In between what I call “airplane books”, while on this last road trip, I picked up a book called “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. (Knopf. 2017) Sandberg you may know as author of “Lean In” and an executive at Facebook whose husband David died suddenly. She has written a lot about that experience and its aftermath and “Option B” is a sort of coda to that experience of dealing with the death, the grief and the passage through it. The focus, in many ways, of the book and her reflections is on the issue of resilience.
Sandberg defines this as “the strength and speed of our response to adversity”. She adds that this is a matter of “strengthening the muscles around our backbone”. She adds that she had no choice but to deal with the reality of her husband’s sudden death and reminds us, throughout the book, that loss, grief and disappointment “are profoundly personal”. In a very valid and important reflection, Sandberg and Grant also discuss the aspect of resilience as it impacts institutions.
As we get a little older, life events, often unexpected and unpredictable, create circumstances that deal us loss, grief and disappointment. A theme that runs through this book reflects on the power and importance of choice. How we choose to react to and deal with these events do determine who we become. It is at these times when what we planned for or hoped for becomes impossible, that we go to Plan B. We can choose to live with regret, which, if allowed to take over, inhibits us and drags us down; or we can choose to move forward, never forgetting, honoring what was but choosing, to paraphrase Deuteronomy 30, “life”. That moving on is, in many ways, resilience. It is rarely easy and, as the authors point out, very personal. Each person deals with these circumstances on their own schedule, in their own way based, in many ways, upon who they are as people.
This idea of resilience, especially as we get older, is a topic that, I feel, does not get enough discussion. There are many stories of this within each of our communities. They can inspire and provide valuable “teachable moments”. Perhaps you can create a vehicle so that some of these stories can be told.
Rabbi Richard F Address