Winter fest was fun. Warm, a bit above freezing, but cold enough to keep it wintery. Because of the recent warm weather the city went to where they had all the snow stacked that they had removed from the streets previous and placed it strategically on the main street as needed for the events. They hauled it all away, then hauled it back for the occasion. Job security.
Our event was the snow sculpture competition. We had some friends who were recent additions to our tribe make the trip down from their mountain nest to help out. Being the local barber, I made the plan for a giant mustache with curved up ends. Our two families had a great time grooming the stack of snow into a reasonable facsimile of a handlebar mustache.
I had only recently moved to this small hamlet tucked deep in the gold filled mountains of Eastern Washington. I felt had become overwhelmed in our previous life on the coast. I had opened several businesses, managed a growing staff, and was busy building my status as a motivational speaker and trainer. One day we just sort of bagged it all and moved to a small, dare I say minuscule, little town in the mountains. Being away from the busy crowds and lifestyle of the coast had been refreshing. In fact, I felt better than I had in years.
This was the first time I had ever seen our little town busy. Where there were seldom more than a handful of folk walking the main drag at any given time. I ha d a small shop on the street and spent days there doing my work in front of the big picture windows looking out and down the main drag in town. Even at it’s busiest there were hardly more people out there than could fit in a large van. Now there were a few hundred. As my wife, kids, and a friend walked the sidewalks looking at the booths I felt uncomfortable. At first it was a mild anxiety, but over the next fifteen minutes or so it grew into an inner rage that I was having to fight down. There were too many people. They were too close. They were close behind me, which was the worst of all. I began to panic.
The center of the blocked off street had only a few folk milling around and I escaped to there, breathing, almost panting with relief. My wife looked at me a little funny but it didn’t look like a big deal so she went right back to enjoying the day. Inside, it was more than a big deal, it was huge!
We managed to enjoy all that Winterfest had to offer. We didn’t win with our gargantuan cookie duster, but we got a lot of encouraging comments. We went on to share a delightful dinner with our friends, family, and extended family, later that evening, but my response to the crowds left me questioning.
In the next couple of weeks I did some inner searching as well as some internet searching. It was then I discovered my secret, I had enochophobia. Enochophobia is what they call a fear of crowds.
Enochophobia made sense. I thought about my life, the things that made me think I was somehow abnormal and defective. I loved live music but I hated concerts. I loved faith teaching, but hated going to church. I could wait patiently for hours but I hated being in line. People, crowds of them, made me miserable.
Enochophobia. Enoch was an Old Testament fellow who had so much love for God that he never died. Enochophobia makes me die a thousand times over when I am around too many people.
I think I am a rare version of extroverted enochophobe. I really like, care for, even love folk. I love having people over for dinner, small groups, and jam sessions. The more there are, though, the more uncomfortable I become. There is a tipping point where my extroverted energy becomes overtaken with my crowd anxiety. Trouble is it changes from situation to situation.
It took me moving away from the crowds to realize those very crowds were a great cause of misery. I couldn’t be happy because I was almost always either uncomfortable or on the verge of it. I am a little perturbed that I wasn’t aware before. Maybe I could have done something about it. Maybe counseling, acupuncture or electric shock therapy could have helped. My nature opened doors for me that my anxiety would never allow me to enter through, or if I did it would not allow me to remain.
Without really knowing why, I was given the cure, or at least the medication. At the urging of The Spirit I moved away from the crowds and the press. I was planted in a community stuck in the 1950’s. I was told to become faithfully rooted in this little hamlet where crowds are rare, community is common, and where love is the cure.
I don’t know if my mountainside medicating will ever cure my enochophobia. I don’t even know at this point that I am interested in a cure. Like I said, I feel better than I have in years. I suppose the occasional crowd that springs up can be managed. Maybe I can pray or ask for prayer. Maybe I will just be, and enjoy being, and let things be as they are. Maybe, just maybe, that little phobia was put there for a reason, to mold me, to make me, or even to send me. Who knows, I may have just been born for such a time and such a place as this.