Painstaking Accountability

Painstaking Accountability
by Valerie Parente

The thing about making a decision
that you really don’t want to make
is that when you hurt your own feelings
you have no one else to blame.
It’s a hell of a lot harder
and takes a hell of a lot longer
to accept your own message
when you know you were never helpless.

– Valerie Parente (8-29-2020)

My Timeline

I’ve always been told I have a problem with envy. I’ve always known this. It’s my vice. It’s my greatest obstacle. It’s the source of my insecurity. For too long I have let envy control my entire outlook in life. Someone I graduated high school with is starting a family? I panic. Someone I used to be friends with has thousands of followers on Instagram? I get mad. My first crush is getting engaged? I feel hopeless. What kind of person gets upset at someone else’s positive milestones and accomplishments? Not one who will thrive in this world. And it took me a very long time to realize this. It’s odd, because I’ve been told my whole life not to compare myself to other people, but I never really listened until now. What changed to make me suddenly hear this advice? Honestly, heartache. Hard work and heartache. Working full time. Making memories with friends despite my agoraphobic exhaustion. Falling in love with someone and having to learn to let go. Learning and living and becoming a well-rounded member of society despite my mental shortcomings.

Now that I’ve shifted my thinking from envy to acceptance everything in life feels better. Has my life changed? No. Has my attitude changed? Absolutely. And I know it sounds cliché to say that you create your own reality but it really is true. My circumstances have not magically changed overnight, but over the course of a month, all complimented by the previous years of learning how to grow up and overcome multiple mental illnesses, I see my life as nothing but uniquely perfect to me.

There were always roadblocks that kept me from accepting myself and being at peace with myself. Then suddenly, after months of stress and heartache, one word seemed to be the magic that dissipated all my roadblocks…  timeline. That was it. Timeline. My timeline is not the same as anyone else’s.

I’ve always looked back on my life and been in awe of how perfectly timed every single moment of my life has been to sculpt me into the human being I am today. Accepting my past was never a problem. Accepting my present was. Accepting the future was. I had so much anxiety when I thought about my where I “should be” by now in life. Why haven’t I been in a serious relationship yet? Why haven’t I moved out of my parents’ house yet? Why haven’t I become a famous author yet? And every one of these anxious thoughts can be extinguished with the sole belief that my timeline is not the same as anyone else’s timeline. My life unfolds as it is meant to for me and does not adhere to anyone else’s standards. This was the antidote to the envy I have let control me throughout the entirety of my life. My timeline is mine. I know I am not meant to be in a serious relationship right now, so who cares when it happens? Who cares if people I graduated high school with are getting married? Seriously, who cares? How does that have any effect on me? It doesn’t… unless I let it. And that’s where the choice comes in. The conscious choice to say “I will not let someone else’s path in life govern how I perceive mine.” There is literally no point in being jealous of someone else. And I could say I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out, but the truth is I wasn’t meant to up until now. My life and my successes or idiosyncratic and unique to me. I cannot be compared to anyone else. My life cannot be measured by someone else’s timeline. To do so is to be a slave of envy. And I have no room in my heart for that.

I can confidently say that ever since I came to this “timeline” epiphany I have been able to eliminate all of my anxiety about my place in this world without a second thought. This has been the key. I am infinitely happier with myself than ever before. Worrying about where I am or where I will be truly feels like a waste of time. I have trust. I have faith. I have acceptance. All because I was able to rid envy from my life.

playing dress up

– Valerie Parente (8-13-2019)

Shed Your Ego

A lot of your problems stem from the fact that you are tied to your ego. When you can’t let go of the past, it is your ego that is trying to maintain the story its been telling by reliving memories. When you set expectations it is your ego that is trying to establish itself on superficial ground. It is time to let go of the ego self and live life as the instrument of energy that you are in this universe, flowing with the present and accepting the healing nature that the present bestows upon you. You are made of light and love and you will be free when you shed the ego that has been veiling the real you.

– Valerie Parente (8-27-2018)

Acceptance

This is the time of year where many of us look back and realize what does and does not matter in this crazy yet incredible paradox called existence. It is baffling and beautiful when you really take an introspective moment to sit down and recollect the path your life has taken so far. In hindsight you can realize which seemingly insignificant experiences had significant impacts and, knowing their outcome thus far, accept them for exactly what they were.

In your life you strive to be something, you strive to get something. When reminiscing about even the most mundane events we are able to notice that the necessary things we needed to make the most of those experiences, bad or good, could always be found somewhere in the memory. (When I say “make the most”, I mean “benefit to the psychological and spiritual growth of our being”). Even your most loathsome situations had some component that helped you get through and, as a result, become the wiser and mentally richer person you are today. The proof is in the fact that- guess what?- you survived.

A major turning point for me this past year was during the past summer when I sought out a different obsessive compulsive disorder treatment.
The treatment shook my idea of individualism. I am proud to say that I did not go into panic mode, like I have in the past, and irrationally attempted to compensate for my lack of certainty with anorexic “solutions” (eating disorders never pose real solutions, they only tangle you in further problems. This is a topic for another time, though). When I think back about how I handled the identity crisis I realize that what I did was, first, recognized my confusion; and second, accepted my confusion. I did not know who I was, what I was about, and how I was going to tackle the grand scheme of my life- and I was content with that. I wrote about it in a poem called “Novelty” (“Novelty” by Valerie Parente) not with the intent to find some external solution out of the thin air, but to find and uproot the solace already dwelling within my current state. And what I found in accepting my state of mind was the miracle of acceptance itself.

The greatest revelation I have come to this past year is the power of acceptance. Acceptance is something we hear about all time. Psychologists, gurus, even religions have long emphasized the importance of accepting our circumstances. I don’t think people understand how this feels until they really experience the ineffable, unwavering, natural phenomena of acceptance firsthand. Acceptance brings a veridical peace that I honestly cannot describe through linguistics, nor can I force on anybody else.
That being said, I can bring light to what acceptance is NOT.

Acceptance is not a peace of mind that can be feigned. Often people mistake peace of mind with being unaffected by life, but this is false. Pretending not to care, pretending that the things bothering you don’t really matter to you, and pretending that life has no effect on you has a tragic outcome… it undermines the greater moments of life. If you are so busy being unaffected all the time you will never feel the depth of positive notions like gratitude, awe, joy, excitement, humor, or love.

Acceptance is also not “doing nothing”. If you are not content with your situation you should still make an effort to overcome obstacles, injustices, and hardships- but you should do so with a mind that reasonably acknowledges the reality that you will have to work through, not around, your dilemmas. To acknowledge a problem for what it is while acknowledging the extra exertion that will be necessary to tackle the problem is to have a mentality that is balanced. Be determined enough to face challenges while compassionate enough to recognize your limits and give yourself a break when you need to replenish your energy. This kind of mental equilibrium is the type of acceptance I saw in myself when thinking back about my identity crisis induced by alternate OCD treatment this summer.

recognize-and-accept

There is great freedom in accepting yourself, others, and anything or everything that unfolds. Let yourself feel what you feel. Understand that everything is fleeting, including your mental state. And be as you are. When you look back you will always realize that you survived, and that nothing can devalue you… you can only be made richer.

 – Valerie Parnete (12-18-2016)