This past year I learned a little something about fireflies and friendships and really wanted to share.
Even pre-pandemic, my life was a rollercoaster. Forest Gump was right (or “Forest Gump” writer Eric Roth was right) when he said “life is like a box of chocolates”—you truly do not know what you’re gonna get. Life is unpredictable because that’s how life works. You never see it coming. So of course, I never saw how this pandemic would come at a time when I was grappling with health issues or loaded down with work (on a job that carried so many first time “what the hell” responsibilities) or dealing with some pretty huge personal stuff. And all that was coupled with my crippling anxiety about getting sick and my hypochondria about was I sick already? And now add the racial unrest that broke out and laid bare how little I am valued in this country as a black woman. A gay black woman. Welp, it all took a tremendous toll on my emotional and physical health. And yeah, all that happened as I was quarantined-ALONE. (Doggies were here but don’t talk back when I talk to them.)
I was in a tailspin—just trying to get up and get through the day was a major task. There were so many tears and fists raised in frustration and a feeling of emptiness where some days you can’t see why you matter. (I must have hugged these poor dogs 20 out of 24 hours a day—the 4 hours were cumulative hours I sleep now)—Thank god golden retrievers love hugs. I found myself trying to find joy somewhere-Anywhere. But I just couldn’t. Dark times, my friends.
Friends and family checked in sporadically—doing their due diligence—and, of course, you wanna assure folk that you’re okay and everything’s okay—but you also don’t want to lie, but you don’t have the energy to explain the truth. And in my case, you don’t want to burden people who are dealing with their own shit.
There were days when it felt like I was on automatic- get up – feed the dogs- check social media for the latest news from all the front lines- I was immersed in this world of “too much information” but I couldn’t stop. How could I change things? How could I change people? How could I make it better? How could I make a difference? All this without leaving the house of course – cause you know… the hypochondria and the real-life pandemic.
So, what about the fireflies, you ask? Where do they come in, you query? They come in right now…
I wasn’t reaching out to anyone… it was too hard to be engaged and sad. Vacillating between helpless and hopeful took up a lot of my time. I referred to this time as, when I “WENT DARK”. I just shut down. I couldn’t engage. Most people left me alone. Deciding that I just needed “space”—when actually I needed understanding… I needed a light. And one very special friend sensed that. And reached out again and again – not for explanations or conversations -just unconditional love and support- assuring me with hearts and emojis that she was there. She didn’t get a lot back but she stayed the course. Not giving up on me. And eventually… came her big pivot: she reached out with… wait for it… fireflies from her yard. (via pictures and videos.) And In case you’re not familiar with fireflies—they are those magical flying creatures that flit about with glowing bottoms and light the nighttime. Their small bodies holding so much incredible shining power. I had no idea what a revelation this small gesture would bring to me.
While looking at the fireflies, I started to sense a sameness. I realized what I was going through (am still going through) felt so dark sometimes and seeing the light of the fireflies cut through the dark night sky in no particular pattern reminded me of close-up stars—and just like stars they were so worthy of being stared at. And wished upon. And I did. I watched and stared and wished at the pictures and videos she sent and I was mesmerized. (Fun fact: the videos were often accompanied with amusing commentary, giggles when she caught and released one, the occasional deer sighting, but most of all: love from a friend.). Every text “ding” immediately made me smile. They brought light. They gave me hope. I mean, surely in a world that made such amazing magical creatures—surely that world could be magical for all of us. For me. Surely there couldn’t always be darkness. Surely, I wasn’t always going to feel so alone. And what she couldn’t have known was that those little bursts of light showed up right at a time when I was at my lowest, when I really really REALLY needed a hug—and those fireflies became a thousand long distance hugs. Comforting. Reassuring. Uplifting. An emotional game changer for sho!!
Watching – re-watching – the fireflies light up the night-it was as though they were cutting through my own personal darkness. They were little glowing lights of hope in a world that constantly tries to put out lights. The darkness became less as the fireflies became more. The light became more. And I’m not sure if she ever knew how important those little buggers were… how much it meant to me- But it meant that someone in this darkness saw me. Someone in this darkness cared about me. Someone in this darkness surely loved me. And with every firefly that lit up—a piece of my heart did too.
I loved those fireflies. And I still love those fireflies. Much like I love the friend who sent them.
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