People laugh at me sometimes, with how obsessed I am with book club. More than guiding my current reading habits and being an outlet for intellectual curiosity, it takes up priority space in my calendar. Some would say I’m almost religious about it. Could be.
One thing I know for sure: that one night each month feeds my soul.
I used to have a similar take on a choir I’d joined for a time. About the art school office I worked in for 10 years. About natural health school. About hanging with my friends – girls’ night dinner parties being the cherry on the cake.
The common denominator in all these enriching scenarios? Female community.
(Maybe my need for such circles is a bit religious. Being part of a value-based collective certainly adds appeal to any religion. Having stepped away from the Catholic Church I was raised in, my need might be greater than someone who’s stayed more fully connected to a specific faith.)
My girlfriends, and the other clutches of women I mention above, were key to my survival post-divorce. Over 5 tumultuous years, I first learned how a non-judgmental circle of women (& a few special men) grants me
- the courage to surrender the masks/labels and be myself;
- the safe space in which to pour my hopes and fears;
- shoulders to cry on, buddies to dance with;
- the permission to put myself first (not that we women need it, but we think we do).
I learned that a strong group makes each individual woman stronger.
Being immersed in a community of like-minded, supportive women is the most direct route to knowing and loving yourself.
This solid container works for anything you want to improve really, however, in terms of health, the support of a group is proven to speed recovery and reduce risks of recurrence.
As part of a community, you have a built-in buddy system – someone to hold you accountable, to cheer you on, to hold your hand when things get rough, and to celebrate with you when they go well.
Knowing someone has your back in that way makes it easier to step out of your comfort zone.
On my own, I doubt I’d have had the energy to find another man, let alone explore the world of online dating. Without the love of friends and colleagues, jumping full-tilt into a new line of study might not have been so effortless, and I may never have discovered a new career – one that continues to stretch and fulfill me 14 years later.
A healthy relationship and enriching work serve to nourish you in mind and soul – essential pieces of your health picture.
More than just having a body free of disease, health literally means to be whole. To have balance in the lifestyle choices you make, so you can enjoy balance in your life.
That “being healthy” umbrella covers every part of your life – relationships, heart & soul, mind, work, money, society. It’s not just about the perfect body or a body free of disease. In fact (this is a discussion to explore further another day), it’s possible to be healthy even with a disease.
Every part of your life stands to improve with the health-giving support of a collective.
Community also means a place to ask questions and learn from the experience of others.
In recent years, I’ve discovered pockets of loving circles online. Some of the small Facebook groups I belong to hold the same magic as I’ve experienced in person. They might be a network of colleagues and other alternative health practitioners; financial advice; business support for solopreneurs; accountability and cheerleading through a challenge or a course. I’m also a part of deep spiritual circles through the internet.
I have connected with like-minded women all over the globe who I now consider good friends.
No matter the area of life, my book club, my friends, these online groups all prove to me yet again that it takes a village to raise a healthy woman.
Which is precisely why I have opened a community of my own. The Whole Health Dinner Party is a closed Facebook group for members of my community. It’s a place to talk about food and body and soul and life. For asking niggling questions and sharing thoughts. A place for conversation about health in all its shapes and forms.
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Amen, sistah! I don’t know what I’d do without my girlfriends. They are like family to me. And as a single woman on her own for 15 years, I need that time. Your first sentence made me laugh out loud. Probably because I see so much of my personality in that first paragraph. Come to think of it, I miss Book Club. I think I’m going to start one. Thank you for the inspiration!
Finding a new book club is my first order of business once I move to Ottawa – okay, I might unpack a bit beforehand, but then…
so lovely, cathy. and i wish you the best with your new facebook group, the whole health dinner party!
two and a half years ago, one of my very best friends and i gathered 8 other childhood friends (who all lived within a couple of hours from our hometown) and suggested meeting on a regular basis. we have met monthly ever since, for fun outings and for thoughtful creative stretching and for serious deep-diving. we have had the most wonderful time reconnecting and moving forward together. since we are all in the same phase of life, we’ve had a chance to openly and lovingly identify and sympathize with shared life events (empty nests, aging parents, etc). it has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. and now, as i prepare to move to italy, i will meet with them just two more times – once in july and once in august. it will be a bittersweet goodbye.
That sounds fantastic, April. (I too have reconnected with a small group from school – so grounding.) I’m sure they’re all anticipating the time when you’ll have one of your get-togethers in your new Italian villa!
Thank you for this post Cathy. I have never felt so close to my (actual) sister as I do now and I am sooooo grateful for my sister friends. YOU are such an important part of one of my favourite on line sister groups which I can honestly say, has been a Godsend to me during one of the most turbulent times of my life. But I have to say, I do have a few men friends who also provide me with the balance that I crave. I just love the spiritual connections that I am able to make these days. So blessed.
And we are blessed to have you as part of sisters, Angela.
Brilliant!! Well said. I resonate completely!! Love the picture 🙂
I thought you might. 😉