In my guest post at Karen Maezen Miller’s site, I wrote about the expression it is what it is. I’ve always found the saying annoying, honestly, an oft-repeated hymn to trite capitulation. And then, as seems to happen a lot, I realized the folly of my ways. In a single flash of light, the startle of shook foil in my eyes, I realized the deep wisdom in the phrase. Yes. A lot of the time it would behoove us – me – to recognize what simply is. To accept the fact of what is rather than continuing to chafe against it in some misguided attempt to change it.
I wonder how many oxbow lakes I’ve carved into my soul with my relentless efforts to change the immutable rock of what is, wearing it down, perhaps, infinitessimally, but at what cost?
It isn’t clear to me, still, where the line is between wise acceptance and premature accedance. Surely there are some cases where work is required, merited, even. And yet there are others where the only path is to say, head nodding, a kind of radiant resignation on our faces, yes, it is what it is. The radiance comes from the true and whole-hearted embrace of our lives as they are; it is something I rarely exhibit myself and that I am consistently drawn to in others.
The thing I’ve been thinking about recently – that it is what it is makes me think of – is whether we suffer more because of the things that are fixed and invariable in our lives or because of the things we can change. Different kinds of pain result from each, certainly. There is the frustration and head-banging pain of facing the mute, unalterable truths of reality. And then there is the agony of wondering about choices we make (and made), the haunting way that taking one path shuts off another, the echoing impact of our decisions on other people and on the rest of our lives.
I think, if pressed, there is more suffering from the things we can change, but I still know both kinds of suffering intimately in my own life. I’m curious about what others think about this.