Photo credited to Dave Parrish Photography

I was inspired this weekend.  When you hear what I was doing, it won’t be surprising.  This weekend was my favorite weekend of the year in Richmond, Virginia.  We hold a festival which is truly spectacular.  The Richmond Folk Festival is not your average folk festival.  It doesn’t define folk music in the most traditional American way.  It has expanded the understanding of folk music to an international musical experience.  And if you know me at all, you know I am all about bringing the world together.  So I attend the folk festival every year with no exception.  I cancel all plans.  Nobody has a chance of scheduling something on this one October weekend.  I am busy.  End of story.

There have been my own inner obstacles to process along the way.  Like many folks with C-PTSD, I am not a huge fan of crowds.  If someone is standing directly behind me, my system goes on high alert.  And if there happens to be a group of people imbibing a bit too much and getting a little too close to my space, I am not super excited.  I do have to watch my stress level for sure.  But even with 220,000 people in attendance, the festival is outdoors and spread out across many stages.  In some cases, the audience sits on massive hills, so there is always a way to escape those triggers.  The claustrophobia that comes with big crowds is more manageable here.  And I’ll be honest, the hypervigilance is worth it for me.

So I was inspired this weekend by the amazing variety of incredible artists from all over the world.  It was a beautiful experience as always.  There was singing, dancing and art from around the world.  And I had not heard of most of these artists before it started.  While the schedule does list the genre of music, I had almost nothing else to go on when I chose the acts to watch each hour.  I would always choose the groups playing salsa music because I could dance (and dance and dance).  But otherwise, I would pick musicians based on their names.  The weirder, the better.  Of course, I had to see Plunky and Oneness of Juju.  And they were as amazing as their name.  But when I saw a delta blues group called Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks, I knew where I had to be.

I showed up with bells on.  And I had expectations.  I was sure it would be 4 or 5 of the most awesome African-American male musicians from Mississippi.  I have always loved blues music.  And that’s what I was used to.  But that is not what I got.  The lead singer and guitarist met my expectations and he is truly one of the most underrated guitarists I have ever seen.  How does everyone NOT know about this guy?  But his band was the most shocking.  The bass guitarist looked like me (not totally but a little).  And the keyboardist looked like someone who could knit the perfect sweater for my kids for Christmas.  I know.  This is making me look bad.  I am supposed to be completely open-minded.  And in many ways, I am.  But I am taking a moment to be vulnerable about my shortcomings.  No lectures please.  And honestly, the rest of the audience was just as dumbfounded as me, especially when they heard them play.  And I am inviting you to look at your expectations because these women taught me something.  What did they teach me?

There is no such thing as “too late”.  As I mentioned last week, any restrictions on time are a defense against taking risks.  In many cases, time is exactly what we need to prepare for our biggest, “awesomest” performance.  Healing isn’t an obstacle to our purpose.  It is preparation for it.

Live out loud.  I know you want to punch me right now.  You are definitely rolling your eyes.  But I could not help to think about how many people told these women they would never do what they wanted to do.  How many times did they hear they had to tone down their dreams, their personalities, their clothing, their stereotype-breaking plans?  They clearly didn’t listen.  Thank God!

Stop trying to please everyone.  You can’t.  You never will.  Some people just aren’t going to like it when things and people don’t meet their highly limited expectations.  They aren’t going to be inspired.  They are going to be confused.  They are going to have to tell themselves a story about why they couldn’t do the same.  And it is inconvenient.  And if they don’t like what you are doing now, they are never going to like what you are doing.  So do what you want.  Deep down, you know what it is.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep processing the trauma.  You will reach it.

It is time to get rid of the restrictions.  It is time to stop listening to the limits.  We are better than what they said.  We can do things that we don’t even know we can do.  Do it for you.  But also do it because it infuriates everyone who is stuck in their limited thinking.  Shake things up and make change happen.  Your recovery is an act of defiance.  Your purpose is an act of defiance.  Defy the odds, the expectations, the limits, the restrictions and the stereotypes.  And you will be on the leading edge of a major human transformation.

*Here is a video from several years ago of Super Chikan in action.