Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Sometimes an album can catch the global mood in an almost spooky way. Last year, Lana Del Rey perfectly captured the sense of a world drifting towards catastrophe, and urged us to overlook all of our flaws and treasure each other before the crash. It was beautiful right through the early days of COVID, but now I can’t listen to a line of it. It’s too forgiving. We’ve entered a phase of righteous fury.

Fiona Apple is a really funny spokesperson for this new mood. She’s by her own admission pathologically lazy. She’s had plenty of good reason for fury though the years, but my guess is she lets most of those moods pass and she returns to a happy drift through life. All the more reason to treasure “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” for not just its righteous rage, but it’s focus. Fiona does anger really well. She’s not giving her critics/enemies/disappointments an inch to breathe in this album and at another time it might come across as self indulgent. But not now. We are all Fiona Apple at this moment, and we’re in no mood for easy forgiveness.

I have a niece who takes this approach to life, and I love her for it. She never lacks the courage to hold people who have wronged her responsible for their actions, and she’ll do it publicly. She also has the chutzpah to take the good and the bad that comes with such public pronouncements. She holds her father most responsible, and I hope some day she reflects on the fact that she likely inherited this courage to speak controversially from him.

I cannot claim to be so bold. When I lash out, I usually feel guilty about it and try to backtrack. It takes a lot to push me to the level of fury — but oh god, you do not want to get in my path once I reach that point. Like Fiona Apple, I might be a little too comfortable in that space. My ability to reason effectively and clearly morphs into combat mode. My words sharpen, darken and hit close to the bone.

Few sore spots push me to this rage place, thank god, but I am highly aware of one. If you’re tempted to order me not to express something — to steer clear of a topic, avoid communicating to a person or to just plain shut up — that conversation is not going to have its intended impact. My favorite line in Fiona’s album is “kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up.” I pretty much feel that way all the time. (My second favorite line is “I thought being blacklisted was just grist for the mill.”) I’m in general a very diplomatic and private person, I keep a lot to myself. If I decide to say something to someone, I’m willing to accept the consequences of the communication, but I’m not going to accede to censorship. I prize my freedom of thought and expression. Getting in the way of that freedom is pretty much the greatest transgression you can make against me.

I need to point out that while I hate censorship, I love editing and editors. Someone who takes the time to read my work, appreciate it and offer a constructive path towards improving it is committing an act of love. I’m even willing to accept really harsh criticism from an editor if I know that its being done with the goal of helping me express myself better and reach a wider audience. If someone were to read my work and say that it might not be in my best interests to approach a subject a certain way — why don’t you try it this way instead, or maybe reframe the story in a different manner, I’d be highly appreciative of the feedback.

Anyway, to contextualize this all, I had a very bad experience with some health care providers in March that turned heated at a certain point. I thought I was entitled to a higher level of care than they provided, they disagreed, and when they got tired of debating it with me, they basically told me to shut up and any future communications would be considered harassment. They trumped up some absurd argument that something I wrote to them could be considered a threat, but instead of pushing the point, I just went away.

Mind you, this was an extremely empty threat from this provider, because they are at far greater risk than me if we ever reach the point of going to war. Not only could I sue the practice for numerous quality of care transgressions and file regulatory complaints, I’m also aware of something else that could create serious headaches for them. It’s in their best interests to keep me content, but for whatever reason, they found greater comfort in shoving me. So be it.

What I really want from this provider is absurdly simple — I want a sincere apology. I don’t need for them to say they’re sorry for numerous honest mistakes — and there were many of them — or even for a few white lies told me. I want an expression of sorrow for the times that employees of the practice acted in their best interests, not mine. Perhaps they should reflect on the care I received and come up with a list of times that happened. I would appreciate that process. My head realizes that I’ve become just like my niece demanding emotional reparations for past harm, knowing full well it will never come.

Lately I have taken to breaking their communications embargo to reach out to them with offerings of peace. Why would I do that if I feel so wronged? Partly, it’s what I mentioned earlier — I have a hard time holding onto my anger for long and tend to feel bad about it in the long run. I guess it’s the LDR fan in me breaking through. But there are a couple other reasons for my outreach. First, I have to admit that I’m indulging a guilty pleasure. Given how much the firm mindfucked me over several months, I kind of enjoy sewing some confusion in them. The idea of using some minor psychological warfare on mental health professionals is the kind of practical joke that amuses me. Just try to take legal action over a couple of complimentary, conciliatory emails — see how that flies.

But in addition, I’m also clearly fishing for that apology. If I can own up to getting a little overheated in the moment, maybe they can break this legalistic silence and acknowledge me as a human being put through needless pain. But so far, it’s not the case. And having tried one last attempt at peace, I’m moving on.

For all I know, my emails to them go immediately to spam folders and they haven’t given me a moment’s thought since March. Perhaps it’s better to think of it that way, because the time it takes to empty a spam folder still requires more of my attention than they deserve.


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