The Groundhog’s Infinite Loop

For many of us, February 2nd is the day we find out how much longer winter will linger, depending on whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow. But for me, I think Groundhog Day should be declared the official Day of the Re-booter. The film Groundhog Day is a terrific example of someone who must learn to change by being forced to deal with the same issues over and over. Sound familiar? Ring any bells? What difficulty are you wrestling with time and time again? What? Your past strategies haven’t worked? Might you need to find another way to deal with such matters? Hmm?

 

Who’s the groundhog now? You, that’s who!

 

One of the significant aspects of this film is the fact that the screenwriters were able to play out the same scenes repeatedly and still entertain the audience. The premise could have bombed—seeing Bill Murray do the same thing, again and again—but it didn’t. We watch, doubled over with laughter, as this Pittsburgh weatherman reveals himself to be an arrogant fool who slowly learns that kindness and patience are much better options. I want to make a couple of points about why this film is important and why it’s a perfect re-booting vehicle: 1) it takes mastery and skill to create a screenplay that leverages the same old material in a variety of ways to make its point; 2) finding the humor in a situation is a way more approachable and powerful technique for tackling serious subjects than wagging your finger in someone’s face; and 3) we are all Bill Murray—arrogant, unaware, and ridiculous, but willing to “go with it” if we find ourselves down a rabbit hole.

 

Case in point: this past weekend, I took a marvelous, one day screenwriting workshop (where we didn’t discuss Groundhog Day, fyi). Knowing nothing about the medium, I was eager to learn and had pen in hand. There were 14 of us crowded around a big, square table—most of them even looked normal. At the first break, as people were milling about, a respectable, pleasant looking woman in her mid-60s made a bee-line for me.

 

“Do you have any food I can borrow?”

“What?” I looked up, wondering if I possibly misheard her.

“I’m hungry.”

 

I’m not sure why she selected me out of a room full of people to make this request. Perhaps I look particularly well fed or radiate an energy that communicates I wouldn’t be caught dead leaving the house without plenty o provisions in my purse. I had not entered the room with a sack full of groceries nor did I have any food displayed beside my notebook. I had a bottle of water, that’s it. That’s all I had.

 

I looked at her and mumbled, “Uh, nooooo.”

“I’m hungry.”

Wanting to back away slowly, I shrugged (I wasn’t ready to part with a portion of my sliced apple stashed safely in my purse), so she left. The class resumes. At the next break, the same woman approaches me again.

 

“Do you have any food I can borrow?”

 

You might borrow clothes, a car, or some money, but you don’t borrow food. Or toilet paper. WTF? This person looks neither crazy nor poor. There’s a café a couple of yards from our building. Go get your own food, lady, and leave me be. Because I had already dealt with this issue before, I looked over at her place and she had a half bagel and cuppa joe sitting right there! What in the world is going on??? Fortunately, the man next to me jumped in and offered this bizarre person something to eat. The entire interaction was so strange and hilarious at the same time, well, these are the sort of interactions that make me happy.

 

That’s what I mean by Groundhog Day.

 

It’s not that I am supposed to learn some great life lesson from this particular incident, but I am always on the lookout for the humor. People are unpredictably strange, doing things according to their own, mysterious internal logic. It’s what keeps life interesting.

 

So, let’s segue onto a more serious path. What issues keep coming up for you? Have you crossed paths with multiple examples of a challenging personality type over the course of your life? Is there a situation you think you know how to handle, but it keeps blowing up in your face? This is your Groundhog Day. You are Bill Murray. If things aren’t working according to your liking, perhaps you need to reconsider your approach. Maybe an attitude adjustment is in order.

 

“Well, what do I do?” you frown. Here’s a suggestion: think about someone you admire and ask yourself how they would do things differently? You might even talk to them about it. Are they able to handle this person or situation more successfully? Why not try copying them and see what happens? Perhaps they have gone through an excruciating difficulty that is, while not the same as yours, still very hard. If you believe they’ve done a good job with it, ask them how they decided to do what they did. Learn their process. Try it out.

 

See what happens. Avoid the infinite loop.

Groundhog

 

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One Response to “The Groundhog’s Infinite Loop”

  1. HelenA Says:

    Great post! I’d swear you wrote it just for me. 🙂

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