I talk to lots of people each week. Frequently, the conversation turns to the topic of family or business relationships. We all have challenges with other people, and I hear all sorts of methods of dealing with difficult family members.
The most challenging relationships are with people who continue to say or do the same irritating things, never learning to resolve conflicts in a new or better way.
Have you ever said to yourself, “I blew it again. Why do I always say (do) the same thing? When will I ever learn?”
When we lived in Paradise, California, a skunk used our backyard as his private highway. I believe he lived under a shed in the vacant lot next to our property.
Every night, he began his routine foray by scratching and digging just outside the master bedroom window. I watched him search for bugs and grubs.
Then he moved around the bedroom, under the fence, across our patio, and on to the bunnys’ enclosure, where occasional bits of bunny food fell outside their cages.
Sometimes Skunk decided to perform his routine a bit earlier in the evening.
One particular summer night, daughter Kiri let the two dogs out for their bed-time potty, and left the door open.
On this occasion, they tragically intersected with Skunk who promptly let them have it with ‘both barrels.’
Dudley and Sprite, frantic to get away from the noxious spray, raced back inside. Now, I know we’ve all smelled skunk on the highway. It’s pretty unpleasant, but nothing comes close to skunk spray at point blank range.
Kiri got most of the first wind. She ran to the bathroom to retch, leaving me to scream for anyone else to help me catch the dogs before they rubbed on every piece of furniture in the house.
No one slept through this experience. I’m sure our neighbors heard the ruckus and wondered if we were killing each other.
We finally managed to wipe down the dogs’s faces and put them outside.
We erected every fan in the house to help blow out the skunk fumes. None of us slept well that night.
The next morning, I drove to the local pet and feed store to pick up some chemicals to neutralize the skunk odor.
“Guess that’ll teach those dogs not to mess with another skunk!” I said to the clerk.
“Nope.” He shook his head with a disgusted look on his face. “They never learn. They’ll get skunked again and again.”
A few months later Skunk met his demise in the neighbor’s yard behind our house. They have a big labrador. Good dog!
Much as I shake my head in wonder at how an intelligent dog can keep attacking a skunk at every opportunity, in the same head-on way, it made me wonder if I’m sometimes like that, too.
Do I repeat the same mistakes, especially in my family relationships, again and again, never learning to do it better next time? Do I let my instincts override good sense and cause me to ‘attack’ a loved one in an attempt to control them, with unhelpful advice, unwanted criticism, harsh words, or a bitter attitude?
Guess the trick is to recognize when my pattern or method of relating isn’t working, and to stop it.
Before I get ‘skunked.’