This expression doesn’t seem to have an origin, so I’m assuming it was coined by the person I heard it from--or by someone she heard it from.
She was an older friend, an adult while I was still in high school. In summers I would spend a week in her home where her disabled husband doted on me and spoiled me beyond reason. She balanced things out with her strict requirements for chores. (I wasn’t a guest but rather part of the family for that week.)
I can’t remember the first time I heard the words, but over time she shared her difficult younger years as a child of the Great Depression when she “boarded out”--tended children, washed, ironed, cleaned houses, and did whatever she had to do to survive. Once her principal said to her, “If you don’t come to school more, you’re not going to graduate.” To which she replied, “Then I guess I won’t graduate because I have to eat.” Perhaps that was the first time I watched her eyes look into those past years and say, “I just had it to do.”
As I grew up and later as an adult myself, I often heard those words directed at me when I’d complain (whine) about something I didn’t want to do but couldn’t find any way to get around the inevitable. She never dished out sympathy of any sort. Rather, “You just have it to do,” assaulted my ears--not so much advice as a statement of fact.
I hear them now. Having always considered myself a “survivor” of (more than) my share of life’s traumas, perhaps the memory of her experiences tended to make me understand life isn’t perfect--nor is it always fair. She dealt with desertion, divorce, the determination to pay off debts she didn’t own (always working two jobs toward that end), the care of the second husband until his death, betrayal by some she considered friends and financial worries more on than off. But she survived.
And so, it seems, have I, though I still find it necessary to tell myself regularly, You just have it to do.
What’s inspired you to keep on keeping on?