The Runner of Oz

I love the movie The Wizard of Oz.  I always have.  I grew up watching, and loving, the movie and could not wait to watch it on TV when it would come on every year.  I loved everything about it: the characters, the music, the drama, the absolutely terrifying witch and come on ... the ruby slippers.  But more than those things, even as a child, I appreciated the lesson in the movie that at the end of the day, often what we are searching for in our lives, actually lives right there inside of us.  Just as the group America sang "Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man ... that he didn't already have."

Honestly, it had been awhile since I thought about the Wicked Witch, the Lollipop Guild, the Wizard, Dorothy and her little dog too.  But, recently, I was running with a group of running buddies super early in the morning and one of the women who I hadn't met before said, "ooh! I love your sneakers! They sparkle!"



Of course they do.  I remembered that when I found my first pair of my now beloved ruby red Sauconys nearly a year ago (and I have since that time purchased the same pair over and over and over again), that sparkle and the ruby red color was part (not all ... part) of what drew them to me.  I loved how they really did seem like my very own ruby slipper sneakers. I had kind of forgotten about that until she mentioned the sparkle.  And at that moment, I realized that I was my very own Dorothy searching for some sort of "home."  And I am living and learning some pretty important lessons from The Wizard of Oz.

Lesson 1:  Every Journey Begins With A Single Step.

It seems obvious, right?  Dorothy's journey began on tiny sliver of the yellow brick road that led to Oz - one single step toward something bigger and better.  But that lesson is easy to forget when you are mired in the muck or when you are staring down the barrel of an enormous task.  Something like Ironman - when I first started training, the idea of swim-bike-running 140.6 miles in less than 17 hours seemed overwhelming and daunting.  But the workouts weren't: 45 minute bike; 5 mile run; 1,500 yard swim.  I could do those.  I did those.  And bit by bit, bird by bird, I took on the training and eventually found myself swim-bike-running 140.6 miles in less than 17 hours with a huge smile on my face.

Likewise, starting over.  I'm now three years out from first separating, and it both feels like a split second ago and an eternity ago.  In many ways, it is both.  But at that time, the idea of starting over was completely overwhelming.  I didn't know what to do, who I was, where to start.  My single step was literally that:  to embrace as much of my "single" step toward being single again as I could and take things one day at a time.  There were days when I felt good and strong and hopeful.  There were days when I absolutely did not, and I cried harder than I can remember.  There were days of resolve and days of doubt.  But just like Dorothy on that yellow brick road, I kept on going.  Turning back or stopping was not an option.  My destination was about as nebulous as the city of Oz, but I trusted that I had to keep moving forward.

Truth be told, I'm still not sure of my destination.  I'm not sure how things will end up for me.  So for the moment, I am shelving the destination and embracing the journey, making new friends along the way, rediscovering myself, and finding strength that I didn't think I had.

Lesson 2:  Clicking My Heels Won't Bring Me Home but Pounding Them Will.

The big lesson in the movie, of course, is just what I said above: the characters all had inside them from the beginning those things they thought they lacked and wanted most.  The Scarecrow wanted a brain, but he was the smartest; the Tin Man wanted a heart, but he was the most loving; the Lion wanted courage, but he was the most brave; Dorothy wanted to go home, but home, and her ability to get there, was within her the entire time.  All she had to do was click those beautiful ruby red slippers three times and say "there's no place like home" and voila! Home she was.

Clicking my ruby red Sauconys won't get me that same result, but running in them sure will.  Running, along with introspection, friends, and prayer, have helped me find the "me" that was once lost.  I know I was (and am) searching for happiness, love, security, compassion and kindness.  I've found them all, in various forms and varying degrees, and I have realized that they were all right there inside me.

There's still a lot of work to do, but that's the beauty of running, introspection, friends, and prayer: there are no bounds to these things.  They will be there for me for the rest of my life.

Lesson 3:  The Scarecrow Had it Right.

As I've gotten older, I have found it kind of telling that the Scarecrow had the heart and had the courage but didn't have brains.  How true is that.  In order to be brave, and in order to really put your heart out there, you have to stop thinking and go for it.  You have to suspend rational, careful thought and just do ... not think.  As a smart, thinking person, I find this to be a pretty big challenge. But I am learning that overthinking can be insidious.  Real courage and real love often defy logic ... which goes hand in hand with the final lesson.

Lesson 4:  The Desire to Love and Be Loved Reigns Supreme, Despite the Risks.

One of my favorite moments in the movie has always been the end when the Wizard hands out the various coveted prizes to the characters, and in particular, the scene with the Tin Man:

Wizard of Oz:  As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart.  You don't know how lucky you are not to have one.  Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.  

Tin Man:  But I ... I still want one.  

I am not sure I can add much more to that.  It makes me tear up a little, to be honest.  It's a beautiful ,and yet harrowing, paradox of our own humanity: knowing that even though there are no guarantees of love or happiness or that your heart won't be broken and smashed in a million little pieces, we still simply want to love and to be loved.   I know I do.  Just like the Tin Man, I still want that, and I remind myself of the Wizard's final words to the Tin Man, "remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others."  Because, in the end, love is the only thing that matters.  
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