There is a colleague of mine who, at the end of lengthy animated discussions (some people would refer to it as "griping") often brushes the top of his jacket and in a dispassionate declaration, announces that "it is what it is". And we all usually nod and stand there for a heartbeat and then break out of our huddle and get onto the next task at hand.
"It is what it is" is an expression that I hear often. It's tossed about in conversations with ease because of its adaptability. At its most basic, it's tautology - the same thing said twice using different words, like "frozen ice" or "close proximity". But the expression can convey many things, depending on how it's used. It can be used as a punctuated "amen", or a emotionless observation, or left as an almost philosophical open ending.
I used to bristle when I heard this statement. It felt like a defeatist comment, a conversation ending phrase. I always pictured a dowdy aunt, taking a sip of tea, leaning and forward and announcing that all men only want one thing. As if it were law. I mean, what's the perfect retort to "it is what it is"?
Now look, if I check outside and see it's pouring rain, I can shrug my shoulders for a moment, then make the decision to get an umbrella. Sure, I can't control what the weather does (or people, for that matter), but I can control my reactions or responses. Same as if I'm complaining about how my whites aren't coming out sparkling white like the commercial says they should, or that my boss is a bit of a jerk. I can accept those things, and move on and make different choices in how I proceed.
And that's really what it's all about - acceptance. It may be a twee phrase and all, but "it is what it is" often anchors me in the principle of acceptance. Because really, what is in that moment is. There is nothing else but that moment. As Eckhart Tolle says, there is no conflict in The Now. It's only that moment. No past, no future. Just here at this moment. Like the rain situation I described, one can say that yes, it is raining right now. It just is. No judgement. You see, the farmer may see the rain as an ally, the parade organizer may see it as a catastrophe. It's all about perspective and attachment to putting a label on it.
I often think about this kind of thing, especially when I am struggling with inner turmoil. Just the other day, in the spirit of acceptance, I did what I do whenever I'm in a situation that disagrees with me, or churns me up, and that is I act as if I wanted that moment to happen. Strange, I know, but stay with me. When I act as if, it changes my whole experience of what is going on. It lands me at the big clown shoes of acceptance. I have no choice. I mean, I supposedly asked for this, so who am I to complain? It's like ordering a banquet burger then getting upset when they hand it to you, dripping with bacon goodness. I learn to accept the situation as it is, and to garner all the positives from it. It puts me on the branch line away from the line of victimhood and self-pity and onto the rails of empowerment.
So if my boss really is a big jerk (my perspective, by the way), then instead of just tossing my hands in the air and giving up, I look at it as if I were meant to have that kind of boss, and then I ask myself - what do I do? Well, I still do the best I can. I don't take things personally or have my day ruined every time I go to work. I look for ways to find value in my work. I accept the situation and move on. (As an aside, accepting things is different from condoning or agreeing with them. I can accept something but still find it very disturbing or painful.)
I would be lying if I said I practiced acceptance all the time. I get caught up in my ego and my judgements and I can play the self-pity card quickly. But the more I catch myself getting caught up in all that, and turn it around as fast as I can, the better off I am. It's something I need to practice, but the more I do it the better I get at it. Another tool in Ye Olde Tool Belte, I suppose.
Now, frankly, I don't know how to end this post, so you can ignore this or you can just accept it, because in the end, it is- well you know what I'm going to say.