To no one’s surprise, the most famous groundhog in the United States — Punxsutawney Phil — prognosticated six more weeks of winter this week. (Which, for us in Central Texas, basically means six more weeks of chilly days interspersed with spates of freakishly warm ones). But I digress.
The term “Groundhog Day” conjures doing the same thing over and over or living a humdrum life. Sometimes I could swear I actually AM living the same day repeatedly, with small variations. But you have to admit, there is something charming about the concept of Groundhog Day.
Maybe it’s because the 1993 movie, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell made the idea so fresh and funny. In the film, Murray is an unlikeable television reporter — a self-centered cad really — who falls for McDowell’s pretty character over a series of identical days. Through much trial and error — and some hysterical slapstick comedy and sarcastic dialogue — he slowly begins to learn what types of behavior work to his wooing advantage, as well as how to become a better reporter and friend.
By the end of the movie, he has redeemed himself and not only gets the girl but becomes a decent human being. If only more people could harness this trick. But here in the real world, I often think there is a type of Groundhog Day that we all experience — the rut.
We do the same things in the same way at pretty much the same times day after day after day and wonder why life has suddenly become so “beige.”
There is comfort in routines and a certain structure to one’s day is actually recommended.
But not to the point where you are a slave to it. Sure, some Groundhog Day principles are out of our control — we are expected to be at work at specific times, for example.
However, driving a different route to that job or waking up 30 minutes earlier to watch the sun rise or to write in a journal, for example, are just a couple of ways to shake things up.
Other ways might include walking around to speak to colleagues instead of emailing or texting them, trying out a new restaurant at lunch or making a point to get to know a co-worker you don’t know very well.
For us Army (and other military) spouses, it can feel like Groundhog Day when we go through the process of moving, settling in and getting to know a new post and city over and over again. Unpacking your stuff 10-plus times has that effect on a person.
Then once we have been on a post for a year or two, it is not uncommon for the familiar restlessness to set in, making us vaguely itchy and ready to see what is next in this big, “green” adventure.
But in between these pivotal moments, Groundhog Day can set in, particularly during the long winter months.
I find that walking the dog on different streets or breaking up a morning full of dull errands with a browse session at a local bookstore can feel like I’m breaking the monotony, at least a little.
Groundhog Day behavior also is apparent in more subtle ways.
There is a theory that until you learn to overcome a personal weakness, it will continue to appear in your life in a variety of ways.
This can take many forms, from the type of person you’re attracted to (who may have a tendency to break your heart) to situations that cause discomfort or fear, such as public speaking or asserting yourself in the workplace.
It is as if the universe really wants you to get it right so you can move on to solve a different problem, thus it will present you with myriad opportunities to deal with it.
I have witnessed this phenomenon in my own life enough times to see that it is not mere coincidence.
And frankly, the same problem in various disguises gets tiresome. But how cool that we get multiple chances to get it right.
As long as we are vertical and breathing on this earth, we have a chance to get things right.
Whatever that might mean for each of us. That’s the beauty of being a human being.
Now if only the mistakes we make could be magically erased within 24 hours, as Bill Murray’s were.