I made a mistake today.
I gave up. After 5 days here in this apartment in Charlotte, my spirits had sunk so low, I was at the point of despair. (I'm sorry, North Carolinians, but this corner of your state really is my idea of Hell). The only options I could see were either to shut the doors and wallow in it; or else, to escape, and I spent a good amount of time this afternoon trying to research any possible method of getting the kids and me out of here, without bankrupting us or wrecking their school year. (the answer – not possible).
I couldn’t bear to try to pretend anymore that everything’s OK. I didn’t want to go to the Cirque site, and put on a smile. I didn’t want to see all of the people with their warm hellos – because, when I’m not there, does anyone think about me at all? I became convinced that no one there really gives a damn about me. And to top it off, I’d reached my breaking point with being barred from the Cirque site – it’s an entirely degrading feeling to stand outside the gate, unable to go inside. I did that for two months in London, and when I was turned away here in Charlotte (during the setup week, when families aren’t allowed in), it put me over the edge.
I began to think this afternoon that I simply can’t handle this life. And I thought more about Philadelphia, where a lot of people really do value me, and want me as part of things. Where I’m not begging for people’s attention, and I have a real role.
So I resolved to skip Premiere tonight. The time when most of the family members will reunite, get dressed up, the kids will run around being crazy together and the moms will share commentary on the new city. I just thought, I can’t handle this. I want to be alone in my misery. And even though seeing Totem has a good chance of making me feel better – I didn’t want to feel better.
We had to get Baz and Ayla from school, anyway, and Isa and I were waiting for the shuttle bus when Olga pulled up. Olga is one of the Russian wives living here at our apartment complex. I’ve never really befriended her as more than a passing acquaintance. She is very close to Nastya, which is probably the only reason I see her at all. She has a 2-year-old daughter, Alina, and she and her family seem to usually keep to themselves.
I got in Olga’s car and we made small talk in Russian. (my Russian, when last I left it, was at a staggeringly basic level – it’s now a rusty, staggeringly basic level.) Two things I can tell you about Olga – one is that she is always elegantly dressed and made up (she is blond and beautiful to begin with). And the other is that she speaks to me only in Russian, despite my struggles. This is rare. During our car conversation, she said a couple of sentences that fairly magically turned around my day. She said (in Russian of course) “I was looking for you yesterday. I wanted to talk to you, about the English classes? When can we start?”
My answer was clumsy and unclear, but later on I realized how important this had been for me to hear. She was thinking about me. She is interested in something I suggested, and it’s not all me taking the initiatives.
The only other person I ran into on site was the kids’ teacher David, and he and I chatted for a few minutes, commiserating about America, and the craziness of living in a place with no sidewalks.
When I left site, I realized that my tantrum of trying to isolate myself was just hurting me, and unnecessary. And on this tour, we are all, I imagine, struggling here. I don’t always know how to reach out to the others. But they probably don’t know how to reach out to me, either. And getting defensive and putting up walls isn’t going to get me anywhere.
The children were devastated when we left the site without seeing the show. I determinedly dragged them home, but then I really saw their pain and disappointment, and realized that my self-absorbed wallowing is now hurting them, too. And that they, too, need to feel connected to the show again, and I’ve prevented that (for today at least).
The moral of the story is, I’ve got to pick up and try again. This city will pass. But these people will be part of my life for a long time to come. And when I open the doors to them again, I will be stronger and happier.