Resilience. Each and every one of us at some point in our lives has to call up on it. Whether it’s the dream job we didn’t get, the relationship that ended or the person that was taken away too soon, there aren’t many – if any! – people living their Plan A lives. Mr W and I had to find resilience in the wake of our failed IVF attempts. After 6 years renovating our “family” home, and 5 failed rounds of IVF/ICSI, we concluded there was to be no mini-mes enjoying the nest we’d created, other than our little fur babies. We were therefore unexpectedly forced to rethink our future. We had to come up with a Plan B. So when I read Sophie Cliff’s blog post about the book Option B : Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy* by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, I just knew I had to read it. Written in the wake of the sudden death of Sheryl’s husband, the book explores the many forms of resilience using real life people’s experiences in the face of adversity. It’s brilliant and uplifting, despite the adverse situations, giving hope that Plan Bs can be positive in spite of the circumstances. Below I discuss the key points that really resonated with me:
Lean In To The Suck
Part of every misery is misery’s shadow…the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact you suffer – C.S. Lewis
Sheryl Sandberg is probably best known, not only for her role as COO of Facebook, but for her book, Lean In : Women, Work & The Will to Lead*, which explores what women can do to help themselves when it comes to equality in the workplace and getting more women around the board table. And in Option B, Sheryl talks about how leaning in to her grief – to expect it to be awful – actually help the moments pass quicker. I know from my own experience, I always tried to focus on the good if ever I felt sad about my situation. I’d think, “it could be worse” and try and avoid the feelings rather than just embrace them. I now realise this isn’t helpful and it actually just prolongs the sadness. Lean in to it and it will pass quicker each time.
The elephant in the room. The situation no one dares to mention. Death, grief, cancer, infertility, loneliness, depression, to name but a few. I absolutely know it’s not easy to know what to say for the best in these situations – I’m the world’s worst! – but having towed an elephant around for a few years, I understand just how important acknowledgement is. The fear of saying the “wrong” thing often paralyses us in to saying nothing at all. But actually? Just acknowledging the hurt without feeling the need to provide a solution is enough. It’s OK to say it’s awful. To acknowledge the situation sucks. Because it does! Don’t minimise the pain by brushing it off with a “I know you’ll be OK” when you don’t or a “I know how you feel” when you can’t possibly, or probably most annoyingly, with a story of Auntie Carol’s second cousin removed who was told she’d never have kids only to miraculously pop out 15. NOT HELPFUL!
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Friedrich Nietzshe (& Kelly Clarkson)
The book talks of post-traumatic growth taking 5 forms :
Finding personal strength
Never a truer word spoken. It’s amazing just how strong we all are when faced with traumatic/difficult situations. I remember one of the first questions Lydia asked me as, through tears, I discussed my infertility with her during my first coaching session – “If that time had been sent to you as a gift, exactly as it was, what was the lesson there for you? What did you learn?”. I hesitated for a moment before answering, “I learnt I was stronger than I thought I was”. And 100% this is what has come out of infertility. Even at the very worst point when I was lying on a hospital bed with an abdomen full of blood due to a ruptured ectopic, struggling to breath, I found the strength to get through and went on to have our final treatment cycle. It never ceases to amaze me the strength we all find in the face of adversity.
When one area of life isn’t going to plan, you really notice the good stuff more. I was able to appreciate the birth of my friend’s babies even more despite my own circumstances because I appreciated just how amazing and difficult the whole process getting to the birth was. And I absolutely appreciated Mr W more than ever.
Forming deeper relationships
Facing adversity with a partner can literally make or break you. We were fortunate enough that our experience absolutely bought Mr W and I closer. It reaffirmed the values we shared, the way we wanted our lives to be, and added a whole new deeper meaning to the word togetherness.
When people endure tragedies together or endure the same tragedy, it can fortify the bonds between them. They learn to trust each other, be vulnerable with each other, depend on each other.
Mr W saw me at my worse and never flinched. He was unfaltering and we were on the same page throughout. I feel very lucky that the person by side through that awful time was him and that we made it out the other side, although battered and bruised, stronger than ever.
Discovering more meaning in life
In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning – Viktor Frankl
Perspective. Nothing like trauma to bring a bit of perspective to life! What’s important becomes crystal clear. I realised I’d been coasting through life, waiting for stuff to happen, so once the dust had settled, I contacted Lydia and the rest is history. My experience made me realise I needed to grab the life I had with 2 hands and make it meaningful because we only get one shot at it. I stopped reading the gossip mags and watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and started working on me, something I’d been avoiding for years. And this blog was born out of wanting to share the trials and tribulations we all face day to day, including openly talking about coming out the other side of infertility without the baby, in the hope of providing some small morsel of comfort to other people facing the same.
Seeing new possibilities
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end – Seneca
Once we’d made the decision to stop pursuing parenthood, it was like I suddenly had a blank piece of paper in front of me. No restrictions, no treatment plan to hold me back, literally a blank, white page. And in the past year specifically I’ve considered things I would have never considered before. Like photographing a wedding and this year taking a summer job in Ibiza to teach swimming. Although I will always feel sad I’ll never get to meet my own kids, I owe it to them to live my best possible life in their honour. This blog post is in fact dedicated to Blodwyn – the embryo with poor directional skills. We may never have got to meet you but thanks for waking me up to a life of new possibilities 🙂
So here’s to kicking the sh*t out of Option B, whatever that may look like.
*This post contains affiliate links which are indicated by an asterisk (*). You don’t pay any more from clicking on that link but I might earn a few pennies to buy more books to review for you 🙂