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September 4, 2015 / 20 Elul, 5775
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‘It Is What It Is’

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         Just the other day, I was commiserating with a close friend about how my life had not gone the way I had envisioned way back when – when I was young and my head was filled with sweet visions of what would be. My conversation was peppered with “if only” and “what if” and “why didn’t I” It was saturated with unrequited curiosity about what poet Robert Frost so aptly described as “the road not taken.” I expressed regret at some of the “roads” that I did take, the ones that lead to nowhere at best, misery at worst.

 

         My friend patiently let me vent for a few minutes, and then uttered five simple words that opened my eyes and shut me up. She said, “It is what it is.” This simple but straightforward statement had a tremendous impact on me, for its words conveyed an obvious truth – dwelling on yesterday is pointless. Deal with today, with your “now,” with the hope for a fulfilling future. What is – is! Acknowledging your reality and utilizing the resources at hand – your intelligence, your community and connections, your determination and hard work to make the best of what is currently “on your plate” – is the only way to move on. Otherwise you will be mired in sadness, weighed down by grief, immobilized by guilt – and go nowhere.

 

         While it’s good to examine one’s past in order to identify and learn from mistakes that you don’t wish to repeat, there is nothing to be gained by crying over them and getting angry at yourself or blaming others who may have influenced your bad decisions. After all, hakol min haShamayim (everything is from God) and though it is sometimes extremely difficult to understand why He designed your life this way, as religious Jews we accept that which we don’t understand. We twin that belief with the faith that it is ultimately for the best, and what doesn’t currently make any sense will one day be very clear and beneficial to us.

 

         “It is what it is” permits me to believe that the true measure of a successful life is appreciating the realities we are blessed with – good health, kind friends, a loving spouse/parents/children. Or even something as universal as opening your eyes and seeing.

 

         Chances are that as “bad” as your reality may be, and as difficult or painful the “hand you were dealt” might be, there is someone who would very gladly trade places with you in a blink. There are those who have no clue what flowers look like. They have no inkling of what “red” is. They cannot grasp the concept of a rainbow.

 

         Yet they can hear the chirping of birds, the melodious music of a symphony, the tinkle of a child’s laughter. And theirs is a blessed reality, for there are those who cannot see or hear. Yet they can walk, touch, reach and communicate. And their reality is one some would welcome, for there are those who cannot see, hear, move, or make their needs known.

 

         “It is what it is.” And all of us have the choice of mourning what is lacking in our loves, or appreciating what we have. We have the option of letting anger, resentment or sorrow permeate our daily lives, thus holding us back from enjoying what we have – or we can have feelings of hakarat hatov for “what is” and be joyful and hopefulfor that.

 

         There is nothing wrong with wanting more, with wanting it all. There is always room for improvement in our lives – a shidduch, children, better health, more parnassah – and it is natural to feel deprived, and acutely want what you feel is lacking in your life. But just as important to your well-being is being aware of, and not taking for granted, what you do have.

 

         Perhaps that is why we have so many brachot to recite. From waking up in the morning to going to the bathroom to eating, etc., Hashem, in His wisdom, wants us to constantly remind ourselves of the many good things that constitute our reality. “It is what it is,” and we should be truly grateful, feel blessed and consequently be b’simchah.

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