What I learned from “Groundhog Day”

Sometimes I think about the meaning of life. Really. It occupies a lot of my time.

Friday – undoubtedly because yesterday was Groundhog Day – I started thinking about the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. I had to view it more than once before I realized what it meant. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the movie you will be learning some key plot points when you read this.)

Every day can seem exactly like the day before: wake up, get ready for work, sleepwalk through your tasks, deal with annoying people who want something, be disappointed by someone’s response to you. Have dinner. Go to bed. Start over.

And our cynical hero – the weather reporter played by Bill Murray – is (literally) repeating his least favorite workday:  the traditional February 2 spring forecast with Punxsutawney Phil, where he is upstaged by a woodchuck. The day begins with Sonny and Cher on the radio and ends with him trapped by a blizzard he didn’t predict. And as his day repeats, we watch dozens of different scenarios. How many times does the day repeat? Maybe hundreds. He commits crimes. Seduces women by lying to them. Tries to kill himself. And then gradually starts to realize the opportunity to do something better.

With the final repetition, before he wins the girl, Bill gives us a beautiful list for living a fuller life:

Be kind (listen to your friend’s sales pitch)

Be helpful (catch a kid falling from a tree)

Do more (change the flat tire for new friends)

Learn something new (Bill takes piano lessons; learns how to create ice sculptures)

Be creative (see: learn something new)

Be enthusiastic (Bill goes from cynic to participant in the town’s activities for the day)

Keep trying

Which brings me back to the meaning of life: We really don’t know what’s coming. Too often, it’s sad news. Friends and family with illnesses or in accidents. But we have the power to balance out negativity. We can add to the positive forces in the universe and keep growing.

We can try to make the best of the time we have by planning to do all of the things that Bill Murray did. Remember Theodore Roosevelt’s quote: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Learn something new: try something you’ve always wanted to do. Watch a video or sign up for a class at a local community center. Check out the library for free sessions.

Be creative: take time for walking and thinking. Great ideas come to those who listen.

Be enthusiastic: keep an open mind and avoid negative sarcasm.

Be kind and helpful: the people you support might have a better day because of you.

Keep trying. Just keep trying. And so will I.