My Imaginary Best Friend

About this time last year, a few friends forwarded me the commencement speech that Sheryl Sandberg gave after her husband suddenly died in May 2015. It was only a year after losing her husband Dave, and the theme was when Option A is not available, you have to "just kick the shit out of Option B."

I replied to friends who thoughtfully forwarded me the speech with a "thank you" followed by an insincere “great article” but the truth is, her commencement speech got on my nerves. I felt judgy. It bothered me that a year after losing her husband, Sandberg sounded so upbeat. I should have known better than to think I knew the beat of another.

She is the COO of Facebook, so of course, her widow success story went viral, and her life is on the up and up. When the book came out several months later, and a friend offered to buy me a copy, I told her I was going to listen to the Audible version, so no thank you. I wasn’t planning on doing, but I was trying to be nice.

This was before Sheryl became my best friend. OK truthfully, one night I considered her my only friend. I even dropped her name to a few friends when I left a Bar Mitzvah party early  "Sheryl one time left a party crying when her friend pulled her onto the dance floor.” I said followed by “she is the COO of Facebook, and she lost her husband a few months before Jay died. Right, Sheryl?” I wanted to say as I turned to her sitting next to me. Yes, for a brief moment, she was my imaginary best friend nodding her head as she handed me a tissue. 

I know it's a stretch since we do not have any mutual Facebook friends but we have the same virtual zip code. I am curious if she spends many Saturday nights taking those Facebook quizzes like I do “what is your catch phrase?” or “who is your guardian angel?”  or “what celebrity do you look most like?” or "what hairstyle should you switch to ?” When we got to know each other a little better, I could ask her if she ever feels like Facebook is the only place left where she has any social confidence? 

I know we are taught to not judge a book by its cover, but I was easily distracted in school. When the book came out, I commented to a friend that I was certain in her original commencement speech; she referred to Option B as Plan B. I went on to say that she re-branded it with Option B as the title when she realized Plan B was the name of a pregnancy test. I even googled to see if I could find proof but I couldn’t. I literally was judging a book by its cover.

My therapist suggested the book a few days after my friend offered to buy it for me. I laughed and told her my Plan B to Option B rebranding theory, but then I decided to take her advice and give it a try. I could feel as I started listening to it that I was nervous because she might tell me I was doing it all wrong. It turns out I was wrong... about her.

She's a badass for many reasons. She humbly admits to not getting it when she wrote about single parenting in Lean In. She shines a light on injustice, poverty and greater losses in the world than her own and while that does not take away from her tragedy, she writes about gratitude for what she does have. She is a woman in power who understands what it is to be disempowered. 

I love that she finds hope where I did not think to look. Sheryl sought out research to bring her comfort and perspective. As a mom of a son and daughter, one of her most immediate concerns was her children. The good news she shares, that she backs up by statistics on resilience in children, is they can and often do become happy, well-adjusted adults.

Like me, Sheryl knows grief can make you feel insecure and isolated. It is often the "unacknowledged elephant in the room," as she calls it. Option B is about a choice to not disappear into loss but rather grow bigger and find joy and purpose again. We might be middle aged women with a few gray hairs, but I think she would agree, it is better to call them silver because when you do, the sky you thought was black as night, is more of a navy blue and is big enough to hold us all.

It did not take long before Junebug and I were hooked by her words. Her compassion, knowledge, and honesty kept us company. Like a good friend, she reassured me I was on the right path even if I don't always think I have the best sense of direction.

"I learned that my compulsion to write was leading me in the right direction." - Sheryl Sandberg, author of Option B, COO of Facebook and my imaginary best friend.



Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae - in photo, me and a few of my real dearest friends at a Bar Mitzvah party