Yesterday was Groundhog Day.
For my whole life I’ve either openly or privately seen this day purely as a tacky predecessor to the most important day of the month – my birthday. Hold the applause.
Of course, we’ve all joked about the year 2020 (and now 2021) as a new-and-not-so-improved version of Groundhog Day. A repetitive, increasingly numbing, spice-girls-esque song on repeat.
So, yesterday, after yet another day of lockdown and work from home, I allowed myself to be sucked into Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell’s cinematic rendition of the real February 2nd tradition, Groundhog Day.
And though I’ve seen this movie a dozen times before in my life, the impact of its repetition clearly meant more to me this time around. Every single day the clock strikes 6 am and “I Got You, Babe” plays out while Bill Murray looks at the ceiling as if to say; “what the actual fuck”.
Turn on the morning news everyday and see a huge scary Covid graphic? And instead of “I Got You, Babe”, you hear music more suited to a horror movie trailer than a news broadcast? Every. Single. Day. Yes, what the actual.
If you’ve seen this movie, you’ll know it’s tacky, old, and honestly, downright cheesy. But I've found a new appreciation for it.
What I took from this movie this time through, which never really grabbed me before, was the concept that we can choose to have these moments, periods, years, either define us, or be self-defining.
On the surface, the opportunities for Bill’s character (Phil) seemed pretty awesome, almost super-hero-like. He had what were essentially unlimited chances to screw up. He could make a choice one day, and then go back and re-do it the next. He jumped in front of buses, leapt off buildings and took a bath with a toaster. Each time coming out clean on the other side. But there was no thrill in it, no uncertainty.
Sure, most of us don’t carry a lifelong yearning to jump in front of moving vehicles or bathe with appliances. But we all have a million opportunities to do it, figuratively. We all have the option to leave a suffocating career, to choose our most important values, to leave a shitty relationship, to tell a horrible boss to FO, or to give away everything we own and travel the world (once you get your vaccine of course).
We all have the option to choose what’s most important to us.
We can all decide to define our deepest values, and to live by those values for the years, whether few or many, that we are lucky enough to have on this earth.
So, it wasn’t a surprise for me to watch Phil suffer miserably, until he realized that the only path to contentment was to take his perpetual Groundhog Day and make something of it.
And that’s exactly what he did. He learned to understand how others felt, what they loved, what made them happy, who was suffering, who needed help; and hell, he even learned how to play the piano. And, like every rom-com ever written - he learned what it meant to love. Heartwarming isn’t it.
But it was one line amidst Phil's epiphany that made me pause and grab the laptop:
“No matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.”
Too often we forget this entirely. I recently wrote about taking time for oneself, and how everything else will be there tomorrow; and also read one by Karen Banting “In Defence of Rest” that expanded on the concept of, get this: actually caring for ourselves.
That quote should be something we all repeat, as often as possible. Maybe I can even lobby to have it put on our family chalkboard. The thing is – it simply embodies just how often we look to tomorrow as a source of happiness; that whatever planning and work we put in will bring us some kind of undefined happiness in some kind of undefined “tomorrow”.
But here’s the truth:
Today is Tomorrow.
Today is yesterday’s tomorrow; this week is last week’s next week; this year is last year’s next year.
It’s this 2020-21 Groundhog Day on repeat that can help us remember what we often forget. That we are free to choose to be happy, satisfied, or content; today.
Problem is, we live in a society that craves and is driven by choice; choice in our own future. Choices abound each and every minute of every day, and most of us fail to fully comprehend that this plethora of choice is generally, not super helpful. This “freedom to choose" that we covet so deeply is actually a source of heartache for many of us, much of the time. We just don’t realize it.
Choice simply adds a new pressure: choosing.
If there’s choice, it means were forced to make a decision. These decisions are stressed over at an alarming pace in today’s world – and many of them scare us deeply.
However, these decisions often scare us for the wrong reasons. They scare us because we’re afraid of change; of the unknown. We’re afraid of what others think of us. We’re afraid that life won’t turn out as we planned. We’re afraid that things tomorrow won’t be as comfortable as they are today.
But what the actual. If you are over the age of 5, tell me please: when did you actually start planning your entire life story, and what honestly turned out exactly according to that plan? And more importantly, if you're afraid that things tomorrow won’t be like they are today, then why aren’t you just celebrating today?
So, this old, cheesy Bill Murray theatre, has reminded me that we need to embrace the chances we get, make the most of our opportunities, and goddamit, go after what we want. Even if everything or everyone tells us its stupid and unrealistic. To go ahead and just celebrate today.
Phil woke up at 6 am every single goddamn morning, knowing that his day would end exactly the same as it did the day before; with a 6 am wake up call to a song he wished never to hear again. Eventually though, he just decided that he’d make today better than yesterday. That was it. He made this day better than the last.
Phil had no tomorrow.
He made tomorrow, today.
Let’s all do that.