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De[con]struction [Oct. 25th, 2006|08:13 pm]
I started talking about some of this in therapy today, and saw some connections that I had previously never recognized as being related.
From September 1991 to mid-fall 1992, my fantasy life consisted of smashing, breaking, burning, melting and otherwise destroying the plastic and metal corset-sized prison I wore 23 hours a day in the form of a back brace. Covered in Victorian-style stickers, an early attempt at beautification that later brought forth only embarrassment, that fucking brace, and more precisely, how I would destroy that fucking brace, was prominent in my thoughts. I envisioned a mallet, no doubt the acme-kind that bugs bunny or the road runner always pull out, and taking the mallet to the brace so that the metal columns which ran up to the neck guard would be split apart from the hard plastic, and the plastic would be split into jagged pieces, impossible to reform into the whole. I surrendered the burning - my family told me that plastic would smell horrible and be bad for the environment, although ideally a bonfire would have been a fitting end. I'm sure I had many more scenarios then, when my imagination was more fecund and the object of my rage constricting me daily.

They had tried to get me used to it in small doses. As soon as my back was healed enough from the surgery, the brace was on for a couple hours. Then some more. The first night was much sooner than I had expected, and also impossible. The instant I tried to lie down I shot back upright, feeling like I was choking. I am not sure if I slept at all that time. But I got used to it, I started sleeping, started falling into the routine. The only hour I had free was for a bath. Every day I had to take a bath. But my parents read to me, and after the bath when they went to get the brace and my pajamas I would hide under my towel pretending to be a rock, giggling when they gamely asked "where is Karen? I guess I'll wait by this rock..."

I don't know if I was angry about it. I mean, obviously I must have been angry, but I was self-effacing, tried to pass it away as nothing, or as something cool. I'd tell classmates that they could punch me in my stomach - I didn't feel anything. I once broke through a red rover line against much older boys. I don't think I was ever teased about it, I have that to be thankful for.

And when the time came, when all the doctors decided that it was safe to be free, I was so ready for my mallet. And my parents - they said it was up to me, but that it would be best to return it to the hospital, where it could be used as a teaching device. So I did.

FUCK ME. FUCK THEM. FUCK THAT FUCKING BRACE, THOSE DOCTORS, THAT HOSPITAL. What the fuck can a used brace covered with faded and half scratched-off Victorian-style stickers teach any medical resident? I hope they learned something fucking brilliant. I hope it changed their fucking lives. Because this is what it taught me: You should not express anger. Even within the safe confines of an inanimate object, that is not the right, the charitable, the good thing to do. Even when for a year this has been what you are looking forward to, what has entertained you as you sat on the sidelines of the gym class, watched your friends sledding from the windows of your house, and shivered in the embrace of hard plastic against your 9-year old body. Even when absolutely no living thing would have been harmed.

It might have been one thing if I learned to let go. I think, though, I just learned to give up.

And throughout my life I have been terrified of angry people. Not even "angry" people - I have been terrified of people expressing anger. And is it incredibly surprising that I withdraw, that I didn't know until recently that being assertive did not mean the same thing as being aggressive, that I have difficulty, or at least, I say that I have difficulty, articulating my feelings? That I spent a long time feeling invisible, and wanted to become even more so?

Five weeks ago after getting news that negatively affected a group I'm in and to which I'm very dedicated, I went to the kitchen, got a paper bag, got a plate, put the plate in the bag, asked a friend in the group to come out with me, stood in the driveway, and hurled the bag-covered-plate onto the pavement. I luxuriated in the sound of it shattering, though it lasted less than a second. I was angry, I continued to be angry (though mostly: upset, disappointed, and stressed), but I felt good breaking that plate. And I did it in probably the most responsible, well-thought out manner possible.

I can be a good person and break shit.
I can break shit.

I wish I had known that 14 years ago.