legs, spring over the edge of the forest and keep running past us to the house. I stood up and started running again.

By the time I got to the house, I recognized faces in the crowd. Oh no. My worst nightmare. An angry crowd of villagers. I think in the back of my mind for years this scene was playing with no sound…just images of villagers with pitchforks advancing on the Frankenstein of the Day to rid themselves of the Strange One in their Midst.

Seeing a house on cat legs, a flying dragon and several satyrs coming at them had sent the townspeople to yelling and backing up. “Wait! Wait!” I called out, huffing and puffing. When I got there, I doubled over. I couldn’t speak. But they quieted down.

“Yukon,” someone said. “We’ve all come to see you.” The townspeople were speaking and oddly everyone was waiting for me to lift my head. I sat down on the grass and looked up. I recognized each family. I knew my neighbors—I had met many of them. I was ready for their Rumors and their Threats. Terry, one of the cattle farmers in the area—the one who had lost the most—came towards me, knelt down. “We wanted to make sure you and yours were okay,” he said.

I was still breathing hard, “What?”

Jeannie, his wife, looking around her at all the Hiddens. “We knew they’d come out here to say something to you and we figured you might be in trouble.” Another man said, “We tried to tell them that we’d never had any trouble with any of your visitors or friends out here and that you were a good family in the area. But I knew they wouldn’t listen.” Terry reached out his hand to help me up and I took it.

“You came out here to check on us?” I asked. They nodded. Terry said, “Now this don’t mean that we haven’t ruled out some creature we don’t know attacking the cattle—but we don’t think it’s associated with you.” I felt like I was in a dream or fantasy.  Some of them looked up as Penny landed in the yard. Sabitha curled her feet under her and the house sat down. They were here to help. “I appreciate all of you,” I said, trying to not sound as dumbfounded as I felt.

“We thought maybe you might know what was happening, though.” They nodded again. I shook my head. “I don’t have a clue what may be happening to your cattle, but I know it’s not any of us or anything I’ve ever heard of. Not that many cattle in this short of time.” I remembered the kids. “We are looking for some stray goats though. They won’t hurt you. They are slightly magical but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them.”

“Well, Hell,” someone called from the back. “Three goats?” It was Dan Thomas. He and his family raised goats too. “They tried to get into our pen last night with the other goats and fried themselves on the electric fence. They were dead. But the damnedest thing happened. They came back to life this morning! I said to Margie ‘Those are Demon Goats.’ She said, ‘No, they’re probably from the red-bearded guy up on Alderwood Lane.’ She heard about you from her church group. She said, ‘Demon Goats wouldn’t be that dumb.’ These were just plain old magical goats, she figured. They got right into an old pet carrier we had for Rufus before he passed. We have them in the truck.”

I was elated. Dan and Margie went to go get the goats. Someone asked, hopefully, as if they had done their homework on cryptids just to talk to me, “Do you think it could be a pack of Chupacabras?”

“It most definitely is not the work of a Chupacabra,” I said, and I took this time to educate them on chupas. I told them they don’t hunt in packs. They are loners. And they can only drink the blood of one cow at a time. “That pretty much fills them up. Fifty dead cows would be a waste of food for them… they’d never do it.” Someone started a sentence with, “Well, I heard,” and then recited a fake factoid about chupacabras they found on the internet. I let them say it, let everyone hear it, and then I corrected it. That’s what you have to do about false information. I don’t tell them to shut up, or call them names, or laugh at them, or embarrass them for what they don’t know. “You’ve never met a Chupacabra so you wouldn’t know the difference. They are very nice if you ever get to meet them.”

“I guess this is as good of an introduction as we might ever get,” said a voice behind me. “We are very nice and today you do get to meet chupacabras.” From the Babas’ house two adult chupacabras walked out the door and onto the deck. They wore bright colored shirts and jeans. They looked at me. “Thank you, Yukon, for the kind words you said about us. We came when we heard that you were taking care of three orphans.”

Someone in the crowd said, “Three orphans?” and looked at me with surprise and several others did the same. Their eyes got even softer when they thought of me as a father.

Baba Sola said to me, “That’s what we were doing? Looking for someone for the kids.”

“We hoped they might want to talk about coming back with us,” the chupacabra couple said.

I introduced them (Myrrha and Aliso) to all my neighbors! They all said hello and the conversations started and kept going and all I could do was step back and watch. Dan and Margie came back with the goats, which I gave to Bumble to take into the house. I told him to put down the old plastic swimming pool on the kitchen floor, try to keep the mess contained. He nodded. Terry said, “See it all worked out.” He winked at me. “Did you think we were coming for all the Hiddens you had so we could burn them at the stake?” I laughed, “Of course not. I wouldn’t believe that.” I slapped him on the back and went inside to grab a shirt.

It’s amazing how everyone, even me, can believe what they want to about their own Monsters. I had believed the worst of all of them even from the beginning, and here they were, laughing, talking with chupacabras, magical old ladies, a chatty dragon, and someone was petting the legs of Sabitha—why did I think that just because people in the past had acted out of fear that these people would do that? We may never solve the cattle deaths (though I would ask Penny to go on patrol if she would) but I learned something about my “monsters,” and it was a good lesson. I also had so many friends I could count on—magical Hiddens and friendly neighbors. Just when I needed them, they came.

The Babas had come out of their house with baked goods and drinks and carried them to the deck. I brought out my guitar knowing we could make up some good silly songs tonight. Looking around at all my friends I felt a bit more confident about the world I was sending the young chupacabras into—a world with more friends than I thought. The happy crowd talked so loud that no one heard the happy howls of joy as the kids called out– Angelfire! Skippy! Lunch!—hugged the necks of their three long-lost, beloved, resurrectable goats—we missed you!—and then, with glee, sucked out every drop of life they could, knowing there’d be so much more tomorrow.

October 27:  Yukon Cornelius introduces the Gryphon to the Sphinx

Pink and yellow lights synchronized to the beat of the music flashed everywhere.  People danced. A thousand people?  Yes. And not just people. There were a couple of Jersey Devils spinning across the courtyard. They wouldn’t miss a chance to dance. I spotted a table of swamp crocs. And flying over the crowd I knew I caught a glimpse of some faeries. I moved through the dancers and the lights. If the Boogeyman were in Egypt, he’d be here. I made a note to tell him about it next time I saw him. Finally, I was at the place where you could stare right at the DJ’s Lion Paw toes.  He was three stories tall.  His lion body swayed to the music and, lit from below, his body cast a dancing shadow, complete with his wings.  He held a red set of headphones to the ear of his very human face.  I wondered if he would remember me at all.  I was going to see.  I saw a wheelchair lift and a set of stairs up to a platform where you could request a song, no doubt. I started up the stairs.

A man touched my arm. “Hey, you. Do you have a riddle?” I turned. He wore a black tshirt with white letters that spelled Security. He repeated, “You have to have a riddle ready to suggest a song. See the sign? No riddle, no song request.”  I told him, “I don’t have a song request. I’m an old friend. I’m just coming to say hello.”  He laughed. “We’re all old friends. You know how many old friends of his I meet here, about two hundred a week.”  I laughed, “No really, I’m a friend.”

“You need a riddle, sir. Or you don’t go up. He can’t be bothered by every gawker and he can’t include thousands of songs, so you gotta have a riddle to ask him.” That was strange. I said, “I thought it was the other way around–you had to answer his riddle?” He looked away. “He doesn’t have time for this. Please move away from the stairs.” I put up my hands, “Okay, I’ve got a riddle.” I turned back to the stairs.  He crossed his arms, “What is it?” I looked back and said, “It’s for him.” He said, “I have to approve all the riddles.”  He touched my arm in a way that said, Come back down the stairs. I’d just walked eight blocks in the summer heat. I wasn’t going to be able to run up the stairs and get to the Sphinx first or wrestle this guard.  He was serious. You had to tell him your riddle to make sure you had one. “If I can solve it, it’s not gonna stump him. And let me tell you, I was a star winner on American Jeopardy.”

***

Alexandria, Egypt, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is spectacular from the back of a Griffin at night, hundreds of feet in the air. Mela, the Griffin I met at Dragon Con, insisted I come with her a week later to meet the Sphinx.  She felt nervous her first time trying to date after realizing that she couldn’t stay single for the rest of her life after her mate died.  This was new territory for her. She needed a buddy.  I couldn’t let her down now.

***

“What soars on eagle’s wings, runs with lion’s legs, and crushes with an eagle’s beak?” He shook his head. “No riddles about people you know. That’s not a riddle. A riddle is an answer everyone can recognize but your description has to be slightly misleading, causing most people, not myself, to be unable to recognize the common thing.” I threw up my hands, “I know what a riddle is!” I said.  “Then give me a better riddle and you can see ‘your friend,’” he told me, moving between me and the stairs. A woman in a wheelchair came through the crowd. “I have a song request,” she said. He said, “Do you have a riddle?” She nodded, and looked at me, and then motioned for him to come closer. She didn’t want me to hear. He leaned down, and soon came back up. “That’s a good one! He’s gonna love that.” He secured her into the chair lift and she Wooted all the way up. He looked at me, gave me a cocky grin. “Got your riddle?”

“What mixes together to make the darkest midnight, but can also mix together and make the brightest morning?” I said.

He thought about it, his eyes shifting up to the right. “Okay,” he said. “You can go up.”  We saw the red light flash beside him and he looked up to see that the young woman was ready to come back down. He lowered the chairlift and waved me onto the stairs. “Don’t take too long with him. Other people have song requests.” I walked up the stairs and saw the young woman coming back on the way down. She beamed. “He’s really dreamy in person!” she said.  She slipped a black and white photo, now signed, back into an envelope.

Until the “dreamy” Sphinx, Egypt had a very bad, cruel policy about how they dealt with “monsters.” Any Hidden that came out would be captured, held, tortured, and then released. Eqyptians called this mild, tolerant behavior. At least they didn’t kill them like Russia, they said. Then the Sphinx came along—or should I say, came back home about twelve years ago.  The Egyptian government loved him.  He was a Monster, but he was their monster, everything they loved about themselves. What a tourism benefit! they must have thought. They used him in all their marketing. This 30-foot god. What do you do when you’ve been hiding in fear of persecution from a place, and then come out and become a god there?  The Sphinx immediately proclaimed every Hidden an aspect of Divine Expression—and the people, I guess, listened to the him. They wouldn’t touch him for fear of damning themselves or their city.  For the last ten or so years, it had been safe for Hiddens within Alexandria. At night, they danced with everyone here at the palace gardens beside the beach. He protected them. He turned Alexandria into one big safe dance club.

I got to the top of the stairs. There he was: a three-story giant lion with wings and a human face—with his headphones on—rocking out to the music he was blending and creating. He looked up at me, “Yukon! Hey!!” I smiled, “Puddin’!” He laughed, slapped his belly. “They don’t make enough chocolate pudding here.”  He leaned in, “What’s your riddle?”  I told him.

He nodded, saying, “The color spectrum—the first is when you mix paints, and the second is when you mix light. But it’s a good one! What can I play for you?”  I said, “Asim, I have someone I want you to meet.”

***

Mela the Gryphon from Dragon Con had flown all the way from the US, taking me with her as moral support, only to turn around at the last minute and land about eight blocks away. She was scared. “I don’t know if I can do it.”  She needed some time to think.  I gave it to her.  She said, eventually, “I want you to go up there and reconnect with him first. See if he’s still the kind of person you thought he was.  Sometimes you change and you may not be the person you were.” She wasn’t sure even if she was the same person she was, “I was singing mourning songs a month ago. Now I’m breaking all my traditions. People can change in an instant. I don’t want to put myself in a vulnerable position if he is not the same kind of person you said he was.”  I agreed. It was important for me to find out.

***

So here I was doing that.  I told Asim, “She really needs a friend.”  He smiled, a warm smile, the kind I remembered when Goody and I knew him, when he was wandering in the Mojave, hiding in the Sierra Nevadas, unsure if there was anyone like him at all, or if they would hate him as he believed his home country would.  Asim said to bring her up. He would love to meet her.  He’d even give her a riddle to get past the guard.  I said, “She’s nervous. She’s been through a really hard time in her life.  But she really wants to meet you.”  He said he was doing autographs in about two hours if I wanted to wait.

“She can’t come up the stairs. But she can fly. She’s as big as you are!” His eyes got wide. “As big as me?” I said, laughing, “That’s what she said when I told her about you!”

I felt a big gust of wind and I thought it was him at first with those wings, but no—it was her with her wings. She had landed directly above us on the roof of the Inn.  He looked up, surprised, as I was—could she hear us? I looked at his jaw drop. Had he ever seen a Hidden as big as he was?  Had he ever met a Gryphon?  Judging from his face, I would say no.  I said, “Asim, this is my friend, Mela!”

He was stunned into silence. She also was not talking. The music around them kept the beat going. He awkwardly called up, “What’s your riddle?” Oh, why did he do that? She didn’t have a riddle ready. I looked at him and he seemed to be tongue-tied. She—she was pulling back. I looked at her, trying to tell her not to worry. “Mela, this is my friend, Asim. He’s a sphinx.” I got stuck trying to create conversation, “You both have wings of eagles, or hawks,” I said, punting, “and you both have the bodies of lions.” They both looked at me, insulted. Asim said, “Lions have our bodies.” She said, “Eagles have Gryphon wings.” Asim looked at her, “Exactly.” He lifted a finger for both of us to wait as he switched back to the turntable and programmed something in, listening carefully through his headphones, as he cued up the next song, and then pressed a button, and the music shifted, and a low, steady beat met a progression of chords, and then a man’s voice in Arabic sang. Asim turned around, “Okay, where were we?”

Mela had straightened back, spread out her wings, her claws clinging to the edge of the roof as she looked over the courtyard, and sang—a high lilting descant that matched the melody perfectly. The melody was sad, but powerful. This was a mourning song, I realized. She was singing her mourning song over the dance music, a countermelody—a counter feeling to the joy of the Arabic song he played.  Above us, lit by the lamps, she was full and huge and powerful and her wings spread across the rooftops. I looked back at Asim. His eyes had gone soft, watery. He was smiling.

Well, that went better than I thought. Down on the dance floor, some dancers had stopped to look up at her, pointing. Her voice carried across the courtyards, the gardens. I saw people turning as far as the palace. The combination of her mourning and the electric happiness did not clash at all. People started dancing again—but slower. How can these two emotions exist in the same place at the same time? Isn’t that the most human riddle of all?  The existence of pain and joy in the same person. Pain and joy in the same moment. Pain and joy in the same face. When she stopped, the crowd of thousands burst into applause and Bravos as if an opera singer had just debuted. She looked down at Asim. I knew then that we would wait two hours or three till Asim was done. That they would talk and I would find a room somewhere in the Paradise Inn and sleep. And they would be together all night, till morning had broken through.

Journal the Hell OUT of 2020

2020 has been a rough year for most people. We’re in December now. We can see some light at the end of the tunnel, though the light just shows us how much farther we still have to go. The vaccine, a new President and VP, restrictions lifted, theatres, friends, love… all lie somewhere in the light.

But in the darkness we have changed. We have learned things we did not know about ourselves; we learned things as a collective about the country, about the world around us. The things we thought were stable were not. 2020 was an earthquake that shook imagined securities, and they fell. Many of us also experienced hard growth as individuals. I know I’m not the same person I was in March of 2020 that I am now. We’ve learned some hard truths about ourselves, our fears, our patterns, our destructive habits, maybe–things laid bare when there wasn’t the distraction of busy-ness.

I speak from a level of privilege. I had no job, but I was able to be self-employed by selling my artwork and cashing in retirement, living on loans, the kindness of friends, etc. to survive. (I applied for lots of jobs but never heard back on most of them.) Many were not so lucky and had to be constantly working outside their homes serving the rest of us: doctors, nurses, restaurant workers, mail carriers, the essential workforce. I have no doubt they also learned things about this country, the world around them, and themselves.

We might have learned how resilient we were. We might have found courage. We might have changed our habits and our lives to survive. It was not as simple as the commercials to “Stay at Home” made it seem. It was fraught with decisions and fears. Like many, I lost income due to COVID, and debt I was trying to pay off remounted and surged. And as a queer man, the decisions made at the polls this year would have a direct impact on my life, again, as my freedoms were up for votes, and judges were appointed that might reverse past decisions—yes, all of that. I lost people I cared about–through death, but as friends too.

Journal the End

Maybe you’ve already been journaling the difficult growth of yourself and our country through COVID 2020. I have not–not in that way. But I feel compelled to write down some of the things I learned about myself and my world before I come out of this tunnel.

It will be very easy to throw off the darkness of 2020 when the vaccine comes, when the restrictions are lifted, and we see what survived in the world. People closed their businesses, many lost work permanently. This is not the world you left in March. But before it starts roaring again, before it starts leading us away from this year to forget this year completely—I think I need to journal the “Hell” out of 2020. I need to pull the truths out of the fire and apply them to my life. I need to remember what I learned about me.

I sincerely think what we learned through 2020 will be the most important thing to living a full life after 2020. If you leave 2020 the same exact person you were when you came in, where were you? I don’t know anyone who is the same.

I have friends who have moved to new cities—I see you friends in Chicago now!—and friends who have completely changed careers. I dropped out of one school and started another program. Others have started whole new lives–as if 2020 was the SCENE CHANGE part of the play. Where the lights go down and the stage crew comes and rearranges everything and then actors come back on and the program of the play reads, “One Year Later,” and all the characters are starting in new positions. New cities, new jobs.

What did you learn about yourself that surprised you? Good and alarming.

What did you learn about your government that surprised you? Good and alarming

What did you learn about your neighbors that surprised you? Good and alarming.

What do you want to change in yourself? What do you want to strengthen?

What do you want to change in your government? What do you want to fight for?

What do you want to leave behind in 2020, scraping that shit off of you forever?

What are you bringing into 2021 that is exciting and empowering?

What are you NOW looking forward to that maybe you didn’t think about much back in March?

What will you cherish more? Who will you thank more?

We can think of 2020 as HELL or we can snatch every truth out of this year and bring it with us to 2021, and leave the HELL out of our lives forever. I encourage you to grab a journal and use the rest of December, part of January, to write everything down so you can look at this later as the Year You Survived and a Learning Year. You got stronger this year, you know? You have changed. Celebrate that strength by writing it down before the noise of Capitalism and Freedom drown it all out. There will be parties next year and the next. But for now, while you have a moment, write your journey.

You really don’t want to lose this hard-earned wisdom.