Monday, October 30, 2006

What's Your Groundhog Day?

Watched Groundhog Day this weekend.

Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, an obnoxious TV weatherman, who is sent to a small town in Pennsylvania to cover the Groundhog ceremony. This is his 5th year covering this event, and he despises both the town and the people. In the movie, Phil gets stuck in time on February 2nd, Groundhog Day, where he has to relive the same day he despises over and over again.

His reaction to the day changes with time. After getting over the initial shock, he is thrilled with the realization that with no tomorrow, he can't be held responsible for what happens today. So he steals, philanders, gorges on food he's "not supposed" to eat. He goes on daily dates with his producer, learning all her likes and dislikes and then remembering them the next time around. By the time he's been through several dates, their dates are "magical" - he seems to know and like everything she does, as if they were true soul mates. (Makes one wonder about soul mates! :D) Yet something always goes wrong at the end of these dates.

As the novelty passes, despair begins to set in, until he decides that he's tired of the repetition and tries to end his life. Multiple times. And wakes up after each suicide event at 6am the morning of February 2nd. With time, the despair passes, and he sets out to make his time meaningful. He learns different things (piano, ice-carving), soon becoming quite proficient. He takes to treating the participants in his never-ending day with kindness. He slows down and has the time to help those he comes across - a young child falling out a tree, a choking man in a diner - and learns that there are those that, try as he may, he cannot save (homeless man on the street.) As a changed man, Phil now garners the respect of many members of the small community, and as a byproduct, gets the attention of his producer. They end up having the best of their many first dates, and the next day, he finally gets to move on to Feb 3rd.

It's unclear what caused the time warp. And perhaps some might enjoy the "moral" of the story. But all these details aside, I think all of us have parts of our lives that are very similar to February 2nd. Granted, our days are not exact replicas of the day before, but just step back and look at your life. How many of us are stuck on the same road/highway going to work? How many of us walk in and out of the same office building day after day? Stop by the same grocery store on the way home after work. Wake up to the alarm at the same time of day? Work with the same (or similar) people day in and day out?

While the small details of our days may change, there is a certain monotony to life that's captured in Groundhog day. Life may not be a continuously thrilling journey. It may not even be pleasant at times. But it's less about what life is like than what our attitude is like. The important thing is how we interface with the life we live.

Like Phil, if we let the little things bother us, we may have a miserable time and dread work/people/life. But if we understand that all days are but variations on a theme, we can choose to enjoy the entire song rather than get stuck on a few notes... and perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves is peace of mind - with ourselves, and with this strange and marvelous thing called life.

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