Thoughts on Groundhog Day



It’s Groundhog Day today.   So if the little critter sees his shadow there’s more winter?  Less winter?  Oh, I don’t know.  I live in Tucson where we are happily into sunny spring.

But I did love the movie, “Groundhog Day”.  In case you haven’t seen it (is there anyone who hasn’t seen it?) it’s about a cranky and cynical weather man (Bill Murray) who is on assignment in Punxsutawney, PA to cover the yearly groundhog shadow-spotting event and related festivities.  He ends up getting snowed in and wakes up to learn that he is reliving the same day as the previous one. Essentially he gets to have a perpetual do-over.  And little by little he adjusts and changes until he becomes the person he wants to be–obviously a better version than the cranky and cynical version.

Well if you’re a regular reader of this blog you can probably guess where this one is going.  While I have often heard myself utter the words, “I want a do-over” what I know for sure (thank you Oprah) is that I didn’t need a do-over, but I did need a do-differently or do-better.    What is so compelling about Groundhog Day is that Phil, (Murray’s character) is the only one who is doing anything differently.  The only thing that is changing is him.  And that starts a progression of positive change in his relationships and how he sees himself.

I read a wonderful book recently called “Gratitude and Trust” by Paul Williams (the composer and performer) and Tracey Jackson  (author and Hollywood screenwriter).  This book is a slightly different take on the principles of 12-step recovery programs that can work for anyone.  It’s essentially a series of affirmations that serve as a guide to change.  The first of these affirmations is:

“Something has to change, and it’s probably me”

I’ve made huge changes in my life over time.  I homeschooled one of my children.  I moved across the country.  I got into therapy. I got divorced.  I relocated again.  I got into therapy again. I got remarried.   I became vegan.   These changes were fueled by a fervent belief that my life could be better, that I could be happier and more fulfilled.  But even as I gritted my teeth and pressed on I still hadn’t fully groked:

Something has to change, and it’s probably me”

This is about commando accountability and honesty.  We don’t find ourselves in situations we put ourselves in situations.  No matter what’s going on we are full participants.  The choices we make are ours.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  Bad marriage?   Unfulfilling career?  Sedentary and overweight?   Estranged from our kids?  We are full participants.  Resentful?  Fatigued?  Lonely?  We are full participants.  Once we own that, we can begin to change it.

That being said we don’t need to go it alone.  We need to own our stuff, but we can find support from others- trustworthy partners, friends, therapists  or relatives who can handle and support the changes we are trying to make.  On the other hand we may need to distance ourselves from those who are threatened by our desire to change.

At times, the process of taking full responsibility for all that is in our lives may be painful and sad (hence wishing for do-overs) but letting go of the desire to blame or control others is at the same time wildly relieving, and it paves the way for real joy and serenity.   Focusing on ourselves in this way is not arrogant or selfish (although I’ve been accused of being both).  This is a humble place, and it doesn’t mean we don’t care.  Rather we care enough to let the people we love experience their own journeys and be accountable for their own choices.

Being accountable may impact outcomes and it may not.  Relationships may deepen or they may not.  Jobs may become more satisfying or they may not.  We’re not in the movies after all. And as long as we can only control ourselves this will be true. But I believe that everything feels better when we clean up our side of the street.  With a sense of greater clarity and integrity we can gradually (or not so gradually!) move toward situations that sustain and nurture us.

So if you are someone who watches Groundhog Day with nary a wish for a do-over I’m very very glad for you.  Please get out there and share your sense of joy and fulfillment with the world.  But if you yearn for something better, you can make it so.

It all starts with you.

Oh and it seems that Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow, and I guess that means six more weeks of winter.  Sorry folks.





4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Groundhog Day

  1. Hear, hear!! I could not have said it better myself. “We are full participants” is something I should say to my kids (and into my mirror) often. Love that movie for so many reasons.

    I work to embrace change in whatever form it may be. And if I had to judge from the birds on my back porch, spring has already sprung, shadow or no. Cheers!


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