I was driving home from a phenomenal exhibit called “WE RISE.”
The sun was setting and the sky was absolutely magnificent.
As I sat in my car waiting for the signal to turn green, this stunning sunset literally took my breath away. Nature’s illuminated light right in front of me reminded me that no matter how bad it gets, no matter how hard the circumstances, no matter how cruel the world can be or how difficult the situation, we can rise like the sun.
“WE RISE” is a 10-day pop-up immersive experience that explores how to live a life of purpose and engagement. Through powerful programming and a world-class art exhibition the issue of mental well-being is addressed.
I had the good fortune to see this incredible exhibition. The art was about the strength of the human spirit to overcome difficulties, to overcome mental illness, to overcome trauma, to overcome so many of life’s obstacles. We rise, because we are capable of doing it. We rise, even if that means we must crawl for a while. We rise, even if it means that as we rise we feel defeated. Maybe we rise because we were defeated.
What I know, what I have learned, and what I have seen is that we can always rise. We just have to choose to want to.
Sandra Day in her song “Rise Up” sings:
“You're broken down and tired of living life on a merry-go-round.
And you can't find the fighter. But I see it in you, so we gonna walk it out and move mountains.”
I remember three years ago watching the participants in my program sing that song from The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. I remember looking at my beautiful students and feeling my heart actually skipping a beat, thinking how much each one of those girls had to rise up from the place she had come from.
I remember standing in the wings with another girl who wasn’t singing. She was about to read a letter she wrote.
She looked at me and said:
“Ms., this song is the bomb, isn’t it?”
I nodded my head.
Smiling, she gave me a little push.
“What happened to you?” she asked, “You rise so high you lost your words?”
The truth is that the first production of “LISTEN” at The Broad Theater, did, indeed, take my words away.
It was exhilarating to watch participants in the program stand on the big stage in that exquisite theater and share their stories. It was exhilarating to look out into the audience and see the vast reach of the ripple we have created from Beverly Hills to Crenshaw to Lancaster to Santa Clarita and more. Yes, indeed, that afternoon made us all rise.
At the “WE RISE” exhibit downtown there were paintings and sayings that said:
“You deserve to take up space.”
“Trauma, if not taken care of, breeds violence.”
“Hugs not drugs!”
Yes, we can move mountains if we have to. But it is actually the other part of Sandra Day’s song that I find incredibly powerful.
“And I'll rise up. I'll rise like the day.
I'll rise up. I'll rise unafraid.
I'll rise up. And I'll do it a thousand times again.
I'll rise up high like the waves.
I'll rise up in spite of the ache.
I'll rise up.”
I helped arrange a job for a student of mine.
It didn’t work out.
It actually went really badly.
He fought with everyone.
They accused him of stealing.
My friend who gave him the job was mad at me.
My student was mortified.
I had whirlpools of feelings and thoughts.
“Ms., I’m never going to be anyone and I’m never gonna get a real job.”
I stood in front of this man, a man who sat in jail but was now trying so hard to rise up.
“Hang on,” I say to him.
“You will be fine. You are the sun. You will rise again.” That was a bit much, I think as I say this. I sound a little over the top even to myself. I try to redirect.
“How can I help you rise up from this?” I ask.
“I don’t want to go back there,” he says.
“That’s okay.” I smile.
“They don’t want you back, but let’s fix this, so we use it as a step to rise up.”
“I don’t understand,” he says.
I can see that he is frustrated with me.
“Okay,” I say to him. “Number one: The fact that this didn’t work out doesn’t mean nothing is going to work out. Number two: Own your shit.”
When I said that he yelled at me for a long 20 minutes telling me how it’s not his fault and blah blah blah.
I was quiet.
“Cool” I said, “Now, OWN YOUR SHIT!”
He looked at me.
I looked at him.
When someone is about to rise, you usually can see it.
If you say something even the smallest thing, you could actually make them fall again – and never rise.
He starts again “That man came at me.”
“STOP!” I say.
“I don’t care about that man. You, YOU, DUDE, own your shit!”
“Ms., I hate you!”
“Yeah, I know,” I tell him.
Then he said, “I did this. I should have done that. I could have…next time…”
“Good,” I tell him.
“Now what?” he asks.
“You are going to talk to them,” I say.
“Shit, no,” he says.
“We are rising up,” I say.
“You are killing me,” he says.
“Just talk to them,” I say.
He calls. He apologizes.
I reach out to my friend who gave him the job. We have coffee. I speak my truth. I own MY shit.
The only way we can really ever rise up is if we own our shit.
It is no fun, but it is necessary.
A few weeks later my guy got a job that was better suited for him. He learned some control. I learned that I need to be careful not to push too hard.
“Ms.,” he said to me.
“I guess moving forward is rising up. You gotta rise up in one place so you can get to the next place.”
“Kind of, sort of,” I tell him.
I watch him walk away from me and it looks like he is walking a little bit taller.
Sometimes rising up is taking one little step in the right direction.
Sometimes it might not feel like moving at all. It might be about taking a breath and simply continuing to the next stop.
Sometimes it is just letting go of pain, of disappointment, or of whatever happened.
Rising up is simply not giving up and acknowledging that the best is not yet to come. It is actually already here.