Announcing your place in the family of things

We all want to belong.

Though we’re not always sure of where or with whom.

And some of us have a hard time finding our place because there are conflicting pulls on our identity.

We don’t fit neatly into boxes.

So exploring the shift that I think is going on – both personally and generally ­– is both disorientating and comforting.

Disorientating because this is unfamiliar territory, and we can’t rely on the old markers to tell us where we are.

While at the same time comforting. “Oh, this isn’t just me. I’m not out on a limb – there’s something bigger afoot.”

Amid this, Steven Pressfield’s reminder that we need to uncover who we already are has been profound:

Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

+ Steven Pressfield, from The War of Art

This isn’t a new me that hasn’t existed before that I may or may not uncover.

And his insights on the things that could prevent us from realising this are brilliant. If you know you need to be creative yet haven’t read The War of Art, I suspect you’ll find it helpful.

Yet having this more grounded sense of who I am and why I’m here isn’t enough.

It requires context – people and place to belong. Otherwise, it’s a conceptual daydream.

So Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese lifts our eyes up and reminds us that we don’t earn our place by penance or brilliance.

Instead, we respond to the invitation to belong in this amazing world we call home.


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

+ Mary Oliver, from Dream Works, 1986

The 2015 On Being Podcast conversation with Mary Oliver is one of the best-loved: I got saved by the beauty of the World.’ And it includes Mary reading this poem.

Each time I listen, I feel a profound sense of privilege to be able to eavesdrop on this rare and intimate conversation.

May it enrich you too.