Dream a little dream of me…

Please, if you read this post, please watch this video. Post it, share it, send it in an email. It’s the only way he’ll see it. Help to give this story a happy ending!

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It’s Time To Be A Big Girl Now

It’s been a week since The Heartbreaker tore a path of devastation through Aubrey’s life. Slowly, she’s putting herself back together. For her, just as for Matt and me, that means music.

Everyone knows that the radio hates you after a big breakup. Every single song reminds you of your ex. Either you danced to it at prom, or it was the theme song of a movie you watched together, or it was in the background of your favorite tv show. For Aubrey, she will never again be able to listen to “Fly Me To The Moon” without feeling a pang of misery. That’s the song that, in a grand gesture to prove his (pretend/fake/I was doing your mom a favor) love, The Heartbreaker sang to her, publicly, while dancing her around a beautiful fountain before saying for the first time in three years, “I love you.”

For me, it’s a tossup between “Pretty Woman” and essentially every Phil Collins, ELO, George Winston, or ELP song. Yeah, that’s a lot, but that was back in the days before the internet, so all we did was lie around listening to albums and talking. If I had to pick a single song, though, it would definitely be “Pretty Woman”. It was the song that my first love sang to me, and that was the moment that I knew I loved him. Just like The Heartbreaker forever changed how capable Aubrey will be of loving someone else, Brian forever changed me, somewhat the worse, but honestly, also for somewhat the better.

I was 13 when I met Bri, and he was 19. It’s more complicated than it sounds, because I was taking a regular college computer class, and Bri was my classmate. He didn’t know I was only 13, and I didn’t bother to tell him. The first time I noticed him was on the second day of class. He was sitting on the floor, drinking a Tab (does that tell you how long ago THAT was??), and I got a rootbeer out of the machine. I was chatting with a group of people in front of the machine, when Bri joined the conversation. He asked me where I was from, and I told him. He said that explained my pronounced Southern accent (which I do NOT have), so I poured what was left of my rootbeer on his head and stormed off.

For the rest of the semester, we spent every break together, flirting madly, although nothing ever happened. Not a kiss, not a hand hold, not even a hug. It didn’t matter, because I was completely lost. I was crazy in love, as was he, but neither of us said a word. Instead, he would sit next to me in class and draw cartoon characters for me on my computer printouts. He is an incredibly talented artist, and I would marvel over the detail of the drawings that only took him seconds to produce.

Of course, eventually I did have to come back home, 600 miles away from him. It didn’t last. When I was 17, we rekindled what turned into a stormy, passionate, and short-lived relationship. When I was 24, we began to talk to each other again, just as friends. One night, he told me he was getting married to some rodeo queen (seriously!). It didn’t matter that I was already married with two kids. I was completely devastated. I remember driving home from work, and I had to pull the car over to the side of the road because I was crying so hysterically. Why? A Little River Band song came on the radio. What is it about heart break that makes the Universe out to get us?

At the same time, though, music can be the only comfort and solace we can find. It is those times when we reach for the “she-woman man-hater” songs. Saving Jane has an entire album of what I like to call, “I’m better off without you,” tunes. Sara Bareilles’ “Fairy Tale” is perfect for flushing away the Disney dream of happily ever after. Adele’s album, 21, is full of “you’re going to really regret this in the morning,” songs.

When I saw the Prom Queen episode of Glee, with Jonathan Groff singing  an acapella version of “Rolling in the Deep,” I knew I had to have a recording of Aubrey singing it. In an effort to get Aubrey back into “I am woman, hear me roar!” mode, I talked Matt into bringing over his equipment, and we set up studio in her bathroom. At first, she really didn’t want to have anything to do with it. She wasn’t in the mood, especially since she had just read my previous posts, which had the tears rolling again. However, Sarah Harmer’s “Oleander” is irresistable, and the idea of being able to record it with decent equipment dried the tears and got her into the tub.

Aubrey has an amazing voice, and it just keeps getting better. Her first efforts at public singing were…not unqualified disasters…but close. In spite of her rocky beginning, the video of her in eighth grade singing “John Deere Green” has well over 10,000 hits on YouTube.  At 17, though, Aubrey has learned to carry that bucket full of tune.

Knowing how wild, wacky, and funny my kids can be, I grabbed the Flip (the greatest device ever created) to capture the fun. Though we were sweltering with the three of us in the tiny room with the door shut and almost no ventilation, it was worth it. I wasn’t just videotaping the kids; I was immortalizing a slice of our family’s life. They did not disappoint me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbpnyjBSrAI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo3WY6-5Bzw

The singing did make her feel better, as only singing and dancing can do. Now all the positive feedback from her friends and family have boosted her self-esteem once more, and she’s wandering around the house singing anything and everything.

It is going to take her a very long time to truly recover from The Heartbreaker, but just as I am the queen of rationalization, Aubrey is the queen of compartmentalization. For the moment, she will focus on finals, finishing her geography, dancing, Feis, moving… There is plenty of stuff to keep her thoughts busy while she lets the wounds heal. It’s rather like a conscious, self-induced, emotional coma. Is it how she planned to spend her summer? No, not at all. But it’s life. We just take it one day at a time.

“I hope you know, I hope you know, that this has nothing to do with you. It’s personal, myself and I, have got some figuring out to do. And I’m gonna miss you like a child misses her blanket, but I’ve got to get a move on with my life. It’s time to be a big girl now, and big girls don’t cry.”

“This is the way the story has to be told”

Convincing yourself that what you don’t have is something that you don’t really want in the first place is a coping mechanism. Aesop called it sour grapes. We all do it. That house that I can’t afford? Well it’s too big for me to take care of, too expensive to heat, too far from Ron’s office. Having to find a home for my dog that I’ve had since she was two weeks old because I can’t take care of her after Aubrey leaves for college? She needs more room, more walks, more attention, and this will be better for her. It can be a positive or a negative, but either way, it’s rationalization.

I’ve always referred to myself as the queen of rationalization. If you need a reason, a lie, an excuse, or just need someone to say something to make you feel better, I’m your woman. Aubrey calls it looking for the loophole. However, no matter how you frame it, it all comes back down to the same thing: cognitive dissonance.

While I normally don’t like to quote Wikipedia, I think this one is worth it.

“One desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one’s dissonance by criticizing it.  In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior.”

Ah, finally an explanation for the recent heartbreak drama. You might think it would make me feel better to know that there’s a psychological reason underlying the entire event, however I already knew it, I just didn’t realize it had its own term. Instead of making things better, now I can’t get those two words out of my head…cognitive dissonance.

It’s much easier to not think about complex things. With something complicated, it requires a bit of effort to concentrate on it. But when you boil it down to a phrase, that phrase can haunt your every waking moment. Before, I spent time mulling over emails, looking at pictures, reading old posts. It took effort, and I held out hope that eventually, that effort would slowly fade. Now, however…cognitive dissonance.

How did I find this? It was a link on the heartbreaker’s FB page. Yes, yes, I know lurking isn’t healthy. Yes, I know I never would have found this if I hadn’t been lurking. Now I know lurking is its own punishment. All the grief and anger that I felt last Thursday has been replaced with this single thought…cognitive dissonance. Those two words wiped out all the anger, and brought back all the grief. Where I was livid that this ass had dared to hurt my daughter, now I am once again heartbroken by the senselessness of it all, made all the worse by the fact that he knows what’s going on in his head, but still can’t get past the fear, shame, and guilt, can’t admit that he was wrong, can’t just come back where he belongs.

It’s incredibly sad how much damage a child can sustain and still manage to fake their way through life. As I said, it’s a great coping mechanism. I’ve suspected for years that this is how the heartbreaker managed to survive. I remember at Christmas, he was excited to be going to see his dad, whom he hadn’t seen in several months. However, Christmas break came and went, but he didn’t. When asked why, there was the excuse, “My stepmom was sick and now my dad can’t afford the tickets. But I’ll get to see him at Spring Break, instead.” At the time, my heart hurt for this baby, who desperately needed a family. I recognized the rationalization of it, and at the same time, I recognized the pain behind the smile. Beneath the acceptance, I could hear the same thought that used to go through my head as a kid; why don’t they love me enough? That thought that, when I was younger, seemed to place the blame on THEM, but that I later discovered actually placed the blame on myself. I wasn’t good enough for them to love me. I wasn’t good enough for them to put me first every once in a while. I wasn’t perfect, or beautiful, or a high achiever. All I had was smart, and in that world, smart is what gets you through, whichever way it can…cognitive dissonance.

So I can forgive the lies. I can forgive the “I never loved you.” I can forgive the “stay the fuck out of my life.” I can even forgive the hurt, because I know exactly what is going through his head. He’s terrified. Aubrey is not the kind of girl that one can lose easily. That one great love is devastating when it is gone, and it sometimes seems that being the one to push it away will make it less painful, because then at least we are the ones in control. With her beauty, brilliance, humor, love, intensity, loyalty, and just the expansiveness of her soul, having her 2000 miles away would be unbearable. Ah, those two words again…cognitive dissonance.

Translating the wiki quote, what he was saying is, “You’re amazing. I’m not good enough for you, and at some point you’re going to realize it. Before you notice, I’m going to pretend that I can’t stand you and I want you out of my life.” Am I being presumptive? I don’t think so. I’m pretty good at reading people (another survival mechanism that one develops when growing up in that sort of world). Even more so, I’ve done the same thing.

Love, real love, true love, unending love is so rare. Yes, I know the world is full of people who get married, and stay married, and have kids, and grow old together. But that’s committment. Is it love? Sometimes, but not always. Being faced with such terrible greatness is hard to do as an adult, but nearly impossible as a child, especially when 18 years of low self-esteem is telling you that you don’t deserve such greatness.

Cognitive dissonance. Survival. What we do to make it through…we change the story. Remember all the fun we had in Houston, raiding the executive lounge of dr. pepper and sprite? Nope, I hated it. Remember snuggling on the sofa watching Fringe until we fell asleep? Remember how you posted that it was Amazing!? I was lying. Remember all the time you spent at our house because you didn’t want to go home? I was bored. Remember how my mom made you sign up for the SAT, made you study, took you to get your license when you turned 18, went and picked you up in the middle of the night because you had a fight with your parents? Your mother’s an overbearing hen. Remember how you said that you loved me? I was just pretending. Change the story. Survive.

Cognitive dissonance.

“It never will be that way again, maybe it wasn’t way back when, but to my heart and soul, this is the way the story has to be told. That’s the way I remember it, I remember it that way. From the day I was living it, I remember it that way. Some of our stories fade as we grow older, some get sweeter every time they’re told. That’s the way I remember it, that way.”

How can I help you to say goodbye?

I have felt loss. I have had to put a beloved pet to sleep. I have had my heart broken countless times. I’ve been divorced twice. I’ve been beaten, abused, molested, emotionally tortured, screamed at, hated, despised, and treated like a pariah.

Nothing…NOTHING…can touch the pain I feel as my daughter’s body is wracked with sobs, as she keens out her pain, as her bed, her clothes, and my shoulder are all drenched in her tears.

When I was pregnant with her, my closest friend at the time had a daughter who was going to be a year older than Aubrey. She also had a son who was about four years older than her daughter, and of course, I had Matt. One night, we were watching the kids play, and talking about how much we loved them. She said it was different, though, with her daughter. I said I would love both of my children equally. She explained that it wasn’t about equality. She summed it up with these words, “You would die for both of your kids, but you would kill for your daughter.” When Aubrey was born and I held her in my arms, I finally understood.

Now, as she suffers her current broken heart, a heartbreak caused by someone who has already caused her pain in the past, I feel that difference once again. However, his death will not heal her heart, nor make her stop loving him, although I would sleep with a smile on my face.

So now my job is to somehow take his place for a while. Now I am the one who holds her while she cries. I am the one who cuddles her close, while she is curled into a fetal position, howling with grief. I remember exactly how this feels, and it hurts me even more. I know the actual physical pain that is caused by the loss of a great love, and it is unbearable. Yet, all I can do for her is just be here.

A few months ago, I wrote about her leaving for college, and my not having time to teach her how to heal from a broken heart. Ah, be careful for what one wishes. Now she must learn the lesson of picking up what few pieces are left, and putting them back together. I could tell her that life goes on, she’ll love again, I know it hurts but I promise it will get better. But none of those things will help her. Her innocence is gone, and she will never love the same way again. Such is the nature of first love.

I wish I could tell her that she only has to feel this way once, but that would mean she would never love again, and I don’t want her to miss out on the joy that comes with a new love. However, I know my daughter, and I know the love that she lost. She has loved him since she was 13, and I know that she will love him until the day she dies. While I think she will eventually love someone else, they will never be the one that she truly wants, as no one else has ever been able to fill his shoes.

The saddest part is that he loves her. Oh, he said that he was only pretending the entire six months they were together this latest time, but everyone who ever saw them together knows that’s a lie, unless he could carry an Oscar-worthy performance for half a year. I can’t count the number of times I watched him with her when he didn’t know I was looking. When she was sleeping, he would lie there and watch her, touching her face, stroking her hair, gazing at her with a look of wonder that she could possibly be in his arms. I loved seeing them together, because I knew that he loved her, and I loved how happy he made  her. I loved how happy she made him, as he needed her love just as much as she needed his.

As I write this, I hear her in her room, listening and singing along to Pink’s “I Don’t Believe You” and I can hear the sobs in her voice. I have to agree with both of them. I don’t believe him either. However, it doesn’t matter. For whatever reason he has decided, he is gone, just like the last time, and the time before that. He is no better at leaving her now than he was then. His method of choice is cruelty and hurt, as if he is trying to kill all of her love for him right out of her. He is a master with words, and is vicious in their use. Because he knows every intimate detail of her life, because she trusted him with her life, her love, her heart, because he ASKED her to trust him, asked her to love him, asked her to please forgive him, told her that she was the reason he had never loved anyone else (that is the one thing that I do believe, by the way)…because of all those things, he knows exactly what arrow will pierce her armor. He should, as he is the one who built it. Indeed, only a great love can bring such a great hurt.

“Mama whispered softly, time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same…

And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye?
It’s OK to hurt, and it’s OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye?”