Thursday, January 24, 2008

What doesn't kill you will make you stronger (?)

To tell the truth, I'm going through a rough patch (even as I'm nearing the end of my working life).  They're throwing a job at me which I've no stomach for, because they can't get anyone else to take this responsibility.  And I'm holding on for as long as my stress tolerance can take.  Even though there's not much pressure on me from upper levels, the pressure I unconsciously put on myself is building up.  I'm dreading every single work-day.  The fear that I would not perform to expectations and the fear that I would do or say something wrong or stupid grips me every now and then.  Everything I say and do is now being scrutinized.

I'm due for official retirement in a couple of months.  I volunteered to extend my contract on a year by year basis.  But I'm watching my stress levels very closely.  The worst thing that can happen is, I capitulate and throw in the towel and forgo a few more years of steady income.  Who cares?  After all, it's only money... 

I try to hold myself up by reading whatever little encouraging stories that come in on the email from friends.  So, here's another one I'd like to share with you.  Anyone living in Beulah, Michigan, USA, please check this out. 

Great little story to encourage me.  But then, I'm not a tree.... 



Po Bronson, in his book WHY DO I LOVE THESE PEOPLE?
(Random House, 2005), tells a true story about a magnificent elm tree.
The tree was planted in the first half of the 20th Century on a farm
near  Beulah, Michigan (USA). It grew to be a magnificent tree.

In the 1950s, the family that owned the farm kept a bull chained to
the elm. The bull paced around the tree, dragging a heavy iron chain
with him, which scraped a trench in the bark about three feet off
ground. The trench deepened over the years, though for whatever
reason, did not kill the tree.

After some years, the family sold the farm and took their bull. They
cut the chain, leaving the loop around the tree and one link hanging
down. Over the years, bark slowly covered the rusting chain.

Then one year, agricultural catastrophe struck Michigan in the form of
Dutch Elm Disease. It left a path of death across vast areas. All of
the elms lining the road leading to the farm became infected and died.
Everyone figured that old, stately elm would be next. There was no way
the tree could last, between the encroaching fungus and its chain belt
strangling its trunk.

The farm's owners considered doing the safe thing: pulling it out and
chopping it up into firewood before it died and blew over onto the
barn in a windstorm. But they simply could not bring themselves to do
it. It was as if the old tree had become a family friend. So they
decided to let nature take its course.

Amazingly, the tree did not die. Year after year it thrived. Nobody
could understand why it was the only elm still standing in the county!

Plant pathologists from Michigan State University came out to observe
the tree. They observed the scar left by the iron chain, now almost
completely covered by bark and badly corroded.

The plant experts decided that it was the chain that saved the elm's
life. They reasoned that the tree must have absorbed so much iron from
the rusting chain, that it became immune to the fungus.

It's said that what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Or, as
Ernest Hemingway put it, "Life breaks us all, but afterwards, many of
us are strongest at the broken places."

The next time you're in Beulah, Michigan, look for that beautiful elm.
It spans 60 feet across its lush, green crown. The trunk is about 12
feet in circumference.

Look for the wound made by the chain. It serves as a reminder that
because of our wounds, we can have hope! Our wounds can give us
resources we need to cope and survive. They can truly make us strong.

-- Steve Goodier


  1. hehe.. the line what dsnt kill you... was coined by my favorite philosopher friedrich nietzsche... :)

  2. i was juz reminded of the philosopher because of this post :)

  3. Thanks. I was wondering who said those words in the first place.

  4. hehe. ur welcome.. have a nice day my friend...

  5. wow. a plant story that mades so much sense. can i have it on my blog?

  6. hang in there..dont b silly...b productive as long as u can...stress is there but once u retire stress is oso there..albeit a slightly different one.

  7. Thanks for your concern.

    Now it looks like it's beyond my control. The company that's taken over has different HR policies. My extension may not happen. Meanwhile, I'm prepared to pass this heavy baton to someone else. But my immediate boss with whom I negotiated for a transfer of this responsibility has thrown in his towel long before me!!! His last day is end of this month. I'm back on my own to deal with this dilemma. I may have to use my last resort; withdraw my extension request, inform my German counterparts, say bye~bye...

    I intend to pursue my interrupted hobbies of drawing, painting and writing. Interrupted since I joined the rat race. I can't live like a king, but I'll be a lot happier.