When I was young, my mother would hit me with a large and long wooden spoon. At a certain age, if I remember between 8 and 10, she broke one on my ass and I suddenly felt I had the power and she couldn’t do anything worse. She stopped having control over me. Belts were also used. At that age, I started to run faster and could avoid her. My father wasn’t at home often. I realized later that my situation was similar to a little girl who was sexually assaulted by her father—it’s never done when the mother is there, or maybe the mother is blind and refuses to see it. In my case, it was the opposite. The aggressor was my mother.
What is difficult to explain is that violence doesn’t just hurt on the spot. It can hurt years after.
Today, I fight even if I know I will lose. I use the benefits of losing to take me higher. It is like a drug and fixed in my DNA. An example: I was in front of a private committee of the Bar Association in Québec around 1997, a committee that was obviously biased against me. They were hostile and I felt it. I played them without telling anyone, not even a friend. It was a thrill for me.
I had nothing to lose so I made it theatrical. I watched, for a week or two, all the best movies about laws and legal cases. I tried to figure out which movie and which part had the best plea. I finally picked a speech in the movie Philadelphia, explaining why Tom Hanks’ character became a lawyer. It really touched me. I felt it applied to my situation.
Movies cost millions. Each word is calculated, written by professionals. Especially movies made in Hollywood—remember that I studied movies and how stories are constructed. I was a kid, with no pleading experience. I knew I would lose in front of a committee where members were pillars of the Bar Association, but everything I said would go on appeal and judges would hear me.
So I memorized that whole part from Philadelphia. It is just a speech of about 2 minutes. I learned it by heart, word by word. I rehearsed in my small apartment on rue Cartier where I was living with a roommate, paying low rent, and working as a volunteer on different committees and organizations, without almost any money. By that time I had already cut ties with my father.
I changed some words but it was mostly like the movie: a brilliant pleading scene. Of course, I lost. For many years I kept a copy of the stenographic notes (the words said in court) and framed it as a kind of trophy, to remind me that I wasn’t a fool, I was just acting in front of that Committee. But the plea or speech wasn’t enough. Worse, I believed everything that I said in front of that Committee, even if the speech was written by someone else. Later, I won on appeal. And after that I lost another appeal. On that day, in February 2001, I died a second time. I felt that I would be nothing for the rest of my life. I also felt that way in November 1990. Twice, I lost everything I had. Twice, I was able to rebuild something out of misery and really bad situations. Today, I understand that being a lawyer, having money or being successful is not what makes you happy. Relationships that you develop tend to make you happier.