“Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.”

November 30, 2014 | Insights

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, defined her persona in Lean In, a 2013 New York Times Best Seller about powering through personal and career challenges as a woman to a “have-it-all” life. She had it all until May of 2015, when her 47 year-old husband dropped dead on a treadmill. While Lean In spawned critics who thought it was not realistic for anyone but Superwoman, readers of Option B will appreciate the message of how to navigate personal crisis whether caused by the death of a loved one, loss of a job, major illness, or other significant personal or professional life event.

Option B is a heart-felt, fall-backwards narrative from a self- described “Leaner-Inner, ” who had to learn an entirely new skill set to cope with the devastating loss of a best friend, husband, and father. It’s an inspiring read with some great nuggets and helpful strategies. Resilience is a theme of this book, and it is more than apropos for the mindset required to deal with our world.

As an energy attorney, mother, and two-time cancer survivor, I understand the value of resilience. For over 20 years, I have been involved in the electric utility industry which both creates and navigates turbulence via new technologies and new business, legislative, and regulatory models. Career turbulence or “Professional Option Bs” are more the norm than the exception for women in energy. Then on top of this, you layer personal crisis, or “Personal Option Bs. ”

My Personal Option Bs have been many. I put off a routine physical exam for months due to work conflicts and was stunned when my doctor found a LUMP in my throat. Being a “Leaner-Inner” with responsibilities as an attorney, manager, mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter, and community volunteer, I was ill-prepared to hear the diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Life crashed down hard on my head when complications of the cancer surgeries left me without a voice  for nearly six months, a real challenge for someone who talks for a living. But I survived and went back to my jam-packed life. Fortunately, thyroid cancer is curable, and I leaned hard on family, friends, and coworkers, as Sheryl’s Option B suggests.

I thought my Personal Option B was in the rear-view mirror until five years later, when the doctor identified the next LUMP that would be a part of my life. Hearing the diagnosis of breast cancer was one of the hardest days of my life. This required me to accept more help, more down-time for treatment, and professional help to cope with the level of trauma I was experiencing. And that wasn’t the last LUMP; the doctor also found a LUMP in my stomach, which thankfully turned out to be benign.

Was resilience possible when I was now, as a newly-divorced woman, managing a $900-million budget, as well as parenting a Ferris Bueller-type (I spent lots of time in the principal’s office) high school junior? The answer is: “Yes, resilience is possible, even in the most difficult circumstances.” My view of resilience is essentially the same as Sandberg’s expressed in Option B. You dig deep to find what you need because Option A is no longer available — and then you do what you have to do. You DO IT one day at a time, sometimes at first only for others, such as your children, but eventually for yourself. You DO IT by calling on faith, friends, coworkers, family, fellow survivors, a few angels who pop up, and professionals.

I wouldn’t wish my Option Bs on my worst enemy, but in my life as a survivor, I have found great joy and peace and compassion for myself and others. Living every day as a GIFT instead of a LUMP is what resilience is all about for me. Life is good and I am blessed (Sandberg describes this as “post-traumatic growth” or “bouncing forward”). Option B is an absorbing read that shines light on a path for us as working women struggling to overcome adversity and find joy today and in the future. I whole-heartedly endorse her approach, especially her advice to ask for and accept support in expected and unexpected ways.

This article originally appeared in the July edition of the GCPA emPOWERing Women Newsletter.

Cindy Murray is a successful negotiator and problem-solver, representing energy and utility clients in project development and business transactions. Using her in-house legal and business background in the electric utility industry for over twenty years, she helps clients effectively meld business and legal strategies. In addition to her position at Jackson Walker L.L.P., Cindy is Managing Partner of UWE Partners, LLC., specializing in business strategy and renewable energy project development. She is the proud and relieved parent of Taylor Murray, a recent college graduate.