Loving Right on Yom Kippur

I accidentally saw the Dateline special on Rabbi Shmuleyʼs (http://www.shmuley.com) “Michael Jackson” tapes. As a trusted spiritual adviser, from 2000 to 2001 the Rabbi recorded intimate conversations between himself and Michael Jackson.  Shmuley says that it was Michaelʼs wish to make these public so that the public could know his true self. On the tapes, Michael is very open and freely discusses many of the things we all wonder about him.

Hearing some pieces of Michaelʼs experiences and perspectives on the world left me feeling so sad. He was a portrait of his upbringing.  A man constantly struggling to be a (loved and cared for) little boy.  All he wanted was to feel special. I know that sounds crazy.  The whole world saw him as special.  He was admired and revered throughout the globe.  Yet, he never internalized the love of warm, caring, bonded parents.  He saw himself as having to constantly work to please the 2 people in his world who should have loved him unconditionally.  I donʼt mean to harp on his parents.  I donʼt know them or how they were in their private moments. I am simply going on Michaelʼs own words.

After stumbling on this program, I flipped on Oprah, only to see Mackenzie Phillips discuss her horrific upbringing and her desperate attempts to receive the love every little girl needs from her dad.  Of course her revelation about her “consensual” sexual affair with her father was a jaw dropper. Yet it left me feeling angry.  All I could think was, “Your dad is supposed to be the ONE man who doesnʼt want to f*%k you!”  Any possibility of this being “consensual” is complete BS.  Yes, she was an adult, yes, she continued the relationship with him for 10 years, yes, yes , yes.  The inner drive of a child to feel loved by his/her parents is deeper than anyone wants to imagine.  Without that feeling we will go to the depths of the earth to try either to get it or, on the flip-side, prove we are truly unloveable. This was not consensual. This was desperation and unexplainable longing, and a special kind of brainwashing from a man lost in the deepest pit of drug addiction and his own issues.  I dont care how “loving”, talented, or ill he was. Somewhere in his soul, he knew better.

These interviews left me with a deep sadness about the ignorance we walk around with regarding our own impact on those closest to us.  We listen to ourselves when we think, “this is for his own good” or “she can do better,” “or “this kid is not what I hoped for.” We have to find a way to understand where these thoughts come from.  Often, they have nothing to do with the child at all.

We need to listen our hearts and our souls.  Look at our children and HEAR them. FEEL their longing. KNOW them for who they are and what they need to feel our love.  Michael was a superstar.  He brought joy to many many people. But he is dead. He medicated himself into oblivion b/c he couldnʼt feel the love he needed to survive his life.

On this day of Jewish contemplation and repentance, Yom Kippur, I mourn the childhoods lost to parental neglect and ignorance. I want to ask my children to forgive me for the times I disregarded their needs. I ask for help to be a better parent.  Every day.  I am thankful for all the parents who try to understand their own upbringing in order to be better parents than they had growing up.  If we all strive to do it a little bit better than our parents did; or if we have been blessed with truly wonderful parents we strive to be more like them, if we can try our hardest to hear and provide what our children really need, then we are doing it right.

-JB

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