You may have read this as posted in the Aug. 10 edition of Columbus Underground. I post here today with a revision, a final paragraph with what I intend to be a positive manner of practicing situations that evoke an IT IS WHAT IT IS.
What does IT IS WHAT IT IS say about our attitude?
Are you hearing this phrase (IIWII) more frequently? There’s evidence that not only has the parlance become chiche, its ubiquity has become irritating.
Although IIWII has proven to be flexibly versatile in a wide range of conversational usage, it’s in danger of blending into trite meaninglessness. In a straw poll cast on Facebook I received responses that range from sacred to silly.
Some use IIWII as a statement of acceptance, a stoic recognition of the stark realism of the present situation. Others employ the wordage as a caution, i.e., to not over-react to what cannot be changed. OK, fair.
Our language is malleable, adaptable to many voices. Meaning varies with context. Of course, non-verbal cues…smiles/smirks/eyerolls…as well as verbal inflection, will paint the picture the speaker intends. But even a single word, alone, one syllable stripped of verbs and modifiers, conveys a chameleon of communication. How many meanings can you assign to this single utterance? “Dude.”
So, what message do you take from IIWII? Acceptance? Realism? e.g., “Now, let’s move on.” Frustration, as an inability to change a situation? Have you heard IIWII used as a cop-out? Perhaps as a rationalism, to disguise one’s laziness? Do you suspect the speaker is lame, as their toolbox of communication might be rusty, dented and small? Or, in a more esoteric application, on a spiritual level does the phrase indicate acceptance of one’s observation of perceived reality? I’ve heard, and I’ve used it myself in the context of: “OK, let’s not dwell on it, let’s just move forward.”
Several Friends charged the phrase as being dismissive, i.e., “WhatEVER,” a rude conversation stone wall, indicative of a lack of imagination or commitment on behalf of the speaker. One woman suspects that men are more likely to IIWII than women, as she believes men, on the whole, might be quicker to dismiss, whereas women will talk among their network to crowd-source solutions to any present situation.
I credit my friend Elissa Schneider for planting this seed of discontent. Like myself, Elissa works within the realm of fundraising development, and we both circulate among a vibrant community of non-profit activists in Columbus. In our world, to hear IT IS WHAT IT IS is to hear tones of defeat. It displays a lack of vision, a non-innovative surrender to status quo, and a lack of leadership at a time when vision, innovation and leadership are in demand.
What about you? Can you re-frame your story with a shift in your vocabulary, by cleansing reactive phrases from your speech? Might we move IIWII on to IT WAS WHAT IT WAS?
Let me add, upon a few days of reflection- when tempted to shrug and sob IIWII, I might take a zen approach and just sit with the situation and observe, rather than judge. By eliminating judgement from the present, I have found that solutions arrive through my open windows of perception.