Posted by: gaylejervis | February 1, 2011


Is it a healthy stage for the chronically ill when they look at their circumstances and say, “It is what it is?”  I emphatically believe the answer is NO!

To illustrate, when the coach of the U.S. hockey team arrived at the Turin Olympics, concerned about his travel -worn players going up against a well-rested Latvian squad, he said in a resigned tone, “We’re going to do the best that we can. It is what it is.”

This response is not the makings of an inspirational, feel good movie where the down- trodden team miraculously wins during the last few minutes of the game!!  I want to believe that I can still beat the odds of “losing” and defy the  “facts” that are stacked against me.

If we say this phrase too often believing that we are being realistic, will we too quickly resign ourselves to our present circumstances?  And how deeply could this philosophy penetrate into our psyche? Poverty?  It is what it is.  Injustice?  It is what it is.  Grief?  It is what it is.   Illness?  It is what it is.

William Safire, a reporter for New York Times, exploring the various nuances of this phrase writes,  “It is what it is also a way of expressing philosophical resignation over a disappointment, of saying that the situation just has to be put up with”.

Does our resignation over our disappointment that we are ill inspire us to live well and to be pro-active while I am chronically ill?  NO!

Don Powell, a psychologist discusses why this phrase is so popular with athletes when he says,   “I think this cliché is a newer sort of cliché. You have athletes becoming more philosophical than they used to be,”

REALLY?  A philosophy of resignation is what you want to embrace?

Powell has a slightly more positive interpretation of the phrase when he says, “It’s happened. ‘I’m going to forget about it. I’m going to move on. … There is nothing that can be done about it.’ “

Well, obviously those of us who are chronically ill can’t “move on”!  But do we really want to accept there’s nothing that can be done about it?

I am not a naïve optimist who does not know that there are some things that cannot change – perhaps even my illness!  However, I am not powerless as long as I can change my attitude and it is not an attitude that comes from “There’s nothing that can be done about it.”

This new “mantra” has some similarities to the Serenity Prayer that says, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

This prayer obviously acknowledges that there are some things we cannot control.  However, it is not a disappointed resignation when we are surrendering these concerns by praying to the God of Wisdom, the source of serenity! And sadly the popular phrase doesn’t include this option of having “courage to change the things I can”.  The quick negative resignation is the only response!

Interestingly, this expression is heard so often that even the Art Gallery of Canada will be having an exhibition this spring with this catchphrase as its thematic title.  Their art exhibition was inspired by Canadian artist Ron Terada’s text piece :  IT Is What It Is     It Was What It Was

Well, at least part of that text piece is accurate.  One thing I don’t dispute is that I cannot change the past:  It Was What IT Was.  However, unless the evidence is overflowing in all directions that it is time to stop believing that change can occur, I do not choose resignation but  hope in the present.  After all, I serve the God of the Impossible!



  1. Well done, Gayle. I so admire your Spirit. Even as you suffer, your faith continues to grow, This is a message for all of us.

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