While I was heavy, I had some idea that my weight and issues related to it were holding me back, but I never thought about it in terms of enslavement until I read the story “A Woman’s Liberation” by Ursula Le Guin in August 2002. She wrote: “It is in our bodies that we lose or begin our freedom, in our bodies that we accept or end our slavery.” (p. 208 in Four Ways to Forgiveness)
It struck me because only then, two years into my weight loss and down 100 pounds, that I was finally starting to feel at ease in my body. LIke a slave, I had previously been so accustomed the mindset that I was worthless that I didn’t fully realize how much it impacted me, keeping me locked away from the possibility of anything else.
When looking for co-op positions at Northeastern, I didn’t take the more challenging job because I didn’t have the self-confidence to feel I could live up to the expectations they had of me. I never truly considered the possibility of a romantic relationship, convinced that no man would want anything to do with me, even when some expression interest. I could not physically do some of the things that I wanted, and others were extremely difficult. I walked through life in constant fear and anguish over how people must judge me based on my weight, letting that in turn make me judge myself.
Even worse, I had somehow formed the impression that this was an enslavement with no means of escape. Society taught me to think that I needed a quick fix that only “experts” could provide - a pill, a diet that promised to shed pounds almost overnight, liposuction, something. It wasn’t anything I could do. I allowed myself not only to be enslaved but victimized.
Which is why I was touched by something else I read at that time, Terri Windling’s introduction to The Armless Maiden – and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors. She wrote: “It is all too easy to get lost in that wood, stuck in the mindset of victimization. These stories urge us... to transform ourselves and our lives with the old-fashioned strengths of goodness, persistence, and action.” (p. 15)
Reading that, I realized that by taking action, by reclaiming my relationship to my body, by forging my own key, I had become the heroine of my own story. It would have perhaps been easier if someone had provided some illumination, a supporting hand, but even so it was only I could who could free myself. Having done so, as I wrote in March 2003, “My heart is light with hope, for I am once again, as in my distant childhood, exhilarated rather than frightened of all the possibilities.” May it be so for you.