Just. Love.

...So, I don't like crowds.  I am not comfortable in crowds, I get all nervous and sweaty and even a little paranoid whenever I find myself in large groups of people.  And, I am OK with admitting that it is a weakness.

I wasn't always that way.

I began not liking crowds a few years ago when I was treated very very badly while I was in a crowd.  Then came the fear, self blame, the shame and the self loathing - then the Police report, police investigation, and the photo lineup.  There was a workplace connection, so then came dealing with HR, and the emotions that come with dealing their 'mismanagement of information' - more fear, more shame, and more self blame.  Then came the need to take extra measures to protect myself, my husband and my kids at our home, our work, and at their schools.  Then came the stress leave and the therapy.  Then there was trying to re-establish myself back into my old work environment...  Then there were meetings with all levels of authority and anger and frustration and then attempts at retribution, and encouragement to make amends... Then there was the whole choosing to leave my career for a minimum wage retail position, changing fields, then changing back, but with a different company.

This became my theme song... (click here if video doesn't show up below)

Someday, I hope to be brave enough to write THAT post.  But not today.  Just know that my dislike and fear of crowds is one that I have duly earned.

But... We all know crowds are unavoidable.  They are part of life.  

Well, at least they are a part of my life.  I am head over heals for this guy who loves to play music to crowds, and it is my whole hearted desire to support him in all things that make his eyes sparkle and his heart feel peaceful...  

Also, together, we loved to take in live shows.  We always have.  We have planned vacations around when our favorite bands are touring and gone to where they will be playing next.  This is not something I could give up.  

All of these scenarios leave me constantly checking in with myself to rationalize this almost debilitating fear (at first I wouldn't even go to the grocery store) down to something I can manage, so I can keep doing the things that I love.

This past weekend we had the opportunity to take in, for the first time, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.  For those who don't know, this music festival takes place over four days on seven stages at a local ski hill, and it sells out (around ten thousand tickets) almost instantly.  It has been going on for 30 some odd years, and has a fabulous reputation for putting on a kick ass show of amazing talent from all over the world, and is something our city is, and should be, very proud of.

But... It draws a crowd.

On the last day of the festival, Sunday, I was exhausted.  

I was exhausted physically, from walking up and down 'the hill' countless times over the course of the past four days, the late nights, the early mornings, and the packing around all our required daily belongings.

I was exhausted emotionally, from having to constantly talk myself off the ledge after being in the throngs of a huge crowd for four days running.

I was about 'festivalled out'.

So, on this day, my husband and I sat on the hill in our chosen location waiting for the final few acts to perform on the main stage.

Then this weird thing happened.  

I don't know if it was all the pot in the air - and there was A LOT - or if I had been just exhausted enough that my carefully placed defenses were beginning to crumble.  But it was like I passed through a worm hole to clarity and peace in the most unlikeliest of places... 

- ya, when I word it like that, it kinda sounds like it was totally the pot. -

All joking aside, it was a very spiritual happening for me.

I started looking into each face of each person who passed me.  Really looking...  Really seeing...

To my surprise, I suddenly didn't see them as part of this huge threatening crowd.

I saw them as a person.  An individual.

As one who laughs and reads and sings and dances.

As one who cried when their dog died, or when someone they loved was sick, or when someone made them feel sad or unworthy.

As one who has self doubt, insecurities, and flaws... and tries every day to overcome them.

As one who has huge dreams that they are just trying to live into.

As one who has to conquer fears every day.

As one who is a friend, a spouse, a child, and a parent.

As one who means the absolute world to someone else.

As one who is just plugging along in this life looking for ways to be blissfully happy.

I saw them as people. Vulnerable, flawed, happy, and loved.  

I saw them as valuable, beautiful, precious souls.

I started wondering what their story was...  What made them who they were...  I spent the entire evening in that head space.

And I found myself just loving them all.

I found myself happy to be in their space, happy to share these moments of amazing live music, with these people whom I didn't even know, but was looking at from the purest part of me.  Without fear, and without judgement.

It was re-emphasized to me that we are all the same.

We are all beautiful, precious souls - trying to maneuver in this life as best we can, amid the noise and the distractions, just looking for ways to connect, and reasons to smile as often as we can along the way.

Just. Love. and keep smiling.

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