Michael's "Sleepless Letter": What I Think It Really Means

Sometimes mountains are made out of molehills. Such has been the case with this letter, a personal and private letter written by a husband to his wife, which somehow ended up in the hands of Juliens Auction. I wouldn’t even post it here, except considering it’s already been published, dissected, scrutinized, and analyzed all over the internet, there’s not much further harm that can be done. Rather, I can probably do some good by putting this in its proper perspective, because…sheesh, the sheer level of ignorant stupidity that I’ve seen with some of the discussions pertaining to this letter really needs to be addressed.

A long time ago, I addressed how I felt about so many of Michael’s personal items and gifts to friends being auctioned off to strangers. I called it being “Sould Out”:


Just today, as I went back to that piece and refreshed my memory, I couldn’t help giggling all over again at the story of the “piss glove.” Why does it satisfy me in some sardonic way to think of some unknowing soul becoming the proud possessor of that glove? Maybe because “serves them right” comes to mind.

Although there has been some speculation about how in the world Juliens Auction came to be in possession of the letter in the first place, I don’t want to be too quick to cast stones at Lisa Marie. The truth is, we simply don’t know. But what we do know is that she demanded the letter be pulled from the auction, and at least somewhat to their credit, Juliens Auction complied with her request.

I think very few of us can even begin to imagine what it’s like to be Lisa Marie Presley, who in the space of a single week has had to deal with the macabreness of her late father’s crypt being put up for sale by Juliens Auction, and had to demand that a private letter from her ex-husband be taken off the market. This is what happens when your whole life is one that’s been played out for the public!

But getting past the moral ethics of celebrity auctions, let’s take a closer look at this letter. Since the media has already had themselves a field day with it–and, as usual when it comes to anything connected to Michael, calling it everything from a “creepy” to “bizarre” letter–it certainly can do no further harm to shed some common sense on the subject.

Most stories have immediatly honed in on two lines of the letter: “I truly need this rest. I haven’t slep litterally [sic] in 4 days.” Thus, the informal dubbing of this as “the sleepless letter.” Many have taken this as evidence that Michael had been plagued by the chronic insomnia that led to his death for decades, and that’s what most of the stories have focused on-to the exclusion of everything else. However, the news that Michael had suffered from severe, chronic imsomnia for years isn’t exactly a bombshell, now is it?

While so many are busy picking apart those two lines, I think they are missing the deeper message of the letter. So I decided to do a little “reading between the lines” of my own. It could very well be that Michael was sincerely having problems trying to sleep during this time. Maybe he really did need the rest. But I think it’s far more likely that he was seeking an emotional rest, rather than a physical one.

Lisa has said in several interviews that, during their marriage, Michael would often disappear for weeks at a time-usually after one of their many arguments.

‘We were really on shaky ground’, she says. ‘There would be periods of time where I had no idea where he was — only by the press. He would just disappear’. The final media spectacle documenting their union’s disintegration was the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. She was in the audience; he was singing a medley of his greatest moments onstage.

‘I was glaring at him’, she says. ‘That was a pretty infamous moment’.

Why were you glaring at him?

‘Because I hadn’t seen him, or heard from him, in six weeks. He got upset and he would just disappear’. She says that after about a month without any contact, his people started calling, saying that it was important that she show up at the MTV Video Music Awards. She agreed to show up if she didn’t have to go down the red carpet; they consented, then led her down it anyway. ‘I was pissed. I just felt like I was being used at that point’. She was then told that he was going to sing to her and that he had a surprise for her. ‘I remember my whole look was: ‘Don’t you come anywhere fucking near me — we haven’t spoken in a month’. And he got it. He didn’t come over. I talked to him later and he said, ‘I saw the look on your face, and I knew that if I walked up to you, I didn’t know what you were going to do me’. ‘ (Weirdly, this performance — glare and all — would later be included on Michael Jackson’s video collection History on Film.)


I’ve always believed she was telling the truth about this, because while I love Michael, I know he wasn’t perfect–especially when it came to relationships. His way of dealing with conflict, frankly, wasn’t always the most mature way–but it was the only way he knew.


Tensions Runing High At The 1995 VMA Awards


This is what I think is the most likely scenario behind the letter. Judging from the content, I would register a guess that Michael had disappeared and Lisa had managed to track his whereabouts down. Most likely, she had demanded an explanation–or had demanded that he come home. This was Michael, the cornered spouse, buying himself some more time. It’s as simple as that.

Michael is offering up a reason for his absence. He says he needs the rest, and needs some quiet, down time “away from phones and business people.” What he’s really saying, between the lines, is “I need this quiet time because I’m trying to clear my head.” It’s obvious he is still working through his own conflicted feelings and emotions. That’s why he can’t bring himself just to tell her to “buzz off.” He still loves her and it’s important to him that he doesn’t totally drive her away at this point. He’s mixed up and realizing he probably doesn’t know what he wants. If he says the wrong thing, he could risk driving her away for good, and he doesn’t want that. He would rather not have to say anything at all; he simply doesn’t want to deal with it at this point. Lisa has most likely pushed for some sort of ultimatum-“Either you come home, or I’m out of here.”

It's Those Dreaded Words No Spouse Wants To Hear-"I Need My Space." Michael Was Saying It In A Nice Way-But Saying It Nonetheless

In other words, it’s not so hard to put two and two together here. What he’s really telling her is not that “I need rest” but rather, that most dreaded phrase that no spouse wants to hear-“I need my space.”

But because he’s still conflicted, he’s going overboard to assure her he still loves her. How many times have we heard this song and dance from our significant others when they’re trying to create that space? “It’s not about you; it’s about me.”

Michael is giving her the song and dance here-not in so many words, but…yeah. He’s saying, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you–when I’m ready. But please know it’s not about you. It’s me.” His assurance that he just needs rest is, I think, merely a kind of reassurance to her that this is not about their relationship and that there is nothing she can do on her end to “fix it” or make it better right now. In fact, it’s the last thing he wants.

He uses their little tokens of affection-the nickname, the “scratch and sniff box”-as a way of softening the blow. He knows these things will probably get her to laugh, and once she isn’t feeling so threatened and insecure of his intentions, she’ll back off. Most likely, he is being sincere in his own expressed affection. He’s just not sure if he wants to face her again at the moment. Maybe this was an experiment to see if absence would make the heart grow fonder. But whatver his intentions, and however genuinely affectionate his feelings, it’s pretty clear that this was a cry to “leave me alone”-for now.

He further says “I must take care of my health first” which seems to imply that he’s having to prioritize some things in his life. “Health” is one of those interesting and many-faceted words that can have several different meanings. He could mean physical health (the most obvious) but in broader terms, he could also be using it to describe his emotional health, spiritual health, or even mental health (and, by that, I don’t mean to imply that he was mentally ill, but simply that sometimes the wear and tear of an emotionally draining  relationship can take its toll on one’s mental health). Possibly, he could have meant all of the above.

I think the letter reveals far more about the state of his marriage than it does about his insomnia.

The Way I Like To Remember Them

But certainly there is nothing remotely “creepy,” ‘weird” or “bizzare” about the letter. Again, these are simply the same old, worn out, loaded gun words that the media likes to spin when it comes to Michael.

What does come across very strongly between the lines is that Michael is very tired here (quite possibly, he hadn’t slept in four days) and is trying to clear his head. He’s not in the best place emotionally. He wants to be left alone to sort out his feelings.

Sadly, that plea-intended for his wife’s eyes alone-is now being picked apart all over cyberspace.

Even here, though I can argue that my intentions and motives  certainly do not come from a place of negativity or cynicism, but only the desire to understand. Still, it begs the morally ethical question-“Should some things be off limits to our prying eyes and inquiring minds?”

Unfortunately, being “left alone” was never a luxury to be afforded to Michael. Even now.

11 thoughts on “Michael's "Sleepless Letter": What I Think It Really Means”

    1. I hadn’t seen that but it really ticks me off. Sheesh, how much smarts does it take to figure out that “Turd” was an affectionate nickname that either he called himself around her, or she called him?

      They’re also making too way too much over the penmanship and spelling errors. If you look at the handwriting of most geniuses, or people with extremely high IQ’s, you can see a lot of the same qualities. This was an informal and hastily scrawled letter, and written during a time when he probably WAS tired and very stressed.

  1. Thank you, Raven, for shining the light of common sense on this issue. I very much agree with your compassionate assessment of this much talked about private letter and what it possibly reveals. I also agree it’s not “wierd” or “creepy.” Not in the least. I imagine private letters of others when taken out of context may also seem “wierd” or even “creepy.” That’s why they’re private to begin with. Michael didn’t have to explain why he wrote the things he did to the world. The world was never meant to see it. He was writing to the only person that mattered at that moment. The only person that would or should understand the meaning of his note without intensive explaination of every word and nuance. Thank you Lisa for having it pulled! Shame on those that continually want to paint Michael into their own ignorant and negative idea of who they thought he was…and frankly WANTED him to be. Such twisted ideas say more about them than it will ever say about Michael. So very frustrating. As much as I wish the negativity would stop I know it won’t. That’s why I’m thankful for blogs such as yours, Raven, that deal in level headed reality and not fuzzy headed profit driven fantasies. You’re a blessing!

  2. The above video is a perfect example of why I have returned to my habit of not watching what is called Mainstream News programs. Although, I did receive word of the Trash Crew latching on the nickname I disregarded it. I’ve come to expect nothing less from most. That many in the Media is personally every bit as obsessed with Michael isn’t a surprise either. It is just a standing policy if you are to report on MJ it must be made negative in some way, you must use from an established list of disparaging words to describe him or his actions.

    “Michael Jackson”..? doing a mundane thing like anyone else is unacceptable.

    What does surprise me is how little information concerning the attempt to auction off Elvis’ crypt was reported. (My sympathies to LMP for that) The word “turd” had more impact than an attempt to sell off the temporary resting place of the King of Rock & Roll.

    1. How they can make such a big deal about a silly nickname is beyond me. A lot of couples have those silly little pet names that are just for each other, and it’s no one else’s business what they are, or why.

      And all of the speculation about the “sniff box” is just as silly. I’ve read comments where stupid people were actually wondering if he rubbed feces on the letter. Well duh…that would have left a very obvious stain (yuck!).

      It could have been perfume, as some fans have guessed, but I think the most likely explanation is that it was just a joke. Michael had a very childish sense of humor like that; I could see him drawing a sniff box as a way of saying, “This is from me-Turd. Here’s the proof” but I doubt there is anything to actually smell at all.

      Whether this was most peoples’ idea of a romantic letter isn’t important because, as we’ve said, this was meant to be between them, and they understood each other better than anyone else.

  3. It is sad and a bit creepy about Elvis’ crypt being auctioned off. But of course, if it’s so disturbing, there’s nothing stopping Lisa Marie Presley from bidding for it herself. How did it come on the market in the first place – a stolen note I could see, but how do you steal a crypt?

    MJ famously avoided confrontation, so it’s plausible that he needed some emotional space from a wife who kept her ex-husband (literally) in the back yard.

    1. I don’t think the crypt was stolen. It is at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis, which is a city-owned cemetery. Elvis’s body was only interred there for two months. His father, Vernon Presley, had intended for him to be buried at Graceland but had to wait two months until he got all the necessary clearance and legal issues squared away for burying a person on private property. From my understanding, it was understood from the beginning to be only a temporary resting place, so it could be (I am only guessing here) that the Presleys never actually owned the crypt outright, and that it was only a temporary lease. At least, I wouldn’t think that it would make sense to purchase a crypt that you knew was only going to be used for two months. Those things don’t exactly come cheap.

      Bids are starting at $100,000 according to all the reports I’ve seen. While that’s a lot for the average person, I would imagine LMP has the money. But my guess is that she has no interest in holding onto it. After all, it was only a temporary crypt and one that has sat empty for 34 years. Her family are interred at Graceland. I doubt she has much need-sentimental or otherwise-to hang onto it. In fact, she must be cooperating with Juliens over the auction because one of the reasons they cited for agreeing to pull the letter from Michael was they they wished to maintain their good relationship with “Ms. Presley.” They probably weighed their options and decided the letter wasn’t worth blowing their opportunity to sell the crypt.

    2. “…, so it’s plausible that he needed some emotional space from a wife who kept her ex-husband (literally) in the back yard.”
      I sort of remember that too, quite unusual arrangement, I’d say, even if he was or still is her employee …
      I also noticed that her husband was or still is her employee. Correct me if I’m wrong, it seems to be a long time ago already.

      Nicolas Cage wanted his space once for all after 3 months of marriage to her, but probably did not know that the divorce would drag longer than their marriage and dating combined …
      In comparison, Michael is an angel and life with Michael is in heaven.

  4. Nicolas Cage said that his marriage to Lisa Marie ended because “I wasn’t the Gloved One.” Maybe she’s one of those women destined to always carry a torch for the one that got away.

  5. Wonderful Raven – rational, plausible and quite honestly I believe that you are 100% right here. As a dreamer myself, it has always been my policy to run away or avoid conflict and to withdraw to recharge my batteries whenever emotionally drained so I get this totally. Thank you so much L.O.V.E x

    1. Yeah, I firmly believe that’s what he was doing. The letter reads as if he’s trying to convince himself as much as her that he’s still “crazy” about her. I wish the letter had a date; that would really make it easy to put two and two together-where he was at; what the state of their marriage was at that particular time, etc. With no date, it’s hard to say because it could have been written anytime between ’94 and ’96.

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