So the weekend rolls around, it’s Saturday, and my daughter’s been waiting for like days, all five of them if you’re in the mood for math, for me to have a few hours to take her to get some errands done and have a little mom time. It’s supposed to start early, like early afternoon, but then I take a client emergency and we start late SO, when we’re done of all the practical stuff I offer to take her for cheese toast, her favourite, to compensate. I really want it to be fun for her because fun has been a wee bit lacking lately on account of fun trampling shit going down, and so I am digging deep into my bag of hilarity and general merriment for some laughs and silliness and mother daughter bestie mojo #thinkgilmoregirls.I suggest a stop at Purdy’s after the drug store run, because what says we are having the time of our lives better than chocolate, and we take an arduous amount of time choosing ten truffles, exhausting the counter lady with our barrage of important questions — is the caramel soft or chewy, are the nuts whole or mashed, it is cloyingly sweet because that is the baseline for dessert deliciousness; there are no sophisticated palates in this house. She is no Juliette Binoche circa Chocolat, our chocolate support person, but wait, I shouldn’t say that, because if I am lucky she was and is, although a more matronly less twinkly version, and has cast a little magic on us and we are about to be wowed by a proper miracle or two, which would fit in nicely with my 2020 mantra, The Impossible is Possible (an upgrade, we all hope, from 2019’s Take Your Win). I am a little weary, friends, in my story, and by little I mean I have woken up an inner ear infection or some such thing that turns the solid ground into a vast churning ocean during hurricane Sarah whenever I lean my head forward, and a slightly lesser choppy sea storm when I tilt it side to side. This results in some moments of lurching as though drunk, but without the euphoria, add persistent uneasiness. Technically that would be malaise, but the way we use malaise implies a greater element of despair than wonkiness. And I am just wonky. I consider a trip to the walk-in clinic but the thought triggers this montage of my daughter’s sad face affecting patience while I repeat the most oft heard line in my household, I just need to finish this email, and the ensuing puppy dog eyes as she resigns to her fate. Every time my mom gave into anything I wanted or needed as a child she plead “those puppy dog eyes” to exonerate herself, or at least lessen her self-imposed sentence for being too gentle. And then the montage blends into me, sitting for three hours on my almost day off, when I know I’m going to do so much better waiting for my family doc to open on Monday and sort it out then. I give in to my own puppy dog eyes, in my mind’s eye, belonging to my inner child, who has won court over my inner ear. It’s complicated over here friends. We are donkeys with layers. So I keep our mommy daughter date by keeping my head still and avoiding metaphorically rocking my metaphorical boat. Have I mentioned that it’s Saturday?
At the cheese toast restaurant we have this epic chat with the server about friendship and betrayal because we’ve been served some of that lately. She dishes. We dish. The toast is served on a dish. Everyone feels better. We play some x’s and o’s. My daughter wins. I didn’t know adults could lose x’s and o’s. Not adults with University degrees. I resign that I will have to start doing those Instagram advertised puzzles for geezers to regain my mental acuity. It’s not my best moment, but secretly there is still some satisfaction in losing to her, even though it is not cute like it is when they are in pig tails. She plays DJ in the van and we groove to our favourite new groovy song. I am not sure I have pulled a rabbit from the happiness hat, but at least I have managed you know, a hamster. As we cruise on up to our domicile innocently thinking that we are going to go inside where the fuzzy pajamas and reading socks await, we notice something on the walk in front of our lawn. We both notice, but are both confused enough to apply some extra attention to sorting it out. “What is that???!!! Is that Juno?” Juno is our seventy pound black and white doggo. There is a large lump on the sidewalk. But the large lump is moving. It’s not a porcupine. We’ve seen those before. They are pretty chill and make the cutest sounds when they munch down Halloween pumpkins. Also they don’t in fact shoot out quills, unlike cartoon porcupines, so unless you are my dog, you’re pretty safe with them. “Is it a skunk?” my daughter queries as the image comes into full relief. It is not in fact a skunk. IT’S TWO SKUNKS. Entwined. “Two skunks are brawling in my front yard!” Tess hollers. “Well, we’re not getting out of the car”, I respond. Because that is the obvious conclusion I have reached. And then we watch it go down. The skunks traverse the entire lawn in a rolling ball. At no point do they break free of each other. I consider that perhaps this is a bizarrely aggressive mating ritual. But I’ve not watched any National Geographic specials on the skunk so I can’t be entirely certain. At some point one of them attempts fend the other off with spray, or perhaps it just goes off unintentionally. At a certain proximity to skunk spray it no longer smells skunky, it simply induces a choking, gagging response. My daughter is half laughing and half doubled over gagging. I point the car at them and try flashing my high beams. They are unphased. It’s 11:30 pm. They roll around the garden, knock over my snow shovel. I am questioning my life choices, and also attempting to recall the significance of the skunk in native animal medicine, which I think has something to do with self respect, but it’s not translating. The back door is locked so there is no other way in the house. Who are you gonna call? Skunk busters? The COPS? Officer I know innocent folks are needing protection from actual criminals and gangs need suppressing but could you do something about my skunks? Have I mentioned that it’s Saturday? Suddenly there are lights, but they are not cop lights, sorry, they are just car headlights from a neighbour who has noticed that I am parked sideways and is checking on my well being. We communicate through our open windows, which causes my daughter to choke and gag a bit more intensely. “They don’t like light” she chimes in but two sets up high beams do not phase them. I jest that perhaps they are exhibitionist skunks, but she insists that this is not skunk sex, it is skunk violence and in that same instant, through the open window, it happens. I hear the terrible sound of one of the skunks screaming. An actual woeful, pitiful, extended scream, which haunts me still friends *lowers face, wipes moisture from eye. And what seems to be an aggressive roll-a-thon now materializes in a new four high beam blasted light as a full on ATTACK by a stronger skunk on a weaker one. I am no longer amused, perplexed or bewildered. Mommy mode kicks the eff in, and I lay on the horn. Full tilt. I blast it, stop for an instant for shock effect, and then blast it again. That it’s midnight and folks might be in bed does not even cross my mind, I must simply stop the injustice. The dominant skunk lifts his head in disorientation. He doesn’t like the noise! Screaming skunk stops screaming and seems to catch his breath. I seize my advantage and rage on the horn some more. At last aggro skunk flees toward the back yard, and the screaming skunk, now that he is no longer a writhing ball of stripes looks pretty messed up. He’s missing some furry bits and there’s some blood on the snow. We cheer him on. Come on little buddy you got this. He gets his bearings for a moment and then toddles off. We say a prayer to the god of small woodland creatures. I feel remorse that I did not appreciate the violence taking place right there in my own front yard until some actual damage had been done. But I am also relieved that he has made it off in what seems to be recoverable condition. It is worth noting that the extensive horn blasting has not drawn any attention from anyone on the block. The sleep ethic is strong in Inglewood friends.
For the past few weeks I have been incubating a musing on self defense, all about what happens when someone attacks us, or when we feel attacked, and how the defense process gives power to the attack, and we wind up reliving the attack or engaging in counter attack, simply by trying to defend ourselves. And by attack here, I don’t mean savage claws and teeth tearing chunks from our fur, I include the emotional attack called JUDGMENT. Judgment essentially says “I disapprove of how you x,y,z”. It states that I know better than you what you should be doing, or what you are not doing or how you are failing at life or money or relationships or whatever the topic of the day is. Judgment hurts us, because it disrespects us. It dismisses our challenges and trials. It cannot be compassionate, because no one else can experience our reality and therefore our struggles from our unique perspective and set of challenges. We all have them. There is a good chance on any given day of the week that we don’t want to live first hand what went wrong for Joe that he doesn’t have enough money to pay his bill or why Susan keeps choosing married men to date. The nature of our problems is that they are problematic for us and someone else’s chiming in about how they would do it better, or why our struggle makes us a loser or a shit person, feels kind of shit. Judgment plays god, but a mean one at that. And more than that, it elicits a defensive response. It invites the mind to rebut, why you had good reasons for dating him, or doing whatever it was you struggled with less than perfectly or the way your judger would have done it, and this leads to counter indictment along the lines of how your judger is actually a pot calling your kettle black, and I venture here to say that all pot callers are actually black (although maybe we need to revisit colour schematics on this one; like pink pot calling the pink kettle pink), just to err on the side of a nuanced implied meaning which has nothing to do with the colour of cookware, which is factually shades of iron and Teflon. The point is, it’s a feedback loop. It’s a bottomless pit, in which we spiral down. When we feel provoked to defend ourselves, we make the attack real and we become the counter judger, counter attacker. Shucks darn it. It feels bad. And it doesn’t help.
So what then, do we just take shit and abuse? Do we just allow some holier than us to crap all over us and our reputation?
Well that brings us back to skunk medicine, Bob.
Skunks are teachers of self respect, and passive defense. They are black and white striped Ghandi’s of the animal kingdom. They are like, don’t let yourself be walked all over, but don’t hurt anyone doing protecting yourself (ya, I looked them up).
Defense and protection are different. Defense buys into the judgment and grows it. It expands fear. But we can protect ourselves from a peaceful place. We can end toxic relationships. We can ask to be respected. We can practice healthy, loving choices. We aren’t helping anyone, including our family and ourselves by letting someone take advantage or hurt us. We can be brave, say no, trust in a better way, cut our losses.
We can do all of this without judgment, counter judgment, or counter attack. We can allow ourselves to feel our fear but choose our action from an intentional, not fearful or reactionary place. A loving place even.
If we are feeling brave, and Prince and Jesus are strong in us on any given Saturday, we can forgive.
Judging our judger just makes a judger out of us, dammit anyhow.
So if you come home late on a Saturday to find two mini Ghandi’s duking it out on your lawn?
Create a distraction. Lay on your horn. Give them a time out. Call the peace corps. Find a way around it or a way to break it up, but whatever you do don’t get in the middle.
It won’t smell good on you.
— Love Erin
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