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Thursday, July 3, 2014

It Is What It Is

I saw an ad on Facebook a while ago that asked a simple question: "When was the last time you relaxed?" I don't remember what product or service the ad was touting, but I thought it did pose an interesting question.

It isn't easy for me to relax, and it never has been. My mind often races as I think about things I 'should' do or need to do. Although I am retired, I often don't feel relaxed. There is always a list of chores to be done, whether mowing the grass, raking leaves, waiting for a service person, making repeated phone calls to deal with a problem, needing to schedule an inspection, or something.

But on a recent trip to Africa on safari, I actually did feel relaxed. Much of the time I had no cell phone service, no Internet and no Wi-Fi. There were no televisions or radios in the tented camps where I stayed, and I never saw a newspaper. Surprisingly, after an initial period of adjustment, I really enjoyed being disconnected from society. I admit to feeling a bit stressed when an ATM in Kenya ate my debit card, but even then I kept repeating my new mantra, "It is what it is."

I used this phrase numerous times throughout the trip as I adjusted my western way of thinking to the slower pace of African life. I was powerless to change the way things were done, so I figured I might as well just accept it and go with the flow. It is, after all, what it is. Many of the tented camps where I stayed got their electricity from generators or from solar energy. As a result, electricity was only available for certain hours of the day, typically early in the morning and then again from late afternoon until midnight. Because there was nothing to do in my tent after dinner, and the lights were too dim to permit reading, I got in the habit of going to bed early and arising when the sun came up. This, I realized, put me in tune with the natural cycle of things. This wasn't a bad way to live, I decided.

Some of the roads were horribly bumpy and rutted, but my traveling partner and I simply said "It is what it is." It was the price we had to pay for getting to experience Africa 'in the bush' and see so many amazing wild animals up close. I know we were both really tired of being accosted by swarms of Maasai villagers every time our vehicle stopped for fuel or a park permit as the people thrust their arms through the windows and tried to get us to buy their jewelry. But "it is what it is." They are a poor people, and they were simply trying to get some rich Americans (in their eyes) to buy some jewelry from them.

I decided "It is what it is" is a pretty good attitude to have when dealing with things over which I have no control, especially when visiting a foreign culture where things may not move at the pace to which we Americans are accustomed.

So I shall try to slow down, relax and not stress over things so much. After all, "It is what it is."