I don't always go on marches. I am an activist, a doer and that weaves through my life in lots of different ways. But sometimes, a march or an opportunity comes and you know it is the right one for you. The right time, the right place, the right cause.
The Women's March on London is one of those moments for me.
I am an optimist by nature. As difficult situations arise I try and see the hope, I try and find the good. Monty Python was right; we really should always look on the bright side of life. But right now, like many people, I am struggling!
What we saw unfold in the USA and the UK last year was almost beyond belief, I sometimes wake up still now and wonder if it really did all happen. I remember watching as the London Mayoral campaign got more and more nasty and I found myself feeling angry at times. I watched as even in Parliament, things were said that were just not OK especially not by people who are supposed to be leaders, representing us as citizens. I had to explain it to my kids when they asked questions.
And then on 16 June, Jo Cox was murdered.
Murdered in cold blood, in her town, for being her. I never knew Jo but I so wish I had. Authentic, caring, someone who looked out for people, someone who spoke for the voiceless. The tributes since then have been inspiring, she touched so many people. Her death came in Ramadan, a time of spiritual renewal for Muslims and a chance for us to reach out and invite others into our homes, our mosques and for us to reach others who are homeless, or people of all faiths and none. The evening she was murdered I was on my way to an event at a Synagogue, inviting their Muslim and other neighbours in for a meal after sunset. As I spoke at that event, through my tears, I mentioned that on days like that, we have to look for the hope, not the hate. That we have to reach out to each others more not less. Jo's legacy must live on through us all, as she so rightly said in her speech in the Commons, we really do have "more in common than that which divides us". My husband and I went to the memorial event in Trafalgar Square a few days later. I took my balloon with the words 'More In Common' on it, in purple and green, the Suffragette colours. For me, it all connects.
Whatever we saw last year has given us cause to be hopeful too, difficult as that sometimes is to muster. I have seen new people work together, new alliances being built, new efforts to reach out more not less. That appeals to the optimist in me and I hold onto that and draw on it to keep me going.
Recently Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes so eloquently moved us with her words, she included a quote from Carrie Fisher when dealing with negativity "Take your broken heart, make it into art". In the Qur'an there is a verse that says "after difficulty, comes ease". A reminder that yes, we know, things happen that we don't like, people do and say things that we would never say, but in that process something can happen to us, it really is about what we make of it, how we deal with it going forward. We know that diamonds are formed under pressure.
I love the sisterhood I get from other women, it is really important to me. I feel energised and connected in ways that keep my batteries charged.
The March on London, connected to hundreds more around the world feels like an important moment. Yes, it directly addresses and connects to issues in the US and as women we certainly need to make our voices heard, but it is so much more than that. It is a new chance for women from all backgrounds, all ages, with roots in different parts of the world to come to London, to hold hands, to show strength to each other, to bond, to show without words that we choose love, that we choose hope, that we will rise above the negativity, together.
I kind of see the march as group therapy as well. A collective group hug that I think we all need. To get us ready, to help us all remember that we are not alone, that others think like we do, while being amazingly different and diverse, we are all choosing to rise above this, to hold hands and walk forward together with purpose.
And I have a feeling that the March will be another catalyst to develop new relationships, for new work to start, for bonds to be strengthened and not just in London but around the country. No one else will make this happen, we have to.
I will wear my 'Choose Love' t-shirt with pride as I walk (with of course a silent salute to George Michael and those 'Choose Life' days) and I know that as I look into the eyes of the women in London at the weekend, I will be sure that yes, I really am in the right place.