Monday, April 27, 2009

It Is What It Is


The saying "It is what it is" has me on burn out. It has become the phrase panacea for every situation and condition. I believe it has taken the place of "Whatever" for the most over-used response these days.

Don't get me wrong. I agree with the sentiment. I just want a new version...an original version, not a throwaway.

So what exactly is meant by this refrain? Is the glass half empty, i.e., you can't change it so don't even try. Half full? You can change it but not right now. Is the inevitable, inevitable? Carpe diem? Just do it? What?

Is this a trite piece of wisdom that requires no introspection, no understanding. Or does it just require acceptance?

22 comments:

Minka said...

I think it's the last one, but who am I to say - it's not even my language. But we have something similar in ours as well and it's about acceptance. Possibly about making the best of it or just going on, but acceptance first.

Lover of Life said...

I always think of it as, that's the way it is right now. But I always view things as just something to accept for the moment. Is it an American trait - that I just can't accept things and leave them alone? I always think I can change things - just give me a chance to figure it out.

We do need a new saying. You are so talented when it comes to writing - can't you find us one? Sorry I'm not feeling very creative right this min.

ellen abbott said...

'You can make of it what you will' is the rest of that. It's what instantly popped into my head. Sort of a recognition of something's existence beyond your capacity to effect. So then it moves to what are you going to do with it. How are you going to choose to react?

Debbie V. said...

I get a sense of "oh well" when I hear this phrase. Kind of depressing and pointless.
Silence can be more rewarding than words at times.

Andrea said...

My coworker uses that phrase at least a dozen times each day. I would be find if I never heard it again. It's that sense of "oh well, you can't do a damn thing about it so you might as well just accept it." I guess I hate the phrase because that attitude is so ineffective.

California Girl said...

Minka: Oh it definitely requires acceptance. I'm just going to be bitchy about it!

LOL: Thank you but I'm not that creative! I think you are right, it's an American twist on eastern wisdom.

EA: "beyond your capacity to effect" and what are we going to make of it?

Debbie V: Agreed.

Andrea: hahahhaa! you crack me up! my sentiments.

Indy Grrrl said...

I couldn't agree more. I have pondered this quote many times, and I always come up with the idea that it means nothing. It's quite empty.

Ruth said...

It depends who's saying it. It can be a very annoying phrase out of certain people's mouths. Like when they want me to accept what they messed up.

Saying "what is, is" seems to me a little more zen.

California Girl said...

Indy Grrrl: it has reached the point of empty, yes.

Ruth: Yes! Why should I accept their screw up or as Baino would say, "fuck up"?

Now, "What is, is"...me like.

Susan said...

Ugh, I must admit, I have been guilty of this phrase in the past, but I made myself stop saying it after realizing how it sounded to other people. I suppose the reason I used it was because it was so appropos to my life. I've felt very powerless to affect what happens to my loved ones and I suppose it is a sign of depression to feel you must say that phrase.

Judy said...

I have only heard this saying a few times; only when I made the mistake of turning my radio dial to Talk Radio and there were those words coming out of Rush Limbaugh’s mouth. My interpretation of what he meant was “the Democrats won this one, we are screwed for now!” :)

DawnTreader said...

I could almost copy Minka's answer. It's hard to quite grasp all the connotations of an overused phrase in a foreign country and/or language; but the nearest equivalent in my own language is also used to express acceptance of a fact you cannot really do much about. Often it is a phrase used when someone wants to put an end to a discussion about whatever-it-is, for example if you feel the discussion is just going round in circles.

We have another expression here, though, which is close to it in meaning but that I *really* hate. I don't know how to best translate it but it would be something like: "(You can't change it so...) you just have to like it." That is too much for me. I may have to accept that "it is what it is", or even try to "make the best of the situation". But nobody should tell me I have to "like" it!

Meri Arnett-Kremian said...

Fascinating. Maybe "it is what it is" is a regional disease or maybe I just have more linguistically talented friends, because I don't think I've heard that innocuous phrase more than once in the past year. (I've only been exposed to Rush once, in a place of business, and after explaining to them why I was taking my business elsewhere, I walked out.) Perhaps the phrase is apropos in some situations that call for realistic expectations, but it certainly leaves no room for the transformative power of grace, does it? (ps. . . found you from Reya's The Gold Puppy. Loved the name of your blog.)

Cole said...

"For after all, the best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."
- Henry Wadworth Longfellow -

Baino said...

Honestly, I've never used that phrase. I think it highlights an inherent laziness. As if those who speak it just can't be arsed making a move to change things. One of those silly 'fillers' that ads absolutley nothing but an inherent carelessness to the conversation. Interesting postulation for 7am down under! *brain hurts*

eizzy.k said...

it is what it is!!
LoL

Tanna said...

I love the Longfellow quote! Acceptance is a good thing... Resignation... not so much. Or, as Baino said, laziness.

... the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Wisdom does require introspection.

California Girl said...

Lots of comments on this. I thought it might provoke a few comments but sounds like alot of you find this throwaway phrase irritating too. No attempt to minimalize soothing responses or thoughts, however trite. Just a plea to find something a bit more considered to say when one does respond.

Linda Pendleton said...

Hmm, I have found myself using that phrase of late but for me it is about acknowledgement and the understanding that some things cannot be changed. We can only change our perception of things that cannot be changed and to worry or deny doesn't work. So I don't find the phrase negative at all.

And it brings to mind the Serenity Prayer...courage, and wisdom.

California Girl said...

I think I went straight to your blog after you wrote this to let you know I appreciate your thoughts. You have a very nice blog!

ArtSparker said...

I like the Hebrew "Gamzeh le Tovah", "This too is for the good", which has some muscularity about it, a determination to meet with existence rather than blind optimism or indifference.

California Girl said...

AS: I like this too and I'm not familiar with it. It has substance and does not sound like a throwaway.

Christina

Christina
by Cole Scott