It's all too familiar, sinking into the couch after the daily routine of riding around in big circles for a few hours, the euphoric feeling caused by the release of endorphins in the ol' brain, looking at the calendar, seeing my departure date getting closer and closer (again). Being trapped in a fish bowl comes to mind but, I don't need to go into any more detail about that. Boy, when I moved back home in January I did not intend on staying this long but, I can now confirm that I cannot predict the future, there's no point in trying. However, the pattern is just as visible as it was a couple months ago when I first tried to embark on my journey on foot. Life has begun to feel like Groundhog Day over here and I'm Phil Connors.
Oddly enough, I saw this movie for the first time very recently. I actually put it on while I packed my bag the night before I left for Rockport back at the beginning of April. It was a strange time to first see this flick because an unexpected six inches of snow fell the previous day, pushing my departure date back a little further just like the movie. There's a quote from Phil that really struck me when I heard it: "What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing you did mattered?" That just about sums up the feeling of day-to-day monotony I know many people have experienced. I've been there, I feel like I'm here now but, that's mostly because I've been unemployed (retired, as I prefer to say) for over three months now. Maybe if I didn't have 'travel across the country' at the top of my agenda I could focus on something else besides myself and things might feel a little different day after day.
I'd be lying if I said it doesn't feel good to have no responsibilities. I'm like a kid on the edge of summer vacation looking out on the seemingly endless reservoir of time in front of me; except, I'm 26 years old, I should be doing something more productive, shouldn't I? I feel like a bum some days but, I guess I could be even lazier and self-centered than I am. And couldn't we all be doing a little more than what we're doing now? I'm not condemning anyone for not operating at 110% efficiency, I'm certianly not saving the planet over here. Maybe we should all just be responsible for our own little slice of the world and make it the best it can be, much like Phil at the end of Groundhog Day, fixing flat tires, saving choking restaurant patrons, and catching that kid that falls out of the tree day after day without ever hearing a thank you. Before he took the wellbeing of Punxsutawney into his own hands, Phil was spending his day(s?) stealing, overeating, drinking and killing himself over and over. When people feel like they're stuck, like their lives make no difference (which is never true!), the tendency to pick up self-destructive habits is all too easy.
After a more recent viewing of the film, a Ram Das quote came to mind as Phil makes his transformation from suicidal maniac to upstanding citizen. "I can do nothing for you but work on myself and you can do nothing for me just work on yourself." Isn't that great? It may seem kind of self-centered to focus on your own situation but, self-improvement has a positive effect on how you interact with the world. To hate yourself is to hate the world but to love yourself opens your heart to it.
I'm really excited to leave for my trip (again) but it hasn't been totally agonizing being at home longer than planned. I've been taught some valuable lessons while I've been feeling stuck. Perhaps the most important being that nothing in life is guaranteed. We can try as hard as we might to shape the future but life is just a series of events we need to react to, not attempt to control. The other lesson is patience; how often we let that virtue slip our minds when we're stuck behind someone actually going the speed limit or when you're trying to get a four year old to eat her damn dinner. Whatever you push always pushes back. Ram Das and his adopted mantra come to mind again: "Be here now." Be active in the present, don't worry about what has happened, what hasn't happened yet, or what you hope to happen.
Phil Connors already knew everything that could and would happen on February 2nd, maybe he was left with no other choice than to be here now. Or maybe he figured he killed himself so many times, woke up to Sonny and Cher's, 'I Got You Babe' day after day that he should focus his energy on the needs of others instead of his own misery. Is this the key? Should we all try to catch that falling kid from the tree even though we get no thanks again and again? Try to be a little less selfish? I guess it doesn't matter what kind of situation you're in or how you got there, it's what you do with your time and what you learn from it.