Two Feet In
“You need to decide, you’re either two feet in or two feet out”, our therapist said to my husband and me in the midst of contemplating the next steps of our marriage after a long separation. “Your kids need to know where you stand,” she went on.
She had worked with our family over a long period of time, and knew our situation well. It was through her simple directive, one that resonated deep within my belly, that I understood the overwhelming “aha” that came over me. In that moment, I realized that not only did my children need to understand what their container of safety, family and home was going to look like. It was also the scared child within me that needed assurance that my adult self would be acting with the same strength of clarity and integrity our therapist was modeling.
After a long and arduous period of personal reflection, differentiation and deep inner work, my husband and I agreed - we would re-commit and step fully back into our marriage - two feet in. This adage has become our mutual mantra in the midst of the ups and downs of married life.
It also took on an even deeper meaning for me one day when he whispered this simple, yet profound, statement in my ear during a challenging health crisis. For unknown reasons, I have suffered a series of health crises throughout my adult years that have put me face to face with my mortality numerous times. When I heard him tenderly reminding me to stay “two feet in, Robyn,” it was as if a bell had rung at the core of my being.
In that moment my mind spontaneously woke up to the fact that I have had one foot out the door of my life for many years. This is in part due to sexual trauma early in life that left me feeling wracked with shame. Another part of me likely crossed that thin threshold the day my mom died when I was twenty years old. She was such a loving and stabilizing force in my life that I literally questioned whether I could survive without her physical presence. The first two years after her passing were grueling and tenuous, but I ultimately came to thrive in many ways.
With this new revelation, I was able to recognize the ways that I have kept myself small and strategically invisible throughout my life and, in some ways, hidden behind the glare of health challenges. Admittedly, there have been times when the thought of dying and reuniting with my mom has felt easier than carrying on. This is not a choice I would ever consider realistically, because I would never leave my family and the life that I love and am so grateful for. This is just to name an unsightly feeling that sometimes seeps out of the dark corner of my inner closet.
I have always been motivated by a strong sense of purpose, which has been accompanied by a fear of its potency – and a habitual strategy of diminishing my radiance. For all of the challenges I have faced in my life and the threats to dampen the fire that burns hot within me, it is the light emanating from this flame that has most frightened me. As spiritual author and powerful feminine voice in our culture, Marianne Williamson, affirms:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
A number of years ago, I’d recently returned home from ten days in the hospital after a shocking diagnosis of a large blood clot in my belly that was untreatable and came with an early misleading and dire prognosis from an ill-informed doctor. I was lying on the floor with a few of the women from a women’s group I had been in at the time. One of them was a well-meaning and caring friend who turned to me after sharing my harrowing and painful experience, and the dire prognosis that at the time I was still trying to process and integrate. She asked, “Have you chosen life?” In the moment, I was stunned and angered by her seeming new age and positive thinking attitude that could find no meaningful place in my current predicament. I simply replied, “No, as a matter of fact, I am being with death right now.” This was what I was choosing to contemplate under the circumstances.
After some time, and a clearer understanding about my medical situation, I felt I was open and ready to “choose” life once again. It may not have been her way of navigating such a challenging medical crisis, but for me, it was deeply expansive to consider and reclaim my own mortality with tender authenticity and sober truth. It is something that has served me, along with others who I companion at this threshold, well over the years as I have grown to embrace death as part of a soulfully lived life.
I am able to also see that my subsequent medical challenges have both given me more layered and nuanced material to stretch my understanding of the paradox of life and death, and also temptation for having that one foot out the door. A strategic habit of protection and reprieve from the pressing intensity my soul keeps prodding me with.
Amidst recent health findings, I have been faced with more questions about the unknowns of this earthly existence – yet I feel more alive than ever. I have been dousing myself with the mantra of “Two feet in” on a daily basis. It seems to be stoking that inner fire in ways that feel enlivening and thrilling. After so many years of shading myself and the world from this inner fire, I finally sense a liberation of the light that has literally been “dying” to come forth.
After losing touch with that friend in my women’s group those number of years ago, I can honestly answer her question now with confidence and excitement that, yes, I am choosing life, as well as my marriage, with all of my heart and soul.
I am choosing to be two feet in…