Saturday, July 31, 2010

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 74)

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after i got off the phone with my sister the other night i had to step back, reflect and ask, is it really that bad...?

it's quite a long story, but it has to do with my extensive relationship with death. no, not death in its archetypal form- well yes, that too. but i am referring more to that way in which those of us who grew up in a consistent environment of abuse must work to maintain a level of 're-birth'. a little of each of us 'dies' each day; but for those of us whose spirits have been buried alive over time, obtaining light at a most opportune moment is crucial.

in your eyes i observe that notion of 're-birth'. in the physical, for you, that may have been through performing. i know it was definitely children. for me, it is also children... and cats. and food. my relationship with food is spotty at best- on many levels it is not eaten for comfort, but to hide. nevertheless i love to cook for others.

but i digress...

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i phoned my sister, as i was sad and i needed someone to talk to... i know i can talk to you, but obviously our interactions are of a different element. when she returned my call she was at a friend's house. i didn't want to go into details at that moment (since i knew she was not by herself); nevertheless i responded to her inquiry of "what's up?"

and just as i knew what was to come, did come. "why don't you just conceive then," was essentially her friend's response. my sister, of course, reiterated this assessment. after a few moments of review (without going into much detail) my sister concluded the conversation with, "i'll call you to make sure you didn't jump off a building."

my sister actually says that a lot to me (she even said it referring to my grieving of your transcendence). somehow, it affected me more this time, not only because i thought of the contradiction of me killing myself over the desire to have children in my life; but also because of her expectation that i make attempts to commit suicide every time i feel the slightest tinge of sorrow. it caused me to step back and ask if i ever grew tired of physically living due to my thinking that i'll never be a mother. i also had to ask, do i really seem that sad to my sister?

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i struggle so much with this motherhood thing; due to the responses i don't really expect anyone to grasp anything going on in my mind, despite its simplicity. i have an increasingly intense desire to be a mother and yet, my desire to give birth (or lack thereof) greatly counters this. i could work on getting a job at a nursery, as many have suggested. this would satiate my maternal desires only temporary... as simple as this all is (at least to me), there are so many layers to this narrative. and frankly, i'm not sure where to go.

adopt? i would have done so long ago, if i were able to.

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we've discussed the baby thing several times; i don't need to repeat anything to you. it's funny; because i am now the same age you approached the 'fourth phase' of your artistic life: the 'post-quincy jones' phase, where you assert yourself in another creative form. this is that constant 're-birth' i am speaking of. it is also the period where you began to clearly say "i'm not getting any younger, i need children in my life." i always imagine the sense of loss for you, being around so many children yet having none to raise as your own.

when you actually did assume a theoretical role of a father it got you into trouble, as the ways we define family are so limiting. it was either that your relationship with the children was seen as either infringing on the roles of the biological fathers (thereby presenting charges of child abuse); or it was that you had a 'secret child' as a result of affairs with numerous women.

i can only imagine the limitations you felt you had in terms of a societal rejection of paternal roles with a bit of a maternal sensibility. this is one of the many reasons people were so confused by you. it's difficult to accept a man of your stature not biologically fathering many children (when you could have any lady you want, of course), yet desiring to take on a role of fatherhood, with or without a wife.

so, of course, you were gay; you abused children; you were asexual... there's nothing wrong with two of those three things (if that is how you chose to live your life), but still... to cast aspersions due to our own hopes of what we wish someone to be is one of the least pro-active things we can do. thereby, you also were a lover amongst lovers, with girls on your arm, even right before your transcendence.

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"Needless to say, I love the interaction between the sexes; it is a natural part of life and I love women. I just think that when sex is used as a form of blackmail or power, it's a repugnant use of one of God's gifts. " the thing is, michael, even as this was said, this is difficult for some to grasp. our conditioning of how sex works is so narrow. and because of how sexual relationships are portrayed, we identify in these relationships who is the 'top' and who is the 'bottom'. who is the 'dominant' and who is the 'submissive'. rarely do we ever hear about an equilibrium. even in issues of rape (which has absolutely nothing to do with sex), the rapist gets accused of performing an 'unlawful sex act'.

in many ways i hold this belief; that sex is interspersed with power and dominance. i've seen this throughout my whole life; growing up as a child, and in my adult life as well . it's something i struggle with on many levels. growing up, i thought it was all bad. it was done to hurt or control people. even as an adult i saw the damage. as i got older i did see that some people had successful relationships. still, to me, sexual relationships are extremely private. i prefer those relationships to remain between those involved. i even cringe at public displays of romantic affection, because now everyone can see such a private act. again casting aspersions, people have critiqued me, saying, "well you just haven't found the right person yet." to me, it's not about that. i'm just an old-fashioned person, i guess. with that, there's a lot about relationships i don't know. admittedly i'm naive about many things.

because of this, i wonder if i would even be a good mother. would i shelter my children too much? would they resent me? would i be too controlling? if i ever were to have children in my life would i have someone in my life to share this experience with? would this person in my life share the same connection to our relationship?

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not being a mother right now is really killing me. there is an emptiness i cannot explain. it's not an emptiness of the womb though. i keep saying this, and i don't know if anyone believes me. the truth is, i have an extreme fear of becoming pregnant. if it happens, it happens. there are things i fear more. still, i am filled with distress due to the potentiality of pregnancy. this is called tocophobia (or tokophobia). it's not even that i find pregnancy or childbirth repulsive... i think those are extremely beautiful things- just not for me. it also has nothing to do with pregnancy 'changing my figure'. i'm not concerned with that.

again, i can only imagine your emptiness as the years passed. people demanded so much of you as a performer but all you wanted was to have children, to enhance your life.

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when i finish writing this to you the day my niece (my sister's daughter) was brought to us here on this plane will be here; she will be 9 years old. it makes me so sad that i have not been able to watch her grow, to watch her learn. to only speak with her over the telephone. i don't know if anything i've said to her has retained... she is such a smart, sensitive person though. she is someone of great strength. i know that she's been through some pain, in a former life- and even in this one.

knowing that her day was approaching, i did feel quite sad. i feel as if i'm missing something my sister has the opportunity to celebrate- the existence of her CHILD. i don't feel jealousy toward my sister- that would make NO sense, as my sister has nothing to do with whatever anxieties i am having. i just feel a well of inexplicable sorrow, or anguish at the possibility i'll never have those moments. and that i'll never have a child in my life unless i experience what i fear.

how does one measure the desire to have children with the fear of taking part in that 'naturally'? are you 'less of' a person because of this? is that really something to be measured?

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"When I was a kid, I was denied not only a childhood, but I was denied love. When I reached out to hug my father, he didn't hug me back. When I was scared on an airplane, he didn't put his arm around me and say, "Michael, don't worry. It's going to be OK." When I was scared to go on stage, he said, "get your ass on that stage." … I will never deny a child love. If it means that I have to be crucified or put in jail for it, then that's just what they're going to have to do."

i won't say i was denied a childhood (i actually DID get to play) but really, that's not the only thing which makes a childhood. i, like you, was denied love. the other thing i fear is that i will smother my child so much with love, they will want to avoid me. i have since settled a lot of these things with my mother, but there is still a deep-seated fear of turning into the parent my mother was when i was growing up (and a still-underlying resentment for her actions), and so i will overcompensate so much to the point of smothering.

i know in some ways i'm not ready to have children, but really, who is? parenthood does not come with a manual. you don't just suddenly discover this degree of readiness just because you want to have children. you must be ready for spontaneity, and committing yourself to this beautiful being.

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"Music has been my outlet, my gift to all of the lovers in this world. Through it — my music, I know I will live forever."

through this idea of commitment, it is not the children who will remain forever. the reasoning for naturally birthing children in order to preserve your legacy is essentially false... if you are focusing solely on the existence of the children. what values have you instilled in them? these are the elements which are eternal.

it's like the music you mentioned. i prefer at this point to refer to them as lessons, as this represents a series of values. looking at this quote, it brought me back to when i was an adolescent, writing love poems for others. people questioned why i chose to write love poems for others, when i didn't have someone in my own life (i was an adolescent, mind you). when you wrote or performed the songs you did, it was assumed you were addressing the lyrics to a 'special lady', as opposed to simply presenting a "gift".

to me, having children bears a responsibility of assuring they become knowledgeable, independent and compassionate (sentient) beings... to be selfless, but not 'self-less'. they must know themselves. to ensure this does not require a direct blood lineage. sure, culturally, there are some factors in lineage which are imperative, but right now i am talking about values. again, in casting aspersions/making assumptions, we disregard or ignore this, and focus on whether or not you are the biological father to your three children.

with this, whether or not we knew each other in this life, i know we have known each other in some other life. i believe in the concept of 'deja vu'. when i began becoming acquainted with you and your teachings in this life, i know i was simply RE-acquainting myself. you were not new to me; but really, getting to know you in this time has certainly felt like a 're-birth', because i have learned so much about myself (by learning about you), as well as opening up to the possibilities of learning more.

"take me back where i belong..."

you have accepted me into your life, and i thank you for this. perhaps my commitment to your teachings is, in some ways, preparation for my commitment to be a parent, no matter how 'unconventional.'

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...and these conversations with you also allow me to return to a place i don't necessarily turn to, due to my long-standing fear of rejection.

home. the heart.

"i wanna come home again." returning to that place of self-empowerment, that space of spontaneity and the potentiality for forgiveness.

"if you can find it in your heart to forgive me..."

it's been happening a lot more lately. i've been allowing the space to let love in. it's quite difficult to do on many levels. i've been trying to spend more time outdoors, and quality time with others whose company i appreciate. walking and bicycle riding and badminton playing, many things...

"take me back where i belong..."

that is with you, living within me. thank you.

love,
jamilah

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