Gateway Five: Coming Home or Going Away, Finding Tribes in Which to Belong
By Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
As women we find ourselves automatically belonging to certain groups. There's the family we're born into, the family we may have created through marriage, and all sorts of other groups going on in our lives: PTA groups, office colleagues and church affiliations, etc.
Many women don't realize how critical it is to belong to groups. Depression feeds very quickly off of isolation. By nature most women not only share commonly in our care taking and in our concerns about others, but we enjoy and thrive when we're a part of the right groups. We want to be connected. We don't want to be isolated.
Choosing the right groups, the right tribes to belong to, is part of the dilemma and the wonderment of going through adult life. While our children don't always have much freedom in choosing what groups they belong to, sometimes they can be so greatly against an activity that we finally let them quit. We may let them leave the Girl Scouts or little league, or perhaps stop taking piano lessons, thus letting them make their own determinations.
But we, as adult women, can on the whole always have the privilege and luxury of picking our groups. It may well be time, as your children get older, to say "goodbye" forever to the PTA. It may be time to find a religious affiliation that is or is not connected to your heritage or what you were initially exposed to.
It may be time to find groups to belong to through technologies that didn't exist ten years ago. I have clients and friends who have found meaningful interest groups through the web. For example, a woman client now belongs to a quilting group that is worldwide. The result is that she not only has gained chat mates, but she has also been able to visit her new friends around the world and been able to act as hostess to many of these friends. As they say, "Who coulda thunk it?"
This is an extraordinary gateway, so take some time getting to know yourself, as you are now, and see the many ways how this can lead you to where you want to connect.
Selma was brought down emotionally by a developmentally disabled young child and by her sound but somewhat difficult marriage which included difficult in-laws. She was feeling a bit discouraged and at times even clearly blue. Nothing in her current environment was really picking her up.
Unexpectedly, a girlfriend from her high school days got in touch with her and invited her to join a small group of friends who were going off on a four day woman's-only weekend in New England. When Selma initially approached her husband, he was negative, reminding her of all her household and child responsibilities.
This was exactly what she did not need to hear at the moment. She desperately needed some way to refresh herself in mind, body and spirit. She dug in her heels, made plans to have her child's care covered, and went off with the four women.
Joining this temporary group was extremely beneficial for her. She ended up laughing her way through New England, feeling a sense of connection to people who understood her background and the dreams and hopes she d had as a teenager. They all shared their own marital dilemmas and were sympathetic to hers. There was even one woman in a somewhat similar situation, with an adolescent who was driving her crazy.
The time flew by, and she returned home feeling uplifted with laughter still tingling in her belly, good food and good times, even physically refreshed from a massage she d had at the spa. She was certainly good to go for the continued saga of her life. What a wonderful, temporary tribe she d been part of, and what memories she d have of their gathering for months to come!
A Positive Activity for You
Try making a list of all the groups you currently belong to. Now divide the list into columns, one column for groups you are happy to be affiliated with, a column for the groups you wish you weren't affiliated with, and a third column for groups that you feel neutral about.
Over the next month or so, take time to brainstorm with yourself in terms of two avenues of adventuring. One is how you might bring more pleasure and happiness into your life by expanding your connection to one of the groups in the first column. At the same time, start to brainstorm a new group, or to look for a replacement for one of the groups in your second column.
For example if you've really had it with a particular women's group you're connected to, perhaps you want to replace that group with something entirely different. It could be a course at the local community college, tennis lessons that you let go for twenty years, a book club or a connection with an old friend. I hope you enjoy this dual process of making your experience even richer with the groups you want to stay connected with, and cleaning house with at least one group that you're ready to get rid of.