On before and after

I’ve been stuck on this post I told myself I needed to write.

I want to tell the story of the before and after my Vimeo removal. I want to play the game of spot the differences. Make sense of what it meant to me then, what it means to me now. Because I’m trying to be on Instagram, because I’m considering coming out publicly, because I haven’t been making new work.

There’s so much tension, I wish I could chop it up with a big kitchen knife.

I have all these notes, half drafted posts, one liners, ideas for series I’m not starting. I have all these videos, photos, clips to edit, images to superimpose, visions to manifest. It’s like having dug myself into a grave of unrealized potential. The longer something stays in the todo pile, the more stuck to it it gets.

I need a turning point. Put to bed what was and wasn’t done. Tuck it in real tight. Or let it kick the sheets around. Whatever the fuck it wants, as long as I’m moving on.

I tried to write about when I first put my work online. It’s a good story. But every line I write, every tense I pick rings fake. Like empty noise, no sound to it. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, maybe I can’t tell this story yet. I’m still trying to justify myself. Still trying to prove to myself that I am relevant, that this is meaningful.

If you throw a ping pong ball at your reflection in the mirror, chances are it’s going to bounce back and hit you in the face.

I started making videos almost three years ago. I started putting them online a year and a half ago. Everything I have done, everything I am now, was completely unimaginable a few minutes, a few days before it happened. I think maybe that’s the real before and after I’m trying to get at. The shift from unintended to attempting, from surprise to expectations.

For the five months my initial stint on Vimeo lasted, I was so darn gratified. Free flowing in a reciprocity of self expression and what can only be self described as success. The numbers mean nothing to anyone else but me, and isn’t it convenient that I don’t remember exactly how many followers, views, comments, messages I actually got, so that their memory can shine brighter than their past reality. What I do remember though is the taste of the dopamine. I miss how high as a kite I was on it. It still trickles in sporadically, but it’s not the same as being plugged into a steady stream.

I wish I could say I don’t need the resonance. But the truth is I thrived on that crack. I did a good job back then convincing myself I wasn’t doing it for those reasons. Yeah right. How easily deceivable we can be to ourselves. Of course the viewership was only meaningful because the work was meaningful too. Empty numbers are senseless, unseen work suffocates, but put the two together and you’ve got synergy. The kind that sizzles.

I know I can never go back. I just wish it could feel that fresh again. That I could be this unencumbered again. It was truly one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. It came with such a sense of aliveness, directness, effortlessness. I guess it was purpose? The feeling of being carried by some inner holy flame. Joan of arc with the voice of God in her ear.

I never thought I’d have an audience unless I built one. Then an audience fell from the sky. Then it went away. Can I really be upset that I lost something I never expected to have? Can I not take it for the gift that it was? Being told of the impact my work had on people shifted my relationship with myself in ways I cannot even start to describe. Here I am now, feeling washed up on the beach because the tide went out. But aren’t I feeling this way simply because I’m exposed and can’t hide in the water anymore? And isn’t that the exact point of what I started in the first place?

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On being compromised 

I’ve been obsessing lately about making a false move. I want to bridge all of my worlds and embrace being all that I am but I’m scared of the potential consequences of exposure, especially of getting to a place where someone who would want to know could find my location. Last night I couldn’t sleep, asking over and over again, why am I so terrified of this? Then it hit me. It’s because part of me thinks that if something bad would happen to me, it would be my fault. It would make it my fault because I choose to do what I do and because I didn’t protect myself well enough. Omg. This is a huge aha moment for me. Because really, if someone ever decided to harm me, why would it my fault and not theirs? If someone chooses to harm me, it’s them that is the problem, not me. This might seem so dumbly obvious but I’m serious, somewhere in my mind, I’m really not clear about this. And it’s really pissing me off to realize that.

I mean sure, risk management is a part of life. You take your car on the road, you’d better have insurance, a license, know how to drive, and expect that others may not be thinking along as well as you are. But still, you take your fucking car on the fucking road, you don’t leave it in the fucking garage (ok so I’m a little riled up about this, but I feel pretty entitled to). Ships are safest in the harbor, but that is not what they are built for. So, if I acknowledge that I’m not doing certain things, not fully going for my shots, because I’m afraid it could mean being harmed in a way that would be my fault, well then that’s not risk management, that’s being fucking COMPROMISED.

I actually recognize this, this is victim mentality. The assumption that any harm done to you would result from something you did. This gets perpetrated all the time, in the media, in how we frame the conversation around violence, especially sexual violence. We end up looking to the victim, asking how their behavior attracted or enabled what was done to them. This is how victims so often end up re victimized. This kind of thinking is the default reaction of victims themselves, who of course are the product of their culture.

This is how behavior gets policed, choices get curtailed, freedom gets tarnished in ways we are not even aware of. I’m not really free to engage in what I want to do if I’m constantly afraid my actions could open me up to any sort of assault which would be blamed back on me. Seriously, this has so many consequences. One of the biggest being that I can’t really allow myself to be vulnerable, even though my vulnerability, my softness, my openness are the very sources of my creativity, my power, my agency. Without them, I am a dimmed version of myself.

This is so important because I have all sorts of hopes and dreams for my project (and myself) but I’ve been standing still, petrified of getting into more trouble than I can handle. It also explains why I’ve been spending so much time justifying myself, as an insurance policy. But at some point, you have to stand for something, you have to walk your talk and grow past the conditioning that keeps everything the same. Let me rephrase that. At some point, I have to walk my talk, I have to stand for what I believe in. Awareness is always the first step but the follow up question is, what are you going to do about it?

I want to point out that one of the reasons I had this awakening is because of Natalie Portman’s speech from this year’s Women’s March. Portman spoke extremely powerfully about how her own choices were affected by the world’s reaction to her sexuality. (I highly recommend listening to her if you haven’t already, I relate so much to her story and her conclusion about the need for a revolution of desire gave me goosebumps.) We will never know what kind of Natalie Portman could have been had she grown up in a different, safer world. The same can be said about me. The same can be said about everyone. Those are losses we have to grieve. But past the grief, past the awareness that we are not as free as we think we are, we have an opportunity to create something new and better. I don’t know much about the future but I do know I want to be a part of that.

 

 

On where I am

Back from my unplanned project break.

Oh life. Plan or no plan, she’s the one leading this dance.

I’m not even going to pretend I don’t want to write about what’s going on. My sister’s nipples were bleeding. Turns out she has papillomas and cysts in both of her breasts. The latest biopsy shows that the cells are typical though, not atypical. Her syndrome still increases their chance of turning malignant but the need for rapid intervention has been averted. Nothing needs to happen until her next ultrasound in 6 months (no MRIs for her because of her pacemaker). It’s such a relief, because an intervention would have meant a double mastectomy. Which might still happen, at some point down the line, but at least it doesn’t have to be rushed. She also got to see the specialist who will follow her from now on and he assured her that if they do the surgery, it will be with an immediate reconstruction. She won’t have to wake up without breasts. That image has been haunting me ever since I heard this was a likely scenario. It’s what was hanging over the entire family during the holidays. It’s what made everyone cuddle up a lot more, what made my sister’s self-harming attacks go down drastically, what made me drop a lot of what was on my agenda so I could be present and not lose my shit. That’s the thing about these kinds of experiences. They really bring up what’s important, and make you forget or sneer or laugh at what’s not. And so, so much in this life is not fucking important.

This is one of the most dramatic health issue my sister has had to deal with in a few years. She’s the one going through it, but of course it affects the whole family. That was the thing growing up. No one, especially not I, understood how what was happening to her was in some form also happening to me. It’s not something that gets really talked about. Healthy siblings of sick children. It’s something I have spent years googling, hoping the internet had an answer for me. It didn’t, so I had to make my own. This is where my wisdom comes from by the way. Not because I am naturally good at it, but because I have to be good at it.

The most difficult thing for me is to not throw the baby with the bath water. Being constantly reminded of the transient nature of life makes it hard to engage with things and go after goals. My life becomes a slippery piece of marble, like I have nothing to grasp it with. It’s hard to compete with how meaningful physical survival is. Everything else pales in comparison. It leaves me free floating, unattached to my own life. The purpose of being a witness to someone else’s life or death struggle holds such clarity, I still don’t know how to see myself with the same eyes.

And this is where I get it. Get it more anyway. My videos, my words, my desire to share it publicly, my fascination for any reaction I get… I’m driven by my need to exist in ways I do not know how to do on my own. You’d think feeling your own existence is one of those granted things in life. Like maybe the only granted thing. But no, for the likes of me, it really isn’t.

We all have our challenges. This is mine. I want to learn to see myself as the main character in my own life. I want to let the aliveness that flows through me shine. I want to exist as myself and for myself. I want to live before I die.

I can tell my project has completed another cycle on its spiraling course. It already isn’t what it was before. It isn’t yet what it will be next. Like the space between our breaths. It’s a good place to be when you can recognize it as such. The next breath is coming, there is no doubt or question about it. But for now, in the stillness of expectancy, I can let myself experience where I am.

On the end of the year

Where have you been, where are you going.

I can’t do right now. All my energy has shifted towards observation. Feeling my connective tissue stretching, like the sound of sheets in the morning light.

The in between places. So frustrating or exhilarating, depending how you look at it. The flip coin of expectations and excitement.

Wishing everyone a happy solstice, or a happy whichever holidays bring more meaning into your life.

May old and new ideas marinate in dark skies and glowing lights.

On Instagram interrogations

I don’t seem to be able to make sense of this one on my own so I’m gonna turn it into a blog post, which surely will create an immediate resolution (right, cause that’s how life usually works). Anyway, consider this a worksheet.

I wanted to be on Instagram, and now I am. Yoo-hoo me. But now comes the question: what goes on Instagram? I mean clearly anything can go on Instagram. My nervous system still freaks out every time I open the app, so far being only able to stand a few minutes before I’m hurling my phone across the room, my head reeling from thoughts of overpopulation… But that’s just me being me, I don’t need a worksheet for that (I just need to put my feet higher than my head and breathe deeply, exhaling for longer than the inhales so I can get myself out of fight or flight).

The more precise question is: what do I put on Instagram? Hmm, this only seems to bring up another question: why do I want to be Instagram? Good, cool, now we’re getting somewhere. I want to be on Instagram because… other people said they would follow me there (yikes) … it’s the thing to do if you’re a millennial artist (ouch) … other people seem to be having success promoting their art there (ok, I can live with that one). So, it’s a tool to promote my work. Sounds great. Now, does that mean my work actually goes on there? (obviously I mean the non explicit videos, I am so very done testing the boundaries of mainstream platforms…) And this is where I keep getting stuck.

The OCD part of my mind wants a clear answer. It reeallly doesn’t like not knowing where goes what. Is it replacing Vimeo? (But we just went through all this trouble getting our account back!) Is it an alternative to Vimeo? (But then how do we know which piece get released where?) Is it for different kinds of videos? (But didn’t you just hear the previous interjection that says it’s already too complicated for us?!?) (I don’t know why my OCD voice uses “we”, maybe it means it and me, or maybe it means all of my different anxieties and itself… oh well, who knows.)

And then there’s that fresh new voice I’m not nearly as familiar with: oh c’mon, this is the freaking Internet, honestly, who cares what goes where? Just have fun with it all! Put one thing somewhere, put something else in multiple places, move it around, it’s all good! (I have such a crush on that voice. I find myself gawking at it, eyes wide, head bobbing in approval…)

Alright, so this is an issue of all the voices in my head. My oh my, I’m not sure that’s good news. This worksheet thing is so not working out… And yet I feel better. See, that’s what I mean when I say writing it out is good for me even when I’m not making any sense or when I’m seemingly just hashing out my darkness. It makes me feel better! Like opening a pressure valve or something. Better than a Valium. For whatever magical reason, it’s good for me, I know cause I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise. So, I’m gonna go ahead and post this, even though it might seem like a complete waste of paper. That I already feel better shows me that, even though I thought this was about making a decision, it really kind of isn’t, it’s just about me expressing myself…

Such good work, I’m glad we did this. (Which voice is talking now? Eh eh eh, you get to decide!!)

On Instagram meltdowns

I keep going from Instagram is amazing!!! to Instagram is freaking me the fuck out!!! in rapid succession… !!! … !!! … !!! … !!!

I always wanna take my time with new things because my nervous system tends to overreact. Which is why I told myself I was going to ease into this Instagram thing, but I don’t think social media is an ease into it kind of situation… It’s more like scratch a little corner piece from a scab and watch it rip further and further until you realize this scar goes the entire length of your body and now you’re not just bleeding profusely, your organs are starting to fall out…

Alright, maybe I’m over exaggerating just a little bit. And I guess I need to backtrack to explain what the heck I’m even talking about.

I don’t really know how to handle myself psychologically when I look at other people’s work, especially if it’s related to my own. Which is why I haven’t been looking. And why I’ve been keeping myself so very well isolated. Because when I start to expose myself to what everyone else has been doing, I literally get hot flashes and feel my system go into overdrive.

It’s this damn stupid comparison reflex. This is what this person is doing… so what does it say about what I’m doing? This is what this person looks like… so what does it say about what I look like? This is what this person is saying… so what does it say about what I’m saying? All the fears, all the insecurities that stem from competitive, if you’re not winning you’re losing mindset. Which is why I haven’t been looking. Which is why I haven’t been getting stronger.

It’s always easier to avoid, and I’ve already established that this a preferred mechanism of mine. But avoiding keeps you crystallized in a disempowered state. I can pretend that I’m doing so great over here on my own, but show me the picture of another erotic artist and I collapse into a puddle on the floor, trying to make myself disappear so I don’t have to deal with my bruised sense of self…

It’s a compounded emotion too, because a huge part of it is feeling ashamed of myself for even having this reaction in the first place. For being so petty. For not being able to see myself as who I am and others as who they are and holding everyone in the same space without needing to make hierarchies in my head. I am so proud of the values I believe in, but applying them in real time sure is a higher level challenge.

Oh the ego. I totally see what everyone is talking about with not letting your ego rule you, not letting that inner monster eat you away. But recently I’ve been attracted to the idea that those out of control egos are truly just weak egos. Somehow I find more hope in that perspective. That a healthy ego is a strong ego. You don’t need to fall apart comparing yourself to others if you are well grounded. This is why I’ve been telling myself I want to feed my ego. And not feed it with the kind of crap that keeps it forever hungry, like some nutritionally deficient fast food that leaves you wanting. No, feed it with real food, real love, and real experiences.

Real experiences. That is the opposite of avoidance. That is what I am seeking. That is why I am still here, learning to trust that I have something to offer. And burning through the shame that comes up on the way there.

I have been wanting to take care of this fear of others for a long time now. Last summer already I was dreaming of making a series on my favorite things. Curated by Rain type of thing. But that would require me to dare look at what’s out there, and dare look at myself as I look at others…

So much of it comes from the zero sum model lie that there isn’t enough attention for everyone. That if someone else is worth looking at, it means it’s going to take attention away from you. And replace the word attention with affection, love, money, success, and it makes no difference, the idea of not enough stays the same. On an intellectual and spiritual level, I am so clear that this is utter bullshit. On a practical and emotional level though, that’s where these inherited hangups still rule my world. But I swear to god, I am not here to be complacent about this, I am here to heal myself. So I’m gonna do the fucking work, and cut through the bullshit. I will learn to see others with clear unadulterated eyes, so that I can see myself in the same way. So, stay tuned for the Rain Robert likes. It’s going to be a shower of wonders!

On owning it 

Major breakthrough, hear the crunch of glass ceiling pieces under my cowboy boots…

I have finally taken on the challenge of telling people I know in person about my project. I had been mostly avoiding it, which of course was making me feel even worse about it. But now a very demanding and very rewarding conversation helped me see clearly into my patterns. (It has to be said that I couldn’t have gotten there alone. As much as I always want to figure it all out on my own, humans need each other for that). So, this conversation, which I am so grateful for, made me realize that, if I can’t own my project outright, then all I’m doing is perpetuating the idea that it’s not ok to be me. I’ve basically recreated the unhealthy chasm I lived as a teenager, having to hide who I really am and feeling like a shell of a person to the world. In compartmentalizing myself to avoid getting hurt, I’m just straight up hurting myself. Which sucks. So, there’s not many ways to go about it. Either I do this and feel free to say that this is what I do, or I shouldn’t be doing it.

I really can’t unsee this. The more I try to justify myself and the more I try to use this blog to cover my ass, the more I perpetuate my insecurities. Because it makes me dependent on rightful explanations and good intentions. Without them, I would have to stand alone… which, duh, is exactly what I say I want!! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still love this blog. I love the opportunity to talk to myself out loud and have other people listen. But that has to be for its own sake, not as a way to palliate my fears. Those I gotta face head on. I gotta own the shit out of them. And there’s only one way to do that: don’t be afraid of making mistakes, march on, and see where it takes me.

Destination number one: I’m walking my ass over to Instagram. I have now met an unavoidable number of people responding to my telling them about my project by saying they would follow me on Instagram. Apparently, that’s the place to be when you make art these days. Not that everyone needs to be on Instagram, but my not being on it is decidedly starting to feel like a not going for my shots type of thing.

Seriously, I started this project to free myself of my shame, but then I became ashamed of myself for doing my project… That’s just too twisted, no wonder I can’t make sense of it. The only way out of that one is to stop trying to legitimize myself and just commit to what I do. You can only avoid criticism by doing nothing… and I don’t want to do nothing!

So, from now on, newly released videos may or may not have words to accompany them. This blog is now free to be anything but my absolution. Why? Cause I don’t need to be absolved.

Rain Robert’s Instagram: artrainrobert

 

On Bar Bliss

I have stepped up my game to make this video happen. I’m extremely proud of it, probably as a cure for how conflicted I’ve been.

I was going to write about so many things to introduce it, but none of it is working for me. I want to go back to how it felt to not have to talk about my work. What I had to say, I have said in the video.

Bar Bliss (NSFW 18+)

On appearances 

The thing about my sexuality is that, ever since puberty, it has defined how I get looked at. Interest, envy, attraction, judgment, desire, jealousy. Wherever I go, I get taken in through how I look. And how I look has always been talking loudly. Louder than anything I can say with my voice. And none of it is because of my own doing, this is just how my genetic blueprint turned out.

At 11, I went from a training bra to a double D bra in the course of a few months. I was already acting like an adult, now I looked like one too. I remember a particular conversation with someone who was asking which college I was attending, and I had to respond that I hadn’t even started high school yet. All the attention I was getting always bordered on the overwhelming. And although she tried her best, my mother’s unresolved sexual trauma tainted her relationship with the sexuality my body exhibited. It’s hard to learn to be comfortable with how you look when your own mother isn’t.

The effect of my appearance were somewhat muted as I became overweight. I guess you could say that was one way I found to have some control over the whole thing. (Disclaimer: I am in no way making judgments about weight, health is a state that everyone needs to find for themselves, no matter what the scale says) I’ve always been aware that my borderline obesity was a part of my psychological unwellness. It manifested at its worse while I was also struggling heavily with agoraphobia and self-harming. Hiding at home and hiding inside my body. Loathing mirrors and cameras and reflections. Wanting to be overlooked.

When my healing transformation allowed me to stop carrying the past and to claim myself back, so much weight dropped off of me, and everything changed again. I wasn’t being overlooked anymore. So I had to make sense again of what everyone’s gaze meant, about me, about them, about our humanity, about our society. And, well, let’s just say it’s a lot to handle. It was for sure too much at 11, and at 31 it’s still barely ok. At least I have this project, to give me an outlet and to ground my consciousness about this into something concrete.

I have tremendous inherited hatred for my womenness. It has been a major blind spot of mine for the longest time. It’s hard to be aware of internalized misogyny. It takes taking responsibility for your own part in how you are treated by looking squarely in the face of how you treat yourself. And maybe I could have been onto it earlier if that had been the only message I received, but it wasn’t. The objectification of women is a consequence of misogyny but it’s also a corrupted form of adoration. That’s why women themselves are so ambivalent about it. I mean, I really shouldn’t talk in the name of all women. I guess from my experience, I can own the fact that I want to be desired just as much as I want to desire, and that if objectification is the only way to get that, I would have a hard time giving it up. It’s a good thing I don’t believe it is the only way. This is why I am out here, trying to shift things for myself.

The other thing that makes my appearance so difficult to accept is the fact that my sister looks so different. I guess I could describe it as I fit in the conventional norms of what’s considered beauty, and she doesn’t. And of course the norms are total bullshit, yet we all have to live in the world they rule. Me and my sister both. And she happens to have the blessing and the curse of being extremely self aware of her differences. When it comes to appearances, that veers heavily towards the curse. I have spent entire my life watching people stare at her. Most people are unconsciously showing their lack of familiarity with differences. Some people are straight up vicious as a way of being defensive against the unknown of what they perceive as a threat. But my empathy for and understanding of their behavior does not make it any easier to stomach watching my sister look at herself through how they look at her. Writing this out loud brings up a lifetime of utter sadness and useless rage at my powerlessness in these situations. It makes me cry because I have literally no other way to deal with this.

So, in case that’s not plain to see, guilt is the other thing plaguing me. I have read about the concept of survivor’s guilt, something veterans and survivors of disasters have to contend with. The thing is, the issues of survivor’s guilt are so close to what I experience, even though my sister is still alive, that I believe there is such a thing as the healthy one’s guilt. It’s probably easiest to notice in more extreme cases like mine, but it’s also arguably something everyone experiences for the privilege they have over others. And guilt is a nasty thing. It’s just as destructive as shame, I would say in just a more insidious way. Shame burns like I am being branded from the inside. Guilt is more like a poisonous vine slowly strangling all my organs.

All these things add up to what I see when I look at myself. But they are not what I want for myself. I want to reach for the power to own my appearance. I want to transcend my fears and shame and guilt. I want to not shy away from embodying my sexuality. It’s a huge responsibility, but at the end of the day, we all have our blessings and curses as the two sides of the same coin we’ve been given. The art is to rise to the occasion and let your own light shine bright.

On hearing voices

Why on earth should the sound of my own voice make me even more insecure than the sight of my own naked flesh? I mean seriously, wtf?

When we say this person’s voice has been stifled, we ain’t fucking kidding. Not just a metaphorical voice, the actual vocal chord emitted voice! Oh so very little mermaid like.

I only just recently started enjoying the sound of my voice. I think I got there because my project makes me feel like I have an interesting voice. But still, when I had the thought, maybe I should record myself reading my posts, my initial reaction was oh hell no, not a good idea. Which of course is how I knew I had to do it. If I am to break free of my (a)shamedness, I have to stop buying into it.

Racing pulse. I can’t believe I’m more comfortable having my orgasms on the Internet than my spoken voice… How crazy is that?!

Oh well. In the spirit of manifesting myself fully and for the reclaiming of what has been silenced, here is me, reading me:

On broken records, read