Relationships & Divorce
I Know Firsthand About the Loneliness Epidemic
I was not surprised by the Surgeon General’s advisory released this week stating that the loneliness epidemic in the US offers the same physical and mental dangers as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness is the reason I started CoveyClub back in 2017. Once my children were grown and flown and my job at the big fancy publisher had ended and I no longer had to commute (thank god!) into New York City, I found myself isolated at home. Yes, I was launching CoveyClub. Yes, I was working on my master’s degree in Sustainability Management at Columbia University. And yes, I was commuting to classes several times a week.
But I am an uber extrovert. I get my buzz, my energy, my excitement from working with other people. I thrive in a diverse, bubbling community. Though I do treasure my downtime, I need swaths of hours among groups of humans to feel fulfilled and alive. And I need it daily.
And while I realize that nothing will ever replace the intense, you’ll-never-be-alone-again bonding that happens between a mother and child (or two of them), I also know that there is nothing that replaces the sense of teamwork and friendship and human interaction that comes from the community created by office or work life. Even if that office life has strife (check) and duplicitous bosses (check).
If you run your business right, there is a sense of being one of the herd, and there can be a joyful sense of community in that.
Over 40 years, I had become so accustomed to being part of an office herd, that several months into my reinvention as an entrepreneur, a book publisher called about a potential job and I went. I didn’t really want a job. I didn’t really want to publish books—even though I love them. But I went for that reason your mother told you to go on a date with the guy you’re not really interested in: who knows what will happen? And maybe he has a friend.
When I got to the bright modern offices in downtown New York City, I found myself mesmerized by the bustling hive, watching people gather in important conversations, hustle across the lobby, and regroup in a gleaming glass conference room. As I observed quietly from the waiting area, I felt an intense longing rise within me that almost felt like hunger. It was almost as if I could smell a delicious wave of belonging seeping through the cracks in the glass doors. I felt myself longing to be seated around that table, to be included in those (soundless to me) discussions.
I felt myself desperately wanting to have that sense of community again.
Because I don’t like working alone.
Because it’s horribly, awfully lonely!!!
After I left that building, I knew I didn’t want another corporate job. But I knew clearly what I did want: that sense of community again. That sense of sisterhood and common goals. That sense of belonging.
At that point in my life I didn’t have much sense of community. I don’t practice a religion; I don’t have a public square where I can go for a lunchtime walk and have an interesting conversation with another human (and please, social media is no such public square). I didn’t have regular community gatherings to crash me into potential friends and co-workers or to give me that sense of feeling seen and heard.
As I pulled CoveyClub together, I knew that I would have to invent that sense of belonging for my members. We’d have to tackle challenges together (come join us for our Simplify Your Life 30-Day Challenge going on now) and work on projects together (hence the creation of the Covey PODs, groups of 3 to 7 women who gather at their own pace to work on a topic of their choice). I’d have to place people in deliberate community (hello, our annual live NOLA blowout) and in creative endeavors as well (our Monarch storytelling nights let members take the stage).
And you know what? It works. The CoveyClub community shares friendship, hires each other, coaches each other, travels together, learns together, writes together. We even help each other’s kids start charities for Ukraine and we share dog breeders.
As the Surgeon General suggests, loneliness can take years off your life: it “is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death.” But places like CoveyClub can disrupt that direction. I was aware that loneliness was an issue for women 40+ because I heard it from hundreds of those I spoke to—but often in hushed tones. And that is the very reason that the first article I ever published at CoveyClub.com is called: “How to Leverage Loneliness: When we give up our shame, we can use this emotion to move us forward.”
And I can tell you that every word of that article is still true.