There is much truth to the axiom “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.” Why do we assume that people in high positions lead charmed lives? Lacking perfection ourselves, I believe we have a psychic need for perfection in important people.
From O.J. Simpson to Aaron Hernandez … from Paris Hilton to Justin Bieber … from Bill Clinton to Anthony Weiner … it’s amazing the things we common folks hear about what goes on behind the closed doors of the rich and famous.
I think the topper for me in this regard was the revelation that Tom Wolfe’s “right stuff” people — U.S. astronauts — aren’t perfect after all. That closed door opened to the whole world back in 2007 when astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested and charged with attempted kidnapping of U.S. Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman, the girlfriend of astronaut William Oefelein.
When Tom Wolfe wrote The Right Stuff, I don’t think he had valedictorian/astronaut-turned-stalker Lisa Nowak in mind. And, for sure, he didn’t have wigs, diapers, rubber tubing, and serrated knives in mind.
What in the world would cause such an all-American woman to flip her wig? (Pun intended.) The first thing that comes to mind is Buddha’s admonition that “All unhappiness is caused by attachment.”
It’s healthy and wonderful to fall in love. No argument on that point. But when a person’s love is so desperate — so irrationally based — that she is willing to commit acts of violence in order to keep the object of her affection in her clutches (which, of course, never works anyway), her psyche is definitely in outer space.
It is somewhat self-evident that anyone who would go to such extremes is lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem. Again, love is wonderful, but when it becomes a life-or-death matter, I believe it reveals a neurotic — and possibly psychotic — insecurity.
As David Seabury put it, “Love is not so simple and malleable as many suppose. Put it in prison and it dies. Restrict it and it turns into hate. Force it and it disappears. You cannot will love, nor even control it. You can only guide its expression. It comes or it goes according to those qualities in life that invite it or deny its presence.”
Your happiness should never depend on how another person feels about you. Happiness results from feeling good about yourself. You cannot hold anyone emotionally captive, and you should never allow anyone to do it to you.
But lack of self-confidence and self-esteem aside, Lisa Nowak’s antics reminded me yet again how true it is that “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.” In this vein, I recall being on a national talk show some years back, hosted by a famous television personality (“Mike”). We subsequently became good friends, and often socialized together.
Mike and his wife (“Barbara”) were portrayed as the ultimate glamour couple, often appearing on magazine covers together. They were the poster couple for the media’s idea of “beautiful people,” and were frequent guests themselves on other major television shows. Their specialty? Giving advice on how to sustain a healthy marriage.
On one occasion, my wife and I went with Mike and Barbara to a concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Even though it was long ago, I remember that evening vividly. After getting out of the car, Barbara and my wife walked ahead of Mike and me, giving us an opportunity to chat privately.
At one point, I made a comment about what a lucky guy he was to be married to such a beautiful and sweet woman like Barbara, and how happy they seemed to be. I was stunned when he replied, “Robert, I’m not happy at all. In fact, I’m miserable. I thought when I built the house for her (a little $5 million+ extravaganza in Beverly Hills), it would improve our marriage. But, instead, things are totally unraveling.”
Soon after that evening, rumors began flying around Tinsletown about Mike’s catching Barbara in bed with a ski instructor on a vacation in Aspen, followed shortly thereafter by his finding her in bed with their gardener! Pretty ugly stuff, even for Beverly Hills.
Mike and Barbara have been divorced for many years now, but their sad situation still has an impact on my thinking. I long ago started taking media hype with a grain of salt, and I’m never overly impressed with titles, awards, commendations, and the like. (Remember, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yasser Arafat, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Barack Obama!)
But it’s not just famous people whose personal realities are often far different from the perceptions they convey. There are many individuals in everyone’s micro-world who are perceived to be important — civic leaders, church leaders, school officials, wealthy individuals, and those with impressive titles (e.g., “doctor,” “lawyer,” “judge,” “director”).
There’s nothing wrong with being respectful to those who have earned their way to top positions in society, but it’s a mistake to assume that they live pristine, automaton-like lives when out of public view.
Whenever I hear a sordid tale about a famous person, it just reaffirms my long-held belief that many people in the highest stations of life (e.g., those who have the authority to press the nuclear button!) may very possibly have less emotional stability than you or me.
There’s not a whole lot you can do about that, but you can do a lot about your own psyche by not being overly impressed with the elites on an international, national, or local level. Never lose sight of the reality that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. You know you’ve become a mature adult when you reach a point in life where bombshells about those who appear to lead charmed lives no longer surprise you.