Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road

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.

16 thoughts on “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road

  1. Congratulations on how far down the Yellow Brick Road you’ve been able to come. And thanks for writing about your journey so honestly and powerfully.

    1. Thanks, Joe! Been following both your blogs AND your tweets of the debates. You’ve been tireless…until this last debate. Impressed with your dedication 🙂

  2. Jeni – What a touching and well-written look at your life! Thanks so much for pulling back the curtain. And . . . whalla . . . there really was a wizard! We know how dedicated and committed you have been, and we continue to be exceptionally proud of you! (and, use those ruby slippers to come home and visit us at any time).

    We love you lots,
    Mom & Dad

  3. Hi! This blog was shared with me by a friend. As someone just beginning her own journey, I am inspired and encouraged by your bravery here. I’m down about 28 pounds, and not looking back. You and I both know that can change in a moment’s notice, so I’m thankful for stories like yours that remind me that the Ruby Slippers really do lie ahead of me. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Stephanie: For most of my own journey, I did not take for granted that I would continue moving forward. For a long time, I even spoke equivocally, with phrases like, “I don’t know how long this will continue, but I’m going to keep going while I still feel motivated…” or “Maybe I’ll never reach my goal, but I’m gonna try.” Somewhere along the line, though, that changed. I began to see myself as someone who could – in fact – set and reach goals. As someone who had already effectively achieved something important. My wish and prayer for you is that you come quickly to that place in your journey, because once you have, it becomes exponentially easier to stay the course! If I can ever offer any support or encouragement (aside from whatever you might find in my blog) please feel free to contact me directly at Best wishes to you – oh, and in case you didn’t know this, I bought an actual pair of Ruby Slippers (deep red patent-leather pumps, actually) to remind myself that I had the power all along!

  4. The only thing missing is a current photo of you today. I for one would love to see it here. Too bad Elton John’s lyrics to the same title aren’t approriate. I’ve had the song stuck in my head since you posted this blog!

    So goodbye yellow brick road
    Where the dogs of society howl
    You can’t plant me in your penthouse
    I’m going back to my plough

    Still singing….

    1. Thanks, MRB! I don’t actually have a photo of me today (or more recently than Christmas) and its hard to take more than a head shot of myself! Otherwise, I’d be glad to post.

      That song has been in my mind too, still love singing it!

  5. So no one you know can take your photo? I know you have a decent camera. Do I have to drive down there and take it? THAT comes at a price. (We have never had a proper photo session. Just saying…)

    1. MRB: You are always welcome to drive down. I would love to take pictures with you any time – but I’ve never been very comfortable as the subject of a photo shoot.

  6. sorry this is late but I just have to tell u how proud I am of you! To quote Martin Oliver ‘I want to be just like u when I grow up!’.

    Way to go Jen! I am always inspired by you.

    Carol Erhart

    1. There’s no late with regard to either reading or commenting on my blog, Carol! The fact that you do read and comment means a lot to me – whatever the time frame! I only hope you know I think of you often and send my love your way, too!

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