Sunday, January 12, 2014

"It is what it is."

O! The things that you pray never to come out of your mouth, certainly not with any frequency, definitely not with an instant light of reciprocity in the eyes of your interlocutor.

"It is what it is."

What did I ever see as so offensive in that sentence?  Popeye's "I am what I am" is pretty stupid and I've been shouting that, usually in a tossed-over-the-shoulder fashion with a once-upon-a-time precious moue, for most of my life.

Wrongly used, abused by bad context, it can fail as well as any sentence can.  Nearing the terminus of a long linguistic ride, in decent company, however, the statement does not end an argument in fleeing absurdity, neck cricked, feet stumbling, pencil skirt regretted.

The conductor might even smile, not at you, mind, but to himself, in remembrance, and issue you another ticket.

For another train, on another track.

I won't claim Zen in my effort to understand why I said, "It is what it is" without the least bit of a clunk or a plunk, with nary a bit of weariness -- nor, my great fear, and if you read me often enough, you've been waiting for it -- nor with any element of what is trite.

They say that as you lay dying, you will regret the time spent keeping a clean house, the hours sweating over badly written compositions, your professionalism struggling with the desire to tell the plain truth.  You will weep over the choice to chase footnotes instead of rainbows over the ocean, over opting for solitary night duty at the homeless shelter instead of the communal cooking duties and feigned cheer.

But then, you'd never have had those long and short conversations with men, old and dying at 30, who took every romantic, daring-sounding risk that crossed their dotted paths.  You'd never have given the gift of really listening, and the unsaid nod of mutuality:  "It is what it is."

They weren't claiming, not in the soft voices of murmuring, sweltering nights, pride or unmitigated accomplishment, something to note in the burden of an old family Bible.  They were simply telling, and leaving it to me whether it was worth a lie the next day when I reported in on the night's doings.  "George laid a saga on me, a tale to end all tales, who'd a thunk it of old George!"

More often, I mangled it worse than that.  What, you did not think a worse mangle in me?  You've not read me near enough.  More often, I'd report:  "I think George needs to talk, if anyone can spare the time."

This, of course, leads me back to my sad state of Popeye.  "I am what I am, and I refuse to ask more of myself, and if I choose to underestimate George, and myself, and place my hope in you daylight do-gooders, well, so be it."

"So be it" is far, far, far from "It is what it is." Not that I think there are any dunces reading this, but you never know.

As I thought about this post during Last Night's Many Moanings, so many wonderful things lit lightly upon the misshapen edge of a cholesterol-damaged neuron that most were lost, though my secret, intimate, almost orgasmic hope is that the lunar bee, butterfly, or moth -- each "greeny" -- smeared a two or three chain-linked insight, some skinny version of a pollen notion, on one of mine bulging grey cells.

You know, so that there might be growth, feeding, difference.

Recognizing that things are as they are is not the basis for "It is what it is." Neither is it as easy as resignation, or effort in defiance of idiotic fatality.

It can be the joy of O'Keeffe's red poppy, specifically, the redness.  "It is what it is." A nod to genius, a thankfulness for destroying translation and the need to go on and on about it.

It can be the tearless expression of something beyond the pale, something long known but not on its own terms.  Something is killing you, something is killing one whom you love more than yourself, and it is what it is.  The next day does not change in the least, unless you manage to preserve that conversation and that direct look at God's amazing irradiating iris in the beloved's eye.  The next day requires, however, that your sight mirror day's democracy, and include the bloodshot sclera, the pinpoint pupil, or maybe a liver's wayward ways.

Of course, the punch line potential for "It is what it is" is rich but you'll have gathered I'm not feeling particularly funny.  Fun has to be made, crafted -- at its worse, by amateurs; at its best, by cantankerous pros -- or must occur in a natural flash: uncontrolled, pew-shaking, infectious.  Nowhere am I on that awesome spectrum this late afternoon.  Well, more likely, I just don't want to bore you.  Or make you wince.  I am famous, in the flesh, for being able to annihilate the humor in anything.  If I can recall a punchline, the set up is lost in pea soupy fog.  If I nail the back story, I either laugh so hysterically that I cannot even speak to deliver the winning end, or it completely escapes me, such that I will beg you to recall it for me.  "C'mon, you know! You know!"

"It is what it is."  There's a personal appeal, here, that has to do with another personal linguistic failing. Idioms. Catchy phrases that most beings nail by the age of four.  I tend to find synonyms to replace the long fixed adage.  I don't nip things in the bud, I cut them. So you can see the attraction to a declaration that needs no help from my twisted thesaurus.

Writing this has been enormously helpful.
I feel empty.  Done. Almost complete.

Words give way, finally, to pointing.
There.  There.  This.  That.

© 2013 L. Ryan

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