I got together this week with an old friend I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic. Before meeting up, I was seized with a now-familiar apprehension. Would we find our old dynamic? Or would we sit across from one another awkwardly, unable to reclaim the rhythms and repartee that used to come so easily?
Only after the reunion went off without a hitch did I realize that I’d feared that if we hadn’t regained our groove, this could have been our last meeting for a while.
Perhaps it’s the clarity that comes from enduring a difficult period, but I’ve noticed, in myself and others, a diminishing tolerance for uncomfortable or unfulfilling social interactions. Seeing my old friend was thrilling. It felt nutrient-dense, almost like our connection was refueling my personality. But I’ve also experienced the opposite: a quick drink with an acquaintance that feels unduly exhausting.
My colleague Catherine Pearson spoke to experts to determine how many friends a person needs in order to stave off loneliness. (A 2010 meta-analysis found that loneliness is “as harmful to physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”) While no consensus emerged on an optimal number, Catherine did find that more isn’t always better: “Spending time with friends you feel ambivalent about — because they’re unreliable, critical, competitive or any of the many reasons people get under our skin — can be bad for your health.”
Our time and attention are valuable and finite, and we’re in control of what we do with them. We forget this sometimes. We reflexively say yes to invitations because we happen to be free. We go to events out of a vague sense of obligation. We say, “Let’s meet for drinks,” because it’s socially easier than just saying, “Take care.”
In “The Writing Life,” Annie Dillard writes: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” It’s an encouragement to live with intention. It’s good wisdom to keep in mind when deciding whom we spend our time with as well.
How are you spending your days? Let me know.
WEEKENDS ARE FOR …
🍿 Movies: An Argentine heist thriller is among our international streaming picks.
🎧 Podcasts: Six that go deeper on news and history.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
Here’s a confession: I hate having breakfast in bed. All those toast crumbs, syrup drips and tea spills make me too tense to enjoy it — on Mother’s Day or any other morning. But I do love it when my family makes me breakfast. So I’ve put in a request for Jerrelle Guy’s terrific sheet-pan chocolate chip pancakes. This easy, satisfying recipe has become a favorite in our house, with two tiny tweaks. Instead of baking the batter in one large sheet pan, we divide it across two smaller, quarter-sheet pans (measuring 9-by-13 inches) so there are more crispy edges. It’s a tip pinched from the recipe notes, and it works. The second is nixing the chocolate chips, because that leaves more room for loads of softened butter, blueberries and a downpour of maple syrup. (Want more satisfying recipes? Check out my column this week.)
The Kentucky Derby: Grab your fanciest hat and mix some mint juleps: It’s Derby Day. The mile-and-a-quarter horse race is referred to as “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” and the winner gets a shot at horse racing’s premiere prize, the Triple Crown. For many, though, the party is the main draw. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Eastern today on NBC, with the race set for 6:57 p.m.