‘”You are acting like rabbits*,” he says. “It is time to act like wolves,” and these are the perfect words. I can almost hear the backs of the men around me stiffen and the hairs on their neck bristle and it is exactly this, to be the hunter and not the hunted, that will keep me alive. This law is the same law of the bush. Turn fear and panic into the sharp blade of survival.’
-Joseph Boyden, Three Day Road

i have been thinking a lot about perspectives lately, and how words have the power to not only describe, but create reality. i am the first to admit that some times (more often than not) the words i use to shape my truth are harsher than they need to be: i have bad eyesight, my left side is weak, i am selfish, i suffer from depression, i am constantly blocked…these are some of the phrases i use with regularity. i think in the beginning i used them to define how much i’d survived, but now i see how they are damaging my growth, holding me back.

i hate being called “a victim”. it’s the proverbial red flag waved in front of me-as-bull, and the term ignites my infamous temper like nothing else. tonight, waiting for a friend to meet me at the metro, i remembered the last person to call me a victim to my face – that cop in downtown east-side vancouver.
i wish i could link back to that post, but i can’t, so a quick synopsis: i was travelling in b.c., and it was something like my third night from home. i’d forgotten my keys to my aunt’s place, and knowing how much it would piss her off to be woken up, i grabbed a cab downtown, to try and find a hostel where i could crash for the night. the cab dropped me off on cordova, a block away from east hastings, which is one of the worst neighbourhoods for heroin addicts and prostitutes in the world. in the confusion, i walked there to try and find a cab home, where two things happened: 1) sketchy guy in unmarked car pulls up to curb to offer me a “lift”; 2) the cops pull up, sirens blaring, to arrest the two of us for shady dealings.
once it became apparent that i wasn’t a hooking junkie, bad cop informed me that i had “victim written all over my face.” at which point, i gave him a piece of my mind, telling (read: yelling – i was tired, it was 3:30 am, i was defending my honour) him it was no wonder that people didn’t trust cops, etc., etc.
it’s a wonder that i didn’t get arrested. or beaten. in the back of my mind, as i was mouthing off, i was fully expecting both.

tonight, on the way to the bus stop, a creepy thing happened. i was walking along, all glittered up, when i heard this honk behind me. not even thinking twice, i looked over my shoulder, and the car whose horn it was slowed down to a complete stop in the road beside me. i stopped too. the car, and the driver in it, didn’t make a move. with the way the sun was slanted, i couldn’t see his face, so i put my hands on my hips, and deliberately said, in a loud voice,
“what? what the fuck do you want?” and the guy, who turned into some old man with white hair and an unbuttoned shirt, put up his hand to me, waved, and drove off.
i felt threatened. i felt like i had been sized up, tapped like a melon, and randomly discarded. it was the strangest feeling.

yesterday, met took me on an excursion to rid me of the depression that had been lurking for a few days. we had a number of destinations in mind; one of the places where we ended up was a bookstore. i wandered the aisles in that book-stupor i always get- oh, the pages smell so good; that’s a really cool font; they have pablo neruda? and had a few finalists – met, at one point, basically took me aside and told me i should buy something. at the time, i was so not in the mood – it was one of those funks that shopping therapy was definitely not going to cure, but also – he was tempting me to buy books. it was fair to assume that i’d capitulate.
one of the finalists was three day road. honestly, i wavered before i brought it to the counter – do i really want a story about two men, fighting in world war one? how up my alley is that, really? and i know it’s a silly bias, but normally i like to support women authors – but something in me stilled that impulse. i’d been hearing great things about the novel, and boyden himself, and i’d been picking it up with the intention of buying it for months.
so i bought it, with met’s discount card, and brought it home. and have been falling deeper into the story ever since.

and there was that one section of the novel, the quote that started this post, that really stopped me in my tracks. the metaphor of the rabbit versus the wolf stayed with me until i got home to write about it. i know i am strong, even if sometimes i undermine my own strength. and if i recognize that i am a warrior, a wolf – then why do i insist on labelling myself a rabbit? why do i make myself more timid, more insecure, more bad, through the choices of words that i make?

no more. i will not be a victim; i will be a survivor. i will not have a weak left side; i will have an unique body. i will not have writer’s block; i will blast through it. it will be a challenge, to invert my thinking and accept and honour the person i am, but i am committed to doing it.

and if you are so inclined, have you been (unintentionally) labelling yourself a rabbit? how does this affect your reality?

*some people who read this post may love rabbits. it was not my intention to offend.

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