It Is What It IsAnother COVID Christmas. My sister just texted that my nephew who was traveling home from London today tested positive for COVID as he took his pre-flight test so now he is waiting until he is negative, and hopefully can salvage something of his trip home. As I write this, I am waiting for the results of my at-home test to see if it is allergies or COVID before I head to church and Christmas Eve dinner. On Wednesday night we went to Chanhassen Dinner Theater for The Music Man. These were pre-covid tickets that we rescheduled last summer when we thought, surely, by December it will be better, and what a great way to celebrate my Mom’s 85th birthday. With omicron surging, we thought, do we still go? We are all vaccinated and boosted, and everyone there has to be either vaccinated or a negative test, and we are required to wear masks, but there is that eating part. We decided to go for it and do our best.
I am tired of this. We all are. But it is what it is. I know some folks really dislike that phrase. But I have found myself saying it a lot this past year. It actually it a helpful phrase for me. I can find myself doing a lot of wishing about what is different, and complaining about what is. Like winter in Minnesota. Every year I get cranky about all the layers I have to wear to walk outside, and driving in snow. But honestly, there is nothing to be done about the weather, other than move. It is what it is. So deal with it. Adapt. Buy good winter clothes and get out into it, or enjoy hibernating with a great book and a cup of tea, Either way, no matter how much you want it to be different, spring will not be here until it gets here.
So it is with COVID. I so want it to be done. It is wearying to evaluate every activity and ask is the risk worth it? How do I plan anything? Like annual gatherings for 600 people 6 months from now which is part of my job. But COVID too is out of my control. I can only do what I can do. It is what it is. And wishing it weren’t does not help. So we keep adding new practices to our daily life, like at-home testing before indoor social gatherings, just to be sure. And by the way, my test was negative. Yippee!
I would never apply the phrase “it is what it is” to places of injustice. We should not make our peace with anything we do to one another or this planet that fundamentally violates human rights or makes any group of people “less than” another. We can do better. We can be better. But I have also learned, there are somethings in life I can’t change. I am growing older and will die. COVID is a very infectious virus that will keep iterating and circulating, and we can do some things like apply our ingenuity to the creation of vaccines and following basic public health practices, but ultimately the virus has a life of its own that we cannot control. That old chestnut of a serenity prayer is a good one. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Learning how to live in that space well is the path to serenity, and today COVID is giving me plenty of chances to practice.
And I would also say that accepting what it is, does not keep me from hoping about what might be. Confront brutal reality but never lose hope that you will ultimately prevail. That is the Stockdale paradox. Comes from Admiral James Stockdale who was a POW during the Vietnam War. He said the ones who did not make it where the folks who keep thinking, oh, I will be home by Christmas or Easter. You need to confront brutal reality that you don’t know how or when this end, but at the same time, you must have faith that you will prevail in the end. The human spirit is remarkable and you need to keep believing in the possibility that is can be different and you will survive this. That is how he made it through what could be seen as unendurable situation. All pandemics have eventually faded. We will get through this. Not sure when or how, so for today, we keep on keeping on.
Tonight, we will go to church and light candles and sing of a silent night long ago where God entered into the world in the form of a baby, promising light and love to all. We will gather around the table for Christmas Eve dinner, thankful we can do that this year, when we could not last year, because we are vaccinated. And we will have an empty place for my nephew who will still be in London, hoping tomorrow is his negative test day so he can be with us soon. Bittersweet. But it is what it is, and still we are grateful. We are here. We are well. God is with us.