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Positively Powerful
by Khristi Zimmeth
HAP “Balanced Living” Magazine Fall 2016

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Suzy Berschback’s mother taught her many important lessons throughout her life. But the most important lesson of all may have come on the day her mom passed away.

 

“Her kidneys shut down in October of 2013, when she was 84,” Suzy remembers. “She was in the hospital and didn’t like being there. She kept saying “I’m not a hospital kind of girl,” so I eventually asked her “What kind of girl are you, mom?” She thought about it and answered, “I’m a happy-go-lucky girl.”

 

That answer stayed with Suzy long after her mother passed away. “I kept thinking about it,” says the manager of community affairs for Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe.” In her last hour, she told me not to be sad because she had a good life, she knew she was well-loved and those she loved knew they were loved too. It was her final gift to us.”

 

Reflecting on her mom’s life and her own afterwards, Suzy found herself thinking about the definition of “happy go-lucky.” “I decided it signifies trying to live in the moment and enjoy it, and not focus on your worries,” she concluded.

 

Now in her 50s, and the mother of two daughters herself, Suzy credits her mother for her own optimistic outlook. “Happy-Go-Lucky absolutely represents who my mom was,” she says. “She didn’t have an easy life, and like everyone, she lost hope now and then…but she knew that in order to get yourself out of a funk, you have to count your blessings and focus on the things that are going right. In her honor and memory, my sister and I tried to relate that to our own lives and help others do the same.”

 

The result is “Happy-Go-Lucky Girl,” (happygoluckygirl.me) an inspirational website Suzy and her Connecticut-based older sister, Nancy King, launched—appropriately—on Thanksgiving Day in 2014. The site spotlights uplifting books, quotes and music, and provides self-help tools like a community blog, online resources and products such as gratitude journals.  A portion of the proceeds generated by the site benefits Girls on the Run, a national non-profit.

 

The website ties into the growing gratitude and positive psychology movements, she says.  Suzy insists even small changes can set you on the right road. “It’s a choice we make every minute of every day, and the more you do it, the better you become at it. One of the easiest things to do before you get out of bed or during dinner is to ask yourself ‘What am I grateful for today?’ When asking that question becomes a habit, it can change your perspective and your life.”

 

Like all of us, Suzy occasionally struggles with a bad day. When that happens, she tries to connect with nature by walking her dog or strolling with family and friends, including members of her longtime book club. “There have been periods in my life where I have been seriously down,” says Suzy. Those include challenging teen years, her parents’ relationship, losing a friend to suicide and her mother’s passing, she recounts. “We all go through challenges. The key is to develop resilience along the way.”

 

Her family sometimes has to remind her to take her own advice. “I want to be someone who doesn’t just talks the talk, but walks the walk. The best way for me to honor my mother is through living a joyous life and putting positive energy out in the world. Every day we have a choice. If we feel grateful just to wake up and get another chance, then everything else is a bonus.”

 

[For your reference only: Positive imagery has been shown to quell anxiety, pain and insomnia, says Gail Elliott Patricolo. “If you can learn to tap into the quiet part of the mind, it can be very powerful.”] 

 

 Suzy Berschback agrees. “There’s definitely science behind positive thinking,” she adds. “It’s a muscle that  gets stronger with use.”