I have never been a lover of clichés and expressions, which every writer knows to use sparingly or not at all. Yet, there’s one born every minute (as they say), and I cringe anew every time I hear the newest saying. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff was a particularly wordy one from a while back. Then, there are the old, dependables (some of which are passé): Don’t go there … at the end of the day … back in the day … it’s all good … my bad … talk to the hand … and my personal favorite, whatever.
The one I hear most often lately, whenever some nasty event is gong on in my life, is it is what it is. This is meant to convey wisdom, I suppose. It’s a fact. It’s happening. There’s nothing you can do about it. I love the definition I found online in The Urban Dictionary: “This incredibly versatile phrase can be literally translated as "f___ it." Ah, yes.
When I complain or lament about some aspect of my life to someone, and he (it’s usually a he) responds with it is what it is, there is simply no comeback. It’s a showstopper. I can’t argue, no it isn’t! Or it’s not fair. I would sound like a three-year-old.
I’ve given far too much thought to this stupid phrase, which will go its way like all such pieces of pseudo wisdom eventually do. But like so many real clichés, as opposed to stupid expressions, it is what it is actually does mean something: here's this thing that’s happening. It’s a single event in a single moment.
So, what are my options? Well, I can rail and scream about it, I can ignore it, or I can step back and observe it dispassionately. That’s hard to do when I'm in the middle of a mess, but it’s possible with practice. It even has a name: mindfulness.
I’ve probably read a dozen books on mindfulness, but basically it means paying attention, on purpose—not doing anything—just observing. Then, the most amazing thing happens: whatever I am observing changes in some way. It is one thing for a moment; then, it’s something else. If it is what it is means this is what’s happening right now, if I wait a while, something else will be happening. Nothing stays exactly the way for very long. Everything is constantly changing. Wait a minute, and what is will become what was.
When life is a mess, this is a very comforting thought.