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Technology Woes (or “Wanting to Tear Your Hair Out Now!”)

Today hasn’t been a good day. Even though I woke up after a full night’s sleep in a good mood, had an invigorating workout and a yummy breakfast, the rest of the day so far hasn’t been the best. Try this on for size:

  • I get an email saying my Eddie Bauer account has likely been hacked – “Look up the last six months of transactions on the card you use, put a fraud alert on all credit bureaus, and sign up for more identity protection!”  That, so far, has taken two hours.
  • I get another email from my patient portal saying I have an important message from my doctor’s office – “Sign in and read immediately!” (Am I dying, and they didn’t tell me in person when I went in for tendonitis? Or maybe that cyst on my arm is leprosy?) I try to be compliant, and after five login attempts I get locked out. (Where did I put that username and password information)? I call several doctor’s offices to see who sent me the mysterious message and why, and so far haven’t gotten through to any of the offices that might use that portal. The offices I did reach don’t use it.
  • I go to my site to write an inspiring blogpost and am locked out for some mysterious reason during the first eight login attempts. It must be the “infected files” on the site five different security analysts can’t seem to figure out. Now, here I am, mystery still not solved, writing a not-so-inspiring post.
  • I try to write my next article for my subscription lists and the aWeber hosting site is upside down and sideways, no buttons working properly until I’ve made about ten attempts. Finally, I get the article out, realizing it’s about two weeks late. Shame on me, I’ve been having too much fun avoiding the f#ck*#g internet this summer, and now I’m paying for it!

So, gentle reader, if you too have had days like this, know you’re not alone if you have also felt like tearing your hair out when it happened. (“happens” is more like it). You experience what we call a “lack of agency,” or an inability to intervene effectively on your own behalf. It creates a sense of complete helplessness, and that’s not good!  In my case, I can’t WAIT to get to “work” seeing my clients who have real problems, so I can hopefully have some effect somewhere today!                                    

PS. If you don’t do too well with stress, feel free to call me for an appointment at 603-431-7131, knowing that I understand…..

Grit – How Much Do You Have and What Is Your Score?

I've often been described as a "pit bull," especially by my husband. He's not referring to the kind of bite, but the trait of tenacity, thankfully. Friends and family will regularly remark that they don't know what drives my passion and perseverance at my age, especially when so many of them are slowing down. I think they think I'm a little crazy. I think they're onto something, but I like to think of myself as a little obsessive, with happy, episodic "manias." (Case in point: We've been updating our house and land, so I've often found myself edging and mulching garden beds, lifting out huge rocks and hauling cuttings until well into darkness. When I get a "bug in my bonnet" about the preferred new color of a room I'll repaint it three times until it's right. I've been practically living at Home Depot and Homegoods, picking out materials, pillows, and general stuff, all in a driving unstoppable desire to improve the form and function of our house). My husband should be nominated as a CNN Hero, for his enormous patience and support, putting up with what I think is my big supply of Grit.

The dictionary defines grit as "firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck."  People refer to the quality of "grit" as the presence of persistence and passion. It's the "drive" you see in some folks and not others, and often seems to be related to the daily grind around some project or situation. People who demonstrate laziness or "wimpyness" aren't thought of as having much grit.

Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, identified a Grit Scale to assess how much of it you may have, and also to identify traits that might predict success. The complete test appears in her bestselling book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance." If you're curious about your own score go to the "Resources" page of my website www.SusanLager.com to take the quick ten question test. With all my own crazy tenacity I wasn't surprised when I scored high on the scale. See what the test may reveal about you!  

“Marital Peace After An Affair” – BlogTalk Radio Show Wed. 7/27/16 8:30 PM EDT

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In this thirty minute episode I’ll co-host with Dr. Laura Louis, author of the popular book, “Marital Peace,” which is a valuable resource for supporting couples throughout the challenges of marriage.

Dr. Louis has specialized in helping distant couples heal after infidelity, and in the program discusses some of the ways she recommends rebuilding trust, rekindling intimacy and enhancing communication. Her therapeutic approach has been influenced through trainings in Brazil, Mexico, London and Haiti, as well as hundreds of transformative seminars all over the world.

Don’t miss this vital program if you and your spouse have endured or feel at risk for an affair! Learn some key tools to not only help avoid infidelity, but to restore trust, build forgiveness, and promote growth after an affair. You too can achieve marital peace after this traumatic development.

Call in live with questions or comments at 877-497-9046.

If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the podcast afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

One way or another, I hope you can join us!

Midnight Madness Meditation

I could never sit “Indian Style,” so when I spent two weeks in Girl Scout camp at age nine I felt like a total failure next to all the other little scouts sitting like perfect Yogis around the campfire, inhaling their gooey Smores. Imagine my later dismay whenever I attended a cozy, casual group event, or God forbid, a Yoga class and attempted to achieve a Namaste frame of mind in lotus position! So, sadly to say, my attempts at “regular” meditation haven’t been stellar with the posture all convoluted. I also sit in my work as a psychotherapist more than most elders do when they’re confined to wheelchairs, so more sitting as a form of meditative practice is generally out.

I relax and even meditate through movement, often focusing on my breath and gait during speed walks, no matter where I am. But the real deal happens when everything is quiet and shut down, my cat and husband are asleep, the horrible news is off, my laptop has been put to bed, the dishwasher is humming, and I’m in the zone making popsicles. I am the newest member of a bizarre club of mostly young Moms who need some peace and quiet, and find it late at night, concocting all sorts of decadent popsicles, then posting them on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. I call them the Midnight Madness Poppers, and I guess I’m one of them, invited, young and tired, Pinterest addicted – or not.  I’ve decided that even though nobody has nominated me yet, that I have an even more exclusive membership in this club, because anyone can invent delicious pops loaded with gobs of sugar, but mine are healthy, untainted by that sweet poison.

I’ve also decided that most anyone can sit in perfect Lotus position, still and silent, noting their breath and invasive thoughts as a path to enlightenment. How many people can go into a total meditative trance at midnight whipping up things with names like “Banana Maple Coconut Rum Pecan” or “Russian Cappucino Walnut Kahlua Chip”?  Huh?

“How Curiosity Can Save Your Marriage” BlogTalk Radio show Wed. 6/8/ 8:30 PM

Don’t miss this 30 minute episode where I’ll be sharing tips from my book “Become Relationship Smart Without a Lifetime of Therapy” about the key role of curiosity as a connector in all meaningful relationships, especially in marriage. For people not familiar with this concept, I’ll reveal some key conversation openers demonstrating curiosity and interest in a partner, facilitating empathy, sharing and feeling “seen,” a shot in the arm especially for marriages suffering from boredom or disconnection.

To join the live conversation with questions or comments call toll-free 877-497-9046 at 8:30 PM EST. If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the recording afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

One way or another I hope you can join me!

Another Birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday, and once again I was astonished at how fast this past year went. Zip! It flew by! Again I’ve had the dreaded thought that my remaining birthdays may be limited, as I’m now officially tripping off the top of the”middle age” peak. Ugh! Not a good way to think about the passage of time. So, I’m on a mission to reframe aging, so I don’t spend the rest of my days playing “Beat the Clock.” (If you are gloriously young, you probably have no clue about that reference, as you wouldn’t have been born when that show was on TV. Well, hooray for you).

So far, I’ve decided that one clear antidote to aging with dread is to stop focusing on the outside of things and more on the inside – to not be seduced by appearances, but more cognizant of substance. That way, wrinkles and gravity’s effect on bodies, including my own, will be less central, (and horrifying!). So, who cares if your butt is two inches lower now than when you were 25? It’s the quality of your mind and heart that protrudes with significance!

One other antidote seems to be less focus on the endlessly undone things in life – the “bucket list” of amazing, challenging, creative, fun or obligatory things remaining untapped or unfinished, and more focus on one’s achievements. What accomplishments do you feel proud of? What will you be remembered for? What relationships and experiences have you had that you cherish right now? It’s a “glass half full” frame, much less melancholy, more grateful!

While I’m working on my list of antidotes to aging with dread, I did see one affirmation on a birthday card which says it all perfectly: “At this moment in time you are the youngest you will ever be for the rest of your life.”  Ah, youth……

Wanna Be Happy? Live Like a Puppy!

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Meet Barley (Lager) – our new “Grandson.” He may be the youngest member of our family, but we think he’s wiser than all the rest of us combined. He knows how to live and love and get his way when he wants to do his thing. You can’t walk with him ten feet in public  without his universal fan club, (mostly older, very fancy, done up ladies), stopping, shrieking, cuddling him and kissing him on the mouth – even though he may have just eaten some fresh deer poop. Like most puppies, he loves everyone and everyone loves him. Of course, it helps that he’s soft and fuzzy, full of kisses and clumsy like a baby. But, he knows a few things about how to live with joy that the rest of us could learn from, probably saving us thousands in therapists fees like mine, and thousands of hours of searching through self help books. If we all just emulated the Barleys of the world we’d probably also spare ourselves loads of angst, and mountains of emptiness and stress.

So, here’s what Barley has already taught me about how to live happier:

  • Be present in the moment, whatever that is
  • Be curious – it’s an amazing, big world out there!
  • Eat heartily when you’re hungry and nap when you’re tired
  • Play a lot with gusto and abandon
  • Be loyal, but also love the one you’re with – unless they’re mean
  • Forgive and forget – today’s a new day
  • Cuddle and kiss your family whenever you can, especially when you greet them
  • Ask for what you want without shame
  • Enjoy your own body – it’s full of wonderful parts!
  • Give everyone the benefit of the doubt – maybe they’ll be a new friend!
  • Back off when someone says “No” – and don’t bite!
  • Be determined about getting your rewards
  • Listen very carefully, trust your nose and tune in
  • Be silly and unselfconscious – who gets hurt if you’re having fun?

(Feel free to add to this list in the name of helping all of us “grown ups” learn to live with more joy and exuberance). Right now, with Barley’s modeling, I need a nap…..

Meeting on the Mountain

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Most couples who’ve graduated into a king-size bed fully understand the ups and downs about the change. Gone are the days when the two of you naturally fell into the canyon in the middle created by your joint weight, cozily cuddling. Instead, you’ve probably permanently moved into your own canyons on the far sides of the mattress, keenly aware that king-size beds create a “mountain” in the middle, unless you’ve made a conscious attempt to share the middle “we” space, or have sex four times a day. If you live in a hot climate it makes it more pronounced – who needs to cuddle when bodily contact warmth isn’t a necessity for comfort? The up side is that you probably enjoy the ability to fully stretch out without worrying about unwittingly shoving your elbow in your partner’s nose. Ah, space… But there are costs to your new found independence: Disconnection! Less intimacy! Waning pillow talk! So, in the spirit of avoiding all these forms of alienation, I say, “be deliberate about meeting on the mountain!”

Here are three ways the rendezvous on the summit can help a relationship:

  1. If you do it together or take turns, you’re practicing compromise and collaboration in the name of closeness.
  2. You’re being intentional as a couple about maintaining intimacy and connection.
  3. You’re practicing the delicate balance between the “Me” and the “We,” so key to close relationships.

So, think of “Meeting on the Mountain” as a perfect metaphor for what you need to do in many areas of your partnership, only this time with a giant mattress underneath you.

 

4 Daily Practices Essential to a Happy, Fulfilling Life – A Therapist’s Take

If you don’t live under a rock, chances are that you see headlines in magazines, news IMG_0004programs, and various online sources about the quick secrets to having a happy life, whether it’s a happier sex life, a better relationship with your body, your boss or your mother – you probably get inundated with sound bytes about the path to bliss.

In my many years of practice as an individual and couples therapist, and as a coach, I’ve learned a thing or two about what really makes people happier and more fulfilled. The sad reality is that it’s not a quick or simple fix. The good news is that you don’t have to move to Bhutan and become a monk to have a happier life. If instead, you commit to these first four specific daily practices you’ll be well on your way, without the plane fare and upheaval. So, here are the first four attitudes and behaviors for you to practice, maximizing the possibilities for a lifetime of more joy and meaning:

  1. Be grateful. Spend time each day moving away from aspirational thinking about your wants and needs, (your strivings), to acknowledging your appreciation for what you already have: a loving partner, a feisty child, a generous neighbor, funny co-workers, a sweet dog, a warm bed, your health, food on the table, beautiful sunsets, etc. Manifest gratitude by thanking the people around you for who they are or anything they’ve done that you appreciate. It costs nothing, and softens everything. Focus on your blessings and amplify them with your attention and gratitude. You’ll be more present in each moment, and you’ll be building and strengthening happy neural pathways in your brain, while generating positive energy in your relationships. – all vital keys to joy.
  2. Be intentional. Live life “on purpose” by connecting with your motivations, and with plans for actionable, followup behavior. Get away from “shoulds,” like “I should eat more healthfully, get more sleep, be a better friend,” etc., to “I commit to…”, “I will,_________”, because you’ve connected to your motivation. So, if you set an intention on a given day to be a more solicitous friend, decide why, and how you will put that into action that day. By setting an intention each day, giving yourself reminders, and committing to an action plan for that intention, you’ll feel more in control of events, you’ll feel better about having a moral compass, you’ll make more carefully considered and less reactive decisions, and you’ll  have less regrets down the road about what you did or didn’t do. You will have de-automated your life.
  3. Be kind. Unless someone is aiming a gun at your head, there’s usually lots of room for kindness and compassion in relationships. Recognize the interrelatedness of all beings, and all your opportunities to treat others with the best of your heart.  Also, do it on a micro scale: tell the sales clerk how helpful and efficient he was, smile at passersby, take a moment to help a co-worker with something she’s carrying, give your spouse an unsolicited kiss or smile. Don’t confuse kindness with being an unassertive suck-up. If you’re not being abused or violated in some way then you’re kindness is a gift, not a defense or coverup for negative feelings. Also, direct your kindness to yourself. Treat yourself with compassion and respect, the way a good friend would. Avoid damning self talk or punitive self paybacks. Unless you’re a serial killer you probably deserve to treat yourself gently.
  4. Be responsible. Take care of business. Pay your bills and taxes. Return calls and emails in a timely way. Make your bed. Organize your space so it functions well and reflects back on you positively. Be on time for appointments. Live within your means. Don’t drink or text and drive. Pay attention to the rules you’ve agreed to live by. Be a grown up and you’ll avoid experiences of shame, chaos, disappointment or trauma to yourself and others. You’ll feel calmer and freed up to do all the other fun stuff if you don’t get stuck in the weeds of life’s “business.”

Commit to these first four attitudes and practices and you’ll be well on your way to a happier life.

*To find out about four other key practices, tune into my next BlogTalk Radio episode, “8 Practices Essential to a Happy and Fulfilling Life” on Wednesday, April 13th at 8:30 PM.

Call 877-497-9046 to join me live on the air with questions or comments, or listen to the recording afterward at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

 

Reframing: 4 Ways it May Be Good For Your Mental Health!

Snow Falling on Spring Along with hundreds of thousands of other New Englanders, I’m staring out the window on one of the first days of “Spring,” looking at five inches of newly fallen snow with more on the way(!) It’s been coming down hard most of the day, with the temps hovering around a balmy Spring 26 degrees. The first Red Sox game of the season was canceled, so I know there are probably lots of unhappy fans as well. Last week my husband and I were laying on Flamenco Beach in Culebra, luxuriating in the soft, tropical breeze and the warm aqua water. Life is Hell…… Or is it?

If it hadn’t been for the brutal weather I’d have been miserable, catching up on my book work after our little Puerto Rican getaway. If the sun had been shining and the weather glorious and Springy I wouldn’t have opted to complete some online trainings I’ve needed to do. The laundry and the cooking would have fallen behind, the bills wouldn’t have been paid before the week was in full swing, the AirBnB reviews would have been undone, I wouldn’t have discovered all the terrific Ken Burns videos on Amazon Prime, and I certainly wouldn’t be enjoying the warmth of the roaring fire my husband has made. Nor would I be looking forward to later taking a toasty hot tub under the stars, amidst the newly white landscape. So, am I being a Pollyanna, or am I using the needed skill of reframing? It’s the latter, my friends.

Reframing is very good for your mental health in a number of important ways:

  1. It helps you transform a situation which might make you feel like a victim into one of opportunity.
  2. It helps you to make a creative “reboot,” expanding your sense of possibilities and problem-solving.
  3. It sets a positive tone, helping you to feel good as you change the noise in your head.
  4. The more often you feel good the happier you’ll be, and the more you’ll spread it to others. The more often you spread happiness, the more people will want to hang out with you. Chances are, you’ll then have a more satisfying social life.

So, bring on the snow, April 4th or whenever!

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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