It’s officially Groundhog Day… every day.
In the US, the 2nd of February is reserved for wondering – for no more than a few moments – whether or not a Pennsylvanian rodent has seen his shadow. The ‘legend’ goes, when the ceremonious king of all groundhogs, Punxsutawney Phil cannot see his shadow, as was the case this year, an early Spring is imminent.
But even Phil didn’t see COVID-19 coming.
What do a groundhog and a date in early February have to do with the pandemic now sweeping the globe? Two words: Bill Murray.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, then perhaps you’re at least vaguely familiar with Harold Ramis’s 1993 cult-classic, Groundhog Day. As you might have guessed, it features Bill Murray as an American newsman covering none other than Punxsutawney Phil’s emergence from hibernation. But Phil’s shadow quickly becomes the least of his concerns as he is inexplicably forced to live the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again in some bizarre twist of time and fate. The plot and Murray’s iconic performance make this film well worth a watch.
And we’re all feeling a bit like Murray these days, aren’t we? Nowhere to go, not much to do. Life can feel like we’re trapped inside a time loop with no end in sight. But we also have a unique opportunity to spend some of our newfound free time taking up things we hadn’t had the time to even consider before. But first, we must properly learn how to grieve.
Here are a few ideas to help you pass the time highlighted by Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief that Murray experiences in the film?
Stage 1: Denial
Solution: Get Real
Like Bill, no one really knows how long this perpetual time loop might last. Though every day is slightly different from the next, we need to understand and ultimately accept that, at least for now, this is our new normal.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, leaning into a daily routine focused on positivity and productivity should help you get through this time. Developing a daily schedule and writing it down for reference can help you further navigate this shared, extraordinary experience, one day at a time.
Stage 2: Anger
Solution: Get Creative
In Groundhog Day, Murray slowly begins to realise that his situation requires a creative approach… after a long bout of intense rage. He eventually realises that if he keeps acting and feeling the way he always has, his circumstances aren’t likely to change. So, Murray experiments with his surroundings, seeing what alterations might affect his fate.
Whatever skill you have or activity you enjoy, dive in a little deeper. Whether it’s woodworking, cooking, painting or something else, work to develop your skills and abilities with a hobby you love. The important thing here is to stimulate your mind and help to reduce the feelings of rage and stress many of us are feeling.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Solution: Get Educated
At some point Murray uses a great deal of his looped time to learn. He learns piano and ice sculpting. He learns about the local people and history. But, perhaps most importantly, he learns about himself. Whether he intends to or not, Bill studies a lot.
So, why not take another note from Bill and take the time to learn something new? Read that book you’ve been meaning to get to. Learn a language or how to juggle. Or pick up a personal development habit like journaling to learn more about yourself. After all, the only control we have over this time in lockdown is how we spend it.
Stage 4: Depression
Solution: Get Active
Murray inevitably becomes depressed, as everything he tries results in the same moment: a 6 am wakeup call from Sony and Cher. He begins a period of committing unspeakable acts as he determines that none of his actions matter.
Though Bill’s acts in the film are taken to the extreme for cinematic effect, it is likely many of us will experience some minor depressive states from time to time. A great way to resolve this is to exercise daily. Whether it’s a run or cycle around the neighbourhood or some indoor cardio or weightlifting, be sure to get a good sweat going to stimulate endorphin production that can positively alter your mood.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Solution: Get Over It
Ultimately, Murray submits to his fate and accepts he must truly change. It is a hard but necessary decision that seems to result in the end of the loop. All Murray can do is work to better himself and use the time to his advantage to come out the other side.
We’re all in this together. The behaviour of the virus and the actions of our governments and the future in general are, to this point, unclear. All we can do is accept that our old way of life is gone, for better or worse. Whatever you need to do to move on, do it. Now is the time.
But, let’s be clear. This doesn’t mean the future isn’t bright; it simply means we need to process this feeling of loss we may be experiencing and move through it to reach a suitable resolution. Though the days seem to be melding together in our consciousness, we have the power to break out of our time loop and move toward a superior future.
Murray’s reaction once the loop is broken is nothing short of exaltation. He has come out the other side of a surreal experience and found a new passion for life. Murray’s journey is our journey. His time-looped tour is our own. However, we can take back some control and find ways to improve ourselves every day until the lockdowns end and we get back to some semblance of normality.