I love being an Aunt. I have eleven nieces and twelve nephews and even more great nieces and nephews. Humbly I was the maid of honor in three of their weddings. We are all very close mostly because I played with them as children and stayed in touch with them as adults. It’s fun being the Aunt where you don’t have to worry about manners or discipline.
One of my nieces, I’ll call her Louise, shares many of my life’s challenges. She lived with deep depression and anxiety, both of which completely dominated her life for two decades. She constantly questioned her value and struggled with intense self loathing. When you’re down it is hard to see the light.
Another niece, Kim, is really more of a sister to me in that we are less than two years apart in age. Kim went through a difficult marriage and divorce, bringing up two children mostly on her own, one of whom had extreme ADD and the other was gifted and talented. When you’re down it is hard to see the light but Kim had a vision.
“During dark nights of the soul, sometimes we need patience and sometimes we need a new perspective. Either way, dawn is coming. When you are hopeless, look for the light. Darkness is real, but light is more powerful,” writes Jason Kotecki in Escape Adulthood.
Louise did continue to look for the light, which she found in God and family. “I truly surrendered my life over to Christ and made Him a daily and central priority that the anxiety and depression stopped consuming me,” she said..”I finally learned to go to God first, not as a last resort. Certainly, I’m a work in progress and I still have days when I struggle but its nothing like before.” She persevered and today lives a life full of happiness and good fortune with three young children (soon to be four) and a loving husband. I am so happy and proud of her.
In the book, Second Mountain, author David Brooks writes of people who have been deep in a valley of despair but rise up to climb a second mountain in their lives of passion and community, focused on others.
“Some people radically alter their lives when this happens. They give up their law practices and move to Tibet. They quit their jobs as consultants and become teachers in inner-city schools. Others stay in their basic fields but spend their time differently,” Brooks wrote.
He gives the example of a friend of his who built a successful business in California but spends most of her time building preschools and health centers for the people who work in her business. She is still living in the first mountain, but her life has been transformed to a life of service and community.
Another example is Abraham Lincoln who had an undying need for fame and fortune as a young man, but the fight for the Union changed him. He became humble and focused on the need to maintain a unified country based on freedom. H was consumed by the second mountain that appealed to something outside of himself.
For Kim, she envisioned herself helping people with mental illness. That is her second mountain. She went back to school at 44 and earned her Bachelors Degree in Nursing and recently, while working, got her Masters degree in Leadership and Management. She primarily helps veterans dealing with mental health issues. And she’s darn good at it.
Today, as you think about your own life challenges, consider the Second Mountain and where a new start..a new perspective…could take you next.