The Whole Story
One of my favorite reality tv shows is “Gene Simmons Family Jewels.”
I didn’t watch the first few seasons because I thought Gene Simmons was an affront to all women and humanity in general. A notorious womanizer who boasts about 4,000 faceless women he’s slept with. He is obsessed with the acquisition of money and will generally prostitute himself to get more. Everything has a price and he’ll sell it to make more. He has declared emphatically that he is a self-made man that needs no one, wants to be accountable to no one and won’t be told what to do.
I was shocked at how human this series made him. He has been with Shannon (though unfaithfully) for 27 years. He has two children he adores, Nick and Sophie. When he chooses to be available, he is an amazing father. He loves them so much but he holds back. He sees being a provider as all he needs to do, that replaces the emotional needs he is unable to meet. He shows love through his money. He doesn’t have more to give them. He can’t give them what they want, more of himself. He routinely misses key events in their lives like graduations.
I enjoy watching their lives and getting a different perspective on “the Demon.” Everyone has at least two faces, who you are at work isn’t always who you are at home, with friends vs family, etc. Can never judge someone based on one side of their personality.
This season Gene and Shannon’s relationship is showing its age and flaws. The kids are off at college. Shannon gets fed up with all of the girls, his general absense in their lives and realizes she has to make some hard choices. At one point she moves out (and back in) but has to ask if Gene will ever be able to be what she needs. Can he overcome himself and his past enough to be truly available?
In the middle of all this Gene is selected by his hometown of Haifa, Israel to receive an award and he travels back for the first time in 53 years. While he’s there Shannon arranges for him to visit his old neighborhood, home and interact with his half brothers and sisters whom he has never met. While he’s there Gene is forced to confront the reality of his past.
Gene hated his father, in his mind he abandoned him and his mother. The history he knew was that because of his father’s absense his mother was forced to work and he was left alone. The rift between them is deepend when his mother moves them to America at 8, he never saw his father again. He knew where he was and provided for him financially there was little communication and no relationship. In this trip, through the eyes of his siblings Gene learns that he had the wrong picture of his father. He was viewing him as a child. He has harbored the emotions and thoughts of a child throughout adulthood for the whole situation. He remained stubborn in these feelings and refused to meet his family and heal. During this visit he got a letter his father wrote to him long ago that he never sent.
As he reconnects with his family you can see the face of a little boy who was so lonely and is now finding home. As he embraces them he is able to move beyond himself to a bigger picture of who he is. Perhaps as he explores these relationships maybe he will be able to let go of the rigidity that prevents him from connecting fully to Shannon, Nick and Sophie. It now really makes sense about why he couldn’t committ to Shannon in marriage. The void, abandonment and loneliness of a little boy was holding him hostage. I can’t wait to see what happens!
This reminds me that wherever we refuse to forgive we are imprisoned and our maturity is stunted. How many situations are we viewing with childish eyes? Is this limited understanding born out of anger, fear, loss of control, loneliness, etc? I think the keys to identifying these places are to look at where we are legalistic. Am I irrationally holding onto a set of rules that don’t really serve a purpose? Are there powerful emotions attached to the rules that reveal a deeper wound? There is a huge difference between boundaries and unnecessary emotional rigidity. One is healthy emotional protection and the other makes us more isolated and lonely even when those who love us most want to connect.