The beauty in struggle

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I just finished Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. As some may know, Sheryl is Facebook’s COO, an accomplished author (Lean In), speaker (TED Talk and several commencements in different universities) and philanthropist. Sheryl lost her husband while vacationing in Mexico two years ago. It was this tragic event and the life that followed for Sheryl and her family what brought her to write this book with his good friend Adam Grant, also an accomplished author, speaker and top professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Overall, I loved the book. It was, in a way, timely. It was also a sort of eye opener. I have my share of sad experiences in life. One of the hardest one was my divorce. I married in my 20s to someone who was more of an excellent friend than a partner. Making the decision to leave this person was totally heart breaking, if necessary. This process left me so exhausted, that in my register, I never had the time for grieving. I wasn’t even 30 and already free! Of course, life was there waiting for me, so I had no time to cry or let my broken heart heal. I mean, what heart was there to be healed anyway?

Reading this book made me realize that I unknowingly went through a couple of stages of grief. I remember being so angry for no reason right after my split, like real angry, that even my rebound lasted what it felt like 30 seconds (it probably felt like years for the poor guy). I would get angry at anything, I was angry at my friends, at life, at everything and everyone. Apparently, that is part of the grieving process. And so were guilt and despair.  I did find myself at fault for my relationship breaking apart, because deep inside I always knew that even though we were the best friends ever, we were totally unfit as a couple. I made my friends and family come all the way to my hometown to be part of an exquisitely planned wedding. I felt guilty for all the money spent in violins, booze, photographic sessions, plane tickets, hotels, gowns, etc. All that for the tale ending in divorce. I felt awful and thought that my whole life was simply awful and that it’ll be like that forever.

But with time it came resilience. It took me a few years to come to terms with what had happened. In those years, I read, consulted a couple of therapists, started doing meditation, getting into sport more frequently. And I kept in touch with my ex, while also keeping all of my friends and making new ones. And I overcame adversity, and found joy and love. At the time, this book was not even a thing. Had it been the case, it would have helped me and a lot with that situation.

Still, even now, the book is, in my opinion, very helpful. I do live in a sort of Option B, from the moment I decided to put an end to my relationship, I walked away from the initial plan. I mean, you don’t get marry to get divorce after all, right? And most of us live in some sort of Option B, because unless you’ve been living under a rock or in a protected fortress, we all have faced adversity one way or another. We have been through situations in which we have to change the initial plan, our Option A.

Option B deals exactly with that: what to do when option A is no more. And by pointing out the things as they are: guilt, remorse, anger, sadness, despair, it also underlines what comes out of those emotions: strength, purpose, gratefulness. Something I have to give to Sheryl is the honesty she shows by acknowledging her privileged life. Yes, we all face adversity at some point in our lives, but not everyone has an army of top notch therapists, social workers and experts to help us get through life challenges. She knows how fortunate she is. Maybe this is why I find this book way more grounded on a reality that hits us all compared to Lean In, in which despite Sheryl’s good points (and intentions) there was some sort of disconnect from what many women face everyday at work and at home.

Kuddos to the direct way to let people know that some questions and words intended for encouragement, are quite the opposite. And also, to open the door to really talk about what happens to us with our colleagues. Not everyone is lucky to work in an environment that invites to be open and authentic, and to see failure as a learning experience. Hopefully, it’ll be a shift in this crazy culture of express over achievement. The language was very clear, direct, facts were supported with evidence from studies or true examples.

So, in conclusion, this book is a good piece to have and consult from time to time, especially when adversity knocks on our doors… or those of our loved ones. Because life bring struggles, but there is always beauty in growing from adversity.