Choosing The Birkenstock Is Always Hard

To cross the threshold, Barbie has to choose the Birkenstock. She has to leave the known world of pink high heels behind and choose change and uncertainty. And that is scary. But to heal, to get what we yearn for, we all have to make that leap.

Choosing the Birkenstock is hard. 

As I was watching the Barbie movie, I recognised that moment. Of wanting to go back to what is known, preferring not to move forward. For Barbie it was a choice between pretty heels and flat Birkenstocks.

(It made me giggle as I had to give up heels in 2007 due to an injury. And over the last few years I have become a Birkenstock devotee.)

For those of us with chronic illness, we are often faced with having to decide between curing and healing. Curing is when we try to suppress the illness as a way to stay in the current paradigm, which is often to be productive and busy. As many of us live in a paradigm that doesn’t condone or value rest.

So that choice to heal can be terrifying, because we have to journey away from what we have always know.

And to make that choice a little more feasible, our personality gives us something to helps us cross that threshold and start that journey.

It gives us self-deceit or self-belief.

What does that mean? 

When life shocks us, we have to make a choice. For Barbie that was flat feet and cellulite. For the rest of us it’s crisis, loss, divorce, death, illness, betrayal, injury, and so on. It is some painful change that shocks us and rattles the foundations of our world. 

None of us want to cross the threshold, we want life to go back to the painless, paradise we were in. The one where we didn’t know about the problems we had. Where we were asleep to the issues that existed. But the pain doesn’t go away, and often we are encouraged by mentors that change is possible and a better reality awaits us.

But we all cross the threshold alone. 

In stories crossing the threshold is often represented by being moved to a new location. Dorothy was delivered to Oz, Alice fell down the rabbit hole, Katniss Everdeen was shuttled to the capital. Barbie drives to the human realm. 

But even once we are shocked into this new reality, we can choose not to engage in it. We can choose to stay asleep. 

In Game of Thrones, the Stark children are shocked into a new reality when their father (Ned) is executed. Of all the children only one chooses to consciously cross the threshold and blaze a new trail. Arya. She decides on a path of vengeance and it forces her to both actively cross the threshold and keeps her focused on her journey. 

While her mission may not appear heroic, it did give her a reason to choose the birkenstock. To take the unknown path. Her self-deceit that vengeance was possible kept her going deeper and deeper into the unknown.

And when we cross the path into the unknown, we need a reason to do so. Either the self-deceit that we have the ability to succeed no matter what, or the courage to stay with the discomfort of uncertainty and the unknown whatever arises. 

I have crossed the threshold from both self-deceit and self-belief. 

Years ago when I was wrecked with illness and pain, living in an unknown country without friends or family, I decided I had to go forward. I had to engage with the pain. I allowed myself to believe that this journey wouldn’t take too long, that I would be free of pain quickly, and that I had the resilience to surmount any challenge. For Ayra it was vengeance, for me it was the desire to be free of suffering that kept me focused. 

But eventually I had to learn and accept that pain is inevitable. Pain is a part of life, suffering doesn’t not need to be. But in moving forward, I need to accept that both pain and suffering can be part of my reality. 

When I choose the Birkenstock two weeks ago, I was afraid. I stood on the precipice of the unknown and I was terrified. And yes I had my mentor there holding my hand, but she couldn’t jump with me, only I could make the decision to go. To accept the consequences that I couldn’t control or predict. 

I was afraid but I jumped. 

I am still afraid. 

Afraid that I am going in the wrong direction. Afraid that I can’t control everything. Afraid that I am turning away people I could help. 

I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know if I am on the wrong path. I know I am uncomfortable and worrying thoughts constantly arise. I know I keep asking people for advice and direction, to tell me what to do. But they can’t. No one can. I can only engage in the process, to stay open to what needs to be healed and to what the universe presents me with. 

I am here now.