“Martin and I love houses,” wrote actor and author Richard Chamberlain in his memoir Shattered Love. “A wise friend and teacher of ours says we have house karma. Over the years we’ve created several wonderful houses, always remodeling existing structures. Our lifelong goal has been to design and build our dream house.
“We love living in Hawaii, and for 20 years we’ve had our eyes on a particularly beautiful house site. About three years ago the lot became available, and to our surprise and delight the owner accepted our first offer. This all happened so easily that we assumed our project was blessed.
“This home was to be our final stop and guarantee our future happiness. We hired an architect and created a serene and handsome design that took maximum advantage of the gorgeous setting. We even engaged a top-notch interior designer from the mainland and started thinking about furniture. We were on our way to a nirvana of sand, surf and sunsets.
|Richard Chamberlain in Hawaii in 2003|
“We sold our big house in Honolulu, put a lot of stuff in storage and crammed ourselves and the rest of our possessions into our small beach house in the country to wait for building permits and for construction to begin.
“Then, out of the blue, a series of bureaucratic hassles big and small began an endless series of delays and costly legal confrontations. I’ve lost track of how many times we all said with relief, ‘Well, that’s finally over, now we can begin!’ only to be surprised and dismayed by yet another, sometimes whimsical change in official policy. Permissions granted, permissions withdrawn. Our guarantee of happiness was turning into the prescription for a mix of smoldering rage and clinical depression.
“Though we love the sweetness of the people here, over the years we’ve found the State of Hawaii bureaucrats to be self-important, arbitrary and downright unfriendly. Our frustration with this latest lengthy fracas with officialdom led us to think seriously about selling the lot and leaving the islands for good. We both felt worn down, hugely disappointed and unaccountably victimized.
“So where is the Christ, where is the Buddha in this mess of frustrated dreams?
“One recent afternoon, feeling thoroughly bummed out by all this, I sat down in the living room of the beach house we’ve owned for 26 years and took a long look at the absurdity of letting the supposed source of our future bliss, our imagined tropical Shangri-la, cause us so much unhappiness and angst.
“I got very quiet and just looked at our situation as objectively as I could. Gazing out the windows, I noticed the sunny perfection of the day and heard the rhythmic rumble of the waves. The plumeria trees were blooming and scenting the breeze, the doves and mynah birds were gabbing. A lamb stew was simmering in the kitchen. Our much-loved dog was asleep at my feet. There wasn’t a hint of turmoil anywhere. If I was stressed out, the cause was nowhere in sight. The cause must be in my own head, in my thinking.
“It was suddenly clear: I had attached my well-being to an imagined dream house and its easy manifestation. Ignoring past experience, I had staked my happiness on cooperative, concerned officials and honest, thrifty, competent contractors (good luck!).
“And I wondered why it’s so easy for me to forget that my sense of well-being is only now in the present. It cannot be dragged in from the past, which is gone, dead and buried, nor can it be found in the future, which doesn’t exist. Well-being is simply being well right now, living with as much integrity, clear awareness and open-heartedness as we can muster, with a willingness to examine whatever barriers we’re putting in the way of our innate if sometimes elusive wisdom.
“When I remember to quiet down and do this, the problems that pollute my thinking and vaporize my wa (inner harmony) become interesting challenges rather than subversive attachments — I’m free to “be well” and at the same time to vigorously deal with the difficulties at hand. I had been victimized only by my own thinking. I was painfully disappointed not by the officials who were just doing what they do for inscrutable reasons of their own, but by my unrealistic expectations.