“I’ve learned to value failed conversations, missed connections, confusions. What remains is what’s unsaid, what’s underneath. Understanding on another level of being.” – Anna Kamienska
It is what it is. This statement could simply define our collective malaise. Lately, I have been catching this phrase uttered repeatedly. Another pandemic lockdown: it is what it is. A breakup: it is what it is. A missed deadline: it is what it is. No sex: it is what it is. Lost keys: it is what it is. The 3-G rule at work: it is what it is. New Corona rules and regulations: it is what it f***ing is.
Sometimes there is an optimism to these words. It is what it is, and I can find a way to tolerate the circumstances and work with what it is. Then there is a shrug of resignation, it is what it is and there is nothing I can do about it, nothing to work with. Both lenses hold a truth, but where the former offers acceptance, the latter brings an abandonment of hope.
Perhaps, I abandon hope as a way to protect myself. When things are difficult, uncertain, and weird, my responses get hard, rigid, and defensive. So, if it is what it is, how do I “dance” with what is?
I begin to find something to value in the circumstance, in this mess, I can sometimes find something miraculous. If I cannot find something to value, maybe I am stuck in some weird mindset. Maybe I am trying to change things, trying to dissect things, trying to win at things. But in the trying, I often muddy the water that is best cleared by leaving things alone.
To me, it becomes a dance between taking responsibility for what I can control and find value within it, and leaving alone what I cannot. That is perhaps the difficulty. I keep splashing about because I don’t want to lose something, be it an expectation, be it an opportunity, be it hope. But finding a way to be okay with whatever it is becomes about accepting loss.
Are you still with me? I hope you are.
One of my favourite poems is One Art by Elizabeth Bishop, a prompt to ‘lose something every day.’ This is a practice because I don’t want to lose things. I want to hold on tight. I don’t want to accept it is what it is, because then I lose what it is not. But as Bishop opens the poem, ‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.’
“And so it goes….” – Kurt Vonnegut
Sometimes how it goes feels like a deluge of loss. Lost keys, lost love, lost experiences. But perhaps that deluge is leading us to something and helping to soften us into the dance. As Anne Lamott wrote, “When a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born—and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.”
Sometimes, this distraction allows me to step back and see what THIS really is. To uncover what I might have been long ignoring, to extract the reality from a fantasy, to hold the good bits and the not so good bits. Sometimes, this distraction is teaching me to hold things lightly. To learn a bit, to laugh a bit, to let it go. Sometimes, this distraction is showing me what I really need.
Sometimes, this distraction is teaching me to brace uncertainty with love, rather than resistance. Then I tell myself that it all may look like a wreck, but I go at it like it is a new opportunity, a new challenge. And I bring love to it all. Any disaster I can survive is an improvement in my character, my stature, and my life.
“Every storm runs out of rain” – Maya Angelou
I don’t know when I will meet another storm. That is the basic truth of life. It is unfair and it doesn’t make sense. But if I can bring love to the moment, maybe in time I won’t mind so much, or at least find myself caring about certain issues less. I just don’t mind that much anymore what happens and this way what is can be what it is. From my side, there is no resistance (doesn’t get me anywhere anyway), aversion, gasping or chasing around in a spinning wheel. This does not mean I become passive. It simply is what it is, this is what I need, I don’t mind what happens are all forms of acceptance that allows me to greet my wants, goals and desires and work toward them, without worrying about how something will turn out.
So, to sum this all up. You worry and resist, you grasp, but it will be what it will be whether you worry, resist or grasp. You can sometimes lower your expectations to ensure you aren’t hurt by whatever it will be, but you can still encounter hurt. It is what it is. Whether I lose something, whether someone is disappointed in us, whether something turns out differently from how I expected. All I can do is keep going with what is, finding the love in it, accepting and soften. So my sharp edges don’t wind up being death by a thousand cuts but I can mould to what is, instead. After all, it is what it is, and it is also this. The surprise phone call from a friend, this memory, this person who loves you, your kid(s) who love(s) you, this smile, this idea. Just look around at everything beautiful in your day. Take it all with you – what it is, what it is not, what you have lost, what you have gained, what you are waiting for, what has arrived. And then just dance with it all.