Paradise: It's Not All That It's Cracked Up To Be

I have a new countdown. We are moving back to Hawaii in two weeks.

In Los Angeles, I feel perfectly comfortable complaining about just about anything and everything. It is a big crowded, smoggy city, with too many people, and too many cars. Plus I work in a pressure-cooker industry. Complaining is part of the comedy of living here.

In Hawaii, there SHOULD be nothing to complain about. It's "paradise." Everyone assumes you are sitting poolside with an umbrella cocktail or surfing all day.

"That's vacation," I remind them. I have a regular life filled with everyday chores, responsibilities, emotional highs and lows and work.

People then say, "But you live in Hawaiiiiii..."

Sigh.

"Paradise" falls into the category of words that are just too tough to live up to. I call them "labels of perfection."  Other such "labels of perfection" include:

  • Soul Mate
  • Honeymoon
  • Dream Job
  • Fairy-Tale Wedding
  • Forever

There is nowhere to go after these words... except down.

So "living in paradise" is one of those phrases that can only lead to disappointment as well. It's as if living in paradise comes with this extra pressure that I MUST be happy or somehow I will be disappointing someone.

Maybe that someone is me.

When we moved to Hawaii the first time, it came a whole host of other emotions. After the initial relief of being out of the constant stress of my big job, I found new ways to make my job equally stressful.

I always said, "The problem with moving to paradise was that I came with me." It's like the classic line from The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai: "No matter where you go. There YOU are."

You can change your job, your boss, your home, your environment and your marriage, but if you haven't figured out how to deal with your own internal crazy thoughts, there is no "paradise" to escape to.

This makes for an outstanding employee by the way, because I would overcompensate for all that neurosis by trying to exceed all expectations and do everything at warp speed. I was terrified that anyone would ever accuse me of just "phoning it in."

I became an amplified version of my former self, but in a setting that was completely incongruent to that kind of hyper-vigilance.

Then came other issues. I had injured myself playing tennis.  (A series of injuries that started with my shoulder, then became my neck, elbow, wrist and hand.) I was in chronic pain and I was unable to enjoy my one and only hobby.

My husband, on the other hand, was playing more tennis than ever, became President of our Homeowners Association and had no problem running his business remotely.

So while he was enjoying his professional life, his physical surroundings, and his social life, I was at home either chained to a computer working, cooking or cleaning.

My social life and my tennis life were one and the same, so I had had very little free time to cultivate other social circles. I still had a very demanding corporate job. My free time was spent taking care of a family of four. Not to mention, I missed my friends, co-workers and most of all my middle daughter back in Los Angeles.

After my oldest daughter went off to college, I felt even lonelier. Now two of my daughters were living in other states. I was living in "paradise," but if I couldn't play tennis or create my own schedule, I might as well be working in my old corporate job. At least there, I would be spending time with extended family and friends back in LA.

All of those things were factors in my decision to take the three year contract and move back to LA. That three year contract was the one that ended earlier than expected last April.

My husband was thrilled that we are going back to Hawaii ahead of schedule. We had a running joke that, if I was ever having a bad day, he would always look at me gleefully and say, "Just quit. I will meet you at the airport."

So here we are... just 16 days away from going back. But this time, I am truly NOT ready.

I have just started my life as an independent producer. I am a month away from completing the first season of my first series... and I love it.

I am afraid if I move back now that I am not established enough in my new role as a producer to have gained any real traction.

I am afraid if I move back now that I could fall down that same rabbit hole of loneliness and become a "prisoner in paradise" again.

My husband and I have spent a lot of time talking about this. He assures me that this time, things will be different: I am no longer leaving a daughter behind. My eldest has graduated college and now works full-time. My middle daughter is going to college in upstate New York and our relationship has never been better. My youngest is coming with us and she no longer needs the kind of attention that she did when she was four years old. She is going into the 7th grade and is very self-sufficient.

Most of my body parts seem to have recovered, so I am finally back to playing tennis.

I will no longer be tied to a corporation with layers of bosses. My schedule is what I make of it and, unless I have a show in production, I can determine how much or how little I want to work.

We are moving to a new house in Hawaii to be closer to where my youngest will be going to school.

Best of all, I am not running away. In fact, I am cautiously returning to my other home. I am no longer a refugee. I came back and did a job that I actually liked. I did it well. I left on my own terms and I have started something new on my terms as well.

But "paradise" and I have a complicated relationship and I am nervous about our reunion.