Compassion Emotions Forgiveness Friendship Happiness Love Parenting Purpose Relationships Uncategorized

To love and be loved – the point of it all

Central Park, Burnaby by Davidicus Wong
Central Park, Burnaby by Davidicus Wong

June 18th is my mother’s birthday. When I think of her, I remember her love. My parents put a lot of thought into our names. Mom told me the meaning of my name was beloved as David was loved by God.

Love is central to our lives. It is the purpose, passion and meaning of life. To love and be loved is the point of it all.

Yet love, so important and central to our lives, is a complex experience and a confusing word. We mean different things and misunderstand each other when we say, “I love you.”

Our personal journeys and growth in love may begin with attraction emotional and physical but it must grow beyond this in order to last. It is warmth and affection, compassion and care. Many reserve their love for one soul mate. For others, love is expressed as compassion to many.

I see love as a potential spiritual experience – to see and be seen as we really are – beyond what we each appear to be. To love is to recognize the divine in another person, and with that recognition, dedication, compassion and caring flow naturally. To be loved this way is like coming home, finding your authentic self and discovering that you are not alone.

Love takes us deeper into the self yet goes beyond self. It penetrates to the depths of the soul. We love the unique expression of the divine in the other, the other is no longer separate from us, and once that connection between you is experienced there can be no separation.

Life is all about relationships, and love is the point of it all. Life is imperfect, we are all flawed, life is unpredictable, and we all make mistakes. We waste our time and energy, we stray from our paths, and we harm each other. Yet love makes it worthwhile and allows us to forgive others and ourselves.

At the end of our lives, relationships matter most, and what lasts is love. All I have left from my mother is love but that love would just be a memory if I didn’t continue to share that love – to express it in thoughts, words and actions, to do more than is required, to do what I am moved to do.

The greatest potential in our lives lies in our capacity for love – to love and to accept it. What holds us back?

We fear rejection, exposure and the vulnerability of expressing our deepest feelings. We fear potential loss. Having opened up and sharing joy, will we lose it again? Can we save ourselves from future misery by keeping the door closed? By holding our cards close to our heart and never showing our hand, will we win or will the loss of not fully loving or accepting love make us all losers in the end? With the deeper love is the grief greater – or do we die a thousand smaller deaths, a little at a time with love unrealized?

We can express our love in many ways. In daily acts of caring, parents prepare their children for school, make their breakfasts and pack their lunches. We express love and appreciation with kind words, thank yous and doing our share to make living together more pleasant, picking up after ourselves and one another.

We express love by showing concern. To ask and listen when someone needs help or comfort

When I recently attended a conference, my 10-year-old daughter sent me her picture by email with a message that she missed me. She packed a teddy bear in my bag. When I tuck her in at bedtime, I kiss her on the cheek and say, “I love you,” and she answers, “I love you.”

My teenaged sons are now more reserved. I listen for the positive inflection in a grunt, and I take their share of the housework – clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher and helping with laundry and lawn – as their expressions of love.

Our best friends can love us the best. We can have many kinds of friends, but it is in our deepest, longest friendships that we experience great love. It is expressed in empathy, being on your side but telling you the truth when you need to hear it, always ready to drop everything to help, always offering unconditional positive regard with our aging bodies and changing circumstances. One of my best friends, not knowing if he was going to make it through major surgery the next day, called me to say, “I love you, man.” We cannot open ourselves in this way to many people, but just one great friend can make life more livable.

Love gives meaning, purpose and passion to our lives. In our minds, we organize our lives with an evolving story. Love is the point of our stories.

At the end of life when you ask yourself, “Have I loved enough?”, what will be your answer. We ought to ask ourselves this question often throughout our lives so that we can do what we should while we can.

My childhood friend, Stan once asked me, “If you knew tomorrow you weren’t going to see someone ever again, what would you say and do today?”

So what are you going to do today?

Written June 14th, 2009

Compassion Coping with Loss Emotions Love Parenting patient-doctor relationship Positive Potential Purpose Relationships Uncategorized

Love: the misunderstood emotion

When my daughter was eight, we would sing along to Beatles CDs as we drove to her Saturday morning dance classes.

“Why are they always singing about love?” she once asked.

“Everything’s about love,” I answered.

I’ve written of the fulfillment that comes from walking your own path and discovering your positive potential in life. Yet achievement no matter how glorious is ultimately incomplete without the essential ingredient of human life – love.

In Eden Ahbez’s song, “Nature Boy”, Nat King Cole sang, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Love may be the universal language, but it is also one of the most misunderstood words. In intimate moments, when one person says, “I love you” and the other responds, “I love you too”, there’s a good chance they don’t mean quite the same thing.

When people think of love they may mean infatuation, physical attraction, lust, or a desire to possess and control another. They may mean feelings of excitement, euphoria and irrationality; your heart in love can simulate your brain on drugs.

So many irrational and criminal acts have been committed in the name of love that we could consider banning this emotion all together, but that would be like dumping on religion as a major source of human conflict. We may also be misunderstanding love. This was not the love that Nat was singing about.

In my family practice, I have seen people fall in and out of love. Once happy couples can change their hearts and minds about each other. Usually, one partner suddenly sees the other in a different light and no longer liking what is seen. Everything the other says and does is shaded in a negative light and the partner falls out of love. One partner is ready for a new life; the other is dumbfounded and heartbroken.

I have seen other couples with long and happy relationships. They share mutual positive regard, respect and caring. There is nothing they cannot forgive.

I have seen mothers still loving their not so perfect sons to the consternation of stepfathers. I have seen parents remain devoted to their defiant, angry teenagers, and I have seen adult children devotedly caring for their aging, dependent parents who may no longer recognize or appreciate them.

The love that makes life fulfilling, connects us to others and renders meaning to our days is abiding and unconditional. It is as much spiritual as emotional. It requires the uncensored affection of a child and the patient maturity of an elder.

Unconditional, it accepts others as they are – not as they should be. It is not dependent on youth, good looks, good behaviour, success or wealth. As in the parable of the Prodigal Son, it is the father’s love of the wayward son – always present at home and waiting.

As a physician, I care for my patients unconditionally. They may make mistakes, not do as they’re told, fall off the wagon and do things they are ashamed of, yet I don’t judge and they are welcomed back. I remain at their service, ready to listen and to help.

I am blessed with some great friends. We have a long history of loving and accepting each other just as we are, with the changes our lives bring us, and in spite of our bad habits. In fact, it is our imperfections that make us human and lovable, and we continue to grow together.

What are the essential features of real love? It is unconditional (like a parent’s love for an infant), respectful, and demonstrated in what we do and how we do it. Appreciation is at the core of this love – a recognition of the other’s uniqueness, of strengths as well as needs.

To feel this love is to recognize the beauty in another person, to be inspired to be and do your best, to see beyond your own concerns, and to see the world as a better, brighter place with that person in it. 

To be loved in this way is to feel recognized and understood, to feel appreciated for who you are and just as you are, and to feel at home wherever you may be in the world.

The greatest tragedy is not that we don’t achieve all our goals in life. It is the sad fact that we live and die not knowing how much we were loved.

My model for real love was of course my mother. She devoted her life so much to others I worried that she would become exhausted. Yet love is an inexhaustible resource. The more we give the more we have to give. It is also contagious.

When I tuck my daughter into bed, I remind her that our lives are all about love, and that the love that grandma gave to us and others, we must share with others – through thoughtfulness, gentle words, and kind actions great and small.


Originally written by Davidicus Wong on September 21st, 2008

patient-doctor relationship Positive Change Positive Potential Procrastination Purpose Relationships Your Calling Your Goals

If your days were numbered . . .

Over my medical career, I have seen many colleagues leave practice. A few have left the country for new opportunities. Many have narrowed their practice to their areas of special interest, such as maternity, hospitalist or cosmetic medicine.

Many have retired, and some have died.

Over a life of practice, a doctor may treat many thousands of patients, sharing the intimate details of their individual lives, spending many hours considering their circumstances and helping them achieve the best possible outcomes.

At some point, every doctor wonders if they would be missed when they are gone. My more jaded colleagues have told me that the first thing a patient asks after their doctor dies is, “Who will look after me?”

I hope that a few of my patients will remember the extra time that I gave them when they needed to talk, when what I said resonated with them or what I did had a lasting positive impact on their lives.

I wonder how many patients realize that I have treated every one of them with the same care I would want for my own family.

I recall colleagues whose contributions to our hospital, community and organizations were above and beyond the clinical work of the average physician. They contributed many unpaid hours on volunteer committees and providing services unpaid by the Medical Services Plan.

When these extraordinary colleagues left their positions, rarely were they thanked by the physicians who had benefited from their work. Others carried on as if nothing changed. Noses to the grindstone, physicians fail dismally at thanking and appreciating their colleagues.

But we don’t do what we do in order to be rewarded or thanked. We answer our calling because it is what we must do. An artist must create, a musician play and an athlete achieve his personal best.

We do what we do because it is the perfect synthesis of our values, our talents, our passions and the needs of our patients. Some of us give more of ourselves to our community because we recognize that we are just a part of a greater whole that has a potential and a future beyond our individual and limited lives.

If your days were numbered – you are at the end of your career or have a life-limiting condition, what would you do differently? How would you like to be remembered? By whom would you like to be remembered?

Would you spend more time on the computer? Send even more texts? Work overtime? Complain about traffic, the weather or inflation? Spend more time on the couch watching reality TV?

In our daily lives without the end in sight, we each have a running list of things to do, many of them mundane. If your days were numbered, would you toss out that old list and create a list of that which matters most? Would you say what needs to be said to those who matter most?

The truth is our days are numbered. We each have a sexually-transmitted terminal condition; it’s called life. None of us knows how much time we have left.

So what is on your list?

blank sand beach