it is what it is

zen wisdom from unexpected places

Hubs and I had a number of improvements done to the exterior of our house a year or so ago. We needed a lot of siding and rotted wood on the outside of our house repaired, so we worked with a contractor to get the work completed and then have our house painted. While the finished work looks amazing, the process in getting there was anything but steady.

The owner of the company would tell us the inside work should be complete by a certain time but when that time came, the “completed” work needed to be redone. Two windows were due to be replaced on a certain day I stayed home for the work, but one of the windows turned out to be the wrong size. My precious hydrangeas were blasted and burned to a crisp by the bleach water runoff from the process of preparing the siding to be painted. After each setback, the contractor would sometimes apologize but would always utter the phrase “It is what it is.” While in this case this phrase served as a responsibility-dodging statement, it was also an unlikely source of wisdom.

The present moment is the result of a million decisions.

I found this statement particularly comforting while working my way through a DBT Workbook on how to handle your difficult emotions. It gives you a number of acceptance phrases to choose from that help you come to terms with the situation you have just found yourself in. These situations are a result of decisions that you and everyone else have made over time. It is what it is. We need to accept that current state and move forward from there. That doesn’t mean we can’t speak our truth to someone who disappointed us on the way there. But we still need to accept the current reality.

the beginning

Setting the Scene

Being hit by so many combinations of positive and negative messages online  and in the news gets extremely overwhelming. My friend feed scrolls by, filled with images of happy people frozen in time, on vacation, sharing moments with their children, and carefully curated media telling stories sympathetic to my views. Some of these people I haven’t talked to in years, and am not really sure why I am still watching these snapshots.

It’s amazing to partake in, on one hand, an explosion of hate in our day-to-day discourse and in the news, and then on the other hand, an acid rain of “other happy people” sprinkling through your social feed. If you happen to pick up on the collective emotional state of the world right now, and you rightly detect that people are just as unhappy and uncertain as you are, you might feel a bit crazy. What is a slightly sane but intuitive person to do with the over-stimulation and perpetual gas-lighting?

What Do We Do?

My response to this exhausting assault is a new approach (for me). To explore, in fits and starts, the ancient wisdom of philosophy, myth and community in order to find my own remedies for the feelings of disconnection I experience. To distill and put out there my own showerthoughts about what this might mean. To counter some of the fake uplifting self-help with some personal truths about the power of pain, challenge and triumph.  And then the power of doing it all over and over again, since life doesn’t really provide endings. Regardless of whether you would define any individual moment to be a happy or sad one.

Who am I?

A unique element of my personality type is that I have cycles of anguish and disappointment, harsh truth and cynicism, then deep reflection, curious insight, and bubbling optimism and enthusiasm. The cycle repeats over and over. If you know me personally, you may or may not know that. I have spent a lot of time trying to “share the sunshine” when I am in an especially ebullient mood and trying to contain the bitterness and cynicism when I am in a depressive state. I hope this blog will be a place where all sides of the human condition can be discussed.

My livelihood has been built on measuring things and trying to improve them gradually over time. And since I feel like I barely have control of my own life at times, much less that of society around me, I’m going to focus on my own self-improvement, one book and habit at a time.

My thirties have been just as much a time of self discovery as every other decade. The first decade was thinking I could do anything, eventually. The second decade was just trying to do whatever I could to get started on my own life and trying to find someone to love me through it. And this decade so far as been about reconciling what I have done and what I can do with what I should be doing.  Just as I gain enough confidence to take ever surer steps forward, I still question not whether I can but whether I should, and constantly re-evaluate who and what gets priority in my life.

The way to control all of the chattering in my own mind, the uncertainty in the workplace and the demands of family life have been to track it. Tracking my new baby’s waking and sleeping hours, rating my mood every day from 1-10 and then added more factors to the tracking like sleep, emotional triggers, wellness habits. Then I added the goal of meditating once per day for 10 or more minutes. Next became two to three workout sessions a week. Then journaling, when I have a dream I can remember or when I have thoughts to get out. Somehow after a while the moods and the feelings start to make sense. I am starting to trust myself again.

Next Steps

I’ve read 45 nonfiction books in the past two years, about meditation, codependence, relationships, empathy, philosophy and more. While this started as a frantic desire to understand my own deficiencies, fix other people, stop fixing other people, and make sense of it all, it’s progressed to a desire to understand myself and the different ways we can think about life. I want this space to be an open book about the topics I find interesting. A place where for once, the truth can be spoken and I can try to help other people who have the same questions and random observations that I do.