Ducks and chucks,
It's Duck here. Today my partner Peacock Riley is duck-lighted to be guest-posting from their brand new Peacock Advice Column. Take it away, Riles:
Greetings from I, Riley the Marvelous! Today's letter comes from an anonymous owl who calls themselves "Stu." Warning: They are extremely poetic.
Dear Peacock Riley,
Hi. 'Tis I, an owl of the sky, who should be happy, free, and high, but is actually down with a face like a clown—on the outside a smile, on the inside a frown. Because, though I'm a Barn Owl, I can't stand the night. It gives me a fright. There's not enough light. For other Barn Owls, night is the thing. They love to spread-wing in the darkness and sing. Whereas I love the daylight—the streets and the stores, the mall's open doors, the sunbathing shores.
Daylight makes me feel happy and strong. So why do the others think me so wrong? "Barn owls," they cry, "fly past stars in the sky, 'neath the moonlight up high, hunting mice in the rye. We sleep in the day, when the light is so harsh that there's nary a rodent alive on the grass."
But in secret, I'm friends with my daylight pals—they're snowy owls and other fowls. In them I see a bird like me—daylight and sun set them free. They love my difference and never say, "You're a strange barn owl!" No, no! No way! But why am I only loved by those who aren't my kind? Oh, heaven knows!
Being who I am is I'm letting down my barn-owl fam! Do YOU think that, hmm?
Alas, twit-twoo! What's there to do? Is a twit me? Or am I a twit too?
Love your opera.
I, Riley the Marvelous, am not a professional advice columnist. But Riley does know what it means to be different. In your difference lies your heart—the truth of who you are, as a bird or non-bird. Yes, you have a family of barn owls who want you to be exactly like them. They haven't learned a great truth of love: That we must be who we are, in this life, as much as we possibly can. And that we deserve support as we do so.
I, Riley the Marvelous, have a disability. You'll note that Riley's fan-tail is permanently fanned. When Riley was younger, Riley's tail couldn't fan, and then one day, a complex and magical situation (which I'll share another time) changed my tail for good. Now, Riley's tail is constantly fanned. It is part of Riley's marvelousness. But this does have many challenges, too. "Oh Riley," some birds tell me, "you can't fan all the time! It's just rude! You're sucking up all the attention!"
Generally, Riley tells them, "Riley will stop fanning for a day if you stop breathing for a day. After all, if Riley's fan-tail is sucking up all your energy, then your breathing is clearly sucking up Riley's." It's just Riley's way of telling them to duck off and mind their own peacock-darn business.
Fortunately, in the world of peacock opera, fan-tails are as welcome as vegan-snail sushi. That's why Riley changed their life entirely and devoted themselves to opera singing, where Riley found many members of their chosen family. In fact, Riley found their beloved partner Duck, thanks to an opera performance.
What Riley learned from this experience, and also from being a queer bird, is that Riley must be where they are both loving and loved. It sounds like you have found that place for yourself. So, whatever else you do, whoever else you decide to tell, and whoever else you decide to still have in your life, perhaps it's wise to start viewing those daytime owls who accept you as your chosen family.
Chosen family is more natural than the ocean—and so is living a non-normative life. Can you find a way to spend more time with your chosen family of non-barn-owls? Can you live with them or move closer to them?
Whatever you do, remember: You were NOT put on earth for others to smother your light with their opinions of who you should be.
You were born to be marvelous, and if therapy feels like your friend, perhaps it's worth a try. Therapy can help you to see how extraordinary you truly are, and also how to deal with your family (aka your non-Family) situation.
Touched that you're a fan of Riley. Riley's also a fan of Riley.
You, honey. You.
That's it from Riley and I, ducks and chucks—unless you're a member of my email list, in which case you'll receive my latest monthly pond story very soon. And don't forget: You're super-ducking awesome!