How Susan and Maria got it wrong.

First watch this. Seriously, it’s three minutes long. Watch it.

“I asked 5 questions in genetics class today, and all of them began with the word ‘sorry'”.

It’s me.

Always apologising, ’til I don’t even know I am doing it. It had become a habit, to start sentences with “I’m sorry but….” concluding with “Do you know what I mean?” Asking you… please, understand me, don’t be offended by me’. I don’t wish to upset, or disagree. I don’t wish to appear like a know-it-all, even when I know more than you.

“I have been taught to absorb”.

I have never been a shrinking violet, but the words I have used have betrayed me. Revealed my chronic lack of confidence masquerading as breezy-easy-going. Everything will be fine, so long as I don’t offend. So long as I don’t say no.

I’ll fit in, make space, make allowances, fret over crossed words, sweat over letting you down.

“I have learnt accommodation”.

Everyone else first. Husband, then kids, then extended family, then friends, then me. (But I have usually run out of energy by then.) And then the resentment sets in.

It is how I have thought about God. As someone else who wants something from me.


In ‘A Bed Among The Lentils’ (one of the monologues that make up Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads collection), Susan, an overlooked (alcoholic) and exhausted Vicar’s wife is honest.

“Geoffrey’s bad enough, but I’m glad I wasn’t married to Jesus.”

I knew this Jesus and he asked a lot. And didn’t ever seem fully satisfied with my offering. He was not angry with me, but always disappointed.

And I felt the inevitable rejection.

And the resentment grew.

Maria in the Sound of Music sings a song just before she marries the Captain – at the happiest point of her life to date, just when everything has worked out for her.

She sings; “Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”


It was this misapprehension I picked up along the way (and not just from a favourite childhood musical!) that I set out on my path in life. If I was good (and by good I read – peace-maker, don’t rock the boat, accommodate others, serve, be relentlessly gracious) life would work out. I would be successful and happy. I could control my life through my actions, my will.

I am grateful that life didn’t ‘work out’. That chaos, grief and pain crashed into my world. Otherwise how long would I have lived believing this lie.

Gradually I realised i had been following the wrong guy. I had misunderstood my faith, my purpose, my reason for being.

And i became aware my well-intentioned empathy had become deferential, confidence-crushing, people-pleasing. And that to live like that is only to half live.

‘Being good’ has got in the way of ‘being me’.


I have spent this last few years trying to learn how to be honest again. To figure out what i think and then to offer those thoughts without apology or compromise.

This has been risky. Risking failure, risking embarrassment, risking rejection.

And I have got it wrong.. And there have been some good rows.

But, more than that, there has been an overwhelming sense of freedom. Of remembering who I am, what is important to me, and what I think.

And a hope that I can somehow figure out how to teach my girls this. That they won’t inherit ‘absorption’ from me. That they won’t only learn how to ‘accommodate’. But that they will value their opinions and skills and realise how much they have to offer. And then they will offer them to the world.


Because, living a half-life, isn’t enough.


1 Comment
  • Rod
    Posted at 22:08h, 26 March Reply

    What girls need to know is that hills are alive with the sound of music…Maria got somethings very right…

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