I love presenting on kink, teaching classes, and leading discussions. But not every day is me striding in there all “YEAH LET’S DO THIS!!” Some days, it is tough. And I feel shaky and not confident. One of the “tricks” I use when I am feeling insanely shy, my self-esteem is circling the drain or I’m just plain off-kilter is I introduce myself to the class. Individually. I will wiggle though the aisles or go around the circle, shake hands with folks (provided they’re OK with that!) hug the huggy types, and make sure I make eye-contact with each and every sentient being in the space. Once or twice it has cut into class time because there were so many people. But that will not stop me, because my coping mechanism then becomes a teaching moment.
If I make eye contact with people, the sea of anonymous eyes pressuring me to be smartfunnywiseenerrtainingseriousbrilliantallknowingandtotellthemeverythinggoddammit goes from a monolithic creature to a bunch of people with whom I am hanging out for an hour or two. I can breathe. I can focus on that one person who seems about to cry or that other person who feels defensive and bored but then runs up to me after class to share with me that they’ve had an epiphany and wow, that’s a big fucking deal.
Eye contact turns enemies into friends. Or friends into enemies, or strangers into threats, or the unknown into the known, or the intimately known into a total stranger. It is powerful and scary and sexy and perverts sometimes know this and strenuously avoid it, because holy shit, it is too much. For me, it really can be too much, because some people aren’t aware of what happens when you look….really look…at someone else.A friend hepped me to an artist who made art about a lot of stuff. She also made art from looking at people. Marina Abramović sat in a gallery at MoMA and people were able to come in and sit down look at her. She remained relatively neutral, a mirror, maybe. A reflection, just another person looking back at you with no particular agenda. Some people tried to get her to laugh, and she did. And you know what some people wind up doing? Crying. There’s a Tumblr feed of photos of people who were moved to tears by someone looking at them.
Throughout these films, articles and sites, as I burrowed into her amazing career, she is usually is so calm and so centered throughout these moments. Except in one instance: her former collaborator and lover, Ulay, decides to come sit. She does not know he is coming, and they have not seen one another for many years.
This is, for me, so difficult to watch. It is one of the most intimate moments I have ever seen on film. This is the story of lives told in the incandescence of gaze.
And they’re “just” looking at one another.
That “eyes are the window to the soul” thing is only kind of accurate. The eyes are a fucking wormhole to EVERYTHING and I am very guarded these days about who I let see me. Because if see them, and they see me, and the reality of what is happening is mutually acknowledged then all bets are off and the control I value so highly, the control that I do, in my inner Innersides, really wish could trust to someone else, THAT “Mollena” would be utterly defenseless. And no one has yet even gotten close without either fucking up or deciding that, no, they don’t want that responsibility after all. So, fuck it, I‘ll just keep you out and not let you in.
I do not let you in because once you’re in, that’s it. I don’t have any way to slow you down or stop you if, once in the defenses, you become a vicious, selfish jerk, a clumsy, thoughtless oaf, a conniving predator, a nosybody intent on going where you have no business going. All I can do at that point is retreat into the inner Inner, and wait for you to leave, and then emerge to do damage control. The inner Inner is safe. No one can go there because that Me is completely away, and will never exist for anyone else. But that court of last resort is a terrible place to go, and coming back from there is an exhausting, solo journey that is enervating and fraught.
SO, instead of taking the risk of letting people in, I keep it light. I give as much of myself as I can. I watch how the people in my life act when they are provided with access to my thoughts, my feelings, and my unfettered stream-of-consciousness weirdness. Most of the time, the best I can hope for is that my peeps just grin and shake their heads because no, they might not grok me 100% but they love me 110% and that enables them to love all of me, even the parts that cannot see, embrace, accept, understand.
And that is some real shit. I value that, because it keeps me alive.
I used to use a convenient OTC depressant to manage my fear. It was readily available and worked flawlessly to help me manage my shyness and anxiety…until it didn’t work and a part of me fueled by that drug took over and was running things. Having your life run by a vicious booze-fueled hyena is counter-indicated. I do not recommend it. However. In recovery, we’ve come to a truce and even learned to live with one another. She lets me think, and I let her fight. She’s fierce, is Bubbles, and defensive of our Innernside space. It aggrieves her when I let people in at ALL. And she has only recently taken to being Seen by other human people. Of the people who HAVE been in our presence when the demon part is running the show, when the fierce vulnerability is evident, they’ve all found her rather…fascinating. It is an odd thing to hear other people talk about a facet of my personality that, you know, tried to kill me and, even today, defies definition, seems crazy, and often leads me to question my own sanity.
But, apparently, demons are sexy and there it is.
The good part of having this hierarchical structure to my inner landscape is that I know how to protect myself quite well these days. I know when the terrifying strength of my emotional reality is to be acted on, and when to let go. I know that falling madly in love with someone because our conversations are all-encompassing and engage parts of my mind that no-one else reaches is OK. Just don’t sell everything and show up on their doorstep, and you’ll be fine. I know that despair that is so scathing that it causes the muscles in my body to shake and clench uncontrollably is very real, and will not kill me, and doesn’t need to be doused with whiskey and that too shall pass. I know that the fact that relationships pass away is that they did what they were meant to do, and that I am a sharper and wiser creature in the wake of having let that person in, even if only a bit, even if only for a time.
So, I don’t let people look too closely. And I smile, and laugh, and sing and dance and do all kinds of fancy stuff so that I am one step ahead of the game. And I look for that spark that is my compliment, somewhere, and hope that they can see me, too.
So, let this be a note to that person who might be walking the earth right now, who can see me, who won’t be intimidated or afraid, who does want the overwhelming responsibility of protecting a demon who may well try to tear your liver out of you while you’re holding her…to that person, I send my greetings from the inner Innards. It gets very lonely in here sometimes. I’m sorry, in a way, that we have made it so hard to get through. I am sorry that we keep evolving and achieving and throwing up more defenses…more flash, more awards and accolades, more work and more sparkly brightness to keep everyone at bay. But maybe you have the eyes to see past that. Maybe you have the hands that are hard enough to hold down a hyena yet soft enough to lift me up. Maybe you burn as strangely and as fiercely as I do, maybe you long for the one-heart-to-one-heart fierceness and spiritual exclusivity that feed me, and feeds you, and would feed us in a way that would burn to dust lesser longing lovers.