It Is What It Is

This seems like it should be a Buddhist saying. In point of fact, Google tells us that the sentence comes from a film by Billy Frolick (2001) with “It is what it is” as the title. I guess this doesn’t preclude it from being a Buddhist saying though. I never saw the film, and so don’t know what meaning was attached to the title. But it does seem like it should mean accepting what is with grace and acting with the flow of the ever changing “is” rather than trying to fight it or act against it.

Our president said on August 4, 2020 in an interview with Axios, that “People are dying, yes, it is what it is, but we are doing a fantastic job in controling it (the virus).” This seems to have a different meaning from my assumption. It seems to say (just my opinion) that even though Dr. Deborah Birx, our White House coronavirus expert, says the spread of the virus is out of control, we are doing everything we can to stop it. Other health experts disagree, of course.

After almost six months, this is our coronavirus reality. The reality is we in Northern California can’t go outside because of the smoke from wildfires (though today the smell and particulates didn’t hit me in the face when I walked out to the sidewalk to get the paper). We can’t stay inside because staying inside has meant looking at the same four walls for months, and those same health experts tell us to go outside and exercise. We can’t socialize with our neighbors, hug anyone except those we live with, or participate in many of the small pleasures of being human — getting our hair cut, getting our nails done, getting a massage (oh, how I miss that), or going to a bar with friends.

It is what it is and has been since March 17. It is what it is and will be for God knows how much longer. This isn’t a staycation. It isn’t a pause. It isn’t anything that any of us recognize as normal or real life. But, it is what it is. I can barely act with grace about it. I can’t fight it, and there are way too many people who are acting against our reality by not wearing masks, not social distancing and not washing their hands. I’ve been in a funk about this for over a month, as I’ve written before.

Last weekend my 17 year-old grandson in Wisconsin called to tell me he’d been bugging his mother, my daughter, to allow him to come to visit us (my husband, his Aunt Blake, and me). He finally found appropriate flights from Madison to San Francisco and, before calling me, got approval from his mom to come. He’ll be here in 10 days, for three weeks. This, above anything that I have done or that has been done to me recently, lifts me out of what is. I have roused myself to make a plan, to arrange an out of town junket, to think about rearranging my home to accommodate the online learner (he will be “in school” for five hours, five days a week), and to think about exotic food. (I’ve said before that I think he eats anything, including eyeballs.) This lifting of mood has also allowed me to make plane reservations for Christmas when we usually go to visit him. I’ve dug myself out of what is and into hope.



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Sara Orem

Sara Orem


Sara speaks about and facilitates workshops for older adults about vitality in the aging process . See more about Sara at