Editor's Note: In "Stop Crying, Start Swimming" we confront the emotional impact of a man struggling to come to terms with the person he'd allowed himself to become. Wrestling with the decision over whether it's safe to re-engage with the outside world Graveyard Innovation founder Michael Mapes shares the pain he experienced after closing a successful business and finding himself on the verge of exhaustion.
For the last 6 months,
I've tucked myself away from the world in a secret, wonderful cave I discovered, rich with privacy and ready for exploration. It was the perfect space to be alone with my crazy ideas and ruthless curiosity. The walls were solid enough to withstand the constant barrage of my too frequent thoughts fired at the walls. A place to rest, reflect, and recuperate. I didn’t even know I was tired until I found this enchanted place.
Like Alice, my curiosity led me into a world unlike anything I’d ever experienced, a world I didn't believe was possible. A place where, I actually liked being...well...me. Almost as if I'd been looking at myself through a distorted looking glass for thirty-one years, and suddenly I saw something more, something I'd been missing. I met myself for the first time, and I liked the person I met. I liked being with myself, being by myself, and the biggest impossibility of all, I trusted this self... I trusted myself.
One can't hide in a cave forever, no matter how much they might want to. Eventually, no matter how loudly a person complains the world is unfair and stomps their foot at the universe pleading:
Haven’t I done enough?
How much more do I have to hurt?
How many more challenges must I confront.
Can’t you make another Hercules or Athena to handle the big things?
I’m so very tired
I’ve tried so hard, so often and I don’t know if it’s made any difference at all.
Can’t I Rest?
Here in this cave…
where I am safe.
I felt this way until...
a turn of events, mostly unpleasant, took me out of my cave and into the world.
The same world that drained me, that I had allowed to drain me, and seemed to demand so much from everyone all the time.
A world so full of grace and so full of hatred and cruelty and people who aren’t gentle. In the midst of being forced back into the world, I realized this world isn't something hide from. I’d missed this world.
For all it's unkindness and unpredictability, I was no longer afraid of this world...I was curious about it. I remembered something about who I am as I breathed in the warmth of memory and sunshine, “Oh yeah, this is the world I love. In spite of everything, there’s no where I’d rather be. This world isn' 'this world' in the same way if I stay hidden away in a cave.”
For all it's unkindness and unpredictability, I was no longer afraid...
Maybe we don’t have to be meant for this world, to love it.
Maybe we don't have to be strong enough for this world, to live in it.
Maybe we just have to be in it. In some way.
When we give ourselves the delicious gift of seeing with more than our eyes, with the part of ourselves that doesn't need to be able to explain something to know it exists, and understands the line between imagination and reality was made up by people who, more than anything else in the world, fear little girls who jump down rabbit holes following time obsessed creatures, it doesn’t really matter what part of Wonderland we happen to have stumbled upon. It only matters that we're curious enough to keep exploring...experiencing.
Perhaps we find ourselves standing up to a queen whose reality is so fragile she threatens a royal beheading lest anyone tell her, “No ma’am those roses are not red, and I’m not quite sure why no one else seems to notice.”