Oahu, overlooking where From Here to Eternity was filmed.
Is it possible to actually BE happier someplace else? Is happiness found within a destination? Certainly, it can be argued that some locations, cities, countries, just exude a culture or an energy that resonates, inspires, or relaxes, don’t you think? In my mid-20s, I LOVED New York City. I thrived on the vibrant energy, the fun, and being able to see concerts, plays or opera in the park in the summer—or using my student discount ID to see amazing musicians. I loved the food, the multi-cultural vibe and all the writers and dreamers and artists I met in school. Today? I don’t love NYC so much. It’s too noisy. It’s too far away from the ocean. It’s filled with too many rude people who yell at old people if they are too slow in grocery store lines paying their bills. I know. I lived there. And I’ve lived in London, Atlanta, Maryland, and had small stints in Florida & Maine. I grew up in North Carolina. I’ve travelled throughout most of the States, as well as nearly all of Europe, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union and have twice been to India as well as vacationed in Peru and Mexico and Costa Rica. I’m a lucky traveller. None of these places, however, I would consider moving to. Not any more. At one point, I considered moving to Barcelona. Two years ago I even stayed in a central apartment with a roof deck where I slept many summer nights. I visited the International school too. I had thought, intellectually, that being closer to my ex-husband in London, would be good for the boys and we could all learn Spanish, and still be in a warm climate. I had loved visiting before and even had a girlfriend living there with her family. That was the intellectual viewpoint. After living there for two weeks, however, I realized that while I loved all the artists and the liberal vibe and being near the sea, I didn’t quite mesh with the culture. I adored the big dinners and how everyone seemed to love spending time together. There were no snapping at children, for instance. None of that rushed American anxious energy. BUT, and it’s a bit BUT, smoking was everywhere. Meat was in every meal. Loads of drinking. And it was expensive. I wasn’t sure I could start over again there. Visit again? Yes. Live there? No. And to be fair, I wasn’t always ‘happy’ there, or visioned a way to be.
Why am I sharing all this? Because after my 4th vacation in Honolulu, I’m starting to see Oahu as my 2nd home. It just feels right. Like a good relationship that defies intellectual reasoning, it just feels good—and I feel good—when there. After I landed yesterday at LAX, I felt some stress immediately. Some may laugh, as I live right on the beach in Hermosa. I decided to go for a walk on the strand. It was 4:30 p.m. and sunny, warmish for here. I grabbed some water and took off. The walk to the pier was met with loads of drunk beach goers and a few cat calls from decks from guys who likely cat call any gal walking by in shorts or a bathing suit. Why did this cause me anxiety? Because I’m not a partier. When in this environment, I get a little anxious. I’ve always been like that. A small group having a picnic, no problem. But crowds and cat calling, no thanks. When I got home, a friend going through a divorce came by. The anxiety was high. She’s going through a lot. He has another girlfriend immediately, they are going through all their assets, it’s fear, anger, abandonment. She isn’t taking care of herself and having a very hard time staying positive. She won’t do yoga or walk regularly or eat well. She is overwhelmed and it’s hard for me to see as I feel helpless. I am helpless. Thank God I am no longer triggered to what I went through when my ex left me with a baby. I’ve literally worked though it all with yoga and forgiveness. I can see that it was the best thing for me as God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself and I’m now teaching yoga and writing creatively. My friend will find the blessing in her situation, eventually. But not now. And her situation mirrors the southern California culture or energy, or accepted requirement to always stay young, to always be beautiful. It can be a competitive and insecure environment to live in as a woman. After said friend left, a neighbor came by, a wonderful soul, who loves to party, but has a good heart. We’re very good friends. He wanted me to meet his new girlfriend. It was awkward immediately as she gave me a ‘stank’ face after assessing me and complained to him that she didn’t want to meet me. She was loud about it, as she was tipsy and holding her glass of vino as she was getting into the car. I agreed to drive them to a party. It was now 6 p.m. The vibe was competitive and definitely not peaceful. He was trying to be cool, but she wasn’t comfortable and had too much to drink. They were off to a party where likely some of our mutual friends would be. I had no interest in going, as I wanted to get up early, unpack, make an Easter brunch for the boys and do some writing, NOT hung over. Does that make me not fun? Does that make me boring? And why did I get a ‘stank’ face when I was nicely driving them somewhere? And why won’t my dear friend breathe and take care of herself better so she can get through this time? Why do I feel anxious within minutes of being home? Why do these situations make me uncomfortable? These are the thoughts and feelings that flood in, based on outside factors or energy or events. Clearly, I don’t totally feel at home living here. Last night I had nightmares too.
I had no nightmares in Hawaii. The sliding glass doors to the patio were open every night, with warm, reassuring breezes and ocean lapping sounds filling our apartment. Sometimes distant luau dancers could be heard, or the local musician singing at a Waikiki beach bistro. Sure there was partying, but nothing bothered me. There were no cat calls from out of control drunk boys. There were no stank looks from insecure women. It was chill on the beaches, we met cool people hiking and in town at local restaurants. It felt creative and the vibe, wherever I went, was chill. There is a deep reverence for nature and the sea and culture. Sure there are partiers, but there are just as many chill people relaxing side by side with them.
I always feel happy there. Last week, whether I was writing my 9th chapter of Between Thoughts of You, (my next novel), or whether I was in Waikiki or a North Shore beach, or wandering through a remote ranch or hiking in the woods, or up to a volcano. Yes, I was on vacation, but this is my 4th vacation. After coming back home and feeling the pressure and the anxious vibe that is LA, I booked two more weeks in Honolulu via airbnb for late June & early July while the boys are with their dad in France. I have a hard time blocking out the noise and the energy and the fears here. It makes it harder to write. For instance, as I was putting my youngest to bed last night, I worried about him growing up here. I worried about how expensive it is here and how I can’t buy a home. I worried about the quality of men who ask me out. There’s only been one in the past 4 years here that I’d ever want to really be in a relationship with. I’m picky. And it’s because of the boys. This world in LA can be extremely focussed on the external and how things appear, not how they feel. I want to be with people who feel good. People who like to just hang with their kids, be with them, enjoy simple things.
So, while experts, yogis & psychologists all claim (understandably) that happiness is “an inside job,” where you live matters. I understand that To BE happy, one needs to find strength, worth, inspiration, trust, safety, balance, joy, forgiveness, etc. all within. I’m a yoga teacher and a writer and I talk about this stuff every week. (For good reason, I teach what I need to learn, lol!) I love chakra trainings and chakra classes and often my students don’t even realize how I change the class last minute based on the discussions and energy I hear and fell before class. If there are a lot of anxious people who have been dealing with change or illness or relationship stress, we definitely do grounding poses. I talk about the first chakra: being safe, grounded, rooted, supported, trusting, etc. You get the idea. So I’m a firm believer that happiness—and our health—is our own responsibility. But shouldn’t we, or I, notice when I ‘feel’ off in a certain location? Who we surround ourselves with and where we live—what energy and culture and norms exist there—can directly affect our core, our balance, our center.
I feel better in Oahu. I feel at home. I don’t feel pressure to BE anything other than I am. I can write there. I can relax there. I could easily teach yoga there. I meet sweet, gentle, people every time I’ve gone. So while I can’t move for the next 4 years, as my oldest is thriving in high school here, that doesn’t mean that I can’t go back and forth as often as I can afford to. So here’s to manifesting my next book deal and buying a little cottage by the sea to write my next book! In June, I’ll be staying at a cottage in Ewa Beach, checking out a different location, far from tourists, and writing every day, editing my first draft of my next novel. To say I can’t wait, is an understatement!
As always, Mahalo for reading my meandering prose.
Chime in: Where is your happy place? Do you have one?