Today, I want to look at the past. Not the generic past – my past.
When I was a kid, I loved the Wizard of Oz. In those days, it truly was a special occasion when it aired on television, and I watched every second – even the scary parts with the flying monkeys. Over the years, I’ve seen the story used as a metaphor for a variety of things from women’s empowerment to college graduation advice. So I’ve decided today to use it as a metaphor for my life.
Since the inception of Jenion, I have tried to write honestly about my life – “the good, the bad, the ugly pizza binges”. What I haven’t done is spend much time or blog space talking about the realities I experienced when I tipped the scales at 350+ pounds. In part, I haven’t wanted to hang on to a past self that has (literally) disappeared. But part of the reason I haven’t spoken too directly about my life as a morbidly obese person was my own ambivalence about my worth as a human being during that time period. It is hard to admit, even now, the embarrassments, indignities and huge burden of self-loathing – coupled with the disgust of total strangers – which comprised my daily life for twenty years or so. In many ways, I embodied Dorothy’s companions from the Wizard of Oz.
Like the Scarecrow, I felt stupid, and acted that way. I chose faulty logic over clear understanding so that I wasn’t required to change. Moreover, other people acted, sometimes, as if I was incapable of normal thoughts and emotions. It was a symbiotic relationship: they treated me rudely, with cruelty at times, dismissively at others – and I believed they were right to do so. But I always had the brains to figure things out, if I chose to use them.
Like the Tin Man, I had a heart full to overflowing. I just didn’t know how to feel it or express it, so I covered it up with food, then fat. I loved. I yearned. I hoped and dreamed. I blocked those feelings and hid my heart – most of all from myself. But it was there, all along, if I only chose to feel my emotions instead of pretend they didn’t exist.
Like the Cowardly Lion, I feared everything. My own shadow was terrifying (and huge). Not to mention the things I ought to have been afraid of, like health risks and chronic pain. My fear paralyzed me from making choices, moving forward, loving wholeheartedly. But there was courage waiting, untapped, if I only decided to reach for it.
And like the Great and Terrible Oz, I was only acting a part. Hoping no one would look behind the curtain and see the creature cowering there. I didn’t realize it, but the curtain was only fooling me. Those who loved and worried for me could see right through it. I could have pulled it back and revealed my true self anytime.
Finally, I set out on an unknown road as someone who didn’t even know herself. I wasn’t sure whether I could find the thing I was searching for, and I was terrified of bogeymen (lions, tigers, and bears are not scary to me compared with looking foolish, failing, rejection). I wore my layers of fat like Dorothy wore her Kansas naivete – for all to see, both a protection and a problem situation to work my way out of.
Today, for the first time, I am posting a weight with a one at the front – not a 3, not a 2.
Today, I am a much different person than the woman who hid inside that real-life fat suit. I finally realize I don’t have to revile her, hate her, deny her existence in order to become the person I want to be. I simply need to accept who and what I once was. And as I’ve watched this moment approaching it has become clear that, in order to take my life where I want, I have to say a final, loving, goodbye to that frightened fat girl. Goodbye to timid Dorothy-from-Kansas. I’m letting her go for good and all.
Standard weight charts still list me as obese. Whatever. After following the spiralling yellow brick road into “One-derland” the old thought patterns, fears, negative self-talk simply won’t do anymore. Here, I am the central character of my own life: I am Dorothy of the Ruby Slippers. I’ve had the power all along, but here is where I truly take hold of it – no more looking elsewhere for strength of mind, a stout heart, and the courage of my convictions.