On the truth

The truth is…

I keep wanting to finish the sentence that starts with the truth is but the truth is I don’t know what the truth is.

I seek the truth that goes deeper than acclaim, deeper than productivity, deeper than everyday health. I seek the place where I belong. I seek the feeling of being one with life. I seek the love that cannot be taken away.

My silence, my hiding, my rejection are expressions of my seeking. Just as much as my showing up is. Clearly I’m still grappling with this. There is never enough proof to make the rational mind stop spinning. Doesn’t matter though, because the truth resides in the heart. That’s what needs opening. That’s what needs listening.

My heart is an infinite ocean. I may be present or I may be absent but my quest remains, ebbing and flowing, its course unalterable.

How I feel is more important than what I do. What I do I do because of how it makes me feel. This sometimes leads me to addiction. And sometimes it leads me to grace. I can deal the former if it means I can have the latter.

In the stillness of the night I hear my voice. It reminds me that I am not alone. I am here even when I am not here. So are you. We are in each other.

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On life

I figured out what my spirit animal is. A firefly. I appear. I disappear. I appear. I disappear. I…

It’s difficult to explain why I didn’t write for so long. I started many sentences, never could finish them. Like thoughts that can’t be completed. Then I stopped trying. Distance. Rebellion. Change.

It’s just as difficult to explain why I am writing now. I’m not sure what it brings. But I’ve said it since the very beginning, I’m doing this for myself first and foremost. I am not here to please, I am not here on demand. I am certainly not here to win a medal of assiduity.

What is this disordinate narrative? Well I guess it’s me. All of it is me. The voice in my head, the one scrambled in notebooks, the one I speak out loud, the one that gets published on this blog. What is life but a long fragmented, reinvented, interrupted, continued monologue? Or maybe I’ve watched too much TV. Perception and experience channeled.

This year so far has been incredibly hard on me. Past, present and future are battling it out like some wicked threesome wrestling match. I’m being confronted with challenge after challenge, no detail too small to bring up a shitstorm, no impact too banal to be mistaken for noise. I’ve dug up the ugliest feelings, the nastiest habits, the deepest despair, the roots of my innocence, the layers of my guilt. History, ancestors, triggers. Realities, circumstances, destiny. I’ve been working. I’ve been bingeing. I’ve been sick. I’ve been exercising. I’ve been drinking. I’ve been crying. I’ve been trying. I’ve been giving up. I’ve been caffeinating. I’ve been sweating. I’ve been thinking.

So now what? Now this again. Wanting to mark time. Wanting to hear myself speak. Trying to wrangle a bounty of ephemeral with my magic lasso again.

It’s just not gonna be like I thought it was gonna be. When is it ever. I had such a plan, I shoulda known right there it was too much of a plan to ever come to be. The fact that I still believe I can follow plans is endearing. Cute, like a pink ribbon or a stitched monogram. I keep trying to make myself one but coloring books are just not my thing. The minute I draw the lines first, I know I won’t be filling them, no matter how clever or bright or sharp the lines turn out.

I’ve been calling it that but this is not a project. This is my life. I can try packaging it any which way I want, it’s always going to spill over. It’s always going to run dry. It’s always going to be brand new. It’s always going to repeat itself. It’s always going to make perfect sense and be perfectly incomprehensible.

On that side of me

There is a side of me I do not know how to let out, do not know how to get to exist outside myself. I can feel it in there, present just inaccessible.

Well, actually, that’s not exactly true. It does come out, sometimes, surprise surprise, firecracker fizzing by, as soon gone as it was irrepressible.

I wish I could but I cannot summon it on cue. Definitely cannot fake it into reality. It doesn’t respond to commands. It doesn’t respond to anything. It only ever shows up when it wants, as it wants.

It’s the side of me you don’t want to piss off. The one that gets turned on by heavy metal. The one that loves hard liquor and loud footsteps. The one that can hold a lustful gaze for longer than most. The one that isn’t afraid of being called an intellectual. The one that truly madly deeply doesn’t give a shit what other people think.

I want to call it dark but that’s not quite right. It’s assertion. It’s self possession. It’s raw, unadulterated confidence. Not the kind that’s earned, the kind that’s just evidence.

Almost doesn’t sound like me at all. Except there is no me without it. Still, on those rare occasions it does make an appearance, it’s as pleasing to me as it is shocking to anyone else who thinks they know me.

God I adore this side of me. I would give it an altar if that wouldn’t make it laugh in my face. Irreverent. Radical. Unapologetic.

Yeah…. No, this side does not stay out of sight for no reason. Oh the sneer I feel curling up inside. Our true powerful nature. Ain’t that the first thing that gets beaten, ridiculed, coerced out of us? And yet, it can only be gone for good if we’re dead. To still be alive means we still have it, however deep it has to be buried, however elusive to will it may become.

I am still here. And so that side of me is still here. Well then, let’s keep lighting up as many fuses as can be found, and wait for the fire to get cracking.

On Magic Carpet

All of me laid bare on the carpet. The beauty. The flaws. The motion. The stillness. The searching. The finding.

I shot this piece last summer. In the dawn after my many months dark night of the soul. Digging deep within, letting something emerge from the silence I surrounded myself with.

Then I couldn’t watch it, couldn’t release it. Leaving it to sleep on a hard drive. I guess the waiting serves an important purpose. Sometimes it needs to marinate. Sometimes I need to let myself become ready.

Last week I finally watched it, in its half hour entirety. I can’t say that I really know what I’m looking at, beyond the first degree of seeing myself masturbating.

Skimming over the images it’s easy for me to be repulsed by it. I have to breathe very deliberately to actually watch it. But when I do, I find myself strangely mesmerized.

I see myself and I hear a plea, a prayer. For independence, for attention, for pleasure, for solidarity, for vindication.

There is so much unknown inside my own body and mind and soul. Unspoken. Uncharted. Unrealized. Part black hole, part virgin sky…

Magic Carpet (explicit sexuality NSFW 18+)

On my work

Speaking of making things happen, today I did my coming out. I am now irrevocably Rain Robert.

Here’s what I wanna say about my work as I’m thinking of it from the perspective of my friends and family:

My work challenges the notion that my sexuality needs to be private and that making it public is shameful or perverse or pornographic.

It questions the assumption that a woman’s arousal is something that must exist for profit, that the expression of her eroticism cannot simply be for her own pleasure and discovery.

It explores freedom of expression and freedom of consumption, freedom to show or to watch, to share or to judge.

My videos can look deceptively simple, there’s no artistry, no storyline, no real editing, no makeup job to hide behind. No specific talent, just real felt explicitness. Emotional, physical, sexual.

What do I see when I look at myself? What do you see when you look at me? When I look at my camera, am I seeing myself or am I looking at you watching me?

What does exposure mean? Where does the power lie? Is it the truth? What is beauty? What isn’t beauty? What is art? What isn’t art?

Is there such a thing as being overexplicit? An overindulgence? An imposition? Am I crossing a line? Why? What does it say about me? What does it say about you? What does it say about us?

May we feel free to ask the questions. May we feel free to not know the answers.

On new old work

Sweeping up my vaults, asking myself: why didn’t I share these videos when I made them, and why am I releasing them now?

Wanting connection is what drives me to participate.
Wanting autonomy is what drives me to withhold.
Connection without autonomy is dependency.
Autonomy without connection is isolation.
Connection and autonomy together is belonging, and that is what I truly seek.

I can tell myself I’m all over the place. Or I can tell myself I am always right on schedule.

Beach Break
Flying Hair
Cafe Shadow
Ferry Face
Crisp Touch
Wool Iron Sun
Train Hand
Snow Berries
Minimalism

On coming out

I want to come out as Rain Robert to my friends and family. The few closest to me know but most of the rest don’t. As good as it was to have my own secret garden for a while, now it feels like a burden. I’m telling myself it’s about getting ahead of the conversation, in case people find out on their own. But really it’s about how I feel right here right now. Split. I so don’t want to feel split. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to lie. That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to get away from. I’m trying to heal. Wholeness. Realness. Integrity. Showing up as who I am. That’s what my project is supposed to be about.

As I contemplate my options, my inner demons are rearing their ugly heads, roaring in unison. What I do is stupid, dangerous, cheap. Others are doing it better than I ever could. Who do I think I am? Everyone will know how bad I am. I haven’t been consistent enough, productive enough, brave enough, good enough. I really shouldn’t let anyone see what I do. I really shouldn’t have done it in the first place. I really shouldn’t exist at all.

Ouch, and yeah, that’s how quickly I end up all the way there. Going down the path that is a slippery slope. Emotionally dysregulated. I say it out loud because it helps me hear how out of whack it is. I used to keep it to myself. Turns out it’s best exorcised. Making the sounds of the words helps them find their way out of me.

I can be so strong. I can also be so brittle. Crick cracking, shattered pieces on the floor, sharp edges that cut. Fractured, stumbling, grasping. Oh how I wish I could escape those feelings, but oh how inextricable they are.

And yet, I think my strength comes from my fragility. From weathering the storms that push me around. From holding on, fingers to the ledge. It’s not from not going there. It’s from being there, no choice in the matter, but sticking around anyway, even though it hurts, god it hurts, and years and years of hurt are echoing along, amplified by all that’s still left to grieve. After each round I always hope it was the last one, but then in the middle of the night, in the middle of my shift, in the middle of the street, the next wave rises, washing over me. And of course I’ll wish it away but I’ll hold on anyway, so I can be made better for it.

Maybe this is true. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t really care. It helps me make sense of my experience. It reminds me that I don’t go through this process over and over again to remain stuck, to remain limited, to remain concealed. I want to own this. I want to own myself. I want to share this. I want to share myself. What else is life supposed to be about?

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 about my project, 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?

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 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!!)