Sunday, 24 February 2013

Groundhog Day

On Groundhog Day this month, Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring. But since then, not only has it snowed in Utrecht but it has even snowed in Phoenix! More like pigs flying than a groundhog’s shadow, as Phoenix weather can feel very much like the movie Groundhog Day; every day the exact same day, lather, rinse, repeat, ad nauseum.
In fact, my life in Phoenix felt much the same. Many, many – far too many – hours spent doing research and writing by myself at home, punctuated by days at the office, occasionally appearing in court. Persistent family issues, relationship issues, punctuated by the mundane routines of house maintenance, car maintenance, paying bills, getting groceries. Always too much time, and yet never quite enough. But also the comfort of kindred spirits who understood. So I retired, moved 6,000 miles away and, “Well it’s Groundhog Day… again!” Once more I am spending many, many – far too many – hours doing research and writing by myself at home, punctuated with days attending class or going to the office, occasionally going to watch court hearings. The very same family issues, relationship issues, punctuated by the routine maintenance of the details of my day-to-day life. And the comfort of kindred spirits who understand. All in a new place and with new people, but somehow still the same life. Perhaps I didn’t pack quite as lightly as I thought!
Funny how you think changing everything in your life will actually change your life. But the chance to do something completely different still requires that you actually do things differently. It is not enough to change the form of your life; you must also change its substance. And as famously stated by Einstein, we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. But sometimes it is the very repetition of our days, our work, and our relationships that pushes us forward to new realities as we encounter the same things over and over again, haunted by a disturbing sense of déjà vu. As in the movie, perpetual do-overs of no consequence get old, and neither despair nor self-punishment will change anything. The only thing left is to use the time to learn new and master skills for no purpose other than that they are there to be learned and mastered. And to pay attention to every moment, every person, caring deeply and yet not trying to control the outcome or fix every problem. Only then do we wake up to a new day. Only then do we really move forward.
And so I awake once more to Groundhog Day, too much time and yet never enough. It is snowing again, and I have research to do, papers to write, family issues and relationships to sort out. Mini-karmas all, each a little cycle of death and rebirth, all with the possibility of suffocating sameness or transformation, depending on how I choose to look at them and the choices I make in dealing with them. Will I keep making the same mistakes? Probably. But sometimes pigs do fly from the shadow of Groundhog Day, and it snows in Phoenix. Ask me tomorrow!

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