A Tale of Two Moths, Dark Night of the Soul, and Sexuality

IMG_7981I met Andrea in my first round of Open Your Heart in May 2013. Every time she posted on the forum, I was moved and inspired by the depth and clarity of her writing, and her ability to transpose her inner world into words. When she shared this story with me over email, I immediately asked if she would be willing to share it on my site, as I knew it would provide light and inspiration for those struggling through dark night of the soul, especially when sexuality is effected. As Andrea so beautifully shares, it’s often when we can see our experience reflected through nature and metaphor that we find some solace, hope, and the energy to go on. 

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I’ve struggled with relationship anxiety, perfectionism, a highly sensitive nature, a declining libido and other changes associated with fluctuating hormones and mid-life, and a recently diagnosed autoimmune disease.  When the stress was too much for my body to take emotionally and physically, I found myself in ‘a dark night of the soul.’  My inner work as I find my way back to the light has included reconnecting with my spirituality and sexuality, or as Sheryl puts it: “inner aliveness and zest.”

When Sheryl recently wrote that we can turn toward “the landscape of the wild” to learn its wisdom as a way of seeking answers that cannot be found in our heads, it fully resonated. Nature has always spoken to me, awed and inspired me, and rejuvenated and soothed me.

One morning, I noticed a large brownish-red moth with fuzzy antennae on the wall outside my front door. It grabbed my attention because I’d never seen a moth that big or colorful. The moth sat so still and unmoving that I feared it was dead. This went on for days. I knew it was there for a reason and had something to teach me, so I opened myself up to its inspiration.

The symbolism of the moth resonated with my dark night experience. The moth, a nocturnal animal, conducts its life-sustaining activities in the dark. It trusts that its needs will be met. It was a reminder that I needed to have faith that I had the necessary resources to help me navigate through my dark night. I could trust that my dreams, intuition, awareness, and supports would guide me through the discomfort.  The dark was not to be feared, but honored and even celebrated as a natural part of a fully experienced existence.

My moth friend was a female Automeris IO. From what I read, it seemed most logical that she was sitting in stillness emitting powerful pheromones to attract a mate. A few days after her arrival, I noticed a smaller, dull-colored moth hanging out on the wall with her and assumed the pheromones worked and her male partner had arrived.

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However, the next morning I noticed that the small moth had a gray colored trail oozing beneath its body. I thought it might’ve gotten smooshed by a predator, but when I looked closer I saw that the trail was actually dozens of eggs. It was spectacular.  Two female moths of vastly different colors and sizes: one colorful, magnificent, and large and the other plain and small. Were they there to represent where I felt I was (dull/small) and where I knew I could be (vibrant/large)? They must’ve felt comfortable and safe in each other’s presence, which is why they were both hanging out on the wall together, supporting each other on their female journeys of courtship and motherhood.

I was sharing this experience with my friend, Kim, who commented that the moth pheromones were working in me, too. I felt immediate sadness, hypersensitive to a fear-trigger that my connection to my once powerful sexuality was now muted, or, worse, gone altogether. I told her it felt like my pheromones were broken. It seemed as if the effects of hormones/health/bad habits/relationship anxiety/life stress had destroyed any last vestiges of my once-tangible experience of sensuality, seduction, desire, and pleasure.

Two days after that exchange, I had two very intense sex dreams one night after the other. I couldn’t tell you how many years it had been since I had a sex dream at all, much less one that was so intensely powerful that my body was having an actual physical reaction. (Woo-Hoo!)  I was thrilled when I woke up to realize that my sexual energy was not dead after all. Sheryl was right. It was inside me, still there…. waiting. Perhaps Kim was right, too, and the moths were there with their pheromones to inspire that part of me.

I was sad when both of my moths left. However, I was looking forward to the eggs hatching. Seems strange, I know. I mean, who cares about larvae?  Yet the larvae represented life, a fresh start, a new and exciting journey…movement.  My boyfriend was the first to discover that the eggs had hatched. There we were, watching their teeny, tiny larvae bodies moving and wiggling about.  (Nothing quiets relationship anxiety down like a heart-bonding, heart-softening moment.  I mean, what other guy would celebrate larvae with me?). When I went to check on the larvae the next morning, many were gone. I noticed that there was a gentle breeze blowing, and I sat and watched the breeze carry several of the larvae away; off to face the adventure of life or perhaps the inevitability of death.

My brush with nature was an amazing experience from start to finish. Birth. Life. Death. It was a reminder that the universe provides what we need if we just sit still and trust that everything necessary for our learning, growth, and healing will be there when we need it… if we remain open. It was a reminder that we have friends and guides along the way to give us messages and gentle nudges, to sit and grieve with us, to celebrate with us, and to remind us that we are vibrant, worthy, and safe. Most of all, what really resonated was that we can still survive, thrive, shine, and sparkle even in the darkest of nights.

37 comments to A Tale of Two Moths, Dark Night of the Soul, and Sexuality

  • Mary

    Thank you so much for sharing. It’s amazing how messages come across in many forms to us.

    • Andrea

      I’m amazed too, Mary. I find that when I am open and receptive to the messages, even more messages seem to show up and find their way to my heart.

  • MS

    What a great lesson. Thank you!

  • B

    Hey Sheryl! I was lately reading over your article “38 Hard Truths about Relationships” as its been a real blessing to me. What do you mean when you state “Real love includes apparent polarities”? I’m having trouble figuring that out. Thanks

  • Chay

    Not often do I find time to read Sheryl’s articles. I happened to pass this one by in a weekly? E-mail and I can honestly say, I am very happy I read your story. I so often, as I’m sure many others do, relate or see messages through nature. I can see the message you took and can relate in many ways. I am very much on this journey (without meaning to be) about feminism and the way women are being seen in the world today. Many signs including your story are telling me “Chay, you seriously need to look at how far you’ve come and how far you can go”. So often is it hard to work with other women in this day and age and not feel a little jealousy or intimidation. Maybe if we worked more together we will for more women are able to do so as well. Now I know this isn’t exactly what you meant for a message to get across, but sharing this story has opened my eyes to what nature is trying to say as well.

    • Andrea

      I grateful that life gifted you the time to read the post this week, and that you received such a great message. It is my sense that anytime life gives us a nudge to stop and acknowledge our movement and growth, we our honoring our inner sparkle.

  • Behnaz

    What a beautiful piece Sheryl, thanks for sharing this with us xx

  • Eleonora

    Andrea,
    Thank you for sharing this. It was comforting to hear your thoughts about sexuality, I felt less alone after reading it. With best wishes,

    • Andrea

      You are welcome, Eleonora. I am beyond thrilled to hear that my words have somehow comforted you and that you don’t feel so alone.

  • Mary

    Beautiful writing. I am struggling with intense, painful anxiety right now as I prepare to get married. I’ve been visiting a psychotherapist who is elevating my anxiety. She’s told me I am in a codependent relationship and that my partner is an alcoholic (even though we drink less than most couples I know in their mid 20’s). Is it wrong to stop seeing her if I think she’s wrong about us? I love my partner and believe we have a healthy relationship, but my wedding is in 2 months and I’m terrified I might be making a mistake. I feel so lost and this blog is the only thing that makes me feel safe and okay.

  • Brittani

    This is really amazing! There’s been a snail within a spiral shell outside on my window for the past couple of weeks, without any movement, just there. Until I read this post, I hadn’t really “looked” at the snail, I only saw it. Today it moved! I actually caught the snail in movement; spiraling out of the shell. Talk about beauty! Absolute beauty! This means everything to me. After months and months of struggling with never ending “what ifs” I am finally getting a grip on my life and to actually see a snail slowly coming out of a spiral really warms my heart and speaks to my inner being very loudly. Sharp, tiny rockets of peace shoot through my body as I think of the beauty that nature possesses as well as the secrets that nature holds that everyone has access to as well as the excessive amounts of irony in all answers when you’ve asked nature a question. The beauty of a spiral, the slow but steady pace of a snail, a small fragile thing carrying the world on it’s back, yet the beauty of its shell (world) is breathtaking. Need I say more! The answers to your hidden questions are all around yet, without LOOKING, you will never see.

    • Andrea

      WOW – this is amazing…and so beautiful Brittani!!!! What would life have to teach us if we chose to pay attention to even the smallest of things every day? It is a form of meditation and mindfulness, don’t you think?

      • Brittani

        I honestly believe it is Andrea. The road within is a spiral, rather downward or inward & the only way out of a downward spiral is upward, through the same spiral or else you’ll go in continuous circles at the bottom. A couple of days ago, I wrote a prayer for myself to my inner goddess and one of the lines are, “I pray that I practice mindfulness daily”. Your words, the snail the snail’s spiral, It’s all synchronicity in my eyes! & also, thanks for your comment.

        Stay Amazing 🙂

  • Zoe Carter-Beedie

    Andrea, thank you so much for sharing. I found your words very inspiring and reassuring. Sheryl’s right, you do have a way with words. I was transported right into your story. And could relate to it on many levels, not least your pain around that longing for sexual aliveness. Thank you so much once again. Zoe xxx

  • Kimberly

    Hi dear friend! Loved this story both times around. I’m feeling grateful to have your friendship on this sometimes difficult journey. I’ll remember to leave some space for nature’s wisdom–from moths, to peacocks, even squirrels. Thanks for the smile this morning and thanks Sheryl for this safe space to heal together. ❤️

  • Andrea

    You are welcome Zoe. Longing for sexual aliveness seems to be a common struggle that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. xxx

  • just me

    I always dream sexual dreams about my first love. We had high chemistry and I felt then sexually alive.Now I am not able to feel any kind of sexual attraction with my husband and it makes me sad. This has been going on since beginning. I am in therapy and we try to solve this problem, but those dreams make me so upset and remind me about better and easier time.

  • MelleS

    Tales can heal…
    when i was in the darkest night of the soul, i used to read women who run with wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The author rewrote tales known in the western culture and other tales. Then she analysed them. The pupose is to help people go through transition by reading tales. It helped me understand what was going on in my head and in my life when i was in my early 20’s. I recommend it for the ones who are dealing with hard transitions and who want to fill their well of creativity too. It can be usefull for the men too ?
    Thank you Sheryl for sharing this story.

    PS : sorry if i wrote mistakes (english is not my native language)

  • Zoe Carter-Beedie

    MelleS, I just bought the book you recommended above. It looks AMAZING!! Thank u so much for the tip. I very rarely act quite so immediately upon advise, but when I saw the title and read your words, I knew that was for me! Went straight to Amazon! 🙂 Can’t wait to get tucked in. Thanks again, Love, Zoe xx

    • MelleS

      I Hope you’ll find your way in this book. You can read it in so many different ways, in different moments of your life…
      Enjoy !
      Love,
      MelleS

  • Angela

    Beautiful as always ? Thanks for being here in this world for us. Today I took the day off because of the flu. I have been resting in bed and I was thinking has my anxiety left where am i at transition wise. Do I still need to do the work? Breathing exercises, journalling. I had anxiety attack i just sat with the scarey feelings, I know their not real. I tend to think more when im alone.

  • LOST

    Sheryl,

    Is it possible to go through relationship anxiety once, get through it, be happy and fine for a while, and then it happen again? Things in my home life are very stressful and instead of focusing on all the stress around me I just start feeling anxious about my relationship. I love my boyfriend more than anything and a life without him seems unimaginable and just down right painful. He has helped me through so much and I don’t ever want to do life without him. I’m feeling myself slipping into the hell of relationship anxiety again and I don’t know how to stop it. I can’t feel anything right now but fear and that fear is making me question everything we have and then I get anxiety over all of the questioning. I just need a few words to give me hope and help me through this.
    Thank you, I would love to hear back from you.

    • You’ve already answered your question ;). Yes, when life becomes stressful and we don’t attend to what’s at hand, the core feelings can easily morph into relationship anxiety. The work now is to call back the projection and own what’s happening inside of you.

  • Lost

    I’m so scared Sheryl, I only want to go through this again. I love him so much and I don’t want this to affect us. He’s like my family now and I feel so sick inside and I’m questioning everything. I just want to know we will be okay? Will it ?

  • Lost

    so this is all just within myself? And nothing to do with my relationship ??

  • Lost

    I’m just longing for some quick answers, I can’t take this Sherly, not again.

  • Northernlass

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone here suffers from or has suffered from hypochondria? (Anxiety over their health). I feel that my relationship anxiety has morphed into this and it is very distressing. Since getting an abscess which I bad to have drained and incised surgically very recently, I’ve magnified every ache and pain, every minor tummy complaint, to the point of ridiculousness. I’ve even managed to convince myself that I must have cancer, be pregnant (scared of getting pregnant at the wrong time), or will always feel ill with something or another. I think it could be caused by the underlying griec of losing my dad at a young age due to an undiagnosed degeneration of his muscles. Would appreciate any support 🙂

    • Health anxiety is SO common among my readers and clients. I will try to write a blog post about it soon, but keep in mind that, yes, it’s often covering over grief and also the inherent uncertainty of life.

  • hayley

    Hey sheryl. I’ve learnt that i have trouble opening up and totally letting go in a relationship. I just dont feel open enough, i guess connected enough. It makes me anxious because i blame my partner but i think it has everything to do with me. I’m not sure, could this be fear?