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Illustrations: Alicia Tatone

How a group of friends ended up donating over $100,000 to a sick friend — who was perfectly fine

Several winters ago, I watched as my old classmate Cindy was publicly dying on the internet.

I did this on Facebook, where her wisecracking, self-deprecating tone suddenly gave way to a somber third-person announcement that Cindy had been secretly battling chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), a little-known neurological disorder with wide-ranging symptoms.

Cindy and I were not friends, exactly. We were acquaintances who had known each other in middle and high school in suburban Ontario. But we reconnected on Facebook in 2014, when she sent me a friend request shortly before the news of her illness broke. …

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Illustrations: Shuhua Xiong

When everything falls apart, spirituality becomes medicine

In early May, Tiffany Coffman was talking to me on the phone while sitting on the porch of her new house in North Carolina. I could hear the lilting birdsong of the Pisgah National Forest. Coffman had been offering acupuncture treatments on cruise ships for most of the last decade, but was now, like millions of Americans, indefinitely furloughed.

As a deadly pandemic grips much of the world and reconfigures almost every aspect of daily life, Coffman decided to start a YouTube channel and Facebook page — both named The Insight Circle — for people “who might be struggling emotionally and spiritually.” …

Juggling work and childcare in quarantine is helping parents redefine their idea of ‘enough’

Exhausted parents covering their faces with pillows as baby cries between them.
Exhausted parents covering their faces with pillows as baby cries between them.
Photo: Stephanie Rausser/Getty Images

The first stage of quarantine parenting was denial. Back in mid-March, just days into lockdown, I was Zooming with my good friend in Toronto, a lawyer who had been juggling full-time work with full-time care for her two young kids, when she told me she’d quickly reached the end of her rope. “I can’t do this for two weeks,” she told me. “There’s no way.”

Two weeks, of course, was just the beginning. Over the past few months, each Zoom of ours has yielded new updates: The family iPad, once a restricted treat for her kids, is now a daytime staple. Instead of science homework, her son is making cookies. …

“Discernment counseling” is not couples’ therapy

A married couple talks to a therapist together about their life. They are attentive and focused.
A married couple talks to a therapist together about their life. They are attentive and focused.
Photo: FatCamera/E+/Getty

Last summer, Esther was facing down a perfect storm of marital stresses: In addition to a recent death in the family, a move, and the grind of daily life with small children, she was struggling with her husband’s addiction issues. All this on top of the overall sense of disconnection that had long been plaguing them, she says: “It was more than five years of feeling hopeless about our future.”

Esther (who requested that her last name be withheld for privacy) had finally reached her breaking point. Couples therapy seemed like a waste of time and money — it might drag on for months or years, and she balked at the idea of staying together for that long. Esther was desperate to escape the unhappiness of her marriage. …

How to accept the fact that no one is universally likable

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Photo: Flashpop/Getty Images

Earlier this year, my boyfriend and I moved to a waterfront lot in the middle of nowhere, Nova Scotia. At first, it seemed like an ideal snapshot of rural charm: We shared a lane with just one other family, a couple and their year-old baby. Shortly after we moved in, they gave us a welcome gift of produce they’d grown themselves.

Over the next several months, though, a series of mishaps pushed our relationship with the father of the family into increasingly bumpy territory. Workers we hired used their driveway, tearing up a small patch of grass. Our neighbor tried to get into our house while we were out, to fix a problem with a shared well, forcing an awkward conversation about boundaries. …

What Stoicism can teach us about feeling slighted

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Illustration: Patrick Edell

It’s arguably easier now than any other point in history to be insulted. Tone gets lost in translation over text and email. Social media is a breeding ground for backhanded compliments (“You look great, I didn’t recognize you!”). General online incivility runs rampant in Twitter debates and comment sections.

While technology may be shepherding in a particularly nasty age, humans have long been concerned with how to cope with insults. It can often feel like the only good response is a zinger — we love a takedown, a good clapback, a commitment to standing up for yourself in the face of a cutting remark. But arguing online isn’t exactly great for your mental and emotional health — and for the sake of both your time and your psyche, it might be in your best interest to pause and imagine a different way. …

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Illustrations: Dan Howden

Trying to get away from the stress of modern life is far from a modern phenomenon

The luxury spa Canyon Ranch turns 40 this year, capping off four decades in which it has grown from a single Tucson facility to an iconic high-end wellness chain.

Canyon Ranch was originally inspired by founder Mel Zuckerman’s epiphany that he didn’t want to simply lose weight—he wanted to adopt a holistic approach to living better. Today, with several locations across the country and even a cruise ship business, Canyon Ranch has become known for its integrative approach to wellness, involving physicians, dietitians, and increasingly specialized therapists. …

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Illustration: Morgan Schweitzer

More dad bods, fewer plastic abs

Zach is new to Kamloops, British Columbia, but he is having trouble making friends. On his new website, he outlines his love of sports, the outdoors and going to the gym. With his brown hair, blue eyes, pouty lips, hairless body, completely impassive expression, and 8.5-inch penis, he is probably someone’s fantasy. All he really wants is to show someone a really good time — ideally while lying down. Because Zach can’t actually do much without the help of a human companion.

Zach is just one of a new generation of male sex dolls and robots — sometimes with elaborate backstories — designed to appeal to the elusive straight female market. Recent high-profile launches have fueled speculation about the potential demand for male dolls. In 2016, sex columnist Karley Sciortino made a video for Vice about “Making the World’s First Male Sex Doll,” in which she takes “Gabriel” for a road test and reports that the sex feels “absolutely indistinguishable from a real person — except that I’m completely in control.” Last year, Realbotix announced an A.I.-enabled prototype named “Henry,” and some sex doll brothels are introducing male models to their roster. …


Sarah Treleaven

Writer and podcast host/producer in Nova Scotia

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