A few years ago, Hans and I were between our old house and new digs. Construction delays on our new place meant moving into a hotel.
What was originally supposed to be three months turned into six. That’s 173 days. But who’s counting.
That’s where these two stories begin: We were 63 days into our extended stay at the hotel.
And I’ve never been more clear: What you focus on is what you get.
You see, I can tell two stories of the extended stay hotel experience. Both are true. But only one is energizing.
The first story recounts two people living in only 303 square feet.
Once upon a time, they encountered…
- a heroin overdose across the hall
- being moved multiple times for maintenance issues
- what sounds like bowling balls dropped repeatedly on the ceiling in the wee hours
- a week-long WI-Fi outage
- the never-ending hum of expressway traffic outside the window
- fitness center privileges suddenly and mysteriously being revoked
- a bathroom light that sounds like a jet engine
- the upstairs neighbor bowling at midnight again
- a power outage…and then another one
- water splashing from the toilet bowl with each flush—even with the lid closed
- repeated billing errors
- a box of half eaten chicken bones sitting atop the stairwell trash bin…for days
- window screens with gaps big enough to let in bugs (or small birds, for that matter)
- a phone that works about half the time
- $4 investment to do a load of laundry
- the sound of those thudding bowling balls again
…and so the story goes.
The second story is also true. But this one focuses on the connected togetherness of those same 303 square feet.
Once upon a time, we:
- used our new digs as a clean slate to keep the TV turned off and the conversation turned on
- spent more time reading and enjoying great books
- grinned and giggled while sitting at the tiniest table, knees touching, eating a simple dinner prepared on a two-burner cooktop
- revived working out together, something we’d stopped doing years ago
- really appreciated the few creature comforts we’d brought with us and treasured how they made a room into a home
- looked forward to strolling to Whole Foods in the evening for sushi or a decadent dessert
- planned fun-filled weekend jaunts in and around the city, figuring if we live in a hotel we’re going to act like we’re on vacation
- reveled in the amazing water pressure (When trying to be positive about the hotel stay, I wrote Yelp reviews in my head about the joy of great water pressure.)
- enjoyed watching awe-inspiring cranes almost daily in the nearby lagoons
- embraced that 303 square feet is more than enough
- practiced not sweating the small stuff, reminding ourselves most things really are a First World Problem
What’s the focus?
Focusing on the first story, I feel frustrated, irritable, inconvenienced, drained.
Living through that focus felt like a day half-lived, squandered. As if I’ve made my serenity about all the external instead of that quiet place inside.
It was never more clear: The kind of day I experience depends not on the facts of the day, but which facts I choose to focus on.
I was by no means perfect during our 6-month hotel stay. Some days all I focused on is the bathroom outlet not working.
But day by day and moment by moment, I would gently focus and refocus. I wanted to make sure my focus allowed me to tell the kind of story with a happy ending.
Sure, your day is made up of external factors and situations beyond your control. But where are you focused? Could you tell a different story if you focused differently?