Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
--The Nuns, The Sound Of Music
Last night over dinner with a friend, I realized that after years and years of working with myself and how I relate to the world, I still have a problem.
I still don’t work well under standard business practices, because I want to be real more than I want to be some else’s version of a “success.” I don’t get a sense of belonging from most organized spiritual gatherings, church or otherwise, because I have my own truth and I follow it relentlessly. And I just can’t enjoy shooting the breeze for hours on end at neighborhood parties, because I simply don’t know the latest news. I don’t even own a TV.
The cold hard truth is I’m a Maria. Perhaps you can relate?
She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee
Her dress has got a tear
She waltzes on her way to Mass
And whistles on the stair…
I even heard her singing in the abbey…
I hate to have to say it
But I very firmly feel
Maria's not an asset to the abbey
Like Maria, I am just a little too ME for a lot of situations. As such, I am definitely not an asset to “the abbey”—or any other organization that’s trying to get me to behave, fit in, keep quiet, be good, toe the line, or wait my turn.
The essence of this is not a new revelation, of course. I’ve been bucking the system my whole life. But as my friend and I chatted, I was struck by how, even after all these years, the problem with the Maria in me persists.
On the one hand, I could simply say that it’s the cost of being a thought leading entrepreneur—never knowing for sure if you’re actually leading something and going somewhere or if you are just delusional. But I have a feeling it is more than that. In fact, I have a feeling The Sound Of Music never was just a wartime love story made into an epic movie.
And I have a feeling it’s not just about me.
The more I think about it, the more I realize it may well be our most primal personal and collective inner story… the tale of each one who journeys toward wholeness, authenticity, and ultimately, personal and collective happiness.
What if the story goes something like this?
We all have a Maria in us. A divinely impish self who just can’t contain herself within the confines of… well, anything. But also within us we all have a house of nuns, trying to figure out how to deal with our Inner Maria. And while some of our nun-like aspects are ready to shut us down, there are also a few who are willing to stand up for our Inner Maria because she is just so darn... well… fun.
I'd like to say a word in her behalf
Maria makes me laugh…
Also in there would be a bunch of unruly little kids of varying ages, all needing a mother’s love. And then there’s our lonely widower Captain Von Trapp—ever determined to keep things under control. And let’s not forget our inner sixteen-going-on-seventeen self, innocent and yet dying to reach out and grow by exploring the edges of what is proper.
Now imagine that within us somewhere, the hills really are alive, waiting for us to flee the established order, break all the rules, and find inner freedom.
I don’t know about you, but it sounds a lot like my inner truth.
How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do we keep the Maria in us from upsetting everything—all the order, all the plans, all the that’s-just-the-way-things-are-done-around-here? How do we negotiate the part of us that wants to be safe with the part that wants to fall in love and the part that wants to test the limits?
The part that is young and innocent with the part that has been hurt? The part that is locked down with the part that wants to break free? The parts that are 2 years old, and 4 and 6 and 8. The parts that are boy and the parts that are girl…
When I'm with her I'm confused
Out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
She could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl…
The answer I’ve come to (which I note I have come to again and again and again over the years) is that I must challenge the premise of the question. What if the question “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” isn’t the right question, and in fact, what if it reveals the real problem?
What if we ask: How do you solve a problem like Captain Von Trapp? Or the Nuns? Or the military that is ever in hot pursuit? What if we are not meant to control our Inner Maria, or all the other parts, but instead sing with them? Dance with them? Laugh with them? Even confound them?
What if to fully awaken we are to celebrate that yes, in fact, the trees ARE alive and the world IS free if you dare make your inner escape.
For all the question’s complexity, the answer is quite simple:
Instead, we grow our Inner-Maria. We let her confuse the heck out of the orderly aspects of us and lead the love-hungry children within to the Promised Land. We let her take over, show the way, and save the day.
I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying that some of our parts won’t be chasing other parts of us, insisting we are heading for trouble. I’m not saying the path will be obvious and the way will always be clear. Life isn’t like that, at least in my experience.
What I am saying is that it will all be worth it—all of it—even if you do find yourself a fish out of water at the neighborhood BBQ. We have to remember that the end of The Sound Of Music was just the end of the movie. For us, it’s the beginning of a whole new life.