Lessons from the hotel basement

There's a room in this hotel that nobody uses. I'm assuming it's a small space they had no idea what to do with so they said, "Let's just make it a lounge." But nobody wants to hang out in the hotel basement. 

Except me . . . And the custodian.

He just rolled by with a loud cart and a barrage of keys clanging from his hip. The storage and washroom are down here too.

Even though this is a basement, it's well outfitted. Street art populates the cream colored walls. The stained concrete floor is brought to life with a floor rug that looks like it's from a thrift shop. The lamp in the corner stands tall, and it glows just enough light to read a book. This couch I'm on is something from the 70's. Two chairs framed by rusted metals are refurbed with what looks like a bronze members only jacket stare at me across the way.  

It's cold, and the air conditioner is blowing. And I hear the industrial grade dryer spinning in the room 20 feet away. Is this the ideal writer's room? Probably not. I want to pull out my phone and search for that romantic coffee shop playing Mason Jennings Pandora radio. 

I'll be done here soon. But for now, this space is my place. This is the beauty of writing. It can be done anywhere - even in places where nobody likes to hang out (except for writers and custodians of course).

This little scene reminded of my relationship with discontent. It seems like there's never enough and there's always room for an upgrade or an angle for progression.  The new home. The new car. The new job. The new relationship. I've learned from experience, though, nothing new lasts forever. 

The decision then is what to do when this happens. One choice to run off and chase the next new thing. Sometimes, this is a sound selection. 

The other option is to wait a moment and see if we can find an untroubled gladness in what is right in front of us. 

The latter is an underrated pivot.

Like writing, life can be done anywhere if we can be contented. If we just wait long enough sometimes, we can start to see things differently. Instead of pulling the trigger at every opportunity in hopes that the next venture will never lose its freshness, we can sink into the current reality and discover deep joy. It's something like the warm, easy smile of your grandmother - too beautiful to remember.

This goes against what should make us happy by mainstream standards. Discontent is the lifeblood of the advertising world. And they hold nothing back to exploit it. The obsession of more is the connective tissue of our time.

Apparently, very few people want to hang out in a hotel basement. This is oddly similar to what goes on above ground: Very few people want to spend time in contentment.

The manufactured dream of perpetual accumulation, the voluntary exhaustion, the constant upgrading, and the never-ending comparison is standard practice. It is the thing we are supposed to do . . . Right? 

Contentment, like the hotel basement, is not bursting with stimulation. It's not caffeinated enough. Therefore, we choose other pursuits that will give us that hit we think we want. 

But I'll tell you what, the hotel basement is pretty cozy without the pull of compulsory consumption. And maybe, just maybe, life above ground can be the same way. 


P.S. This isn't a claim to abandon motivation. Instead, it's a story about contented ambition. 

P.S.S. If you're ever in Portland, check out Hotel Vintage - they've got a nice basement.