We all have something that we wish we could have, but we can’t. Option A is off the table. This is the predicament that Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, faced when she’d lost her husband, unexpectedly, at the age of 47. What you want – and perhaps think you deserve – is off the table.

She could no longer hope to have her husband in her life, or their children’s lives. So, her friend recommended “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.”

Thus began her shift in thinking toward the loss of her husband, and the writing of her new book: Option B – Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.  I was moved and inspired by her candid and vulnerable interview on CBS Sunday Morning a few weeks ago.

Most generally helpful was the advice of the 3 P’s. When you’re facing something devastating, don’t let it become Personal, Pervasive or Permanent in your mind.

  • If personal, you are seeking ways to the make the problem your fault. You should have done (or not done) something. Or things like this “always happen to me.”
  • If pervasive, you believe the problem ruins everything in your life. Finding areas in your life where you are not affected is helpful. You can breathe again.
  • If permanent, you can’t see an end, or even believe there will ever be an end to the current and acute level of suffering.

I was thinking about what I had in my life as a lost option – Option A. I’ve been lucky. I haven’t lost any of my immediate family members. But there has been loss –

  • It’s too late for me to become President of the United States.
  • (Might be) too late to be a millionaire
  • Can I ever be famous?
  • But the kicker… will I ever be a size 2?

Now seriously, I’ve had losses. And it is not uncommon that instead of accepting loss, we hold on to our deserving. It’s not fair. I’ve heard that refrain in my head.

What I want – my Option A – is to have my book become a bestseller and get made into a movie. It’s not impossible, but it’s not in my control. I can only do so much in service of that desire, and the rest is up to the fates. I need to kick the shit out of my Option B.

And what is my Option B? (I think we used to call it a Day Job.)

I’m writing a book I’m very happy with. In fact, I have a character who has lost a college-aged daughter, so Sheryl’s very raw and real sharing of her grief after losing her husband was instrumental. In this capacity, I think she knocked her book out of the park.

I work with writers – my most favored company in the world – to help them write with less doubt, delay and downtime. I love to be part of their creative process, their sounding boards, their shoulder to lean on, cry on, stand on, once they’re ready.

I have my good looks. I’m usually smiling and energetic.

Option B’s Abound

We’re not programmed to settle for Option B, and if so, we’re told to put a smile on and call it our Option A. Many of us – especially in the arts – are living an Option B, and that’s okay. In fact, if you’re kicking the shit out of it, you’re doing pretty well.

What’s your Option A? It’s hard to admit because it makes you vulnerable, and may hurt. What’s your Option B – and how are you kicking the sugar out of it? Visit Write Without the Fight on FB and let me know. If you’re not already a member, ask to join, and I’ll approve you.