I recently spent a few days in Liverpool to attend a work gathering – they’re called Think Days at The Reader (isn’t that a great name?) and we did lots of thinking, but also lots of reading and chatting and laughing. It was such a pleasure to be at a work event and feel like I wanted to be there. Getting paid to read poems in the garden? Yes please. Clearly, I’ve found my tribe.

Looking out at the sunset from the plane on the way home I started to think about how much this means. For so long I’ve been doing jobs in the voluntary sector that just didn’t sit all that comfortably with me. Square peg, round hole kind of thing. I did the work, sometimes working very hard, but it never clicked. I needed to find my people – somewhere I felt like I belonged and where my voice would be heard and where my skills made sense.

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve started to unfurl and stand up to be counted. I tended to hide in the background, assuming it was safer, but it was lonely too. And then I had one of those lightbulb moments during an online coaching course that quite honestly opened my closed heart. I’m sure I’ve talked about Mel Wiggins before (find amazing stuff here) and this six week course was my attempt to shake off past fear and step into the light. Meeting for a few hours every week with a small group of amazing women was transformational. Maybe the fact that they were strangers to begin with allowed me to be myself? I didn’t have any preconceptions about how I should or should’t behave, or things I shouldn’t say. I could just be myself. It was very freeing. 

And then on the last session something extraordinary happened.

Mel had asked us all to think of a phrase to say to one another as we went on our way into the future, almost like a blessing. Mine was relatively simple: ‘I wish for you bright hopes, deep breaths, hugs on dark days, and a sense that you matter and you belong.’ Sounds good, doesn’t it? We duly read them out to one another and they were received with grace and much gratitude. Then Mel asked us to read our own blessing out loud, but this time changing ‘you’ to ‘me’. 


When it came to my turn I spoke as confidently as ever, but then suddenly on the words ‘matter’ and ‘belong’, I couldn’t speak. It was as if my mouth was physically clamped closed. Time slowed down as my fellow members raised their eyebrows and kindly waited for me to finish. It was excruciating. I could have closed my laptop and run away but I somehow found the courage to just sit with what was happening. Emotions bubbled up from somewhere (very deep down, I think) and after gentle coaxing I was finally able to whisper those two words to myself. I matter and I belong. A simple phrase that plumbed the depths for me that day three years ago. It’s one that I still hold onto. It’s personal, spiritual, emotional. And it’s a phrase worth repeating. 

Say it with me (out loud if you dare). I matter and I belong.