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Pummeling toward efficiency can come at the cost of a more connected, interesting life

Photo: Jessie Casson/Getty Images

Last week, I got a text that filled me with dread.

I’m in a pickle. Can you come help me put the door back on my dryer?

It was from a neighbor who I’m becoming friends with, but who I don’t know well. It was on a day when my kids were at camp and I was flying through work, errands and volunteer commitments at breakneck pace. It was hot out and I was already sweaty.

I considered saying no, thinking about every article I’ve read, and written, about good boundaries. …

Everything we’re doing to develop meaningful relationships is wrong

Former CIA officer Darell Blocker being interviewed by Jon Levy at a 2019 event. Photo courtesy of The Glenlivet.

In my twenties, I received some of the worst advice of my life: “If you want to succeed, you need to network.” Since I had no money or status, I took this standard approach. I showed up at every networking event, business cards in hand, and tried to strike up a conversation with anyone who would talk to me. And just like everyone else, I hated it.

I decided instead to find a way to meaningfully connect with the people I respected and admired. For more than a decade, I have been running a secret dining experience and community called…

Your local Facebook group is more than a way to score half a bag of cat litter

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Recently I nipped my online shopping habit in the bud, and here’s my secret: Instead of buying new stuff, I post the stuff I no longer need on my local Buy Nothing Facebook page. Somehow, it scratches the same itch for small-scale change — and watching the tote bags full of old duvet covers and too-small sweaters get picked up off my porch is far more satisfying than waiting for something new to arrive in the mail.

There are currently thousands of Buy Nothing groups around the world, some on Facebook, others in person or on different email lists, and…

The psychological benefits of solving someone else’s problems

Photo: Zbynek Pospisil/Getty Images

The other day, someone I follow on Twitter posted an open offer: If anyone in New York City had an elderly relative who needed help signing up for their Covid vaccine online, they’d be happy to lend a hand. I thought of my own grandmothers, who are both 91 and rely on a network of kids and grandkids to navigate the digital labyrinths of modern life. Then I thought of elders who don’t have this kind of support, and the relatives who may not be able to offer it.

It all dredged up a feeling I barely recognized, this online…

If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that life is local. Research from the World Happiness Report backs this up.

Photo illustration; Image: FilippoBacci/Getty Images

A few years into my marriage, my young family relocated to my childhood hometown of Atlanta. After a couple of decades moving all over the country for a series of new schools or job opportunities, I felt it was time to pick a place and put down some roots.

But after several months back home, things weren’t gelling socially quite the way I had hoped. So I called my former leadership coach, Alpesh Bhatt, and confessed that I just wasn’t finding the community I had hoped to rediscover. Al, who seemed to know me well from the first day we…

How to keep doing the work

Protestor holding a sign that says “OUR VOICES COUNT.”
Protestor holding a sign that says “OUR VOICES COUNT.”
People gathered near the Post Office in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to celebrate the election of Joe Biden as president of the United States. Photo: Paul Weaver/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images

For many, 2020 has been a time of increased civic awareness and involvement, whether we focused our energies on helping our neighbors deal with Covid, living more ecologically sound lives, joining in the fight for racial justice, or just devoting our attention to the election as if everything hinged on our all-caps rage-tweeting. Now we find ourselves in a new place, post-election, and many have breathed, finally, tentatively, asigh of relief.

But we are also exhausted, and there is still work to be done. Maybe you’re drained from 9 months of a pandemic. Maybe you’re depleted from navigating a recession…

But we can still support each other

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The night of Election Day, 2016, my upstairs neighbor came over to drink wine and listen to the results — we’d celebrate together, we figured. Late into the night, the numbers started to tell a story we hadn’t expected. We hugged before she went back to her apartment, both of us bewildered.

The next day, too, was all about hugs. I went to work early and there was only one other person in the office — a co-worker I barely knew — and without so much as saying a thing to each other, we hugged. Later that day I picked…

The New Self-Help

There’s a better way to heal from harm

Book jacket cover for I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom
Book jacket cover for I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

I have seen people doxed and stalked, both online and in person. I have been stalked, by someone I had never met or spoken to, because they perceived me to be “abusing” them by not responding to a Facebook friend request. I have seen my friends spread rumors about others in my extended community, advocating for shunning and ostraciza­tion over allowing ideological disagreements. On rare occasions, I have seen activists encourage the physical beating of abusive people among us.

As a whole…


What makes you feel connected to the place where you live?

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When this is over, I will never pass the musician in the black leather beret, who stands on Poet’s Walk in Central Park playing his saxophone, without tipping him. The sound has always just been there in the background, as natural as the birds chirping. But I never realized how much I associated it with the essence of my adopted hometown, until now.

Central Park is the only backyard I have, so I take my young children there every day. And lately, I look forward to hearing the musician as I approach the gigantic lilac bush that borders Sheep’s Meadow…


Effortless interactions are hard when everyone is wearing a mask

Illustrations courtesy of the author.

At my local wine shop the other day, I clumsily followed the list of procedures to buy a bottle of wine: Present the bottle to the cashier; sanitize hands before swiping card; use a sanitized pen to sign; put the pen in the “used” jar; bag your own bottle. “Too many rules!” I exclaimed, laughing at myself. The cashier gave me a stern look and grimly reprimanded, “These rules are very important.”

Just two months ago, I was buying wine from that same cashier and he let me use a paint pen to write a birthday message for my friend…


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