Another full moon, another sleepless night. Even as a child, I had trouble sleeping on a full moon. I know it’s a cliché, and many pagan and wiccans will claim a strong connection to the lunar cycle. I used to lie awake and read books by the light of the full moon. My parents were sure it was the cause of my need for glasses by the time I was in high school.
At the time of this writing, it’s August 30th, 2:30am. My partner Rebekah and I completed the first of our classes at 3 Days of Light Gathering in Old Fort, North Carolina and it couldn’t have gone better. Despite arriving a day later than we originally planned, the schedule on the festival website being inaccurate, and a host of issues that left us feeling unprepared, we had a crowd of 18 and a very successful workshop.
The cabin given to us for classes was stifling hot and as soon as class ended, they all cleared out. Rebekah and I made our way down to the lake. The night was lovely. We took a moonlight stroll to the lake pier where we put our feet in the water and watched the tadpoles swim about. I reflected for a moment on the events of the day that led up to our success; the rushed feeling of getting prepared, the script’s words floating around in my head, where my social anxiety jumbled them up until I didn’t know the beginning from the end. And then losing my ankh as I crossed a bridge.
That was a moment I worried would derail my entire life. My ankh has been in my possession since I was 19. I often tell the story of how I found it on a nature hike and it was simply lying in the dirt, tarnished and awaiting discovery. I’ve told that story so many times, I don’t know if it’s true anymore or if it just sounds good. What I do remember is that when I first found it, I wore it continuously. It became representative of my search for Truth and Enlightenment. As the years passed, my jobs changed from the simple ones that a college student could juggle to the more demanding ones. Somewhere along the way, life got so busy I forgot all about my intention to find Truth and Enlightenment and simply lived from moment to moment. (Luckily I found my ankh after an hour of searching among the mud and water.) My life became reactionary and reflective of an unconscious way of living. A year ago that all changed.
This time last year, I made a vast change in the way I live my life. I decided I deserved happiness and I would stop waiting for someone or something else to bring it about and I would seize it for myself. I decided joy could be had every day and that life was wasted if I spent it passively waiting and hoping for what I wanted, rather than actively making it happen. I found a lot of my joy in my new work, alongside one of my lovers, Rebekah.
On this night, we facilitated a workshop entitled, “Love what you Love: Accepting our Sexual Selves.” Like many of our classes, we have the running order and highlights written on “cheat sheets” for us to refer to during the program. We leave ourselves enough structure to have consistency and order, but enough room for improvisation and inspired improvements. The class focused on presenting the many varieties and modalities of practiced sexual behavior to help educate people about the range of sexual appetites. As we say, “normal” is a setting on the dryer.
During the course of the class, one of the moments of improvisation caused me to share a memory from my childhood. In my public school, 7th grade marked the first time our school had showers and a required Physical Education program that demanded students shower after class. The first day of that class was one of my most humiliating in my memory. I shared my emotions and memories about myself and other students falling victim to bullying, body shaming and machismo bullshit. This was an unplanned moment, but a powerful one that I am glad came out. I used this as a teaching tool and filed the memory away. I return to it now, examining it like a stone found in the wild. The memory is sharp, full of pain, fear, and sadness. I can look at it now, brushing the dirt of time off it, examining it with my logical mind. I can count this among many others that lead to my development of social difficulties and low self-esteem. Exposed to my examination, this memory stone is no longer sharp and painful. It has become rounded and polished. I do not discount this memory, and no longer keep it hidden away. It is part of me and helped shape me. Now, I have shaped this memory into something I can use to build. I construct a new paradigm, one in which I see the adversarial environment I went through. I see, instead of painful events, the lessons I had to learn in order to arrive where I am.
I like who I am now. I have come to respect myself and hold myself in high esteem. I wouldn’t want to be anything less, and these stones are the foundation of who I am. Every memory I have is part of that foundation now. Each memory a stone shaped by me. I am the builder of my house, it is mine to make and mine to live in.
All this I realized sitting on the edge of a small lake, the full moon above. Rebekah and I returned to our cabin to discover one couple already in bed sleeping, and another exchanging back rubs in the middle of the floor. There was plenty of room, so we staked out our beds and set to nesting. The fluorescent lights above felt too harsh for intimacy, so I lit a dozen candles and turned off the overheads. Rebekah and I laid down, but sleep was not on the evening’s menu. As we were becoming more intimate, the couple that was exchanging back rubs in the middle of the room also began having sex. The murmuring of sex sounds and occasional offhand remark was distracting, but pleasantly so. At various moments, we took breaks from our own love making to peek at the young couple. We had no clue if they were long time lovers or if they just met, but it didn’t matter. They were intimate with each other, exchanging whispers and giggles, moans and sounds of pleasure. Their sex paralleled ours and everyone seemed to be pleased. It was truly magical.
Afterwards, the couple cuddled and eventually went back out into the festival and I realized I would not find sleep any time soon. I opened my laptop and began this story. Oftentimes, Rebekah and I turn to each other and say, “We have the best job, ever!” As silly as it sounds, we really believe this. We not only surround ourselves with pleasure, and give ourselves permission to find joy in everything; we help others do the same.
Our class this evening started with us asking a question. “What would your life look like, if you could be your authentic sexual self?” I feel that I can now answer this question by looking in any mirror. I encourage everyone to work on themselves until the person we hope and want to be is looking back at us out of that mirror.