this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on July 9, 2009.
“The man I failed to help.” That was how Lisa Marie Presley described her ex-husband Michael Jackson in a recent blog post on his shocking death.
Among the millions of stories that made the rounds in the Web recalling moments shared with the King of Pop while he was still alive, it was this particular entry written by Presley that moved me to tears. Not simply because I was awed by it, but more so because her words touched my heart in an intimate manner. And her pain seemed somehow very familiar.
Presley, in her Myspace blog entry entitled “He Knew,” described how hard it was for her to make the decision to give up on MJ back then. Instead of continuing to reach out and help him overcome certain issues, Presley chose to live her own life separately, not only for her own good but also for the good of their children. She worked hard to remain indifferent towards MJ since the time they parted ways, but with his recent passing, all the pain came back to her again as she grieved for her ex-husband. His death served as a stark reminder of how, once in her life, she had failed to help a great man.
It wasn’t so long ago when I myself gave up on a brilliant yet self-destructive man. He may not be as big as MJ, but back then he meant the world to me, and my life exclusively revolved around him. He was my version of the man I failed to help. And although it has been some time since we parted ways, reading Presley’s memory of MJ brought him back to my thoughts once again.
He was the sweetest boy I knew—when he was being sweet, of course, which was for most of the time we knew each other, and especially during the time we were together. But when he was enraged, which he easily became once he found something to be irritated about, he was really in rage.
For two years, I encouraged him to change his ways and tried my best to understand where he was coming from. I saw him try to wrestle with his personal demons. And change, he did, albeit very, very slowly.
Baby steps, I proudly assumed. I saw him become a better man compared to how he was before. He learned to devote less time to his vices and more time to his work, to his music band, and best of all, to me.
But while he became mature in some ways, old habits just cannot be easily abandoned. Our fights became more frequent, and the reasons for them became more petty. He became more impatient and unreasonable, too. And then I simply snapped.
After struggling with my own monsters, torn between reaching out and giving up, I suddenly wanted out. And out I went, no ifs, and or buts about it, and no more excuses to further endure being in a rocky relationship. In short, I gave up—but with very good reasons.
I had done my part. Two years of sticking with him was no joke. Yes, it was a rewarding relationship in many respects, but it also required a lot of hard work. He never learned to fully acknowledge his issues, we never ran out of things to fight about, but the blame somehow always found its way to me.
My patience was severely tested, but every battle we fought taught me to become a stronger person. My love for him didn’t get any less, but reason found a way to make me see the bigger picture more clearly. I saw how I was always at the losing end of things. No matter how hard I tried to reach out, I never could get my point across to him fully. I extended an arm, and all he needed was to grab hold of it and pull himself in my direction. Instead he pulled me down.
I left, knowing fully well that I had failed to help him. It was with a bruised heart that I decided to finally leave.
Like Presley, I am guilty of failure, of not finding the right way to lead a man out of a hole which he had dug for himself in the very first place. At first, I thought I chose the easy way out. I thought I ended the relationship abruptly to make it easier to stop the pain and just forget. Now, more than ever, I have come to realize that I actually chose the harder route.
It is no joke to let go of a man you truly love, knowing fully well how much you love him and yet knowing clearly that you have to let him go. Because you’ve done more than enough and you can do nothing more, and it is time for him to make the change by himself.
Like Presley, I may have failed to help a man, but in retrospect, I know I did the right thing—and not just for my own good, but more importantly for his own growth as well.
Presley’s realization came too late for MJ, but for the man I failed to help, I know there is still time. Even if I may have failed to change him, I sincerely hope he finds ways to change himself.