My Lifestyle Journey… Flirting with Fireflies
Slamming the screen door behind me, I hollered loudly to my mom who was cooking in the kitchen… “Mom…I am off to the pond!” “Ok, she said, but grab your swimsuit!” At the age of 8 I had heard the story already a hundred times. She would say… “When I was young, we didn’t have money for a swimsuit. You can’t have people looking at yourself in the bare.” Always following my mom’s words of direction, I wadded the suit up in my fist while grabbing my tennies, hopping from one foot to the other. I ran to the barn with shoelaces unraveling. Searching franticly through the workshop bench…. “It had to be here. Hammer, wrench, bucket, innertube… Yes! I found it! The firefly catcher.” I grabbed the long wooden handle with netting that was perfect for my evening adventure. With a glass jar in hand and my swimsuit and net in the other, I leaped over the fence and was headed across our farm’s pasture to my favorite sanctuary. The pond was perfect tonight. Reflecting the sunset colors, you could see the frogs and turtles basking on the rocks. You could hear the music of nature at work with all the animals feeding. I tossed my swimsuit on a lump of grass and peeled off my clothes. The night was too hot for clothes anyway. My heart racing, I waded into the water with exhilaration. The fireflies were out! For the next moments, that seemed like eternity, I was lost within myself. Every sensation had been amplified. Alone with myself, no judgment or rules from others…I explored and knew every part of my body…
They say that a firefly lights up due to a chemical reaction within their body. Although scientifically we are different species, I was always fascinated by the romantic and wonderous glow one would give off to their mate. Why were some flashes so bright or faster in speed? I wanted to capture these delicate insects and observe how they would emit and transmit their radiant beauty.
My sexuality was limited to masturbation. Often, I would grab a sweatshirt or blanket to release and satisfy my sexual cravings.
My childhood was full of make believe yet a hard work ethic instilled. Growing up on a farm, I had the luxury of a “canvas painting” within my reach. In fact, from an early age I could say that I was strongly influenced by colors and emotions. It was a raw and natural world for me to explore and discover. Through my dad, I was instilled the importance of intensity, strength and physical fitness. The body was your way to express, control and succeed. (A mantra he especially cultivated with my four older brothers.) His words always echoed within me — you could always do better if you were stronger, faster and leaner. I was to let go of my physical aggression in athletics and everyday life, but to hold my femininity and feelings inside. My mom – on the other hand – grew up with limited activities for women. So, she made it very clear that I should love and express myself as a woman but to fight for equality. At the time, this meant that I could do anything that a male chose to do. Little did she realize that in her voice to fight for feminism and equality, I was receiving mixed messages on what it meant to be a woman and expressing my sensuality and sexuality – it was confusing to admire feminism and love my femininity.
My adolescent years evolved into suppressing my sexual drive and sensual expression by physically letting that pent-up emotion and drive though athletics. I trained my body to feel my heart rate and to let go at a certain intensity level. While this brought success to my athletic career, I was scarred sexually by holding back any other awareness. My sexuality was limited to masturbation. Often, I would grab a sweatshirt or blanket to release and satisfy my sexual cravings. Fantasies of high school crushes ran deep. Friday night football games and gym dances were foreplay for imaginary dark bedroom rendezvous. With little experience, potential interludes fueled by drunk boys, loud music and no foreplay or lubrication…I was going through the motions of what sexual desires should be but not knowing what to do or how to do it. Back in my own bedroom, I learned to let go. Covers pulled back, window opened with a soft breeze. The lace curtain grazing my skin, my fingers explored. Mirrors were used for visuals, and toys or tools were used for penetration. I lost myself in multiple orgasms while my groin heated, and my thighs were wet. This of course was done behind closed doors and never spoken of.
It was acceptable to date, to have sex, but if you had multiple partners or engaged in sexual activities repeatedly you were branded as a whore.
College brought freedom of a different level for me. Although I was able to make decisions without my parents’ consent, I felt the burden of following their beliefs. Interracial dating, dress codes and sex toys were now hands-on for me. I was starting to find myself, but still felt that I was lacking the depth of feeling in these encounters. It was acceptable to date, to have sex, but if you had multiple partners or engaged in sexual activities repeatedly you were branded as a whore. So, I learned to walk the fine line of watching my reputation. Showing enough for others to see and expressing myself in other ways such as art and dance. My art classes gave me the pass to pose in the nude. To share my body to others. This is where I may have found the freedom to be an exhibitionist. It was acceptable in the art world to express yourself sexually.
My studio still-lifes brought a new world of turning them into reality. People saw my raw sensuality and now my encounters seemed to be filled with unleashing repressed sexual hunger that was aching to be released. I was taught that your body is beautiful and that it is yours to express creatively and with emotion. Looking back, I could say that the “fireflies” were flashing glimpses of light now and then. Was it more primal? Was I only trying to attract a mate and follow society still in another form for others?
Though this passage of physical sexual freedom I eventually found the man who is now my ex-husband. Throughout our marriage I found this journey difficult to discover myself. I was raising two children and comparing myself to the families in our small community. Judgment and society’s protocols became an everyday burden. Because my childhood was built around men, I felt comfortable in knowing what they liked and needed – the basics of sports, physical fitness and satisfying your body’s sexual desire were clearly outlined. Again, I loved to be the “firefly” that would sparkle at a sporting event or party. Men were attracted to me. I felt free in sharing a sexual outlet with them. The world is quick to scorn in little towns with strict religious beliefs and small-minded people. Women — especially other mothers — would tear you down as threat to them and their often-dysfunctional families. You were an outcast or silenced – shunned to your own home – if your light seemed to shine a little too bright. Ultimately, I lost who I was, like many people tend to do when in a relationship with such strict internal and externally driven boundaries. Sharing multiple sex partners was something I wanted to explore, but I wasn’t quite sure how to do this and fit in. There was no way I could have raised this prospect with my husband, who was even jealous that I owned a dildo. Yet my sexual experiences with him were limited – confined in exploration to his release, his wants and needs – never my own. Sex was quick, abrasive and infrequent. The longing that was asleep began to stir… it’s not that our sex was wrong or not exhilarating, it was just that at this time in my life I was looking for more and was ready to explore new outlets and experiences with my partner. This was the type of relationship I had had in high school and college, and I wanted more now.
Fireflies continued to fly with me after my divorce and during my career years. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe. Remembering back to my days when I could look through those eyes that would catch my beliefs. Speaking to myself….“hold me tight, trace my skin, you’re the one to let you sleep.” A new sunrise brought life to soul. A new dance was beginning. Flirtatious moments of dating and technology opened a whole new world to me. Now in the privacy of my home I was able to create, visualize and connect with who I was. The world of sites available to chat with strangers and share myself was seducing me. I found myself craving more. I was beginning to suffocate at work, and in a sex-less relationship that fed the emotional needs of me and my family but left me starving. Society telling me what rules to follow and how much of your heart and body you can give to others. The struggle of two worlds was clashing. How could I share, open myself to others, and celebrate “freedom of sexuality” as we are encouraged to do? Who dictates the standard of acceptance and beliefs? How could I find what had been lost and suppressed for so long?
On my darkest day…. the day I felt I was drowning with no light within, I was let go from my job. This was my passion, my lifetime identity – who am I now, what will I become? Screaming inside with tears cascading, that is when he touched me most deeply. His gentle whisper…… “Do you know how beautiful you are? Let go…Just be.” But that was a mixed message that I was not sure I could embrace just then – at my darkest. My light went out that day. The world had won. Society and my workplace had overpowered me – confirming that I would never be allowed to be open and free. From family, to friends, religion and work…… walls were built, and scars were left. I asked myself…. “What is the price you are willing to take to be yourself? Who will walk with you? Who will you lose?” I had already lost the person I thought I wanted to be: someone of self-expression, feeling and emotion. Someone who was sensual, raw and intuitive to others’ thoughts and needs. I had lost my passion, career, family, friends and son to suicide. I went back home. Back to the fields. This time, taking my shoes off, unbuttoning my shirt, removing my cap…. I ran. With bare feet touching the grass, with wisps of hair clinging to my neck, with my heart racing…. I ran. Gasping for air, step by step I reached…. I ran. “I am breaking, don’t hold me down”. Exhausted and broken, I dropped. I surrendered my heart. Laying in silence, I watched and listened. The fireflies were coming out. Hundreds were lighting up the field with their dance.
I returned home to him. His voice, his touch, his strength, were there for me. If you have ever believed in spirits…he was one. We became one that day. Entangled with warmth, he kissed me. When you ache to have more, you search for everything they can give. At this moment, he and I knew that our journey of finding us was to discover our light inside and to explore all. We would not stifle our own fantasies or desires. We would not hide them away as we had for years. Diving into a world where we could meet other couples, emotionally and physically. Challenging ourselves to open up to any new experience. Gaining knowledge of the lifestyle…. we would share and join the flight of the other fireflies.