Tomorrow is the day a rodent named Phil, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania peeks his head up from the snowy ground to find his shadow. If he sees his shadow, according to legend, there will be six more weeks of winter. Paradoxically (at least to me), if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.
Groundhog Day is also the setting for the famous film featuring Bill Murray as a TV weatherman who visits Punxsutawney, only to get stuck in a time loop, reliving the day over and over until he figures out how to break the cycle. Sounds a little too real, right?
For the last couple of years, I, like many people, have felt stuck in a similar loop. Wake up, work from home, watch TV, go to bed…wake up, work from home, watch TV, go to bed…and so on…and so on…Sprinkled in between, there are occasional errands to shop for groceries, doctor appointments, and other of life’s necessities. There have been brief periods where we’ve gone to restaurants and traveled, had glimpses of life beyond. But it seems even that is part of the Groundhog Day loop.
So here I am, on the brink of another year cycling round and round the pandemic. In the film, Bill Murray’s character decides that since he’s stuck, he might as well pass the time acquiring new skills. He takes piano lessons, he learns ice carving, among others. And in the end, he changes from an arrogant, cynical curmudgeon into a softer, more sensitive version of himself. With the realization that his actions have no long-term consequences, and the notion that this may be his fate forever, he is able to let go of the life he had and learn to live in the moment.
That lesson has been the hardest for me to learn. As a chronic planner I am most comfortable when I have things to look forward to and anticipate. I don’t think I’m a control freak, but I do like to have a goal. I can live in the moment only after I’ve planned for an executed the plan for the moment. So, it’s been a challenge to let go of plans, to reframe my goals, and to find pleasure in what is right outside my window. As for learning new skills, well, I started a new job in early 2020, doing something a bit different from what I’d done previously, so I’ve been learning as I go for the past two years. My husband and I have had to learn to navigate around each other as our house also became our shared “corporate headquarters.” We’ve had to set new types of boundaries, communicate differently, and manage new expectations.
Bill Murray’s weatherman finally breaks the cycle when the fates determine he’s learned enough, become a better version of himself, and can be open to the possibilities that are all around him. Obviously, a global pandemic is not a lighthearted romantic comedy, far from it. Hundreds of thousands have died, countless other lives have been irrevocably damaged, and our world will never be the same, regardless of the lessons learned. But perhaps there is a kernel of hope to be found in letting go of rigid expectations, learning things, living in the moment, embracing new ways of thinking, and being open to possibilities. I don’t know what Punxsutawney Phil will see, or not see, tomorrow. I always pray for a shorter winter. But either way, I’m good.
About Barbara Dab
Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner. Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world. The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58
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