You know how we all have those phrases we over use, to the point where they become meaningless? I have a few. "sweet as" is one. "You doing OK?" is probably another. But my biggest one, and I use it all the time when confronted with others showing sympathy or concern for me (so it's happened a lot recently) is this: "It is what it is". Got hit by a car? "it is what it is". Lost a loved one? "it is what it is". Got another cold from your germ ridden four year old? It is what it fucking is.
I mean, really. What a nothing phrase. Of course "it" is what it is. What else would it be? Why do I even open my mouth? But more and more I have been reflecting on those words recently, and I think they are a little deeper than they appear.
A friend was telling me recently how he really felt like his life had turned a corner. He'd been going through a bit of a flat period, even going so far as to see a counsellor (something we should all probably consider more often). His wife had some health troubles (welcome to the club mate), his career was at a bit of a plateau, things just felt a bit empty. But then all of a sudden things had turned a corner, he'd started exercising more (he enjoys running, the crazed fool), found joy in the good things, focussed on the positive side of his job. He felt like things were on the up.
I think we all go through similar rollercoasters in our lives. Either it feels like all cylinders are firing and we're flying down the road, wind in our hair, or the car won't fucking start and you're locked in with no cellphone coverage. That's a very real feeling, but it's probably not true - objectively things are probably never absolutely desperate, nor is the world ever perfect.
Why do we feel these wild swings? I think part of the truth lies in the way we think of our lives. As humans we're always in a rush to judge things, to label then positive or negative. How was your weekend? Pretty good. How's that project coming along? It's terrible. How are you feeling? Great thanks..
But maybe all this labelling doesn't actually do us any good. Maybe things are what they are. What is the use of slapping a judgement on stuff anyway? Who does that serve? You were there, you don't need the descriptor do you?
Annamarie and I have tried meditation in various forms recently, with varying levels of success (she is doing much better at it these days than me - but look at me, labelling things) and one of the big things that comes up again and again is the practice of observing without judging. of watching your thoughts float by, letting them be. Even observing yourself - if your mind starts to wander, bring it back but don't chastise yourself for the lapse. You're also not supposed to judge your own practice - you can't meditate "well" or "badly", you just do it.
This can be really hard to wrap your head around. I certainly struggled with it, prone as I am to bouts of self-flaggelation and comparing myself (often unfavourably) to others. In the past I've been worried that if I don't judge or compare myself, I will somehow fail at life, that I won't be the best version of myself. What if all my success today is built on challenging myself to improve? What if I stop whipping myself and that means I just stop everything?
But I think there is a difference between trying to be better and making yourself feel terrible all the time because you're not measuring up to some arbitrary standard. The best way I've found to express it is to think about nature - a field of grass, a mountain, a lake. You might think the lake is beautiful, but the lake doesn't give a shit. The lake is a lake. It is what it is, it doesn't need your judgement or validation, and it wouldn't be a lake if it did.
So I'm trying to judge less these days, trying to measure less and observe more. And I'm trying not to judge myself when I do end up over-judging myself or the world around me. I'm not getting it perfect every time, because the world isn't a perfect place. Because you know, it is what is is.
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.