I've Got Issues...And Peace


Boulder, Colorado,
October 22
Family, marital, and individual psychotherapist. Mother to four who no longer need my services but still enjoy my love as I do theirs. I specialize in stepfamily dynamics and difficult transitions. I try to write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at myself. Art shown: "Four Pots" by Lindsey Leavell


Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 22, 2010 11:35AM

Enough Already With, "It Is What It Is"!

Rate: 76 Flag
 I don’t think Howard Beale would be too fond of the expression:
“It is what it is.”

“It is what it is.”

Am I the only one that is noticing and is annoyed by this current platitude that is being tossed around like manure to an unseen crop?

The first time I heard it, it came from the lips of a grocery store clerk at Whole Paycheck who said it when we were commenting on yet another winter storm that had slammed Boulder dumping yet more of the white stuff everywhere.

I was impressed when I first heard this phrase.  It felt like a relief, like the release of a long held-in breath.  Living in Boulder, I’m used to Buddhist expressions and I liked this phrase, “It is what it is.”  I liked the truth inherent in it.  How often is our suffering caused by our stories rather than our reality? 

In fact, I’m learning later in life that Reality always wins and there is wisdom in surrendering to this.  Yet, how frequently do others and I insist on getting in a power struggle with Reality?  We have our stories dammit and we want our stories, our fantasies, and our illusions to be the actuality in our lives, certainly not Reality.

I was working with a couple a while ago who were finding out the hard way that creating a “blended family” was a story and not a reality.  One of their children wasn’t buying into it and part of the way they were able to find relief was not to give up on the child, but to give up on the fantasy of having a Brady Bunch family.  Their suffering was decreased when they accepted, “it is what it is”. 

But to truly live that way takes much time, discipline, acceptance and letting go.  And that is no easy task.  Not for us humans who seem to have these enormous egos and stories about the way we think things ought to be and we will hold on to these illusions with the death grip if need be.

But I’ve been noticing a big time down side to “It is what it is”.  I’m finding people are now using it to wiggle out of owning their blame in sticky situations, mistakes made or promises not kept.  I'm finding that it is an excuse for indifference, and dare I say, laziness.

I’ve heard this phrase in couple’s counseling when one of the spouses has been a very very naughty spouse, and as they are trying to rebuild the trust in the relationship, the offending spouse will say, “It is what it is.” Oh, there’s nothing Buddhist about that.  That’s classic dismissiveness disguised as a wise statement.  And to that, I want to say to them (and often do), “That’s bullshit.”

I’m around a lot of young people in their 20’s and this expression is being tossed around like a bright colored ball during a college football game.  And I’m finding that it really doesn’t mean that the people using this expression have found deep inner peace and acceptance.  It doesn’t mean they’ve done the hard and unnatural work to surrender to those things we have no control over.

When they say it, what it really means is, “Whateuuuuuuuuuuver.  Who cares?  I don’t want to be bothered with thinking about it.”

I ask them, “Are you worried about your futures?   Do you worry about the state of the economy, a diseased health care system, global warming, war, and an educational system gone to the dogs or the threat of terrorism?"

Their reply, “It is what it is.”  This is when I want to jump up, grab them by their shoulders and maybe even give them a quick slap in the face.  “WAKE UP!  Do something!  Get involved!  Stop with the platitudes and get active!”

Those of us who have lived long enough know that actions speak louder than words.  Now there’s a platitude I can sink my teeth into.

I’m so glad that those who protested the Vietnam War, fought for women’s rights and advocated for the poor didn’t spend their days saying, “It is what it is.”

There is a time and a season to say, “It is what it is.”  But, especially now, we must acknowledge the sense of urgency that surrounds us.  There's also a time and a season to say, “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!”

And that, in my humble opinion, takes a lot more courage, depth of commitment and action than throwing up one’s hands and submitting to that which should never be submitted to.

It is what it is?  Whateuuuuuuuuuuuuver.


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Bravo to you.
This appears to be a Bronco fan's subliminal attempt to diss Bill Belichick, who probably uses the phrase more than anyone else except Bill Parcells.

Shorter MTK: Enough is enough. Rated.
Hark, hark,
Right on the mark--
Call it a spasm
Of pleonasm.
Thank you SO much. I'll tell you who uses this phrase in MY life. A 17 year old criminal, drug dealer, back in jail for the umpteenth time. This is his favorite phrase. And his mother loves this phrase so much she wears it on a bracelet. She is 58 living with her mother.

I banned anybody using it around me a year ago. I called it insidious, stupid and yes, mostly losers use it. It really means: I am putting absolutely no effort into anything cuz it is what it is.
Great take on this Mary. I loved how you came at it from both sides. I never really thought of the "Buddhist" side of the term, but then, I don't live in Boulder, and I have teenagers!
My mother always used to sing to us, "Que Sera Sera" (whatever will be will be, Doris Day). I never liked hearing this song. It made me feel quite powerless, which was something my mother (god rest her soul and I love her to pieces) was quite good at.
Thanks for this. I think that people are starting to wake up, and my hope is that this place might actually be one of the nodes where non-magical thinking can take hold and grow....and this from a practicing mystic. Go figure.
I use that phrase a lot, mostly to indicate that there is a condition or situation outside myself that I cannot change - or don't feel like can be changed at this point in time. However, I'm well aware that there is much within myself that can be changed, and believe that is where change begins anyway.

I can certainly understand your frustration, though, as folks use it as an "oh well" catchall. Grrrrrr.
I coined a phrase of my own back in the 1980's when people would inappropriately ask, "why have you created that reality for yourself ?" It was always done in defense of sitting on one's ass when the world around is going to hell in a hand basket. I called them New Age Nazis. These ideas are supposed to be guides to self awareness, not weapons against other people.

BRAVO! Rated!
What about: "shit happens"?

I saw this title in the feed and came right over to rate!!! How entirely putrid this expression has become to me. Now I 'm going to read your blog post and see what you have to say about it! ;)
A worn out phrase that clearly is used to dismiss one's actions. You hit this on the head!
Bingo! Thanks for putting your finger on what has always discomfited me, at some level, about this ubiquitous phrase. Rated.
As with anything, even platitudes have a dark side. It's having the wisdom to discern when to use them which many people lack when they pick up the latest "catch phrase."

This post is GENIUS.

Carefully, lady.

"It is what it is" is pretty close to "I am what I am". You don't want Popeye on your case.

Funny thing is, it is what it is until it isn't, then it is what it was but it isn't anymore.

I'd rather just smile and say, "YOU KILLED THE SWAN!"*

Rated. Congrats on the EP and the cover spot. You are back, Mary T. You is what you is. ;-D

*Reference to Deven's latest mom day post*
I absolutely love this post!! I have always hated this expression and have had to hold in my anger and annoyance when people say it. I never really looked into why it made me so mad but you put my thoughts into perfect words. Thank you!!
Good post. When I clicked on the thumb above, your number of ratings went from 9 to 13. I never dreamed I had such influence in these parts.

You are correct in stating that the hated expression is a valid epistomological expression of the objectivity of reality. Ayn Rand was a bit leaner in naming the first section of "Atlas Shrugged" A is A. Indeed it is, and it is what it is, not what some mystic or collectivist wants it to be in order to acquire illegitimate power over another.

You are equally perceptive in noting how the expression can be perverted to mean, "it is what it is, and I'm powerless to change it." That's the rub, and that's where the Alcoholics Anonymous credo comes into play. (You know, that thing about change, no change, and wisdom.)

Whenever I hear the expression, I respond, "Yes, and therefore?"
Mary, I must say, I could not agree more with your latest posting. I live in Boulder County, too, and it seems we are somewhat downgrading via slippage to our selfhood. It is our job to clear up differences and to use time wisely. No excuses!
Obtusely, we may figure it's time for others to cross the distances made by our ignorance to the demands of faith between people.
I like to think we are better than that. It is what it is, AND let's do something worth remembering over time so that what we're becoming isn't lazy, sloppy, or dulled to what's real.
Focussing here in the present, yours in reality--
The Poor Woman
This phrase annoys in the same way that "whatever" does. "Whatever" signifies that you don't care about the other person's opinion enough to listen to it or to them. As a teacher and parent and wife, I have had to ban "whatever" from my communications, I admit after using it on my husband and his explanation to me of why it irritated him. "It is..." deserves the same treatment.
YES, YES, YES. One of my pet peeves is "To die for." In most cases it should be "To die from." I could go on...R
Normally, I agree with pretty much everything you post Mary. But this one, I feel the opposite about. I am a type B person in a world of AA+ at this moment in my life, and honestly, if there is one thing I wish I could give other people would be a sense of 'it is what it is'. To get them to feel in their bones that going with the flow might not take them where they think they should be, but that they might be happier with where it does take them.
There are so many people I just want to hug and tell them, it's ok to be second or even third, or god forbid fourth. Really, it's ok, and you have achieved so much and have worked hard and deserve your success. Relax and enjoy it- it's not resting on your laurels, it's called living. You don't have to always fight to live, it's ok to just 'be' sometimes.
I think you and I are encountering different personality types though :D
Never really thought about it, but it does fit into the category of worn out phrases.

@Leon Freilich:

Dang it all now
and curse me lightly!
Looking up "pleonasm"
wrapped me up tightly.
Eschew obfuscation.
(Burma Shave.)
The funny thing is when I first heard "It is what it is" I thought it was brilliant. Seriously. It explained so much and nothing at all at the same time.
Now I think people are just being lazy._r (great post)
good post. this is the WRONG kind of "letting go" and "releasing attachment". I wonder at times: if this generation had been in charge? we would still have child labor and no right to strike.
I absolutely agree with your post! However, I find the recent vilification of 20 somethings to be extremely disturbing. I would really like the public to know that there IS a group of young people in this country who are actively volunteering, blogging, writing letters to congress, etc. and NOT using the term 'it is what it is.' We aren't searching for validation or recognition, it would just be nice if the media and general public quit pretending we don't exist.
Yeah, whatever, Mary.

Just kidding, of course. Brilliant as always
as I read along, I hoped to see the Serenity Prayer at the end -
" God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. "

Random or irresponsible use of "It is what it is" ignores the second & perhaps the third parts... though it's still the best way to deal with weather.
That is my favorite phrase, because so much in life is not amenable to human will, because it is our nature to do certain things, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over ....
Oh boy. Interesting perspective, I can imagine how this passive platitude would push a therapist's buttons. I agree, at first it seemed kind of buddhist, wise, but now I can imagine a character from "Idiocracy" saying it about the crops dying because they're being watered with Gatorade.
i first heard this back around 2003 when living in seattle from my then boss. as i needed my job, i couldn't reply as i would've liked, "yes, a load of bullshit".

he was also the first person from whom i heard my second least favorite phrase, "at the end of the day". at the end of the day...what? it's dark? we all go home? we stab our nimrod boss with all of our leftover sporks collected from having to eat our lunch at our desk too many times because of his complete ineptitude? perhaps i digress...
It's just a continuation of the Popeye philosophy, I am what I am. You may find some release in John Prine's "Dear Abby".
Ditto on "at the end of the day," which is used to mean "the end justifies the means" or "there's a higher power behind all this (that only I am privy to." Actually, George W. Bush of all people finished this one off by pointing out "In the future, we'll be dead."
In response to Gordon:

"Continue to drone on/do with it what you please. I have moved on to other things."

I have used this expression (appropriately, I believe) when a discussion has reached a point where there is an agreement to disagree and someone still wants to question an emotion or feeling by the other.

As far as fear of apathy from the upcoming generations, hasn't that always been a warning by the current generation?

I have no problem admitting my teenage sons (with their public educations) are much further along in their analytical skills and maturity development than I was at their age.

"IIWII" could be a coping mechanism to keep stupid crap in perspective and not get all wigged-out about silly things. My prediction is that there will be a lot less acid-reflux and ulcers from the next generation. 'Cause they'll pick their battles and reserve their passion for truly important things.
Under no circumstances do I think inchoate, undirected anger like that featured in the Network scene is appropriate. It's worse than counterproductive, and it precisely exemplifies the chaotic, emotion-driven, clueless Tea Party Movement.

Which is not the same thing as thinking angry passion is pointless, just that it should always be tempered with realism and channeled toward something specific, useful, and positive. As for "It is what it is," I've mostly heard it used where it should be--in the graceful acceptance of things we can't change.

So, although I kind of like the expression--and feel that my own more driven personality can benefit from it--I acknowledge that if I did hear it often as an expression of apathy where action is called for, I too would feel annoyed and worried.
How interesting. In Spanish we have a similar phrase emptied of meaning, for your "it is what it is": "es así" or "las cosas son así". Maybe all languages have this expressions which are calls for... inaction. I don´t like them one bit.
Excellent post, kisses,
I like to say "Shit happens for a reason" because there are no accidents. Everything has a cause. But what can I say? It is what it is.

I know what you mean, here, but I find myself feeling exactly like this about most "platitudes".

Answers like, "It's goin'" when I ask, "How's it goin'?"

For a while, I would reply, "Yes, but HOW is it goin'?" Sometimes the platitude doesn't even really address the conversation. It does get to the point of simply shutting down any meaningful talk. I look for someone to answer without one, and that's when I take notice.

Excellent. Rated. Thank you.

At this point in time, it's now, and at the end of the day, it's night.
I hear this a lot and I largely agree. The phrase is annoying. Though there are times when being able to accept circumstances and move through them is worth everything...
You see Mary, THIS is why I hate reality shows. Hear me out... America has become mentally as well as physically lazy. That's why BULLSHIT like "think outside the box" and "it is what it is" catch on and are used, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over (you getting my point yet?) and over and over and over again... Reality TV is cheap, lazy TV for network execs. Writers are out of jobs and the fat ass network execs get fatter. It's like Wall Street is to banking, the asshole part.

I'm tired of ALL unnecessary cliche's. Now, I've gotta go see a man about a horse.
Wonderful post, Mary. I love your nickname for Whole Foods. Whole Paycheck, that's the truth.

I haven't heard this platitude much, but I always get irritated when people dismiss their own responsibilities with generic remarks.

Rated and Agreed.
I found the selection of the scene from the movie, Network (1976) interesting. People seem to be good at getting angry. God knows, it happens enough in this little microcosm, OS.

Personally, I am tired of angry. Not mad at angry, just weary.

But back to exactly how bad things were back in 1975 or whenever Network was filmed. I could only get through 60 seconds of the thing. But not much different than how people describe today.

So when was this 'golden age' from which we have devolved? Or perhaps it is just our naive, innocent youth that has abandon us.

Anger doesn't tend to live in isolation. Why anger? Was someone betrayed? Was it love or belief or what is the emotion that will quell the anger?

Dig deeper. This is only the surface.
I don't really hear much of this one, so I have no visceral response. "In today's society..." on the other hand is like nails on chalkboard.
I've heard this phrase a lot lately, too, and feel the same way you do. There are times when it's appropriate; there are times when it's a cop-out (showing my age here). It doesn't grate on me quite as much as "Whatever," which has to be the most annoying word on the planet--I think because it's dismissive. My other catchphrase peeve at the moment: "It's all good." Many things are good. Some things aren't. Rated.
People overuse and abuse this phrase just like they abuse zanax and vicodin to forget their problems.
Yay! Several years ago, I commented on the blog of someone I respect a great deal. I said, "It's all good." It was flippant really, a virtual throwing my hands up. He took the time to write me and right me....he said, "It's not all good." And that he fully expected me to make decisions about what's good and what's not. Well!! Expectations? Decisions? He is older and wiser than I...I knew that then, and I am grateful for his wake up call. Great post, Mary. xox
I've always hated this phrase and I am more Buddhist than anything else even though to be most accurate I'm a synergistic blend of many spiritual traditions.

For me the phrase "It is what it is..." is idiotic. It certainly has nothing to do with any objective or essential reality. Whatever "it is" depends on the lens or the template through which it's viewed -- doesn't it?

I think it's most often used as an easy answer for the lazy and unmotivated. When someone says "it is what it is" it simply means they don't want to explore any other possibilities.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper said "the saddest words in the English language are -- we've always done it that way."
I would say the phrase "it is what it is" is equally disappointing.
Everywhere you go, there you are.

The phrase says nothing. If you have nothing to say, keep quiet.
Mary, do not slap your patients in the face. Hit them with a shovel.
Here's why I'm mad: My WWII veteran dad died a few years ago. He used that phrase a lot, and watching his suffering that last month, my brothers & I used it a HELLUVA LOT. I ended up writing a play based on the experience of his death & the way memories can control us far more than we control them. The ONLY thing I could call the play was "It Is What Is". This was just before the backlash. Now everything thinks I wrote a play about hipsters. Pisses me off.
Reality? What's that? Accept blame for our faults? Huh? Indifference. Ah, sure, that one I know. It slaps me in the face every time I ask for an explanation or expect someone to own up to their mistakes.
Before change occurs you must accept things as they are: Identify the problem, then you can dive into the solution, but stopping at acceptance is totally unacceptable. And that is what it is all about.
Caracalla: Hard to argue with that.

Ranjit: Anger is an often maligned emotion. When used appropriately, good things can happen. Thanks for reading.

OE: Oh no, I hadn't thought of that but I think you are right about the Broncos! And anything that comes out of Belichick's that phrase really annoys me!

Bonnie: You got me there.

Leon: Pleonasm: my new favorite word for the day. Thank you!

Deborah: Yup, this is exactly what I'm talking about...and again, the phrase in its purest form is wonderful and something that has helped me a great deal. But what has been bothering me is the way the phrase is misused and your example illustrates this perfectly.

trilogy: Good thing you don't live in Boulder. Boulder's a rough town to have fun when they get those underage drinking tickets and then shrug their shoulders and say "It is what it is." Fortunately this expression wasn't popular when they were up to that, but I would have grounded them and used the line right back at them!

Aunt Mabel: That reminded me of the Doris Day song..

sagemerlin: As a practicing mystic, I love that you understood exactly what I was trying to convey. Sometimes, we can be so spiritually minded that we are no earthly good! A big difference between mysticism and magical thinking. Thanks for your helpful comment.

Owl: I use it myself, mainly in my mind and it helps me let go of the things that I have no control of. But to see it thrown out as some kind of mindless excuse, this is where I get annoyed.

SpiritManSF: When I left the evangelical church, I thought I was done with legalism. Silly me! I live in the land of New Age Nazism and legalism is legalism pure and simple. Bullshit is bullshit too. I find so often the things that are meant to help us are the things that are used as ammunition. Seems to be human nature. Are you sure we weren't separated at birth? Thanks for reading and commenting!

Leepin: Hey, shit does happen...and if you're lucky...on a regular basis.

donnastreet: I agree...with the cavet that it's used when there is actually something you can do about the situation. I also hate how it is used to cut off conversation. It's hard to counter that statement without sounding defensive or argumentative.

JC: Yes, it's the dismissiveness I don't like.

montanarose: Glad I could be of, let's have lunch!

Sparking: Yes, platitudes can be misused. My other pet peeve are when couples use the good stuff they learned in therapy as weapons. Like when one half of the couple says to the other half, "You just used a YOU statement instead of an I statement. Mary told us not to do that." I hate it when people do that!

Alan: Ah yes, the "so it goes"...I just want to know where 'it" went!

Bill S: Oh you made me laugh and that's always a good thing and you are so damn good at it!! Now I must read Deven's latest mom post...I love those posts!

Karin: Hey, thanks for resonating. Now you and I need to come up with some zippy comeback...maybe something like, "Now what the hell does that mean??"

Gordon: Hey, you must have some rating power for sure...I appreciated your comment and your bringing up Ayn Rand (I am STILL trying to get through that book). I also like your response and will try that the next time I hear it.

Poor Woman: Come to our next Boulder OS gathering (not sure when that is, but it will be at some point) nailed it better than I conveyed it. It's when the phrase is used as an excuse, a dismissal that really bothers me. Thanks so much for your comment.

Susan: Yes, the "whatever" feels like a slap in the face when I hear this. It feels like such a cut off. When I hear this in session, and see the look on the other person's face, I see the damage it causes. We all use these lazy short cuts with our language when what we really need to do is to try to be just a little more honest and a little more forthright. Thanks for reading!

john: I was hoping you would add a comment because you always have the most delightful and sometimes devious twists. You did not disappoint.

hublaean-Julie: Actually, you and I are in 100% agreement. The first part of my post describes why I love this expression so much. For myself, it has relieved so much suffering of my own stories...the stories that are more wishful thinking and cause me great consternation. And I think to truly get to the essence of "it is what it is" takes great discipline and meditation. It's when it's used to be dismissive that I take such great exception. When I hear your situation, I understand even more why you love this phrase so much. Makes me think of this, "Don't sweat the small stuff...and it's all small stuff." A lot of great truth in that one too.

Henry K: Had to look up "pleonasm" myself...what a great word!

Joan H: My sentiments exactly.

Greg: Yes, there is a time to let go...but there is a time to push, and fight and defend and argue against...

Ryan: I would love to know more of your thoughts about your generation. I have four "children" in their 20's. We've had many discussions about this and they find that their generation is one of passivity and indifference. And, they find that they fight this tendency themselves. I know there are many awesome and active 20 somethings...I think of BBD's son who spent weeks on his bike raising money for a charity...but do you find this the norm or the exception? My children have shared that they have found the generation of the 60's a very tough act to follow and that this has paralyzed them somewhat. I tell them that that's an excuse and the discussions continue...I look forward to reading your blog and hearing more from you. It was not my intention in this post to demonize your seems every generation has been throwing this term around thoughtlessly. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Hey, it must be getting lighter outside! Almost 5:30 and I have clients coming. Lord help them if they try to use this phrase today!

I'll be baaaaack.....
Tryin' too hard in this "hip/ hype society, gets old fast... I prefer archetypical twisting of the many available words, phrases,and languages, ad agency, and pop culture divas beware! You're the Doc', must be an "ism" for this behavior? Fun, one, hon... RRR
While we're on the subject, can we ban that odious phrase, "At the end of the day?" It's nothing more than a six-syllable synonym for "um."
Much worse: "Don't you think..." Whatever follows is most definitely NOT what the other person thinks, and that's the whole smarmy point of this smarmy-as-hell saying. The only correct response is to cut them off mid-breath with: NO, I do not think that M.F., you do! So have the guts to preface your own thoughts with "I think," rather than trying to make me responsible for the inanities that are about to come out of your own mouth. Whew. I feel much better.

Great post. You very neatly captured the ugly turn the phrase takes when it changes from a true statement about the nature of the universe to a way to dodge responsibility.
The statement is taken directly from wall street due diligence and means exactly what it says. Using it in trivial matters is typical of humans attempts at somehow appropriating elite behaviors without the perspective to full understand their meanings ... and it is how language changes ... yes, it is what ... hahahahaha.

Know clearly this is used and was coined for use in private lunches and throw-away cell phones, again, it is what ... big league stuff in the hands of the hoi polloi, again.

Understand the emotions behind the markets and you just may be able to see why bail-outs are necessary to clean up after the spoiled brats take their balls and go home ... it what it .... i .. s.
When I first heard it, I had the same reaction as you and several others. The government had brought in some policy that did a great job addressing Social Problem A, but didn't touch B or C. After hearing some A supporters critique the policy for doing nothing about B & C, the speaker said "hey, it is what it is." Brilliant I thought.

Now, 10 or 15 years later, it's way overdone. It reminds me of Orwell's observation of how clichés become substitutes for thinking. Good post.
Fashionably late as usual, and all I can say besides Brilliant! is I think I hear Uncle Bill Burroughs chuckling in the background and snarling "Lllannnguage is a virussss." We all know what WSB would do if someone said "It is what it is" to him. Word!

Rated, of course. Required reading as well.
I confess that I taught this expression to a Dutch colleague a few years ago. He appreciated it when I used it in some business context and even commented on the pithy nature of it. So, I suspect this has spead to all parts. But, it will pass as all things do and you can say it was what it was.
I still see it as a very upfront and realistic acceptance. Then again, I first heard it as Bill Parcells would take questions from reporters after losses or what not and simply stare them down with it in a no excuses fashion. He would mutter something along the lines of, "What's our record again? 6-4? Well that's what we are then. It is what it is." Belichick does the same thing.
Great post. I must admit that this phrase doesn't bother me as much as people who say "yeppers." Please Mary, tell me that you're not a "yeppers" person. Rated!
while i agree with most of what you are saying, like all cliches there are times it is appropriate. after being told by various people that cait's leukemia was caused by a)us not praying enough/to the right God, b)that there must have been something done to give her leukemia or c)other inane comments it got to where 'it is what it is' fit. that along with 'shite happens'.

there are times that nothing we do, no matter how much we want it, can change an outcome. we are impotent. it is what it is. rated
This saying has annoyed the hell out of me for years. I'd like to make a t-shirt that says, "It isn't what it's not" just to confuse people. Amen, Mary!
They are still discussing it Mary; they'll get back to us in 2020.
Excellent post, rated.
I posted this link to my FB page just last week. Amen, I agree, and rated high!

It's All Good vs. It Is What It Is,
"Which is not the same thing as thinking angry passion is pointless, just that it should always be tempered with realism and channeled toward something specific, useful, and positive."

This "knock" on the Tea Party is pretty silly. I would say that a sea change in Massachusetts and national disappointment with the collectivist policies of Obama are quite "specific, useful, and positive."
Always provocative aincha? Just nosing around for something else that gets caught in your highly evolved neuronal highway. And then ours. I have to stop saying this to my husband now. Shoot. This reframe makes me rethink. rrrrrrated.
I like the build-up in this piece, how at first this saying made sense but has been corrupted, building to the crescendo of being Mad As Hell. Enjoyable stuff.
I usually respond: "Yes, but it's not what it SHOULD BE. Do something about it."

Assessing the state of reality is only the first step.
And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, Let it be.
For though they may be parted
there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. Let it be.

There is a time to fight and there is a time for acceptance - when we can only wait in silence for an answer to come with the new dawn.
john walker: Hey, thanks for reading and always offering a smile.

Brian B: You're right about the serenity prayer. It is the perfect prayer because there are things we simply cannot change and there are things we can...I so agree with you about the weather. I was at the Denver airport several years ago when there were major snowstorms in the Midwest canceling flights because of the blizzard conditions. This man was livid and SCREAMING at the United person for the flights being cancelled. live in a natural world bud. Weather happens. Period.

Don: I agree with you that this is a very helpful phrase to me...there are many things I simply cannot control...but I hate the misuse of it and this is what the intention of my post was. Thanks for reading.

Beth: Thanks for reading and I loved your well written and visual comment.

smaquois: "At the end of the day"...I'm guilty of that one and so over it at this point...and "Bottom line" there really one? Do we really know what the bottom line is?

bobbot: Looking into John Prine....and Popeye.

Alan: Ah, thank you for the enlightenment...the end justifies the means...another one that could really just tick me off.

CrazeCzar: I love your take on the next generation. I think you may be on to something. Yes, the IIWII is a coping mechanism, but honestly, so many of them have not yet experienced the truly challenging parts of life that can send one to madness. I'm concerned they've been overindulged and feel quite entitled and indifferent...but as you point out, doesn't every generation worry about this? Great comment.

Lainey: I love Howard Beale's rant from the point of view of a rant, but you are wise and correct when you say that anger cannot just be thrown out there, misguided and directionless. I winced with the comparison to the Tea Party baggers because I didn't see Beale's speech like that at all, but I see your point. As I said in the post and comments, the ISWII phrase is very helpful to many things I can't control, but I do hate the manipulation and misuse of it..something that we can do with every good phrase if we are hell bent on it. Thanks for your good comment.

Marcela: Ah, thank you for the Spanish equivalent. Just human nature I think, really. Thank you!

Noirville: I think everything has something we can learn from it; thus perhaps making that a cause...but now I'm getting all confused and this is becoming one vicious cycle!

Rick: Yes, it's the shutdown of the conversation when these platitudes are misused that bother me. Humans do this quite often, myself included and once again, I am remembering to try to be a bit more impeccable with my word...a true challenge for an extrovert. Thanks for your great comment.

Bart Hawkins Kreps: Thank you for the comment and the smile.

Blue in Tx: Oh I agree...there is great release when we've been playing tug of war with reality and we realize the system is bigger than US.

Kind of Blue: Hey, you aren't dissing my favorite Simon Cowell or AI for that matter are you????? I do agree with you. Lazy has become a non PC word and how dare we use it. I'm not lazy, I'm just "motivationally challenged". are right...right as rain.

Gwendolyn: I have to give my divorce attorney (from back in the days) the credit for the Whole Paycheck. She had a lot of nerve using that phrase given her invoices to me! I'll have to think of a new platitude for her! Thanks so much for reading.

Nick: You always make me dig deeper. Sometimes I read your comments and go, "huh"? I can be a little thick at times. But I love your comment here...and on off I'll go in awhile to dig deeper. Thanks as always for reading.

incandescent: I like that! And I will use it...

ghostwriter: "In today's society"...I'd love to hear more about why they bothers you so much. And now that you said it, I'll probably hear that phrase a lot.

susanmilhalic: I hate "whatever" because it usually sounds like this: "Whateuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuver." Here's showing my age: reminds me of a Valley girl, ya know? Whateuuuuuuuuuuver feels like a slap in the face, I hate it that much. At least, "it is what it is" has many redeeming qualities.

ZBitch: Don't be dissing my Xanax!

Robin: I love the feedback you got from the poster. Wonderful and you are the type of person who is so open and curious and always ready to learn more. One of my favorite things about you.

MaryLynnNJ: Loved hearing your perspective from a more Buddhist point of view. And your reasons for not liking it are the same as mine. "We've always done it that way"...thankfully I haven't heard that one for a long time but it is bringing up some not so great memories. Thanks for the great comment.

readwillett: Is that Jon Kabat Zinn?

LeedsJr: Keep quiet? Quiet? Now there's a revolutionary thought!!!

Walkawayhappy: So you know what I mean from a therapist point of view. But again, I use it myself, especially more recently when life has brought me circumstances from which I truly have no control. Sounds like you do too.

Stim: Shovel therapy? You could be on to something!

Diane: Well, I do understand why you are pissed. And in your father's situation, he set a beautiful example for you and your siblings. And it must hurt to understand to the depths the meaning and helpfulness of this phrase and its attachment to your play. I'm sorry if this post caused you any more pain. I'd love to read your play.

Don: Love Network!

Donna: Why is it so difficult for people to just frigging apologize? Really, it's not that terrible. And it's hard for people to resist a heart felt apology. Great comment.

Trudge164: Yes, I agree. I am a "solution focused" therapist and hey it works!!!! Identify the problem, now let's get our thinking caps on and forgive the expression, "think outside the box"...because usually there are some kind of solutions. Thank you.

Patrick: Now you have thinking about a new "ism" to describe this...

themanhattankid: Hey, there are productive vents and vomit vents..yours was productive...I loved it. "Don't you think"...that seems to come from our own place of insecurity and us needing validation and it's really rather pathetic when you think about it.

Ann Nichols: thanks for your summary....exactly what I was trying to say.

Oahusurfer: Well thank you for this unexpected explanation of where the term came from. Fascinating really and I want to learn more. Thank you.

Abrawang: "Loved this, it reminds me of Orwell's observation of how clichés become substitutes for thinking". Oh, how true.

AJCalhoun: Thanks once again for being so supportive of the things I write about. Word right back at you (and grateful for my 20 something clients that taught me all about "word").

McGarrett50: Hi you! Always a pleasure to get a comment from you. And I love, "It was what it was." Maybe I'll just start saying that to see the confused look on people's faces :)

Gwool: I do too and when it comes to IIWII, I'm not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Leave it to you to have some kind of Patriot association....hey, face it, they sucked and it was what it was.

Roger: Yeppers? Yeppers? No sireebob. I would never say yeppers.

MissingK8: I hope you know that I find great value in the phrase, especially when it comes to horrible and devastating situations like yours. All my heart and sympathies to you and your family. And this is another big time pet peeve of mine...the mindless insensitive comments people give to families who are grieving the losses of their lost ones. Seriously, I could go ballistic thinking about this. Honestly, the patience it must require to be dealing with the death of your child and having to hear crap like that. In my fantasy world, I can only imagine saying, "F.........K OFF!" You sound like a much better person than me.

O'Really: Do the T-shirt, please, please. I'll buy usual, O'Really has the perfect solution!

Thoth: Thanks for reading...and it seems we will always be discussing something!

Thomas Horton: A treat to hear from you, truly. Thanks for the link...great stuff...the magical thinking stuff causes much more suffering than not. Thank you.

Gordon: This sounds like a different subject and I suck at politics, so I'll just let your last comment "be".

Joan: Well, just don't say it to your husband in that passive aggressive know, like I'm so spiritual but I'm really saying this to piss you off! See you soon...

Dearreader: Thank you!

cobalt-ic: Love your response and intend to use it, if you don't mind.

Monsieur: Now you know that it always makes my day when you grace my post with a're one of the more reasonable people I've had the pleasure of not knowing. Thank you much for this.
Great post. I find the phrase helpful (in the zen sense you mention) when things can't be helped and harmful when they can. rated.
I have hated this phrase from the first moment I heard it. Unless you are talking about a force of nature, say a waterfall, then it is never "what it is." The first time I heard it, my neighbor was complaining about her health insurance policy and ended up saying "what am I going to do? it is what it is." What she really meant was "I'm being screwed, but I need to express passivity instead of complaining" and that's why I hate it. It's a phrase that implies you are wise instead of making a fuss when really, you should be making a fuss.
yeah, right, absolutely - i HATE that phrase! (now i'm going to go read what you wrote...)
Good insight. I hadn't thought about how this phrase reflects a disturbing passivity/apathy that has been creeping up for a long time (I've merely been annoyed by it, as I am all mindless catchphrases) but I think you're on to something.
When this phrase is used in a situation where the speaker has worked through a situation and come to a place where there is some sense of resolution and peace, then I appreciate it. However, it is too often used as an equivalent of "whatever" or another phrase that an ex used often enough to alienate me: "I'm up to my ass in aligators."

When a phrase like this is used once too often to mean "I'm apathetic enough that I'm not going to deal with this situation," it leaves me feeling like Howard Beale. Rated.
Someone had to say this. And, of course, that someone had to be you!
Astutely observed. You covered all the angles. We have to learn discernment; the ability to see the often subtle distinctions between surrender and escape. We want freedom, we adore the idea, but real freedom comes with responsibility - the ability to respond appropriately. When we say 'it is what it is' to get out of something we give up our freedom for that tiny cage of 'whatever'. Loved this, Mary. This honesty that won't let us go back to sleep.