Friday, October 15, 2010

It Depends on What 'Is' Is

"It is what it is."

I'm hearing this phrase everywhere these days. It seems to be almost like a verbal 'tic' that has caught on and is being used in all sorts of situations. Typically I hear it in reference to a situation that isn't perfect but well ... what can you do? There is something about the phrase that bothers me. I think it sounds a bit 'defeatist' to me.

Having a disability means being in lots of situations where things aren't perfect, in fact things are way far from perfect. Both one dimensional attitudes and three dimensional barriers constantly get in the way. I'm always having to choose to let things lay or 'play through' and protest. I read other bloggers with disabilities, I read other bloggers who have children with disabilities and I discover a whole world where 'it is what it is' simply is not acceptable.

I think it's easy to grow into laziness with the struggle for disability rights. So many people simply don't get why we demand access, why we aren't happy with the little bits of adaptions given us haphazardly by government or with resistance from retailers and with complete ignorance by architects and designers. So many people think we are a drain on the public purse, all of them forgetting that we too are 'public'. Often we receive pity, which is simply malice dressed up in a Halloween princess costume. Yet pity is supposed to be good enough. It is what it is, alright ... and what it 'is' pisses me off.

So I hereby suggest an alternative phrase for those of us who still are up for a bit of a fight: It is what it isn't yet.


Belinda said...

The phrase we are using in our agency, to help people understand what our accreditation process meant, was, "Making Things Better."

"It is what it is," but we want to make things better!

Thanks for pushing for more. It is so important; because I have learned that you never stand still, you either go backwards or forwards. I'm for forwards. Forward ho!

Anonymous said...

Good idea. We have to remember that if we always do what we always did, we will always get what we always got.

What we always get isn't good enough.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Great post! Letting the status quo stand is not good enough.

As a Mom of a child with a disability (she passed away 19 years ago) I remember just getting burned out fighting for better. Periods of burn out followed periods of intense advocating. After the burn out then it was back in the fray. It was never settling for the status quo. I am still fighting the status quo. It will never be good enough until we get to the point they apparently were at on Martha's Vineyard when Nora Groce did her study there. When she asked about people sometimes people couldn't remember if that person was deaf or not - it didn't matter, wasn't significant, wasn't a difference that people noticed. We have such
a long way to go.


little.birdy said...

I like is what it isn't yet! But I also take "it is what it is" as way of voicing acceptance. Yes, Robbie has autism. It is what it is. His brain is wired differently and that's okay.
Speaking of acceptance, do you know of any resources to help pre-teens with intellectual disabilities understand appropriate and inappropriate touching? I'm a first-time speech therapist at a middle school, and I don't want to approach the students with the attitude that their hands must be glued to their sides or on a desk AT ALL TIMES NO EXCEPTIONS etc, but they are showing me that they don't understand boundaries. I read often and am wretched at commenting, but I absorb a lot, and I think I have become a better person as a result.

Amy said...

Several months ago, while watching Martha Stewart's daughter's show "Whatever, Martha," Alexis Stewart declared her absolute dislike for this phrase, and said that anyone who uses it should be zapped with a cattle prod. My husband and I agreed, and now whenever we hear it, we exchange a look, a quiet "bzzzzzzt" sound, and a stifled laugh.

It just isn't what you think it is, and that is the reality that I wish more people would embrace.

Sheva said...

LOVE it!!!!

Laurel said...

I loved this post because I've always loathed that saying. I couldn't put my finger on it before, but you've highlighted at least one part of it--the apathetic tone. My mother said she views it as a sort of Zen thing, accepting that life is flawed, but although I'm very into acceptance, "it is what it is" doesn't leave me feeling peaceful, just irritated!

Mev said...

Dear Dave,

I was at a conference where you spoke today and you blew my mind!I work with very young autistic children ,with and without intellectual disabilities and my dream for all of them is that they all one day have fulfilling relationships as adults. I wanted to come see you in person to thank you,but unfortunately I had to go back to work in the afternoon and had to leave directly after your talk. Thank you for your passion,your stories moved me,and I plan on reading all your books!

Lene Andersen said...

"we receive pity, which is simply malice dressed up in a Halloween princess costume"

Best description ever! Loveitloveitloveit. Will be quoting you frequently.

Anonymous said...

"those of us who still are up for a bit of a fight: It is what it isn't
Dave, you put into words what I try and say daily, along with words 'we're not there yet and we still have a long way to go' when faced with explanations of how wonderful we are doing with minimal resources and how the system 'is what it is'...
Some days are harder than others in the 'fight' but I find the faces of the people I work for, send me back into the systems battle in hopes of creating that wave, that ripple of the pond for change and to continue improving rather than remaining stagnant

Anonymous said...

I have never liked "It is what it is" in mostly every context it can be used. For me it's just another way of saying we're settling. I do however like what little.birdy said earlier. Thanks again for sharing Dave.

Lisa said...

I hear what you are saying. Sometimes "what it is" is not good enough, but sometimes "what it is" is exactly *what it is*.

My daughters have Ds. They are developmentally delayed. Both are true statements. It is what it is. Does that mean that I am okay with either of them being underestimated? Absolutey not. They are beautiful, perfect human beings who have a diagnosis of Ds, and who are also delayed in many areas. I have accepted that.

Do I intend to offer them assistance and creative ways to combat deficits? You bet. But I do say "It is what it is" when I talk about their diagnosis of Down syndrome...and I can't apologize for that.

A Ds diagnosis doesn't bother me...nor do I think it is unfair to them. It is what it is.

And I guess that may be the criteria for what is it demeaning, hurtful or inaccurate?

Just thinking out loud here...