How It Is

How It Is by Valerie Parente

How tragic it must be
to know you are someone else’s life lesson
in the grand scheme.

How frustrating it has been
to know I look like the bad guy
in someone else’s conscience.

But how remarkable it truly is
that being on someone’s mind
can have an impact on their life.

– Valerie Parente (9-26-2020)

You And I

You And I by Valerie Parente

I need to stop making your problems mine…
… but they became my problem when you looked me in the eyes
and told me you despise
everything about your mind
but I think your thoughts are divine
so I said you’re one of a kind
and for those hours you cried
which was a beautiful sight
but I had to pretend to be blind
to keep you from turning to ice
then days and days went by
and you became surprised
that we were far more alike
than you were ready to find
so you made me the bad guy
and called it a crime
when I asked if you were fine
because for me to care if you’re alright
would surely be a sign
that we were on the same side
and you’re absolutely terrified
of people associating your name with mine
because then there’s a chance you might
feel emotions you’ve attempted to hide
but the truth is you were just as inclined
to see me in that light
that’s why you went and tried
to accuse me of crossing a line
even though you were the first to define
that there was a certain vibe
when it was just you and I
because one day you’d act nice
then the next day you’d pick a fight
because God forbid you admit you like
hanging out with a girl who can recognize
the anxiety you secretly abide
and I’m done obeying your fright
so I’ll call you out for your spite
whenever these feelings arise
then you’ll freak out and deny
that’s why I began to transcribe
all the psychological insight
that you try to push aside
and I’m sorry if that makes you uptight
but you can only blame your pride
because you’ve gone so long tied
between comfort and doing what’s right
for yourself and the person who understands your type
and I’m done making another compromise
for someone whose busy living a lie
and cares more about getting high
than connecting with someone who just summarized
what you’re too afraid to clarify
and if you hear me out then decide
to continue this self-destructive ride
then I hope that you realize
everything about you that I write
was an attempt to save your life
because I see you’re so dead inside
but I want you to be alive.

"Align" by Valerie Parente

Align

– Valerie Parente (6-10-2019)

Intervention

Intervention by Valerie Parente

You don’t need to wreak havoc to feel important
You don’t need to argue to feel driven
You don’t need to run away to feel chased.

You are already so important in your friends’ minds
You are already so driven when you let yourself care
You are already so appreciated when you stick around.

And if you have a problem with me calling you out
if you have a problem with me seeing your value
then that’s an issue you have to confront with yourself
because I’m never going to stop rooting for you.

– Valerie Parente (5-14-2019)

Intention

Intention by Valerie Parente

He was sick. Nose stuffed. Ears blocked. Miserable on the couch. His only movement came from his fatigued thumb gently scrolling through the phone.

“Open the door” came a text from his close friend.

His eyes burned. He hesitantly typed, “Door’s unlocked”

The floorboards creaked as the girl walked into the loft with a bright smile and a piping hot container clasped between her hands.

“I got you your favorite soup from downtown. Maybe it’ll make you feel better.”

He didn’t get up. He didn’t thank her. “Why did you do that?”

In that split second her eyes shifted from glowing to deeply hurt.

She didn’t shut down. She didn’t back track. She said what needed to be said. “What is wrong with you?” Those piercing words sounded more like they were begging for an answer than asking a simple question.

“I- I just don’t know why you’d waste your time-”

“Don’t pretend you have my best interest in mind,” she snapped. You never would have guessed that this was the same sweet and giddy girl that just came skating into the loft.

He knew he had a problem. He knew this was his problem but his mind was trying so hard to categorize this as her problem. His thoughts cranked away, trying to rationalize the panic coursing through his veins in a way that didn’t pin the blame on him.

The problem wasn’t that she did something nice for him. The problem was that she paid attention to what his favorite soup was. The problem was that she went out of her way to drive to his favorite take-out restaurant and then in another direction to his loft. The problem was that she thought, in her time alone, that doing something for him would be a worthy use of her energy. The problem was that she thought of him.

Before he could translate his thoughts into verbal daggers she called him out.

“How miserable it must be to be you,” she shook her head in disbelief, “How little do you think of yourself that you feel the need to stop or shame anybody for caring about you? Not just doing a nice favor for you… but really caring for you. Understanding you. Just because you don’t see your own value doesn’t mean I have to stop caring. You hate yourself so you project all of that onto me and I am so sick of it.” Her mouth quivered in contrast to how strong and stern her tone was.

He didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t figure out a rebuttal fast enough.

“I am NOT your punching bag!” she cried out with a voice so strained you could hear the exhaustion in her vocal chords.

He rubbed his fingertips on his bloodshot eyes up to his temples. Why was he like this? Hurting her feelings was never his intention. His intention… well… what was his intention? He didn’t know.

Her eyes were wet but she didn’t break eye contact. “I’m not going to apologize for having emotions just because you can’t handle your own! I am entitled to feel things when I’m around you. I’m not going to let your self-hatred stop me. I’m sorry but that’s not a war you’re going to win.”

He panicked, “I- I’m sorry-”

“I don’t want to hear ‘I’m sorry’!” she was crying now. “I want you to get professional help! I need you to! I need you to be okay! I need you to accept yourself! I need you to take care of yourself! I need you to understand your worth! And in order to get to that point you’re going to need to cry and hurt and feel a whole bunch of uncomfortable feelings and I need you to know that it’s going to get better… and I need you to believe me when I say that! Because if you don’t get to a healthy point then you’re going to lose… and if you can’t handle someone having emotions around you then you’re going to wind up alone.”

Alone.

That.

That was his intention.

A dominating part of him was trying to push people away. Not just any people. The people who care… really care. The people who get inside his head. The closer they were to understanding him when he couldn’t even understand himself meant the harder he needed to push. And she understood him and she got in his head and she saw all his flaws but still cared. That’s why this girl was getting the brunt of his insecurity-spawned and fear-born frustration. An unconscious facet of his brain was trying with full force to wind up alone… because being alone would be easier than handling the emotions that come to the surface when you have a real connection with someone.

– Valerie Parente (4-22-2019)

toxic relations

toxic relations by Valerie Parente

There’s something I need to say
about the way you behave
You’ve become a cliché
just a guy who plays games
a fool desperate to claim
that you aren’t so strange
thinking a girl can replace
all of your negative traits
as if you could erase
every ounce of self-hate
with the sound of a female’s name
but at the end of the day
your connection with her is strained
she doesn’t really relate
you use each other to manipulate
that dark and empty space
that rots in your depressed brains.
But you won’t admit your mistake
I know you’ll try to debate
say that you’re honestly okay
but say it with a straight face.
say you’re not a pathetic display
of all that time you had me waste.

There’s something I need to get off my chest
about the way you’ve digressed
You’ve become so obsessed
with destroying relationships
in the name of loneliness
imprinting the egocentric
on someone you barely met
and it’s so inappropriate
how you made her your outlet
meanwhile your friends
the ones who emotionally invest
can only shake their heads.
You know I tried my best
cause I’ve been in that mess
so Goddamn depressed
A mind with no self-respect.
And I just want to protect
one of my favorite humans
from a pattern so toxic
because if you weren’t worth it
I wouldn’t have written this.

– Valerie Parente (4-3-2019)

Investigating the Nostalgia Flood

Investigating the Nostalgia Flood by Valerie Parente

 

Phenomena?

The nostalgia flood.

This is the term I am coining for a recent struggle I have been facing for the past few days. Recently I have been thinking vehemently about the past lately, to a deeply emotive point that my thoughts are beginning to hurt from the very core of my being. I am struggling to come to an emotional understanding as to whether this intense flood of seemingly random and eclectic waves of nostalgia are resurfacing for a specific reason, one which might correlate with my physical circumstances, or if the bittersweet reminiscing is simply a mental product of neurons going haywire in my brain.

 

What Is Going On?

I can’t help but question two key aspects of the nostalgia flood; first, is there an obsessive compulsive component to the reminiscing? If so are these memories purely the OCD playing head games with me, or do these memories hold some sort of objective meaning in the light of a mind that was not plagued with obsessive compulsive disorder? Second, is there something that each of these (seemingly) random memories have in common? If so why now am I revisiting the underlying psychological thesis behind these flashbacks?

Confessional

 

How Does It Feel?

Before I try to make sense of what has been happening to me alongside the guide of the latter questions I would like to note the emotional quality of the mental memorabilia that has been pressing at the forefront of my conscience for a few days now. Every one of these memories are good memories. They are times that I hold near and dear in my heart and consider some of the best moments of my childhood or adolescence. Every time I remember the heartwarming moment my breath is taken away and, as dramatic as it sounds, feel as if I need to cry, initially out of happiness and then the more I think about the memory I feel compelled to cry out of sadness. Never do I get to the point of actually tearing up though. There is just this strange sensation of resounding love that fills up my chest and then a horrible wave of sadness that follows. If I had to categorize it as any psychological state I’d call it grief. Grief not for a life lost, but a time lost. The heavy sadness that festers in my mind, after the joyous flashbacks begin to blur, always feels comparable to mourning. And this odd but powerful experience makes me wonder: why am I mourning? Why do I not stay in that initial happy state when the intrusive OCD mechanism calls up the memory? These are memories of old friends, love interests, family! One particular memory is of a time when I felt very socially accepted, specifically regarding a person I would wind up catching feelings for. Another example of a memory revolves around sleepovers and parties with some long-lost best friends when we would laugh until we cried!  … Oh. Interesting. I am catching something significant as I sort this out in a Word document. “Laugh until we cried”. This phrase unnervingly reflects the exact recent state of mind I have been in as I reminisce. It seems that the very content of these memories, incidents like laughing until I am crying with a best friend (or feeling the ecstasy of social acceptance which would soon melt into fragile infatuation) projects happiness that deteriorates into vulnerability. Of course this could be dismissed as a coincidence, but I personally do not believe the universe works in coincidences. And for that reason I think it is safe to say the metaphorical nature of my nostalgia, much like psychoanalytical dream theory (theories of dreams that accredit dream motifs to the subconscious), actually proves a commonality among my memories. The commonality subsequently causes me to believe that the flood of nostalgia is not random or even eclectic, but that each of these fond moments from the past and people associated with these fond moments are purposely being called up by my brain, an OCD brain that is operating with rhyme and reason.

 

Who Is Involved?

The memories that I have been dwelling on were very prosocial in nature. These were times when I was thriving in my social circle. Now, I think it is fair to acknowledge that in some respect most of us can get sad when thinking back to positive moments because we recognize that they are over. Time moves laterally and irreversibly. This fact is just a discomfort we all have with our temporal confines as we undergo the human experience. Good times will always come to an end. And yes, that is sad if you choose to be sad about it, but I do not feel as though I am making a choice, and for that reason I do not allocate much responsibility to this factual perspective when talking about the nostalgia flood. If anything I am saddened because of the context in which these memories ended. For example, and I hinted at this a little before, but every person that I am reminiscing about is a person that I no longer have a relationship with. In fact if any of these people knew that I was thinking about them recently, let alone getting genuinely upset about the relationship which, to my everlasting dismay, fizzled out, they would probably think I was a complete lunatic (honestly I can’t say I’d disagree). I never quite felt satisfied with how things ended with any of these several people. Each and every relationship, for one reason or another, stands in my mind as a relationship that should have endured. Relationships that are incomplete. Some people I lost communication with a decade ago, some people 5 years ago, some people a few months ago, and each person was somebody that I never truly wanted to lose a friendship with. I always wanted more, more laughs, more memories, more attention, etc. Nevertheless, these are all people that I got close to at one point and wound up losing touch with. I do not think that the selection of people associated with my nostalgia is random. Between the emotional timeline within these individual memories, converting from high-as-a-kite happiness to profound grief, and the correlated social position each person has in my mind, demoting from close companion to complete stranger, I have come to the conclusion that there absolutely is a theme taking place in my psyche.

 

Why Now?

When a theme is taking place in the psyche of somebody with obsessive compulsive disorder, there is always a question of whether or not that theme is relevant to the current circumstances of that person. When it comes to the nostalgia flood and its eerie resemblance to OCD intrusive thinking, what is the theme?

The theme overarching my nostalgia revolve around losing something before I was ready to lose it. There was a sense of incompletion. The memories embody lost relationships and elicit a mourning-esque response. Why now would I be reaching back into my long-term memory and pulling out these snippets of emotional density? Why is my brain reminding me of heavy emotions? Why does my brain want me to feel the high of happiness and the low of loss that follows?

Honestly answering this question after dissecting the qualities of the nostalgia flood is not difficult. The only feat left is to describe how my life has been going in the current day. Without going into too much personal detail, I can modestly say that I am at a paradox in my life. I have never felt more rich with life experience or more proud to be me, but at the same time I have never felt more lost with where I am going or more longing to engage with a (certain) person who shares a similar mindset as me. I do not know how to satiate my mind socially in the way that it wants to be satiated because the person that I would like to spend time with is a person I am having a hard time communicating with due to the trials and tribulations that adulthood presents. This social predicament has been key in my confusion with which direction I should take next. After investigating the nostalgia flood in the past few paragraphs it should come as no surprise that my memories of wonderful yet lost relationships can accurately represent this inner mentality of feeling positive about myself but lost in the social department.

– Valerie Parente (4-25-2018)