“Everyone has some form of obesity…it’s an important learning opportunity!” – King Ayles
“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo, artist
“…he wanted to see Michelangelo’s statue of “David” in Florence, Italy.”
Marty was a big man, very big in fact, over 500 pounds. Marty was 35 years old and projected both intelligence and friendliness. He was married to Maggie, also 35, and they had no children. They lived with his retired parents, Marriat and Maguire, since their marriage ten years earlier. Marty and Maggie had met on the internet and she had relocated to Marty’s small town and his parents’ home.
Marty, of course, had several health issues related to his obesity including pain management, stomach and blood circulation issues. But, interestingly, what got him to agree to meet with me was he wanted to see Michelangelo’s statue of “David” in Florence, Italy.
Marty had a lifelong interest in classical art and spent a lot of his time researching it. He had been told by a friend when he first saw “David” it seemed so real, he had expected it to move. It was then he decided he wanted to go to Italy and see for himself.
“They were all coping quite well.”
But, the challenge he faced was he couldn’t even leave his parents home, let alone travel to Florence. Marty could hardly maneuver using the bathroom. He had a public health nurse come in weekly to help him with personal hygiene. His days were spent mostly on the internet conversing with friends, researching art or watching television.
For her part, Maggie also struggled with her own obesity, as did Marty’s parents. So, the four of them lived together in a small house. Their simple home required little upkeep and none were really in a position to do it anyway. Marty and Maggie occupied the second floor while his parents, Marriat and Maguire, lived on the ground floor.
Marty’s parents led a quiet life living off their savings and pensions. Maggie worked part time washing dishes in a local restaurant and Marty received social services disability support. They were all coping quite well.
They were getting by, and seemed to get along, for the most part. One day, Marty expressed this dream of seeing the statue of “David” to his dad, Macguire, in casual conversation. Macguire, ever hoping his son would take control of his health, offered to find someone to help him learn to restore his health and mobility. And, I got Maguire’s call.
“He was dressed in dark, loose fitting clothes and had a big, friendly smile.”
As with other clients over the years who were housebound, I arranged to visit Marty at his home across town. I was met at the door by his parents, also friendly like their son, but struggling with their own health issues.
Marriat, about 70, was a tall, but stooped, woman with striking, silver grey hair and advancing osteoporosis, aggravated by her extra mass. Macguire, in contrast, was a short man of similar age, who used a walker to manage his excessive girth.
We chatted for a few minutes and then they directed me to the stairs to their second floor where Marty was waiting for me. Apparently, Maggie was working and I would not meet her today.
Marty was unable to stand to greet me. He was sitting at the end of a couch behind a small table on which sat his laptop. He was dressed in dark, loose fitting clothes and had a big, friendly smile.
As we got acquainted, it was clear Marty was an insightful and thoughtful individual and very devoted to Maggie and his parents. He told me about his dream of visiting Italy and seeing the statue of “David.”
“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” – Michelangelo, artist
“I feel so victimized by life.”
After I collected a brief history, I asked him what were the three greatest traumas of his life. I wanted to determine what had contributed to his current state of health and mobility.
His response to my question was immediate and without hesitation,
“Ken, I was almost killed by a car when I was in primary school. It took me a long time to recover. And, then I was bullied several times in school growing up. And, I have always struggled with managing my weight and feeling like a failure to my parents. I like to eat!”
“OK. What is the primary thing preventing you from booking a flight to Florence, Italy, Marty?”
He paused before responding with,
“I feel so victimized by life. First, getting hit by that car and by slow recovery. Missing two years of school. Always feeling behind and never catching up with the kids my age. And, then being bullied for being dumb and fat. And, now I just feel so stuck here, imprisoned in my parents home.”
“Are you prepared to consider other perspectives on your life…”
“Marty it sounds like you are grieving your past, as if it wasn’t OK…as if it hasn’t enabled you to survive and evolve yourself in vital ways. It also appears you think you’re a victim of circumstance rather than a victor over you life challenges. Does that sound close?” I asked, wondering if he was ready to evolve his thinking.
“Ken, it doesn’t sound so bad when you say it that way. But, truth is, I do think I am a victim…and my life now really proves it!”
He paused and then continued,
“Look at me…a fat guy living with his parents while his wife goes out to work to pay the bills!” he said, hinting at the frustration and anger he kept hidden deep inside most of the time.
“Are you ready to move past that perspective Marty to the truth of your life? Are you prepared to consider other perspectives on your life besides the ones you have been harbouring for a long time?”
“I guess I must be, because I agreed to meet with you didn’t I?” he said, half apologetically.
“… you have an outdated perception of Marty.”
“Well, what I have noticed is you have parents and a spouse very devoted to you and your well being. You have also survived several major life challenges and present to me as an intelligent and engaging person who wants to empower himself in new areas of his life. Are these perceptions accurate, Marty?”
“Yes, I suppose they are Ken! But, I just don’t know where to start to get to myself to Florence.” he said, half smiling.
“We need to start with your current view of yourself. It looks to me like you have an outdated perception of Marty. In keeping with nature’s laws, we need to uncover the equilibrating upside of each significant event you have seen as negative and the down side to each event you have seen as positive. How does that sound to you?”
“It sounds impossible. I don’t believe there was any upside to my auto crash or to my being bullied or my obesity.” he replied, frustration mounting his face.
“I realize you don’t at this point. It is my job to assist you to uncover the truth of your life…because one truth of it is that you are alive, loved and have many areas of your body and mind which are healthy, today.”
“But, you have not been noticing or appreciating them. If you do this analysis, it will change your perspective, raise your self esteem and get you to Italy. Are you ready to take on that challenge, Marty?”
“Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.” – Michelangelo, artist
“…his highest values which were: his family, his lifestyle, his health and his learning.
He paused again, then said hesitantly,
“I think so! But it sounds scary! Is it normal to be afraid, Ken?” his eyes watering briefly.
“It’s not only normal, Marty, if you weren’t I would suspect you weren’t aware or committed to the task ahead.” I said, with a half, soft smile.
So, Marty began his journey to see the statue of “David” in Florence, Italy. He first identified his highest values which were: his family, his lifestyle, his health and his learning.
Then, we started with his childhood auto collision. He soon discovered how he had used this experience to build his determination and resilience for life which had enabled him to complete his education even though he was almost three years older than his classmates for most of his school years.
Then we dealt with his experiences of bullying. He uncovered how he had learned to stand up for himself and also for others who were being bullied. He realized these events had enabled him to make life long friendships which he still maintained to this day.
“And, it also kept him and Maggie close, and them both, close to his mom and dad.”
Next, we took on his obesity. And, this was where things got even more interesting, and revealing, for Marty. He soon started noticing the benefits to his current mass which he had been ignoring. He noted the freedom and time it allotted him to learn about art, to collect images of great art and to build a comprehensive file of classical pieces from across the ages.
Then he noted how his health challenges gave his parents an active focus in their retirement, a diversion from their own illnesses. And, it also kept him and Maggie close, and them both, close to his mom and dad.
As Marty completed this work, his self esteem and self confidence revealed itself in more areas of his awareness. Then, we started focusing on his addiction to junk food. All along his journey, Marty had been diligent in completing his assignments between our sessions. He had worked hard and faithfully to complete each task presented to him.
But, suddenly, he was displaying forgetfulness and distraction regarding his between session tasks. The pattern became so strong I confronted him and asked him what was the benefit to not completing his assigned tasks. This is what happened.
“… I’m much more satisfied with my life than I ever realized.”
“Marty, remember we discussed how we cannot behave outside our highest values and we do it unconsciously?”
“Yes, I do, Ken!”
“Well, I have been noticing you have been neglecting your addiction assignments for a few weeks now. You invariably have ‘good’ reasons for it…but, it must be benefiting you in some important way to avoid completing these tasks. I’m wondering if you have noticed this and what are the benefits for you?”
Marty was quiet for several minutes staring off into some private space. Finally he turned to me, his eyes flushing, and said,
“What I have been noticing Ken is I’m much more satisfied with my life than I ever realized. I have a close family…people who love me and take care of me…and a lifestyle which I value. I do have pain management challenges and limited mobility and I’m kind of house-bound. But, it is not so bad. In fact, it is kind of OK for me!”
“I realize I now know I can do this when I’m ready! But, now is not the time!”
“Marty, it sounds like you have learned to appreciate you life as it is…given your highest values. And, you appreciate the people around you who you share that life with. It sounds perfect for you! “ I said, wondering if he had achieved the level of awareness I knew had to be there somewhere.
“Ken, I remember you saying when I realize the perfection of my life, I will experience gratitude for it, as it is…not as it should be to someone else! I’m there now! Gratitude!” he said, a tear rolling down his right cheek.
“Cool! Marty, my only question is what about that statue in Florence, what about the role of that dream in your life today? How does it fit perfectly, too?” I asked, curious as to where it locked into place in his world.
“That’s one of the best parts of this Ken! I realize I now know I can do this when I’m ready! But, now is not the time! I think it would be too disruptive to my family dynamic with my parents age and health. I don’t need to do that now! I will wait until later and in the meantime appreciate what I have right now!” he said, a soft, aware smile emerging.
“When you’re ready…if you need assistance…please let me know!”
“I will Ken, thank you!”
“Genius is eternal patience.” – Michelangelo, artist