Friday, March 18, 2011

Night of the Skunk

In her book A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson describes a period of her life when she kept getting knocked to her knees by a series of life challenges. She would struggle to her feet only to be knocked down again. Finally it dawned on her that perhaps she should stay on her knees.

I’ve gone through times like that. Most of us have. I remember the night of the skunk. I was going through some tough times. I had a car accident and was seriously injured. While I was recovering from that, my dad had a heart attack and died. And during this time there were what seemed like almost daily setbacks of much smaller magnitude, but when you are dealing with major injuries and losses, even minor difficulties seem huge.

I tried to soldier on. I went back to work before I should have. I refused offers of help. I was determined to go on with my life as though everything were normal. But it was taking a toll. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. I finally reached the end of my coping rope. I called a friend one evening and told her that I just wanted to go to bed for several months. Bed seemed like the only safe place where nothing could happen to me. I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hibernate until the world improved.

That very night I woke up suddenly. The room was pitch black. There was a smell that I can’t even begin to describe. I thought some hideous monster from hell was in the room with me. I reached for the light. And there sitting on the bed looking so pleased with themselves were my two dogs. They had obviously been on the wrong end of a skunk. (They had a dog door which allowed them to go out to the fenced back yard.) The smell made me gag, but they seemed unaffected by it and started to settle down to finish their night’s sleep. I quickly locked them outside and then realized that the smell was on everything they touched, so I pulled everything off the bed and threw it in the back yard, too, along with my nightclothes.

So I’m standing at the back door in the middle of the night, naked, and then I see that the skunk has not fared so well, and is dead in the back yard. Disposing of the skunk carcass was the final straw.

The night of the skunk. On my knees. I stayed there.

reposted from archives


  1. Ah. I've been having some skunk nights lately, Galen. But I'm up off my knees (again!).
    And part of the reason I've come out of the black hole this time round is because of you, my distant friend, and the comments and thoughts you have written.


  2. Alexia--Sorry you are having skunk nights! Your comment means so much to me. We are indeed friends over distance--that's lovely. Any time you need a hand up out of a black hole, I'm here. As for being on our knees, I like the image of yielding (my word of the year), of staying on my knees in calm abiding, prayer, patience, rest. It signifies the end of futile struggle, the beginning of serene acceptance. Please stay in touch and let me know how you're doing.

  3. Alexia--PS--I looked up Arohanui--Maori for big love. Big love back to you.

  4. Beautifully written. Still thinking.

  5. I do disagree with Williamson, in part. She paints a picture of interference with the way things ought to be resulting from life challenges that must be faced. That is life! When one realizes it, the obstacles are no longer challenges. Sometimes, skunk thiols attack us. Sometimes, the dogs get the critters first. Sometimes, both. Regardless, we live through it and say, "Any time you need a hand up out of a black hole, I'm here." Those are the words of the living, who, though humble, stand tall.

  6. PAMO--Thanks!

    JJ--Obstacles are no longer challenges. Yes, that is indeed life. Thank you for wisdom I can always count on!

  7. Galen, my opinion on this magnificently written piece... without skunk nights we sure wouldn't appreciate the nights we are blessed with where there are no skunks involved. I also believe that when we are brought to our knees and reach out for help that we are helping others in the process. I'm sure that time and time again you've reached out to someone's hand when they were down and you helped them back up... how did that feel when you did that? Now why do we as human beings rob others of something which feels so good? Darn egos! lol

    Enjoy your weekend.

  8. darlin--I so agree. Staying on my knees is not a gesture of defeat. It is a gesture of humble yielding, of asking for support, of reaching out. And when I have allowed myself to receive support, it felt great and filled me with gratitude. Thanks for your wise comment.

  9. AMAZING story. i have things to learn from your experiences.

  10. Great story, it is on our knees that we win our biggest battles:)

  11. Why life does that to us. And there's nothing you can do about it. So you just let it go. And have a good cry and soldier on like you said.

    We have one or two skunks visit us during the summer. And O-M-G do they stink sometimes!!!

  12. Galen - Yes, there are times when we're brought to our knees and if we're wise we use that time to reflect and pray, even beg for the Light. And the good thing is that it comes - eventually! But these are times we can look back on and say, if I managed to get through that 'night of the skunk' I can manage, with the grace of God, to do anything.

    Coming by here always makes me think and inspires me...You're an amazing woman, Galen - thanks for being you.

    PS: I'm sorry but I broke in to a smile about the dogs and the thought of you getting rid of your night clothes!

  13. Mikey--We can learn from each other!

    Toyin--Yes, I find that on my knees is a posture of yielding and also of victory.

    ryoko--I'm grateful we don't have skunks where I live now!

    Corinne--Yeah, that scene at the back door was pretty retrospect! I can laugh at it, too. Thank you for your very kind comment.

  14. No wonder the loss of friends is on your mind. You've certainly hit a rough patch. The visuals of your post are so strong I can almost smell that skunk and sense you standing there about ready to yell at the moon.

    I love the term "coping rope." That is a perfect description for what we all play out as far as we can.

  15. Hi Galen - Wow, I have had some pretty rotten skunk nights myself. It's hard to put things in perspective when it just keeps pouring and storming in our lives. BUt perspective is so important to keeping us going.

    Funny the things we remember: I remember an old episode of a 90s teen sitcom called "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" in which Parker, the main character, is having a very rough day. He can't seem to get his act together and everything he touches falls apart. In one crucial scene, he is sitting out by the school pool when the janitor walks next to him. The janitor says, "You know that thing everyone always says about every day being a new day? It's BALONEY! It's not every day! It's every MINUTE!"

    For some strange reason, that scene has always put things in perspective for me. How true it is.

    I'm so sorry for your losses! I really am. But it sounds like you've done a pretty darn good job of putting perspective into your own experiences. Blessings, my friend.

  16. Bob and Bryan--Thank you for the comments. I like the "every minute" quote very much.

    I want to clear up a misperception I inadvertently caused by not being clear. The night of the skunk is a true story but not a recent one. I wrote it in past tense but I didn't make it clear that it was not the recent past. It happened years ago.

    I reposted this story from the archives because I am currently going through some challenges that brought the story to mind. My challenges now are not so traumatic as the skunk story, but they are life changing and they do serve to remind me that there is so much in my life I can't control!

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

  17. Wouldn't life be easier if we could control everything? Sometimes the lack of control can make one feel so helpless and lost. *hugs*

  18. I'm going through a time like this right now, things are piling up, I have this domino-effect of negative things happening, I just don't know what to do.I do sit down and thank for everything I do have and everything I am, and I'm hoping to come out of this deep dark hole soon. I love your background picture :) Thank you for your post :)

  19. Bernie--Hugs are appreciated!!

    Bz--Thank you for your comment. I understand that "don't know what to do" feeling. Sometimes I get down to what I call "survival" mode. I just do the bare essentials--things that absolutely have to get done. I let the rest go. I hope this challenging time passes quickly for you.

  20. Skunk night... I like that... My knees are doing better than my feet right now. Finding that a TENS unit is helping with the burning from the neuropathy, and I can manage work better. Walk a lot at work, but enjoy the job!!


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