Columnists, Articles

July 11th, 2021

The end of the pandemic

By John Grohol, Psy.D.

At least here in New England, the end of the pandemic is in sight. Masks are no longer needed, and there’s a certain sense of relief that perhaps the worst is behind us.

Like many Americans, I feel like we’ve come to the end of our generation’s shared hardship experience. While not as traumatic or needing of self-sacrifice as other hardships in our country’s modern past, it nonetheless feels like we went through something difficult together.

The past year has been especially difficult on school-aged children and young adults. Attending my nephew’s high school graduation, the graduates seemed none the worse for wear.…

July 11th, 2021

Reading our life in common

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

There is nothing like the take-and-leave bookshelves at the local recycling center to remind us of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. I have been visiting the take-and-leave shelves for decades, unloading books I’ve read or that I’ve finally admitted I never will and picking up what looks like it might be interesting.

A book can be interesting because it’s one you’ve always wanted to read, or maybe it’s something by a favorite author, the winner of a prestigious literary prize, a source of information about one of life’s challenges, a timely guide for vacation planning, a copy of a lost book that carries fond memories, or an old volume that looks valuable.…

June 26th, 2021

People tell me stories

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

People tell me stories. It’s not that I ask them to, they just do. Now this made sense when I was practicing psychology and people would come into the office for 50 minutes and pour their hearts out or spin fantasies that they thought would protect them from talking about what really mattered. But now, six years into retirement?

It can happen anywhere, at the checkout counter, in front of the recycling bins at the town dump, on a park bench, in a Zoom meeting, on the phone, or in a text.…

May 11th, 2021

Adventures in senior yoga

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Ask any retired person and they will tell you that one of the best things about not reporting for work every day is the freedom to set your own schedule and finally get around to doing some of the things that you’ve always wanted to try.

For me, one of those things was yoga. You would think a clinical psychologist would have made yoga part of his daily routine long before retirement. After all, yoga is an empirically validated method of stress reduction and a proven road to strength, balance and flexibility.…

April 12th, 2021

What I learned on the Mount Misery Trail

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

It was one of those perfect winter days, cold and clear with the bluest of blue skies above six inches of blindingly white snow that blanketed the frozen pond, the trail through the pines and the meadow below.

The trail skirted the base of a small hill, Mount Misery, which gives its name to this reservation where Thoreau used to amble on excursions from his cabin at Walden Pond. My wife and I were ambling in his footsteps, enjoying the beauty of nature and taking photos to inspire her landscape paintings.…

March 21st, 2021

Dispatch from the COVID-19 vaccine scheduling front

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Dateline: February 25, 2021, the little room at the top of the stairs.

The little room at the top of the stairs is quiet now. The extra chair where my wife sat with her Ipad is back in the bedroom where it belongs, our insurance cards are tucked safely into our wallets, and my Twitter feed with real-time updates on vaccine availability is silent. The smoke has cleared and so have our heads.

I am back here six hours after a four-hour battle this morning with various websites where I attempted and ultimately succeeded in scheduling an appointment for my first COVID-19 vaccine.…

February 9th, 2021

Dear Mister President

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Dear President Biden:

First of all, let me congratulate you on your inauguration as our nation’s 46th president. Eighty-one million of your fellow citizens expressed their solidarity with you on election day. That leaves 74 million voters on the other side of what has become a great divide in American politics and culture. Your goal of unifying our country is monumental, but from what I know of your character, so are your sincerity and resolve. I am writing to express my support and to offer some insights from psychological science that may be of help.…

January 12th, 2021

What we learned from 2020

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

It is January again and time to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one with hope for better days ahead. We do this every year, and no matter what has gone before, we hope that something better is waiting just out of sight on the second or third page of our new calendar, getting ready to give us a nice surprise. Given what 2020 brought us, we’ll be happy with any improvement.

The year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020: divisive politics as never before seen in our lifetime, and racial injustice on a grand scale, brought us more than 250,000 deaths in the United States from the virus alone, massive job loss, evictions, quarantines, an interruption in classroom education at every level from elementary school through college, renewed debate about policing practices, demonstrations that sometimes turned violent, and a re-definition of truth and reality.…

December 7th, 2020

Giving thanks for the joy of a perfect morning

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Sometimes in the morning when I have the house to myself, I leave it behind and set out for a walk in the woods. It’s a short drive to a wide dusty space just off the road where a trail leads through the pines and curves around the lakeshore to a solitary picnic table.

In autumn, the fallen pine needles cushion your steps and muffle the sound of your passing. Here and there between the trees, a beached kayak awaits its owner, and, if you arrive early enough, you might get here before the anglers come for the perch and bass.…

November 6th, 2020

The way we live now

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The dump or recycling center has long been a hub of social and civic engagement in the town where I have lived for the past 42 years. Recycling bins for every kind of material earn the town hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and candidates for public office are often on hand to woo voters to the ranks of their supporters.

Autumn brings mountains of leaves, the remnants of New England foliage that nature’s alchemy turns into dark, rich topsoil, free for the taking in spring. And every season gives us more books than we can read in a lifetime.…