One has certain expectations when attending a family reunion of people they've never met. Whether actually related to the family in question, or hanging on to someone else who has previously encountered Aunt Jen and Uncle Chad, the new guest assumes there will be a lot of awkward pauses and probably some social separation between branches of the family tree.

It was all happily shattered expectations once I passed through that illicit gate.

Paul told me that I had nothing to worry about. He said he didn't know how to explain it, but that I was going to be fine. Still, I had my doubts about being confronted by a crowd who mostly knew each other, but not me. I mean, I haven't exactly been active here. I never learned very well to make new friends. Be nice, sure. Be fake. Make people feel comfortable, without actually letting them know anything about me. I know how to do that. But really open up? ...A part of me wanted to try, and stretch myself, and risk it. I could always crawl back into my shell if anyone snarled at me.

And once I did make it through/over said fence to be greeted with so many smiles, I was overwhelmed by my reception, helpless to think things like: How can I possibly feel so welcomed by fifty people I have never met, and some I've never heard of? Am I really here? Is this actually happening? Can they be this kind, this non-judgemental, this accomodating, this real and trusting? Can I be having this much fun with people i've just met? It is still blowing my mind.

On one hand, it seems that thanks to people for being and sharing themselves is gratuitous, but that's too cynical for me. Meeting everyone was a truly amazing experience, and i actually feel like i learned about people, and relationships, and the world.

Really, how often do we get chances like this? To just open up and sing ourselves, to get to know others just by making eye contact, to abandon pre-conceived notions of knowing and being known? "Not enough, but more now," is the answer that I am infinitely grateful for as I sit here at this very moment. i had no idea how generous this collection of souls was.

Thank you all, so much, for rocking my world.