sisu. perseverance. fortitude. stamina. courage. determination. my grandmother mama dear used this finnish term all the time and passed it down to my sweet momma beaky who passed it down to me. a philosophy of life, a mantra, “you gotta have sisu!” mama dear would say. if up against the odds, if forging upstream, my sweet momma would say, “you gotta have sisu!” and so it was without a second thought when it was time to name my own company, the independent recording label that has been sisu music productions for the last 23 years. i can’t think of a better name for all the challenges that have risen – and continue to rise – as an independent artist.
any moment of fear, of uncertainty, brings me to draw on that sisu…digging in my heels and standing firmly in it. it’s kind of a blind faith and has everything to do with that. in the face of adversity, of the scales tilted not-in-your-favor, you just keep on. in the face of fear…everyone has their thing…the thing that makes them afraid…the thing that makes them white-knuckled…you just keep on. sisu.
i was flying back from telluride to denver a couple days ago – in a smaller plane. there was a big strapping guy all dressed in camouflage who got on the plane before me. he told the flight attendant he had been out in the middle of nowhere hunting (successfully) elk and mule deer. he was a rough and tumble kind of guy and ended up seated just across the aisle from me. when the plane hit turbulence, particularly over the front range, his face turned red and he looked over at me with a deer-in-the-headlights look and said, “i hate this part!!” i started talking to him then, trying to ease his obvious fear, talking about the wind currents and the mountains…how i could see the airport…we are almost there…just a teeny bit further…wheels are going to touch down any minute…. he was gripping the lock on the little tray table and finally relaxed his grip and smiled. everyone has their thing.
we can loan others the sisu we carry with us. we can bank on the sisu we carry with us. i often credit being-from-new-york for times i have just forged-ahead-anyway, but my sisu roots go way further back than that.
sisu. i stood back from the edge of a deep deep canyon the other day, my beautiful daughter on another boulder a few hundred yards away. i looked at the sky, the sunset playing over red rock. thought about that very moment in time, this moment i was sharing with the part of my heart known as kirsten…this moment that wouldn’t be repeated. and i heard the voice in my head, “you gotta have sisu.” i stepped to the very edge of the canyon, stretched out my arms and laughed aloud.