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It is what it is. I am what I am. Accepting yourself and your world.

I am what I am
I am what I am

Over the past few years, I’ve heard many of my patients say, “It is what it is.” At first, only those over 30 would repeat this phrase, but more recently, younger adults have picked it up.

For most, it is not an expression of resignation and surrender. Rather, it is an acceptance of reality – the facts of the present, current circumstances or a phase of life.

“It is what it is.” reminds me of a much older quote, “I am what I am.”

It was first attributed to God – before He was labeled and gender-fied by us – in Exodus. It is a part of the collective unconscious of those who grew up in the 20th century with some thanks to Popeye (the sailor man) though comic artists would write it as “I yam what I yam.”

Although what Popeye meant is subject to philosophical debate. I recognize in it grounded self-acceptance and authenticity.

We can consume our attention and energy on things we cannot change – where we came from, bad luck, the past and personal characteristics that are beyond our control – age, ethnicity, body type and height. We can obsess with anger, bitterness and resentment, but this accomplishes nothing good.

A necessary step towards personal peace is acceptance of the things we cannot change.

The flip side of this is acceptance with appreciation – being thankful for the good that we have received and the positive aspects of the present moment. It comes with the recognition that we live in a changing world and we ourselves are changing. Some call it aging, others growth.

Acceptance of others – particularly those with whom we live and work – is a key to healthy relationships and personal happiness. In my children – in whom my wife and I have worked to instill the values we share, we must accept their unique personalities. Each of us has our unique challenges and strengths. Each of us is fallible and human.

Compassion allows us to accept and forgive others – and ourselves – for being imperfect and making mistakes. Appreciation allows us to recognize the good – and love enables us to see the beautiful – in one another.

The acceptance of the imperfection in our selves and our world is the starting point of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer that has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It points to the next step, the acceptance of our own responsibility to change for the better that which we can. Hidden in the reality of the present is your potential. Recognize this and be empowered.

You may not like your body type but you can improve your level of fitness. You may have high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, but you can make positive changes to take control of your health. You may hate your job, but it can be the steppingstone to more meaningful work. You may not be able to change the people in your life, but you can improve your relationships.

Reality might bite. The world is constantly changing, and so are we. Let’s empower ourselves to be agents of positive change.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician at the PrimeCare Medical Centre.

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Channel your inner mom: 4 ways to be a better mom . . . to yourself

When I come home to my wife at the end of the day, I know better than to ask, “What did you do today?”

On the days she doesn’t work, she accomplishes a myriad of tasks that magically make the lives of everyone in our family run smoothly. Bills are paid, appointments made and events planned. No one is left waiting for a ride to school, music lessons or practice. No one is hungry.

Motherly magic is largely invisible. We don’t appreciate it until it’s gone. The days when my wife is out of town are long days indeed.

Good parents teach their children the essentials, and they teach best by behaviour rather than words. We internalize – for good or ill – the lessons of our parents.

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This season has been a difficult one for my sister and me over the past 10 years.

I write and practice medicine in my hometown of Burnaby because of my mom. A big reason why I chose work here was to ensure that my parents got the best of care when they eventually grew old.

My personal golden rule of medicine is to treat every patient as I would want a family member treated. I therefore would do the same level of investigation, prescribe the same treatments and refer to the same consultants as I would want for my own parents.

I expected to look after both of them – if they needed me to – in their golden years. When we bought our home, we chose one with a ground level bedroom and bathroom just in case they wanted to move in with us someday.

Garden, ED Pool - Davidicus Wong

Yellow was my mom’s favourite colour and Spring was a favourite season. She appreciated natural beauty and she loved to garden. On a sunny spring day at the end of April 2003, my previously active and healthy mother attended a recreational class at Confederation Centre just steps away from the public library that we both frequented throughout our lives and the pool where I continue to swim.

Without any warning, she collapsed, apparently from a cardiac arrest, and despite prompt and professional attention from centre staff, lifeguards and paramedics, she could not be resuscitated.

I was out of town with my wife and young children, and I remember the shock and disbelief when my sister called to tell me that our mother was dead.

Flower Bed at Bonsor - Davidicus Wong

My mother modeled unconditional love. She appreciated and expected the best in us but forgave us for being imperfect and making mistakes. She lived a life of selflessness, generosity and compassion. Her circle of concern seemed to expand without boundaries.

She inspired us to give the best of ourselves. This was not to please her because her love was unconditional. When someone appreciates the best in you, you come to see it yourself.

I imagine how different life would have been had my mother been alive for the past 10 years. She would have loved spending time with my children. She would have been there for all their sports, recitals, school concerts and graduations.

She adored them as little children, and she would have adored them as they grew. We would have enjoyed her great meals and all the holidays that she would make special, and every one of my birthdays would have continued to be a celebration.

But I realize that my mother has been with me all along. Though she has not been here to teach my children, I have tried to pass her lessons on to them. I can only give forward what she has given to me.

I often remind my patients to be good moms to themselves.

I ask them to channel their inner mom. We all have one deep down inside – just like the inner six pack. Some have to take a big breath in and dig deeper.

Most of us tend to be hard on ourselves – critical, judgmental and unforgiving. We could all use a little more compassion for others and ourselves. Many of us don’t give ourselves the care we need.

Here are four ways to be a better mom to yourself – direct orders from your inner mom.

Go to bed. Make sure you get enough rest. You’ll perform better at school and work in the morning, and you won’t get run down and sick.

Go out and play. Get some physical activity every day. It’s essential for your emotional and physical wellbeing.

Eat your vegetables. Don’t skip meals and don’t ruin your appetite with junk food. Though not everyone can eat an early breakfast, we all need regular snacks and meals to get through the day.

You can do better. Your inner mom may not be talking about your partner or spouse. See the best in yourself and be inspired to do your best. Move towards your positive potential.

Central Park Duck Pond - Davidicus Wong