Imagine being Elvis Presley’s daughter. He was a phenomenal man with a charisma that seemed unearthly, but I wonder what it was like for Lisa Marie growing up in the shadow of that out-of-control ego. In an interview with Oprah she said when he shone his light on her, her whole world lit up. Trouble is, he could switch it off, too, so she grew up knowing the intoxication of his attention, but never knowing the kind of real unconditional love that a child needs from its parent so that it can grow up knowing its own worth.
Then she married Michael Jackson. And he was exactly the same kind of person, with almost inhuman capacity to seduce people with his brand of charisma. So Lisa had the same experience, all over again. She spoke of how incredibly high she got when he lavished attention on her. But the other side of the coin was that if you didn’t give him what he wanted he iced you out. You were gone. So she was completely dispensible. Just as she was for her father.
Somehow, though, she found strength to leave him and she went through a period of massive anger and refusing to speak to him. Probably the healthiest thing she’d ever done in her life. But when he died guilt got to her, and in the interview with Oprah she spoke about how she felt she let him down, and she made all sorts of excuses for him, for the way he behaved towards her. I hate it when women do this. I understand it, because I’ve done it myself. Haven’t we all.
But the thing is, it’s not healthy, it’s the same dynamic that pulled us into the relationship in the first place. Putting him first, at the expense of ourselves. If we do that, we’ll never get out. And our partner may die or we may divorce, separate, but if we haven’t learned how to put ourselves first, we’ll find ourselves back in a similar situation. Lisa Marie said to Oprah, why have I had to go through this twice? What do I have to learn that I’m not learning?
So many women think that the lesson is about forgiving their partner, or their father, or whoever has hurt them, but it isn’t that. It’s about learning to put yourself first, demand respect, walk away when you don’t get. It’s about refusing to comply with the rules of that game called I’m going to ice you out if you don’t please me. It’s about understanding why you let yourself be so vulnerable, and forgiving yourself.
Until we learn that lesson, nothing is going to change. Because we’ll keep giving our power away. And when you’re in that place, it’s unfortunate but true that you don’t give it away to decent, balanced, healthy partners. You give it away to partners who need yours because they don’t have enough of their own, who live by sucking the life force out of others. Who exploit and control and don’t care who they hurt.
Life is a stern task-master / mistress. Speaking for myself, it’s never let me get away with not taking care of myself adequately. It’s kept shoving that awful, painful experience of being used and exploited in my face until the experience got so unbearable that I started saying I don’t ever want to be back here again. That’s when I started facing the unfortunate truth that I was the one letting myself be used. So I had to learn how not to, how to pay attention to the cry that comes from my heart what about me? How to take it seriously and say I hear you and from now on I’ll listen to you first.
The lesson isn’t about loving them more. It’s about loving me more.