The People Pro

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Location: Small town, Northern Wisconsin

Barbara is an author, speaker and psychotherapist in private practice. She provides keynote presentations and is a Certified Professional Speaker, a designation held by fewer than 8% of the speakers in the world. She has appeared on FOX, CNN, and CBS and is considered an expert in relationships.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Let Gratitude be Your Attitude

Psychologists now know what makes people happy and it has little to do with money, keeping up with the neighbors, or chasing pleasure. The happiest people surround themselves with family and friends and practice a life of gratitude and appreciation.

No one needs to convince me of the value of friends, family, and gratitude, especially when life is hard. Unfortunately, 2005 was the hardest and saddest year of my life. On January 9, 2005, the car our daughter was driving was rear-ended at highway speed by a drugged driver. Our daughter, Stephanie, sustained back and neck injuries and her roommate and best friend, Maura was killed. Friends since the third grade, our families are also best friends. We vacation together in Colorado, Florida and the UP, and have watched the kids grow up together. There are no words to express the sorrow we have experienced.

Yet, this year brought new appreciation into our lives for the wonderful family, friends, and colleagues who supported us with prayers, friendship and love. So many people, who reached out and eased our pain, sustained our efforts and made us laugh. They brought us food, referred us for services, and took us to lunch. I am especially grateful to the people who shared their own stories of loss which gave us hope and direction. As one friend said, “You get up in the morning and put one shoe on at a time. That seems to help.” And it did.

I find myself grateful to the very special people who handle these sorts of tragedies; the highway patrol and legal system who have treated us with compassion and caring. These are very difficult jobs and you hear so little appreciation for what they do.
And in spite of years of attorney jokes, we are grateful to one of our attorney friends who stepped forward to handle things so we could focus on supporting our daughter and dear friends.

The business became a low priority this year, and I am grateful for the many referrals from friends and colleagues that helped with the finances. While we have excellent insurance, it became increasingly clear to me how a series of events can leave a family financially destitute in a short period of time. With limited time and energy to work, the bills mount up quickly.

I am grateful to the many health professionals who have assisted us and living in a country where we have easy access to care. Their suggestions, recommendations and empathy have helped us with both the physical and mental pain of this tragedy. I am appreciative of their expertise and experience.

As we look forward to the New Year, we are focused on letting others know how much we appreciate all they do. We are determined to savor the quiet, simple moments of our lives and live in the present. As psychologist Daniel Gilbert from Harvard University says, “If you knew exactly what the future held, you still wouldn’t know how much you would like it when you got there.” He suggests, “We should have more trust in our own resilience and less confidence in our predictions about how we’ll feel. We should be a bit more humble and a bit more brave.”

This year, we will be working on both.

Dedicated in loving memory of Maura Croke Harmon