Every Day is Groundhog Day

In the last three weeks, I have been to Chicago, Florida, and Tennessee. It’s good to be back home, even though the weather totally sucks here (until today). While my wife and I were hiding out in the mountains of Tennessee last week (not really hiding out, but since we were nearly alone at the resort it really felt like we were hiding out…) one night, we watched “Groundhog Day.”

The movie, “Groundhog Day,” came out in 1993 and featured Bill Murray, Andie McDowell, and Chris Elliot as a crew from a Pittsburgh television station who made a trip to Punxsutawney, PA to see the annual tradition of watching Phil the Groundhog come out to see or not see his shadow. Bill Murray, as the lead character, also named Phil, found himself waking up every day, for an innumerable number of days, on February 2. The same song was on the radio, he had the same conversation with the hostess of the Bed and Breakfast where he was staying, he ran into the same classmate on his walk to the shadow spotting… every day was the same. Every single day. It happened, and then it kept happening.

Phil went through the expected reactions to an anomaly like this. He scrolled through a bunch of emotions starting with disbelief, then he started to have fun with it, and then he tested the limits of how far he could go with experimenting the new reality that he found himself in (even to the point of getting himself killed a few times). Finally, he made peace with it, and actually worked on himself and made a new guy out of the cranky, self-centered, narcissist who had rolled into Punxsutawney on the first Groundhog Day.

It’s a movie. It didn’t really happen. It was entertaining and a perfect part for Bill Murray. The story was humorous and endearing. It’s a useful lesson for us now. This is only Day Three for us, working from home and trying to make sense out of a set of circumstances that even movie scripts have had a hard time wrapping their heads around.

We truly are in uncharted waters. But the days are starting to blur and seem very familiar.

Some of this is playing out from the usual suspects reading from the same script that they have always used. Blaming, “shoulding” all over the place, doubting, looking at the worst possible outcomes, and spiraling downward with all the bad news, all the time. But, as in all things, we can choose not only the flavor of the lemonade that we make from this batch of lemons, but the quantity.

Every day is going to seem the same as yesterday. Same house, same other people, or same no other people in your house. Same four walls, same rules – stay home, stay safe, wash your hands, repeat.

We probably have more time available to us, those of us who had to drive to work every day… I pick up an extra hour not needing to do my four daily commutes, as I came home for lunch just about every day to allow my buddy to empty his bladder, bark at the neighbors, lay in the sun by the patio door, and make me feel guilty when it was time for me to go back to work.

First things first – do the right things. Do stay put as much as you are able to. Stay home, keep your physical distance from people, wash your hands, you know the drill. You didn’t come here for me to tell you all the things that you need to be doing to help mitigate the spread of this. Do them. Encourage others to follow all the protocols. I sincerely pray for this to pass and pass quickly.

While we’re quarantined, let’s Phil Connors this thing as Phil did in “Groundhog Day,” in the most bestest ways that we can. Phil Connors learned how to play the piano, from a raw beginner to piano wiz, because during his Groundhog Day quarantine on repeat, he decided to learn how to do that. He started to listen to what other people around him were saying, remembered those things and used them to build deep and meaningful relationships with those around him. He evolved into a pretty cool guy, no longer stuck on himself, he became empathetic, generous and engaging.

I’ve done my share of working way too hard since all of this started. I left for Chicago on March 11 – and got to scale a mountain, (that was really an 80 story building… and elevators were useful in the climb…) but I started this pandemic by hanging with some awesome, creative and generous people. I wrote about that in my previous piece. After I left Chicago on Friday the 13th (thankfully, I did not get stuck in that movie…) my wife and I were supposed to have two weeks of escape and relaxation in Florida. It didn’t happen. What we did get is a week in Florida, another week in Tennessee and while the scenery was nice, the temperatures were way better than here, and while technically we were away… we were only away from home. Our church, which is also our employer, needed all hands on deck to deal with the pandemic. So, we were on deck. “On deck” was our dining room table in Panama City Beach, then it moved to Pigeon Forge, and now it’s our office at home. We worked, and we’re still working. We are thankful for that. It just wasn’t vacation.

During all our time trying to right the ship, the physical location may have changed, but we feel as if this really is Groundhog Day. We are thankful for the bright, talented, passionate people that we get to serve with. Like everyone else right now, we are emailed, and phone called, and video conferenced up to our ears. It’s what has to be, right now, it’s what it means to be “all hands on deck.”

But in our own Groundhog Day, there are opportunities. Our five-and-a-half-year-old Lab, Oliver, is passed out on the couch right now. He and I walked a couple of miles this morning, another mile and a half later this afternoon, and he even got to run without his leash a couple of times. We forced ourselves outside on a beautiful day. Did some properly distanced catching up with neighbors. Enjoyed our neighborhood. Right now, I am writing.

I got to learn a lot in just the past eight days, about the massive $2.2 trillion spending bill, the CARES Act, which Congress passed a week ago and the president signed into law last Friday. It was not what I signed up for, nothing I would have ever dreamed of learning about, and not what I would call drop-dead sexy or even remotely anything sexy. But it was how I could serve, and it was what was needed.

We will all have days in which we feel that we are stuck in repeat, in a rut, in a dead-end. We can sleepwalk through and whine and complain and yearn for this all to be behind us. Know this – this will be behind us in some way, shape, and fashion. What will we look back and see? I hope that there are very few shoulda’s and lots of satisfying “I did” or we did” and it rocked… Think of your time now as cocooning… and be ready to spread your wings.

Tom Dietzler
Tom Dietzler
Lifelong, proud somewhat strident Wisconsinite, I love my state and love to sing its praises. A bon vivant and raconteur, lover of history, literature and good conversations. Laughter and music are salves that I frequently am applying to my soul. I have spent time (too much) in manufacturing and printing and have found great joy in my current position as director of operations at a large church in the same area where I grew up. Husband to Rhonda and father of two adult children Melanie and Zack, I’m the constant companion of my five-year-old Lab, Oliver, who is my muse to a lot of my stories. I’m a fan of deep conversation and my interests are in learning and gaining wisdom, so in the last few years I have become and less politically vocal, and hopefully more respectful and open-minded. Rhonda and I sold our home in 2018, bought a condo and have traveled a bit more, golfed a bit more and are enjoying life a bit more. If you take the time to get to know me, prepare yourself for an invite to the 30th state to join the union, a gem located in the upper Midwest, full of beautiful scenery formed by the glaciers, with lots of lakes and trees and gorgeous scenery, and the nicest people that you’d ever want to meet.

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  1. With the appearance of Covid-19, humanity has been called upon to face a global crisis, destined to bequeath us a completely different society when the emergency has passed. The global phenomenon in which we are immersed causes structural changes.
    We have a lot of time available and we can dedicate a lot of time to family, to the refresment of (virtual) relationships, to hobbies. But also the opportunity to use part of this time to reflect and imagine future perspectives, on how to face crucial choices that look to the future.
     In such a delicate and painful phase, it is necessary to take a rational, energetic approach, without losing the opportunity to consider how to supervise the relationship with customers, extend our business in new opportunities, support old and new partners by acting on the redefinition of business models, finance and supply chain, through an even more determined use of digital, with a new mindset and an increased relationship capacity. We communicate openly, we share the pain, when it emerges, we involve collaborators and partners in the generation of ideas, we consider all the options, even the less conventional ones, and above all we never lose sight of our values ​​and the quality of our relationships, while developing predictive skills and redefinition.

  2. One of the best movies of all time! I hadn’t put it together in my mind, but of course it’s the perfect comparison. Some day, Tom, we’ll have to sit and watch this movie together with a giant vat of popcorn and talk about how we’re different than before. Even if it’s over Zoom. Hugs to you!

    • And I never think that any of my posts is complete without your $.02 worth. And your wisdom and encouragement is always worth several gazillion times more than that. I will Zoom with you at any time, and cherish every moment of it. Thank you for being that bright beacon of brave for so many others!

  3. Thank you so much for this essay, Tom. Like the outlier I seem to continue to be-a book launched on March 30, 2020 so what I know that my be out of sync with other folks is I have spread my wings and sent the book out to our world -maybe with carrier pigeons or doves flying all around it. I don’t know. One day for hours I’m elated and then I watch myself weeping with deep grief for all the deaths and suffering that’s happening for so many. I even have many moments of feeling guilty for experiencing so much joy in the few hours of celebrating that I have done. What a bizarre contrast to experience this personal dream come true (for a third time) in the midst of historic, unprecedented shifts, suffering, and deaths of human beings in every single country on the planet.

    And I declared April Live Inspired month and am posting short videos to add value each day. I have not ever done that before-not daily. I have signed up for belly dancing classes. I continue to write, run, meditate, walk my dog, love my Sweet Love, Paul, connect with folks on social media, call my adult children and elderly friends, stand in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds me as spring blooms deliciously on the mountains.

    I love the movie, “Groundhog Day” because the message is ultimately about “Be of Service and Fall in Love with a Beautiful Person and Fall in Love with Being Alive.” I might be there right now with immense gratitude for what I’ve been calling my Bonus Round of Being Alive for months now…

    I send you much love and courage as we navigate our new realities. You are a treasure. I appreciate you, your good heart, and your writing immensely.

    • I don’t know at what point it struck me that “Groundhog Day” flipped to being a self-improvement “How to…” but it was perfectly timed for me. While the world is on pause, we need to embrace your example. Thank you for you steadfast example and for being our very own embodiment of this great movie.

    • Garry, thank you for joining in the discussion. I love your idea of seizing the opportunity in the silence. If we want to emerge as the butterfly, we best make the most out of our time in the cocoon, definitely. Thank you again, for your time, reading and contribution here.

  4. Tom, thank you for writing this piece. It’s excellent! I always enjoy your storytelling. It does feel a bit like Groundhog Day, but I don’t mind it so much. I’m choosing to lean into it instead of fighting it. And many days, I marvel at how busy I can keep myself. Also, I notice things that I didn’t before, such as how often the birds sing. It’s quite soothing.

    I’m also not working right now, so it is a massive adjustment for me. I lost my job due to a reorganization in the midst of all of this. I was one of six. So, like so many others, I’m navigating that also. But it is all good, and I will find my way. I’m confident that something is out there, and that this time is for recalibration. I’ve never really had downtime like this, but I’m doing my best to embrace it.

    We will come out on the other side of this. And, hopefully, we’ll have chartered the map in the way which works best for us.

    Thanks for sharing this, Tom. I enjoyed reading it!

    • Laura, every time and circumstance is seeded with opportunity and with promise. I’ve been outsized, downsized or fired twice and it’s not fun, but both ended up being for my own good and possibly even saving my life. Leaning into what is, is always preferrable, as so much energy is usually taken up by resisting, with certain exceptions, of course. I just was thinking in terms of “if we turn this into an endless captivity, it will feel that way.” With any restrictions, we can find the freedom that we want to do exactly what needs to be done in that moment. Thank you, as always, for your contribution to the discussion, and my best wishes for you and this next great thing that is about to unfold for you.

  5. Tom – Beautiful message. As an introvert, I know I am much less affected by “Phil Connorsing” than my extroverted friends, sibs, and colleagues. Except for a deep concern over the health of our exhausted local medical staff, I am quite content. I do have to push myself to get out and walk as living in the epicenter can’t help but cause some anxiety. But I strap on the mask, and off I go. “Keep your distance!” I think of the person walking toward me.

    The beauty of your message is that we make the most of this time. I treasure that my wife now works just fifty feet from me and that I don’t have to worry about her getting on and off airplanes. I treasure that we can share every meal together. I truly treasure that neither of us have a fever or congestion.

    I treasure #HumansFirst and Mike Vacanti and Kevin Monroe and Melissa Hughes and Garry Turner. I treasure Dennis’ effort in bringing us altogether.

    I treasure that I was asked to join a hangout with a special group of people.

    I treasure that I’m meeting and conversing with some amazing people on my podcast.

    February 2nd? Things could be so much worse.

    • Jeff, I deeply appreciate all that you say here and how much richness and texture that you add to every discussion. Yes, an extrovert these are trying times, but as you so aptly point out, things could be so much worse. We do have so much that we can treasure, as you say, and anywhere that you hangout will be blessed and uplifted by your presence. I treasure the fact that we are personally connected, and that we both had the wisdom and good sense to latch on to Sarah Elkins as a mentor, which ultimately led to our meeting in Denver two years ago – definitely something to treasure. Stay well and safe, my friend, all my best to you and your wife.

  6. Tom, awesome as usual. I actually have a Groundhog Day meme I was going to use in today’s Friday Funday post, but I’ll use it next week and mention you and this article.

    Being an extrovert right now has to be really tough! Can’t be with a bunch of people all the time … or at any time!

    • Susan, this is truly the Spring of Our Discontent for us extroverts… and it scares me a little to think of all the off the wall things that I might generate at the keyboard with too many opportunities to do just that. But I do appreciate your support and the generous way that you encourage and give such wonderful feedback. To be included in your Friday Funday post has now been added to my bucket list that I can now proudly check off! Thank you Susan!

  7. Tom this is great, I have thought of this movie a lot as of late. I still try to be spontaneous and not do the same thing every day. I live out in the county so walks with my dogs in the woods or just driving the old back roads for hours and never seeing anyone. I am an introvert by nature so the isolation is fine with me.

    • Larry, there are some who believe in the great power of ritualizing as much of our days as possible, and so I think that walking with dogs out in the fresh air and sunshine is one of the most sublime pleasures that life can hold. You introverts are just fine, I’m sure… it’s tough on us social nuts, we get recharged from being around everyone else. Thank you, as always, for your perspective, I appreciate your contributions.

    • You’re already a rock star in so many ways… how cool that you can add to your repertoire with something else. That you would say “perfect” to anything of mine is a badge that I will always wear with the utmost pride. Thank you so much for your support and contribution to the discussion!

  8. Tom, thank you for including me in the group to comment on your article which I thought was great. I had a little trouble with Groundhog Day as in my religion we do not believe in it. These days I only go out to shop or for a very short walk as my doctor had instructed me to do taking all the necessary precautions like wearing a mask, gloves, social distancing, avoiding crowds, and frequent hand washing. My day is focused on building up my contacts while planting seeds for when hiring starts again. I find this is far more productive for me than doing anything else. Take care, Tom! Stay safe and well.

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