Monday, February 13, 2012

Bearing Whitness

After Amy and Etta, the news came this Saturday that yet another singular female voice had been silenced; Whitney Houston had died.

In truth, the beautiful, other-wordly talent who made Dolly Parton's hit song, "I Will Always Love You" into a global hymn had finally succumbed - to an abusive relationship.

As we all know, Whitney had been publicly embroiled in an abusive relationship with her husband in the years when her star was reaching its zenith. As a young woman myself at the time, I looked on with confusion at this seemingly contradictory image. I had such a hard time understanding why - with all she seemed to have going for her, when everyone on the planet could see the danger she was in - why she couldn't just walk away from her abuser. Surely she had places to go, people to turn to, money to ensure her independence?

To all appearances, this stunning, spectacularly talented woman had everything it took to be happy - to paraphrase another of our earth-shattering voices - she could have had it all. Why then was she putting up with the violence, the abuse, the undermining of her very essence by some brutal man who seemed bent on destroying her? Why did she keep going back for more?

Going on to navigate my way through my own early adult relationships, I started to gain some first-hand experience and the insight that comes with it. I was eventually able to better understand how anyone could get into - and then have a hell of a time getting out of - the kind of insidious, confusing, emotional blackmail that characterizes most abusive relationships - regardless of how strong, talented, rich and smart they may be.

But then, finally, Whitney did it - she broke free! For good. It seemed. We wanted to believe.

But it slowly came to light that even though she had successfully removed herself from the perpetrator, the abuse continued.

As destructive as her marriage had been, it was another, even more important relationship that would be Whitney's final undoing. The relationship with herself. Finally, that most fundamental of relationships was too damaged. She carried on the destruction of herself that he had begun.

My heart breaks for the beauty and the incredible gifts that have been laid to waste all over the world in this same way.

That is all.