I am less a part of groups than I once was. Perhaps it’s a right of passage–I now have a better idea of who I am and what’s important to me, less the need for others to say, “Here she is.”

Nevertheless, groups are important. There’s the big group: our American country. This is the group that scares the s**t out of me these days. How does one safely, proudly, deeply feel a part of it when it’s so splintered, so angry, so self-righteous?
If someone screams at you, what do you gain by screaming back? When you’re screaming, you can’t hear anything, but your own guttural sounds. When someone is screaming at you, you think, he’s out of control. I’ll wait until he calms down. Being a part of this big group takes careful thought. I’ll belong this way because it has integrity and makes sense. I won’t belong in that way because to do so is crazy.

Family groups such as mine can also be tricky. Parents dead, there’s only us adult children left. We belonged together in the past; we have a group identity from our time together as children, but each of us has forged independent lives, forming new groups with new families. There have been some divorces, which break up existing groups. We all think we know each other, but do we? We still belong, but it’s more to the way we were, that the way we are now.

New family groups take negotiation when there are children from divorce. There are the group memories of what existed once, an important part of the identities formed in the first family. Then there are new group memories being established as we speak. Sometimes these memories clash, because the old need to assert their realities over the present so they don’t get lost.

Friends create another group dynamic, with different requirements of what it takes to belong depending on what you have created in the first place, and how flexible and receptive to change the friendship is. The friendships that have lasted over many years can be the most comfortable and satisfying groups to belong to, I find.

There are also all the membership groups in your workplace as well as other organizations to which you give your time and attention. Such groups can be instrumental in getting things done, and you, as a member help the enterprise move forward. You are a part of something that is worthwhile.

Finally, I am back to where I started, a group of one. There is something to be said for embracing one’s own society. You bring this enjoyment to your marriage partnership. When your partner is away, you have things to think about, things to do. After all, alone is where we begin and where we end.