The Artist, The Muse: A Poetry & Prose Collection

The Artist, The Muse: A Poetry & Prose Collection by Valerie Parente OUT NOW

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The Artist, The Muse is what you get when you interweave psychology, creativity, and spirituality into the poetic fabric of a mentally disordered daydreamer’s mind. Valerie Parente artfully hones the craft of written word in this collection of poetry and prose through fantastical metaphors, rhythmic patterns, heartfelt emotions, metaphysical references, and breath-taking epiphanies. Dark daydreams and silver-lining mantras blossom out of the obsessive compulsive writer’s verbal landscape as the artist becomes her own muse.

Includes poetry, prose, and artwork by Valerie Parente.

Table of Contents:

The Artist, The Muse
Conscience of Nonsense
Glitter In The Air
Shy of Me
The Gargoyle Mindset
An Inadequate Reflection
Ink
You’ve Made An Author Out Of Me
Essence
Grandiosity of the Sick
Daydreams Are Shadows
Sanctuary
Hindsight of the Falsehood
Echoes
Idu Ego
The Silver Screen
Realize These Butterflies
The Writer
Natural
The Instinct of Intuition
The Masterpiece Tragedy of Marionette
Egomaniac
Inquiries
Playing with Dolls
Imagination Is Not Free
Validation
I Wish You Well
Bleeding
Paradox Lock
Dreams of Floating
Give & Take
Her Bright Pink Shoes
Why I Apologize
My Heart Thaws
Mars
Sage of Tarkus
Normal
The Creeper
Young Sapling
Scarecrow
she could not master astral projection
Touch the Heart
Creator
To Be Human
Lady Luna and the Light Inside
Tiara
The Answer
Order In Disorder
Trust the Stars
Novelty
Message From The Universe

The Artist, The Muse by Valerie Parente

Feelings Are Not Facts

Feelings are not facts.

I have always had an obsession with “staying true to myself” (a fixation inevitably misguided through that tumultuous identity crisis phase of life called adolescence). To bolster that very egocentric obsession I made it my goal to identify each and every one of my current feelings. Sometimes a simple mental identification was not enough to satiate the irksome “who am I?” question scratching at my conscience, so I would try to preserve my emotional experience through art. As a young girl this meant poetry and diary entries. This meant falling prone to the vice of greed and using written word to further intensify feelings that, through hindsight and therapy, turned out to be not as idiosyncratic as I had liked to believe. This also meant wallowing in certain songs, scribbling lyrics out on lacerated notebook pages in class, impulsively imagining them tattooed one day. This meant drawing and painting and photographing anything and everything that felt like an expression of how I currently felt. Identifying feelings might be healthy in moderate doses, but being somebody with obsessive compulsive disorder I tend to gravitate towards all-or-nothing thinking. Moderation does not come easily. So, to no surprise, I overdid it when it came to treating feelings like end-all-be-all factual information.

Feelings can sometimes be factual, but this is certainly not always the case. In my experience I have found two major contradictions which highlight the underlying truth that feelings are not the same thing as facts.

First, feelings are transient. Feelings come and go just as our circumstances come and go. Any and every emotional state is fleeting, and to treat a mood such as outrage or excitement like a veridical truth that can substitute as an all-encompassing proverb would do a disservice to anybody undergoing either a positive or negative mood.
For example, if I am depressed about a literary rejection, feeling discouraged and dry on hope, I have every right to feel that way- but to mistake that feeling with a fact like “I am unworthy of publication” could lead to an unfair condemnation of “I do not deserve to live my dream as a published author” and end with “I have no rational choice but to give up on my dream.” Another, more relatable example is how, in our self-consciousness, we sometimes “guess” others’ opinions of us. If you have a bad hair day and feel insecure, you might distribute that feeling of insecurity outwards and let it pollute your perception of the world. One moment of eye contact with a peer in the hallway and you assume that they think you are ugly or unattractive. Just because you feel a certain way inside, does not mean you can mindread other people and say, for a fact, what an individual might think of you. This way of thinking could easily lead to many missed opportunities, unfair judgments, and unnecessary travesties.

The second contradiction in equating feelings to facts derives from the very human quality that you are capable of feeling more than one emotion at once, including ones that are polar opposite to each other.
We have more than one situation going for us in our every day lives, some bad, some good. For a long time I would undergo a sort of existential confusion when relaying information about my moods to therapists. For instance, I could not understand why I felt very confident and optimistic about the future while also feeling frustrated and sad about certain problem areas in my life. It took a simple “a-ha” moment of realizing that feelings are not facts to accept that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with me for feeling more than one contradictory emotion at once. It is possible to feel enthusiastic about a promotion and also deeply hurt about a strained relationship. It is possible to love and care about your well-being while still feeling shame over your imperfections. It is possible to be in a very grateful mood for all the laughs and joys of life while experiencing simultaneous bitterness around the shortcomings in your life. Humans are sentient beings capable of feeling more than one emotion at a time. That is a fact.

stitch myself up

To clarify, I am not saying that I no longer acknowledge or draw inspiration from my emotions- what I am saying is that I am no longer going to be a slave to my emotions and the muses that spawn from them. I will always love expressing myself artistically, and I will always tune into my emotions to be the aesthete I thrive in being- but I will be damned if I let a creative drive knock me down a peg in all of my social and spiritual growth. It has taken me a decade of mental health struggles to realize that wallowing in melancholy and solitude (at the expense of my youth and my relationships) is not the right path to go down. I say this as somebody who struggles with extremist tendencies- staying “true to yourself” does not mean focus all your energy into present emotions. Moderate that energy into feelings, thoughts, and instincts. I know we hear it all the time between culture to culture, but life really is better with balance.

So by all means feel, emote, and if you so desire then preserve a feeling in artwork, but give yourself the compassion you deserve and recognize when you are inflicting more harm than good by dwelling on past pains or nostalgia.

Feelings are not facts. That, is a fact.

– Valerie Parente (3-9-17)

My Heart Thaws

My Heart Thaws by Valerie Parente

“You know that mysterious feeling when you smell a certain scent and that scent elicits specific memories?”

“Yes…”

“I’m feeling overwhelmed by a sort of time warp… a time warp beseeched by what I can best describe as an ethereal scent. I’m not talking an autumn aroma that invokes nostalgic memories or a specific stench that reminds you of traumatic experiences. I’m not talking a succession of frames streaming like fluid through your memory banks or distinguishable snippets flickering like consecutive flashbacks rolling through a film reel. I’m not talking mechanical reminiscing as a product of some psychological disposition or resurfacing scars brought forth from intensive therapy. I’m not even talking about a scent that hones your mind! I’m talking about the most inexplicable, indescribable, kind of scent that hones your heart… this otherworldly kind of scent that leaves your present perceptions disconnectedly attending to the world but shifts your reactions into intensely reliving the past! I’m talking nine years ago! I’m talking feelings of innocent attraction and distinct anger and vivid hopes and crazy dreams that were all alive and kicking nine Goddamn years ago! Feelings right before the mental breakdowns that broke my mentality and froze my heart! Nine fucking years of letting the cruel and cold mental disorders numb out the feelings in my heart that hurt so bad! And I forgot how much it stung nine years ago before my reality became a shadow tagging behind a haze of obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders. But today that haze is clearing! Today the sun is warm and I can feel it shining down and thawing my heart! And my recovering heart is warping back to a time when crushing made me high and love was totally blind! When somebody made a choice that hurt and something better could have worked! And all this heart ache violently tugging at my core is making me realize that maybe, just maybe, I blessedly became mentally ill! I numbed out my feelings as a means of survival, because to become mentally ill was to stunt my emotional development! To stunt the instrument of my emotions was to freeze time on my heart! To put my heart on hold! And maybe icing out the world behind a distorted icy lens was my way of preserving my heart right before it had the chance to break in half! But I am feeling, and I am alive, and I am okay, and I am better than ever. I am feeling it all now.”

doll-heart

– Valerie Parente (9-28-16)

Quest

“You don’t want to get better.”
I was extremely offended.
“You don’t want to get better.”
I was extremely offended again.
“You don’t want to get better.”
…and again. It is difficult to get over an emotion when your glitching mind replays conversations… sentences… phrases… words… sounds… again, and again.
“You don’t want to get better.”
The sting of the comment was starting to subdue into a vapid memory, naturally losing its caustic power with every mental replay.
With a clearer mind I tried to understand why I was so offended by the comment.
“You don’t want to get better.”
That can’t be true. I know I want to get better. I know OCD is not my friend. But to entertain the idea that living with OCD is living carefree would be foolishly wrong. There is no serum to permanently reverse this mental illness in its totality, but even if there was, the idea of simply ousting obsessive compulsive disorder is not a matter of “getting better” to me. But why do I view “getting better” with such a cringe-worthy connotation?
It’s not that I want OCD… it’s that… I would feel lost without OCD.
At those critical ages when a kid becomes an adult, when virtues are established, and when identity is found, the development of my personality coincided with the development of my mental illness in a symbiotic relationship.
Obsessive, compulsive, and disordered have fused themselves with the evolution of my personality, so it makes perfect sense that I would feel lost without the anxiety disorder that has pervaded my growth into adulthood.
I do want to feel better. I do not want OCD to rule my life. But I understand that to embark on a life without this mental disorder (if I were somehow endowed with OCD’s cure) would be to face a whole new challenge in itself, a challenge of feeling totally lost and having to find myself. I would need to be ready to take on that challenge. But you know what? I don’t think I get to consciously choose when I’ll be ready for that challenge. And I know this to be true because I already unintentionally started to face that challenge of self-discovery. Because to realize there is a challenge that needs to be addressed is to already begin to address that challenge. I might be lost, but I will find my way.

"Rose Quest"

“Rose Quest” by Valerie Parente

– Valerie Parente (7-9-16)

Hierarchy of Aversions

Some obsessive compulsive disorder sufferers are deeply disturbed or repelled by certain objects, ideas, words, feelings… anything really. Often times people with OCD tend to perform avoidance rituals, in which they obsessively and compulsively avoid these things that stir up so much fear and anxiety. In my OCD struggle with avoidance rituals I have mentally deemed these repulsive obsessions my aversions.
In trying to sufficiently explain how my aversions rise and fall from different degrees of anxiety-inducing severity I have constructed a model I like to call my Hierarchy of Aversions.

Hierarchy of Aversions
NOTE: The Hierarchy of Aversions is constructed by an obsessive compulsive designer.
This mountain of obsessions was built on an OCD premise with the least worrisome aversions at the pinnacle and the most flagrant aversions at the foundation. While most hierarchical structures are stacked with the more dominant echelons ranking at the top of the pyramid, the Hierarchy of Aversions is layered with the least bothersome aversions at its peak, where they are closer to drifting out of sight and out of mind. Unorthodox, yes, but OCD is not orthodox, nor is it logical. Remember, the Hierarchy of Aversions consists of empirical levels that draw their order from a disorder in the constructor’s mind. The primary fears are set at the bottom of the pyramid because they bolster up every other fear. The obsessions that elicit compulsions on the bottom indirectly influence every fear on top.

NOTE: The Hierarchy of Aversions is constantly under renovation.
The contents at each level of the pyramid frequently climb up and down or come and go. What gives these OCD aversions mobility in the Hierarchy of Aversions is the mood of the constructor. Stress causes the disturbing images, ideas, or rituals to weigh heavier, subscribe to gravity, and drop closer to the bottom of the aversion pileup. When moods are lighter and stress is at bay it is common for aversions that once seemed so prominent and so debilitating to feel “not so bad after all”. They, too, become lighter and rise towards the top of the hierarchy. With a little push these flagrant obsessions can even float away.

NOTE: The Hierarchy of Aversions can be manipulated!
Sometimes aversions go away on their own, without the voluntary aid of OCD recovery. When an aversion seems to effortlessly evaporate it can feel like some random blessing. In trying to understand these “random blessing” cases I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s some subconscious effort on the obsessive compulsive disorder sufferer’s part, an effort that ironically involves using OCD to defeat OCD.
For me, when fears no longer appear fearful one of the two situations has typically happened…

1. I had an amazing experience relating to that aversion.
2. I had a horrible experience relating to that aversion.
These seem like very contradictory experiences. Illogical, right? That doesn’t matter. OCD does not rely on logic!

Allow me to explain with the following examples.
1. I had an amazing experience related to an aversion.
I used to have an intense anxiety-driven disdain of the number “7”. I would actively avoid touching, looking at, or talking about anything that had “7” written on it or generally pertained to this digit. But eventually one day, on the 7th, I had an amazing experience. I do not remember what the experience was (and it does not matter). The fact is, I now had a positive connotation to attribute to the number “7”. I almost felt like I had no choice but to graduate the aversion all the way up the Hierarchy of Aversions and, without a further thought, that aversion disintegrated into thin air. Relating “7” to something bad constituted this fear as an aversion in the first place, but using that same OCD mindset I related it to whatever “good” thing happened that day and wound up eliminating the aversion.
2. I had a horrible experience relating to an aversion.
Since the Hierarchy of Aversions is a structure of varying anxiety-inducing obsessions, the very order of this model comes from relating the severity of obsessions to one another. This can actually work to the OCD sufferer’s favor, because when a less severe aversion sitting towards the top half of the Hierarchy suffices, it is much easier to quickly overcome that obsession, or at least diminish the anxiety it induces, by comparing that obsession to the more intense obsessions at the hierarchy’s base.
I actively try to avoid germs, so I do not like walking barefoot in my own home. But even more so I avoid walking barefoot in any environment outside of my home. So, in the instance that I am forced to walk across my floor barefoot because I forgot socks or shoes I get anxious, but then I remind myself that it could be worse- I could be walking across the floor of some filthy public setting. And even though the alleviation of that anxiety is temporary, it is still alleviation. And yes, I am still averted to walking on the floor barefoot, but in pair with exposure this comparison of “it could be worse” nudges that aversion up higher on the hierarchy where it is not nearly as bad as it once seemed.

These two methods I have used to graduate aversions from firm obsessions to fleeting memories involve controlling the OCD with OCD. There is no getting rid of this disease for me, just manipulating it to my advantage so that certain obsessions and fears seem less scary and become more prone to evaporating.

– Valerie Parente (6-26-16)

Matter: A Symbol of the Mind

Mind generates the fear.
Matter symbolizes the fear.

Obsessive compulsive disorder likes to customize itself according to whichever person it sinks its parasitic teeth into. My list of OCD anxieties is different from another person’s list of OCD anxieties. Though the content in each OCD list might vary between person to person, the layout remains quite uniform.

In the left column we have an intangible thought (a fear of something), and in the corresponding right column we have a more palpable experience or object (that actual something).

These obsessive thoughts, which forbid or demand certain compulsions, are exponentially more anxiety evoking than physically bringing one’s self to the point of defying said-thought.
To put this notion in perspective, take general anxiety into account. A common example is the fear of public speaking. When you have anxiety about going on stage and talking to a crowd the fear building up to delivering a speech is so much worse than actually delivering the speech.

a conscience full of nonsenseNow revert this idea back to OCD. When I say I am afraid of germs it is my fear of going into a bacteria-ridden public place that causes me more distress than physically walking into the actual setting and realizing, through exposure, that, “hey, I can deal with this”. This is not to say that I do not get anxious when I think I have been contaminated by germs- trust me, I do- but is it the physical germs that are causing the anxiety or a thought itself that causes the anxiety? It is the thought. That irrational frequently occurring thought. The physical germ is just a symbol of the fear having been generated from my mind.

Fear comes from the mind, not from matter. And as much as I want to believe that there is some reasonable connection between my thoughts and the material world I cannot deny the factual evidence that my obsessive compulsive fears are what stir up anxiety, not the actual events or objects which those fears are based on.

– Valerie Parente (6-13-16)

Delusions from Obsessions

When you’re young and you start experiencing obsessions you don’t realize the delusional depth of what’s happening to you.

You naturally assume that the reason you keep uncontrollably thinking of a certain boy is because you’re falling in love with him, not because you have an intrusive image generator mounted inside your brain which has been programmed to stutter on a motif. The particular motif of a nice kid who smiled at your vulnerable teenage heart in the hallway resonated strongly, and as OCD does so well, it latched onto that strong experience and spit out recollection after recollection. But recalling the same smile in a hallway gets duller with each replay, so you have to improvise, and you start imagining perfect scenarios, eventually conjuring up a delusional perception of a person you idealized, not who that person really was in reality… and a whole bunch of kids look at you as “that psycho girl”.

You not only delude your idea of other people, but yourself as well. You cognitively isolate yourself, thinking you understand reality on a deeper level than most people because your cycling mind has convinced you, through the illusory power of repetition, that your perceptions of particular experiences were more meaningful or intense than they really were. And, of course, you are a young teenager and “nobody understands” you.

Pyscho Girl

It has taken me a good eight years of hindsight, since my “outburst” of obsessive compulsive symptoms, to realize that a lot of my more confusing and painful experiences were not based on reality, but were side effects of an OCD I had not yet gotten the diagnosis for. I would be lying if I said I had zero level of resentment whatsoever over how things played out during the teenage years of my life (which are already inherently difficult for everybody), but I am not lying when I say that I have zero level of resentment towards myself for not initially realizing how delusional my perceptions of reality was. I wasn’t getting treated for OCD at the time, and I was keeping it to myself. So obviously I was bound to construct some pretty delusional heuristics for perceiving the world.

It is perfectly okay not to realize, until hindsight, that you did not see a situation or yourself in a realistic sense. Nobody questions the validity of their own thoughts without some kind of third party intervention. This is why keeping your pain to yourself is so detrimental. You are bound to be deluded by pain seen through no perspective but your own (and I’d advocate that this goes for people in general, with or without mental illness). Viewing your perceptions of a situation or yourself from an outside perspective- whether that means physically addressing somebody else for their opinion, taking a step back and trying to see your situation in the big picture, or simply talking out loud about your situation to another human being- can eliminate any potential delusions that might contribute to a whole lot of unreasonable pain which will have to be decoded eventually.

– Valerie Parente (6-2-16)

Susceptible to Growth

I’m not scared of relationships, I’m scared of making a shift from friends to more than friends.
I’m not scared of going out to eat, I’m scared of breaking my streak of home cooked meals.
I’m not scared of moving on, I’m scared of re-establishing myself on new ground.

When trying to dissect exactly what it is about change that is so scary I’ve come to a couple of conclusions (all idiosyncratic to my own personality and emotional history- so, as usual, I cannot speak on behalf everyone suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder); but if I had to pinpoint the sole problem I have with change that I think would most resonate with other OCD sufferers then it would be how in a ritualistic mind change can imitate an intrinsic kind of susceptibility.
To physically change my placement or what I surround myself with, to literally and figuratively put myself out there in an unfamiliar situation with unfamiliar factors is to open myself to a universe of possibilities I have no practice in handling. I cannot guarantee I know how my personality will handle new and different experiences and to somebody who is constantly trying to decode the intermingling of their identity with their mental illness this is nothing short of terrifying.

Equating susceptibility on an identity level is developmentally crippling. Any kind of milestone, an experience or event that should be cherished, could easily be seen with a negative connotation (hence the examples of misconception that I’m simply afraid of being in a relationship, eating at a restaurant, or moving out into a new environment). This kind of mindset is not fulfilling and that’s not fair.

In my OCD fight I’m going to consciously equate change with a more positive connotation- one of growth and blooming. One where getting to the next level, transitioning, and graduating into new milestones will be viewed like pouring water on a blooming identity, to further discover what kind of beautiful flower it will be rather than suppressing it to a bud or a stem without its floral crown.

nourishing a blooming identity

Change will nourish you, not hurt you. And unfamiliarity forces you to become more familiar with your identity by shedding light on how you handle certain experiences. Growth helps you become a more complete you. Making your identity susceptible to growth should be seen as making yourself available to a new level of beauty that only life experience can elicit.

Change welcomes susceptibility, but susceptibility welcomes growth.

– Valerie Parente (5-24-16)

Aesthetic & Psychological Tree

Skeletal Branches

“The beauty in bare tree branches is how they resemble the skeletal roots in which they grow from.” – Valerie Parente (5-14-16)

Obsessive compulsive disorder has taken captive my once free hands in a misguided attempt to protect them. And as I have said before [see Raw Proof] my hands suffer from severe dryness because of frequent and thorough hand washing compulsions. So when I paint a creepy black tree on my hand it is an act of rebellion, not simply because it is a beautifully dark depiction, but because it is my way of liberating the primary physical area that OCD has manipulated. By painting something that is aesthetically pleasing to me on the area which most symbolizes my obsessive compulsive disorder, I have taken that area back and reclaimed it as my own.

OCD can crack and damage my hands all it wants, but at the end of the day my hands belong to me, Valerie, not this mental disorder. And if I want to paint a skeletal tree on my hand because it makes me feel strong in the midst of a crippling mental disorder then you bet I am going to paint a tree.

– Valerie Parente (5-14-16)

Echoes

Echoes
“Your thoughts are synonymous with echoes,” he tells her.
The carefully constructed sentences, spontaneous words, even fragmented enunciation playing out in her mental script are no more or less compositions of sound waves bouncing back and forth in the maze of her mind. Echoes, reflecting off of walls that are as jagged as those doodled by this daydreaming girl who has been half-listening in class. But half of her half-listening is because the thoughts playing out in her own mental labyrinth are lingering. It is not so much a matter of volume, but of frequency. Her echoes reverberate long past the initial sound has run its course. They repeat, repeat, repeat. She can hear the echoes going on and on, cycle after cycle, aware of their questionable rationality because nobody outside of the maze walls seem to be able to hear what she hears. Not even him.
In an effort to make sense of the auditory world reflecting and bouncing inside her she measures these echoes in the same way she measures the dissonant, yet not so distant, world around her- first by participating in the world, second by dissecting the emotional content that transpires by said participation.
She sits back and listens.
The echoes conduct her. Using her instrument of a body she carries out the actions in demand. And what happens… what happens is strange. Is that… is that harmony that she hears?
The echoes that first caused so much panic were silenced upon obedience. It seems that resonating with the echoes was key in tuning them out. She makes mental note of this auditory pattern.
But what transpires when a mental note is jotted down in a mentally disordered mind?
“Your thoughts are synonymous with echoes,” he tells her.
And so on, a new echo starts. This illusory harmony was none other than noise in disguise, false harmony, proving that the only way to tune out an echo is to incite a new echo, conquer a current obsession with a new obsession. The cycle goes on. A natural frequency, the frequency she most prefers, is not the default for the unnatural maze of a mind. But she knows that she will learn to be okay with this. Because though he cannot hear her echoes, he is receptive enough to acknowledge that she can. And that is true harmony.

Serenade

“Serenade” by Valerie Parente

– Valerie Parente (4-23-16)