This column is inspired by a NAWBO luncheon I attended where women business owners bared their souls and shared obstacles they had to overcome to get where they are today. We often keep that “dark” side private so that we aren’t judged in any way by our vulnerability. But let’s turn the tide and acknowledge the ebbs in our lives and how they shaped us to be the women we are today. I choose to make this column a celebration of women who have overcome life challenges.
They most likely can attribute their success to the obstacles they had to endure. I know so many women who have had tremendous adversities in their lives. How do they overcome them? Let me tell three stories of women I admire, and then I will share my own story. Anyone who knew Beth Coyle and her husband, Mike, would describe them as the perfect couple. They owned a very successful engineering business in Boerne. Life was good. Then one day as the family headed home from a Christmas celebration, a freak accident occurred. Mike died on the side of the road, surrounded by his family. Beth and Mike had an exciting life planned together. Their dreams were washed away in a few short minutes. Beth eventually knew what God wanted her to do in this next chapter of her life – to work with people to be the best they could be, and to be a full-time professional photographer. She is also a certified coach/facilitator for The Alternative Board, using her business experience to help entrepreneurs align their business and personal goals.
Kristi Arlitt is a successful independent attorney and financial advisor. One fateful night she fell in her closet, breaking her femur. It was really bad. She had shattered her thighbone – and her cell phone was sitting on the kitchen counter. It took her 20 hours to crawl to her front door to call for help. The severity of her injury required extensive surgery, acute care and physical therapy over the course of several months. Being totally incapacitated, Kristi was unable to work and had to rely on care from others. How does a sole proprietor deal with this? Through perseverance far beyond normal expectations. Kristi is back on track in building her business and her life.
Harriet Marmon Helmle, whom I’ve known since 1984, never ceases to amaze me in her ability to overcome adversity. She has a hereditary disease that affects her joints and has had almost every one of them replaced at least once. The number of surgeries she’s been through is mind-boggling! Did this deter Harriet from living life? Not in the slightest. She has done more for our community than most people I know by dedicating herself to numerous causes. She even founded San Antonio Youth Literacy and has continued to build it, and she has been very involved with Haven for Hope since it opened. The number of recognitions, honors and awards she’s received for her contributions to society is countless. Harriet, CPA and CFP, has also maintained a successful career path throughout it all, now serving as director of client relations for Covenant. There are countless other women I know who have had to overcome hardships and adversity. Those who succeed are those who look forward rather than dwelling on the past. The “woe is me” mentality is one that will prove crippling to a state of mind. I’ve seen that happen.
I’ll end this column with my personal story.
On Aug. 8, 1982, in El Paso, my life changed. I was hit by a drunk driver and very nearly died. It resulted in a long hospital stay, followed by a lengthy recovery. Then on June 11, 1983, because of serious complications, I was rushed to Methodist Hospital in Houston and stayed for almost a month, followed by another long recovery period. During all this time I was single and a principal in a very small company. Therefore, my concerns were not only for medical survival, but also for life survival. I managed to get back on track, but my horrific experience continued to haunt me. So many loving friends, family and even strangers were genuinely worried for me, which made it difficult to move out of the past and into the future.
Then I received a call from a company in San Antonio to interview for a position to start a new company for them. And the rest, as they say, is history. I started a new life in San Antonio in May of 1984, and it was several years later before I would tell my story. I began a new chapter in my life and wanted to be relevant in the here and now rather than for what I’d been through.
I will say that for me and for the other women I’ve featured, we all have one thing in common: Our adversities made us stronger. They are God’s way of saying we still have a purpose to fulfill and we must continue to live to make a difference in this world!