Category Archives: Sayings

Having It All

© Lori Fisher 2014

© Lori Fisher 2014

When I hear about a person “having it all,” I think of someone who is accomplishing everything and has all the fields of life tended to and bountiful.  Powerful, leader-qualified, successful in career and family; no role ever compromised; no project ever neglected.

In my experiences, this “having it all” term has most frequently been applied when comparing the standards of men and women; when the status of women and their accomplishments are analyzed and more times than not, compared to those of men.

So, I wasn’t necessarily surprised to be reading an article in The Atlantic about the PepsiCo CEO, who is a woman, discussing this saying.  In fact, she responded directly to the article question: “What’s your opinion about whether women can have it all?”  But I was surprised that the article centered on the phrase and how the PepsiCo CEO had experienced or not experienced its truth, rather than concentrating on the CEO’s experiences themselves without measuring them against the standards of “having it all.”

I find it interesting how certain phrases or sayings are used, perpetuated and potentially normalized in our culture without first taking more care to acknowledge what they actually mean.  Not that I identify and am aware of using certain phrases all the time in my own everyday life.  I think our language and culture is full of them…..but it’s still interesting.  Interesting to the point that an interview is based on a saying and in effect, further empowers that saying with validity, merit and truth.

For me, the real story is about how a phrase that perpetuates only a method of thinking, culturally imposed standards and judgements, becomes the wide base of a socially charged discussion.  Why is “having it all” used so casually in the first place to direct our perception?  Is it habit?  Can a repeated, normalized phrase evolve to a perception that influences or constructs the boundaries of how we think about our selves and what our options are in life?

“Having it all” – this seems to me a circular, subjective argument.  The “it” is undefined in the phrase, or maybe the “it” has been defined by someone elses standards rather than mine.  Is it a cultural necessity to define standards of accomplishment and success for everyone else?  Maybe this is what we have become comfortable with.  Maybe it is easier to live up to given, set standards, rather than figuring out our own standards for what we want in life.  Or maybe without the set, goal driven structure of “having it all” we would be left to spin out of control as greedy insatiable creatures who could never have enough.

it is what it is

Is it?  The more I thought about the phrase and its ramifications (empowerment/disempowerment), the more tangents, layers and possibilities I found.  I’ve tried to verbalize my thoughts here without excessive babble, which was definitely a challenge.  But, I think the discussion about this phrase is important.  Here’s what I’ve got.

For the past week or so, I have been hearing “it is what it is” thrown around the office where I work.  I guess I may have heard this phrase in the past, but never picked up on it as much as I did last week.  I started noticing the words after I actually said them myself.  As the words were leaving my mouth, time slowed.  I almost felt a slight possession, as if I left my body and thought to myself “what are you about to say?/what are you saying?”  I felt, then heard the words leave my lips; an exact repetition of what I had heard someone else saying earlier that morning.

This snagged my attention immediately.  Why did I say that? What does the phrase even mean to me and why did I just spread that to somebody else?  It was like I was trying this phrase on for size and something just felt completely wrong about the fit.  I listened for those words the rest of the week, heard them an uncanny number of times and was starkly aware of how often I wanted but stopped myself from saying the contagious phrase.

So, what is behind this handful of words and why are they so easy to say?  Some possibilities:

“It is what it is.”  Said with a dismissive wave of the hand. No time or care to realize how the “it” will inevitably impact the day; just continue on without thought regarding what may be compromised.

“It is what it is.”  Said with a shrug of the shoulder, a defeatist frown resigned to the lack of control and submissive to the new boundaries set into place.

“It is what it is.”  Said with a nod of the head, accepting the situation as it has been laid out and acknowledging the new challenges, while attempting to work within the new confines of the reality.

The phrase.  Almost like a magical spell.  The words are simple, repetitive, and when I had said them, the transference of power was so evident to me that time even slowed down for me to witness the energetic exchange.  Perhaps the sentiment held when saying the phrase empowers the conditions and the boundaries of whatever “it” is, by acknowledging them and allowing them to have an impact on perspective and choice.  In addition, at least from my experience at the office, the phrase, those five small words, became an infectious unit – alive, powerful and readily used again.  The repetition perpetuated the message and increased its strength.

This phenomena happened, coincidentally or not, during a week of government shutdown and the phrase was heard several times in a government office. A reflection of morale?  A method of trying to find a solid ground, or personal control?  Maybe.

So, I started thinking outside of this specific situation, trying to grasp another perspective.  Phrases charged from the power given to them by users in turn perpetuate the normal status, making the phrases every day and used more often, thereby gaining more power and a stronger hold in the fabric of everyday normalcy.  Okay, so the impact and lasting impression of certain words, of sayings is ultimately a learned normal.  And changing the words, the sayings, changes the frame of normalcy.

However, regardless of the frame or even the picture, the choice to hold onto or give away your power remains with you.  The cycle, the transfer stems from the individual decision, mine and yours.