I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?”—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.
I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry.” To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault.
For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why—they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say? I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room
쉐릴 샌드버그의 글을 보다가 울컥 눈물이 났다. 힘들던 시절의 이야기를 하면 아직도 몸이 먼저 반응해 눈물이 난다. "다 괜찮아 질거야"라는 말에는 이해받지 못함에 더 지치고 무너져내렸다. "예전같을 순 없지만, 나름 적응하고 괜찮아질거야" 가 낫다. 절대 예전 같아질 수 없고, 설사 가능하다하더라도 믿겨지지 않는다. 가능하다면 그게 더 마음이 아프다. 지금 세상이 무너진 내게 다 괜찮아 질 거라니, 그처럼 무지하고 순진한 발언이 어딨는가. 한없이 긍정적인 사람이 싫어지고 불편하다.
'내 잘못이 아니야' 라고 되뇌이는 마음. 다 내 잘못이다.
일로 돌아가 사람들하고 이야기하는 부분. 털어놓고 나의 약한 부분을 보여주고 기대는 자세는 참으로 존경할 만하다. 쉐릴 샌드버그 특유의 '나댐'이 한국 사람으로서는 불편한 부분도 있었는데, 린인도 모두가 생각해보게 하는 부분에 있어서는 가치가 있으나 엘리트 여성을 위한 운동이라는 불편함이 가시지 않았는데, 저렇게 자신이 느낀 것들을 '과도하게' 공유하는 것은 용감하고 가치있는 행동이구나. 라고 생각했다. 그 경험을 모두 겪지 않은 사람들에게 생각해볼 수 있는 기회를 제공한다. 그 때 일에서 나에게 힘이 되었던 사람들이 왜 힘이 되었고, 다른 사람들도 그렇게 행동할 수 있는 가이드라인을 제공한다. 도움이 필요한 사람에게 어떤 말을 해야하는지, 조금은 생각해 보게 만들어줄지 모른다. 사회 전체로 볼때는 쉐릴의 '과도한 경험 공유' 가 득이 된달까. 모두 같이 생각하게 만들어주니. 30일도 안되서 가장 아픈 부분을 드러내다니 일이 있은지 며칠 안되어 글을 쓸 때도 놀랐는데 참 대단한 성격이다 싶다. 나는 수년이 지나도 그 이야기를 하라 그러면 무너질 것 같은데.
30년은 현명해진 느낌이라고 쉐릴 샌드버그가 그러는데 훨씬 깊이가 느껴진다. 나도 조금은 나아졌으면 좋겠다.