“Into his handsome face, the bitter waters of captivity had worn; but, he covered up their tracks with a determination so strong, that he held the mastery of them even in his sleep.”
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
In later years, I sometimes reflect on the life and fate of Dr. Manette in Dicken’s, A Tale of Two Cities. I first read this book as a rather naive teenager, and while I pitied him, I thought of him as being a weaker and lesser character in the story. Poor Dr. Manette, so confused, tired and old.
Many years passed, and I spent some time in a different kind of solitary prison cell, the kind whose bars are created by a dark, situational clinical depression. While Dr. Manette cobbled shoes to retain his sanity, I played the game of Solitaire. For hours. Hours and hours, day after day. My mind just focused on moving cards, while in some quiet, hidden closet, it also tried to regroup and plan a return to the land of the living. An unseen corner was turned, and I crawled out of that place, mostly recovered, but changed in some ways forever.
(spoiler) In the book, Dr. Manette is eventually freed, and slowly recovers himself and his life, with the help of his now restored daughter. One day, the doctor learns that the man marrying his beloved daughter is from the same family that caused him to be unjustly imprisoned for so many years. Trying to absorb this information causes a dark relapse for many days, during which Dr. Manette once again takes up his old tools and begins to work at cobbling shoes. He eventually comes out of it, but the lingering and dormant wounds remain, waiting for a post traumatic stress trigger to bring them into a numb reactive response.
My cobbling consists of one person card games. It’s what I do when I feel too overwhelmed. When the sense of overload rises, when no space seems safe or helpful to step into, I tend to briefly shut down while the cards are shifted from place to place. So far, whether it’s five minutes or fifty minutes, it tends to calm me and help me to pick up any knotted threads that need my faith and energy to unravel.
I wonder if the day will come when I never have the windows of feeling that way?
I wonder if anyone else out there relates to this.