26 November 2009


I have a secret. Something I've never told anyone until now. I am ashamed of being lonely.
Turns out that's because I'm not and never was. I'll explain.
I was raised by quiet parents in a quiet place. We were OK with quiet. It was admittedly a boring place to grow up as a kid, it was still in the summer and wild in the winter. It is who I am.

So, why then, when I was in my early twenties, did I suffer from loneliness so gut wrenching that I wanted to die? Not die exactly, but not be alive while it was happening.
I had left home too soon, my Father and I just couldn't get along and I decided to try it alone.
I had initially moved in with a boyfriend (we lived in my school bus for a spell, but that's another story) but I eventually had to strike out again on my own.
I landed in a cottage on Shamrock Ranch in Pacifica, not far from where I grew up on the cliffs in Daly City, CA.
It should have been the ideal country getaway, but alas it leaked inside during the winter and was too close the the road to be peaceful. Plus, I was still young enough to be lured into the city for the nightlife, still trying to mate, still trying to find something that I couldn't find.
So I drove back and forth, to work and the nightlife in SF and home to the coast, to SF and back, to SF and back.
At a certain moment, I can remember the exact place..sitting on the back stairs of the good job that I had as a stock manager at a clothing store in Noe Valley..I broke down. I was overwhelmed with despair. I couldn't get a grip. I felt like the world was caving in around me. I couldn't express myself to anyone (god bless my boss who didn't fire me on the spot.)
And so it went..years of it. If there had been anti-depression meds on the market at that point I would have been a prime candidate for treatment. But to my knowledge there was nothing for it. I tried self-help books, counseling, mantras..nothing could snap me out of it. I was lonely, I thought, and I felt ashamed of how I felt. After all, a gal like me was tough, right? I could handle this.
I wanted a relationship but no one that I met wanted me. I had a good job, but it wasn't a career. I had a cottage but I wasn't comfortable there. My parents and I were close in proximity, but not in family (my mother and I have always been close but the situation with my Dad was miserable.) There was no internet, no email, not even cable TV! If I had been so inclined, I would have been a perfect candidate for pregnancy. I needed to be needed.
Then, I found my loom, which brings me to the present and the reason for this rant.
A series of events led me to a small weaving shop in SF. I had studied weaving briefly at SFSU and knew it was something I wanted to continue. I talked to the owner about an affordable table loom, but she recommended a floor loom (a Baby Wolf Schacht at $500! If you are a weaver you are swooning at the deal as they are now $1500+), recognizing that I wanted the foot peddle/shuttle throwing alpha state that can only be got with a floor loom.A friend helped me cart it home in her Fiat convertible, and that was that.
The whole process of setting up to weave was so deliciously complicated that I finally was comfortable in my skin. I won't say that it snapped me out of my depression-aka-loneliness, but it certainly gave me relief.
When Elizabeth and I set up my loom last weekend, which had sat untended for 20+ years, I had an epiphany. It wasn't that I was lonely all those years, it was that I lacked purpose in my life.
Maybe it's the calm that comes with Buddhism, maybe it's the centering that comes with age, but I was able to see that in my twenties I just didn't have a purpose for being. I wasn't lonely, I needn't be ashamed of what I've carried unspoken all these years, I just needed a plan.
The dance gave me that. Coming back to my loom returned me to the scary place. I still choose a solitary lifestyle but I can sit at home now in a house that I own, a stone's throw from the cottage in Pacifica, and finally feel like I have purpose.
Oh, and here's my new baby.


Herbatka said...

In a way it's good to know you had your demons too ;-) 'Cause when I met you, you seemed so perfectly calm, relaxed and knowing WHO you are and WHY you are that I just thought "Oh my, I wanna be her when I grow up" ;-) And I agree with everything you said about having a purpose in our lives. The western world is crazy about the youth - everybody wants to be young and no woman seems to be older than 24. But if I think of me, when I was 20+ I don't like it at all - I was chasing my own tail trying to meet expectations of other people and thinking they are my own expectations and I felt something was missing all the time. I didn't feel lonely but really sad and incomplete most of the time. The sense of purpose came first when I turned 33 and calmness too and massive changes in my life. I wonder if those problems are connected with the fact that during the socialization girls are still trained in taking care of others rather than in finding own goals.

Tracy Carlton said...

beautiful, soulful, heart-warming sharing! this speaks so deeply to me. thank you.

Amy said...

Thank you for opening up about this. I remember how in my mid twenties when I was surrounded by friends and family and my boyfriend, busy with school and work and my social life, I was miserable. I ended up walking away from most of my social circle because I couldn't stand the overwhelming atmosphere of ennui that permeated it, of people waiting for life to begin. I didn't know what I wanted but I new I couldn't wait for the mythical something that as supposed to show up and make life more interesting. I turned to my own company and creativity, became happier with me and began the process of creating a life that fit.

I won't say 10 years later that I'm perfectly happy, but I am better able to figure out what motivates my unhappiness and move in a better direction. I still catch up with old friends occasionally and it's good to see that most of them have found their own way of crafting their happiness.

Shay Moore said...

What a beautiful story. And I look forward to hearing more about your loom. I have been curious and researching looms casually for the past year. Thanks for sharing pieces of your soul with us.

Carrie said...

This gives me hope. I love being alone. Or I should say, I'm comfortable hanging out with myself. I'm just not comfortable being lonely.

Elizabeth said...

I just saw this! There is my little traveling wheel next to yours! Sweet! They are friends! Like you and I! I'm happy you have found purpose, weaving is a lovely practice for meditation but you know that. I think that feeling that way in your 20's is quite normal, that how our biology causes us to find partners and reproduce insuring the survival of the species!
xoxo Elizabeth

Leslie said...

"I needn't be ashamed of what I've carried unspoken all these years, I just needed a plan..."

And here I was thinking I was all alone in this particular struggle. Though some of the more person-specific details may be different, the story and the struggle is the same.

And then, I became a nursing student. And I had my epiphany. There it was, waiting patiently for me all these years... and I am both excited, and terrified. But I am more content now that I have been in a very long time because I finally came to terms with my own personal struggles with loneliness. All the years of wondering why, why am I single, not married, no kids? Why doesn't anyone want to love me the way it seems everyone else has someone loving them? Is it me? Or... was there a whole lot more to this all than I was willing to admit. After one, good breakdown, and many, many visits to therapists, I still really had no answers. Little did I know the answer was waiting for me in a nursing class.

I have a feeling the further I get into this work, this purpose I truly believe is mine to own, the less lonely I feel. The less I feel like living a solitary life, is something to be ashamed of.

Thank you for sharing this. It really meant a lot to me.

Nancy Young said...

Wow. Thanks so much, Carolena, for sharing this piece of your deep history. Please let me add that in finding your purpose in dance, you did more than fulfill yourself. You created an artistic vision that inspired and set fire to a whole dance community. A vision that has endured for years and seems to be growing ever stronger. In short, you provided a fulfilling purpose for a lot of other souls (among them mine). Thank you, and happy New Year!

elley said...

Nancy you absolutely took the words out of my mouth. How beautiful of you, Carolena, to share something so personal with us. What is especially beautiful is that you created something that would end up helping so many other women find purpose in their own lives, and I count myself among those blessed! Thank you ♥

Bimini said...

Reading your post got me thinking, oddly enough, about the movie "The Matrix" where the villain says that "it is purpose that drives us." I didn't know what that meant until I had children. I was where you were, in a place without a purpose. Thank you for your inspiring message.