In Lead more gently/ Purpose

We are capable of so much more than we think

Some time ago I found myself halfway up Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, with murderous thoughts directed at my son.

The highest point of Table Mountain is 3,563 ft (1,086 metres) above sea level.  One of the easier hiking trails typically takes two and a half hours to summit.   It was halfway up this trail that my thoughts turned murderous toward my son.   I recall having these same murderous thoughts toward my husband whilst giving birth to this self same son.  Each time the pain came, I wanted to get my hands around my husband’s neck and keep squeezing.  At that moment, while enduring the birth pangs, I blamed him entirely for getting me into the mess in the first place. All rationality left and as far as I was concerned, I had nothing to do with having this baby; it was entirely his fault.

The pain I felt halfway up Table Mountain was reminiscent of that pain, and the son that caused the first lot of agony more than two decades ago, was now responsible for the second lot.  He was the one that suggested the hike up the mountain and now he stood just out of arm’s reach saying, “Come on Mom, you can do it.”  The violent thoughts those words ignited in me must have reflected in my eyes because he took another step back from me saying, with less confidence this time, “Can’t you?”

Clearly, I could because I lived to tell the tale.  (I am happy to report that my son is still alive and kicking too).

Here is what I learnt:

  • I don’t like mountain climbing. I did not enjoy it and the sense of accomplishment that other’s have written books about did not descend upon me and make me want to help fill the world’s libraries.
  • I should not do stuff because other people enjoy it.  I should do stuff that I enjoy and that inspires me to want to write books.  I don’t have to feel guilty for not liking what other people like doing.
  • I am responsible for my own decisions. When I am in a tight spot, I have the capacity to look around and find someone to blame.  Shame on me.  It was entirely my decision to take my son up on his suggestion of a hike up the mountain.  He did not force me up there.
  • I am capable of more than I think. I made it up that piece of rock, albeit dragging myself up on all fours at one point, but I made it.  After I have passed through the let-me-find-someone-to-blame phase, I have learnt that when I am in a tight spot, I can dig deep within and find what is needed to get the job done.
  • Hard times give us something to talk and laugh about. My hike up Table Mountain has been the source of much laughter with friends and family – although I do sometimes have to remind my husband that it was not that funny.

Question: What have you learnt about yourself after going through something tough? Enter into the conversation by leaving a comment.

 

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Henriette van Nieuwenhuizen
    at

    My 2010 started with a back operation, something I did not wish for! One week after my op, starting with my 12 week rehabilitation, I received another shock. My business partner resigned and started her own company – of course competition in what we were doing! I WAS SHATTERED!! Still in shock of recovering from the op, body mind and spirit gave in!! I was depressed and did not see a future in doing what I was good at, why, all my ‘happy hormones’ were ‘gone’ after the op – shock after shock!

    I was forced to start immediately in what I was doing, being a beautician. I had pain and agony whilst massaging, sitting with my legs next to my ears giving a pedicure. I pittied myself and after a while the shock turned into anger, asking why should someone walk out of my business whilst she did not put a cent into it! I thought I’m going to loose all my clients because she was (so I thought at that stage) a better beautician than me! Suicide thoughts ran through my mind for several days and if I had sleeping pills, I would have overdosed at that stage!

    Within two weeks I appointed THREE capable beautiful trustworthy staff members without even advertising a position! It was as if they were sent to me.

    My life long dream to open a Make-over Spa realized within months. After moving, giving up my home-based ‘no charge’ premises and spending a fortune in setting up the new Spa, I was struck with another ‘thundering lightning’… I had a stroke.

    That is something only old people get, not someone at the age of 44!! I had no vision for almost a month – the stroke struck me at the back of my brain. The doctors told me that if that size stroke hid me at the front of my brain, I would have been a vegetable if not dead! In hospital was 3 other ladies almost my age who also had a stroke.. they could not eat, talk, go to the toilet or even recognized their families. I COULD! I could eat, laugh and talked.

    Being a month not at the business, I had such a loss of income, products and clientele because of miss management, that I was forced to close down, moving back to my safe ‘free’ environment. Slowly but surely the business grew, getting stronger and stronger month by month. I still have that overdraught, received a court order for braking a lease contract, but hey, I am no longer a danger to other road users and myself! I was forced to drive with only half a vision and almost caused two fatal accidents in a week!

    Final examination to find out why I had a stroke was an angiogram. What should have been a half and hour easy op, ended in a two day ICU failure! Still no answers why I had a stroke.

    I promised myself that I will make 2011 a healthy spiritual year! I thought I had an awefull year, BUT IT WAS NOT!! My back op is still a success even without the rehabilitation! I lost one excellent friend and partner, but appointed 3 other people. My stroke could have been worse, but I can still do what other people could not! Although my business folded, I made it within months a success what it used to be. With the angiogram I could have lost a leg, but thanx to a ‘wakey’ nurse, it was saved!

    I have stopped smoking and gained 20kg’s in three months, but now I can actually smell and taste my food. I do not stink and my house smells fresh.

    It’s now half a year in 2011, and bad luck struck again. I handed over a successful business to my capable staff, but within three months they failed to keep up the standard, could not manage and EVERYONE resigned!

    My friend said I must not worry, the wheel is turning. I was angry at that words… why is my wheel continuing turning against me. What have I done wrong? Why all this failure? Why me, all I have ever done is being good to others! Why is God testing me so much and why am I failing all these tests? And I just realized while typing this to you… IT IS NOT A TEST – IT NEVER WAS!! God will never test us – He gives us CHOICES! I now know why!

    • Reply
      Michelle Tessendorf
      at

      You have been through so much! Thank you for sharing. You are right, God gives us choices. And if He does test us, He is faithful to provide us with the way to pass the test. “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

  • Reply
    Jerry Houston
    at

    Michelle:

    As one gets older (and I am hard a twork and making great progress on that) we learn that we don’t have to do ANYTHING we don’t want to do (although there are certainly consequences to that!). I really enjoyed your story and have a son that has put me in the same position more than once! One of the words that is outlawed here at our company and in our home is CAN’T. We have found that although some things can be challenging, most things CAN be done. Still doesn’t mean we should take them all on!

    Have a great week!
    Jerry

    • Reply
      Michelle Tessendorf
      at

      We both seem to have sons that spur us on to greater challenges. I celebrate (or commiserate?) with you.

  • Reply
    Faustina Washburn
    at

    You can’t make it without God. I discovered he gave me help when I wanted to pull the trigger after my dad died. A week before he died, I kept heasring a suicide hot line number on the radio. I was annoid because I heard it so much but I had memorized it and for some strange reason called before pulling the trigger.
    later, after becomming a Christian, I accepted that it was God who saved me – more than once.
    Now with hardhship, I rely on God. It makes it so much easier though not less painful.

    • Reply
      Michelle Tessendorf
      at

      What an amazing testimony. I am always humbled when I hear of how personal God is and how he chooses to speak of His love to individuals. How much He loves you Faustina!

  • Reply
    Liz Mulhern
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    I can just picture you and Dustin having a Mother and Son adventure. I enjoyed your comments and have found your thoughts to be very true. The work you are doing is much like pulling yourself up the mountain with God giving you the hand hold. Have a blessed day!

    • Reply
      Michelle Tessendorf
      at

      I love the picture you just painted for me of God helping me up my mountains. Thanks for that Liz!

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