Listener Essay - Groundhog Day

Mar 5, 2015

  Mike Welch is an aspiring writer who teaches writing at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, NY.

Groundhog Day

The movie Groundhog Day asks the question “what would you do to make your life better if you could live the same day over and over again.” Interesting fantasy, you might say, that speaks to our desire to right all those little wrongs we commit in our run of the mill, quotidian existences. Could we have been a little less short with a loved one, regardless of how frustrated we were that we had told them for the fifteenth time something that they hadn’t understood for the first fourteen, and they didn’t get it this last time either?

Nice fantasy, I say to myself. But then I tell myself to be careful what you wish for, because winter in the Northeast is indeed the same day over and over again—the sun straggles and struggles up just around the time you are knotting the knot on your tie and going out to warm up the car so you can traverse pothole filled roads that throw up salt on the undercarriage of your car, the rot attacking you from beneath, to arrive at work knowing you are at some point going to get the flu or even pneumonia again this year. You worry this will be the year one of your aging parents will fall on the ice , and you leave work in the dark and go home to sit in front of American Idol, trying to ignore the creepy and creeping feeling that tomorrow will be the same thing all over again.

TS Eliot knew nothing of a Northeastern winter when he said April is the cruelest month. For all that April may fall short of expectations, you still get some warmth and light, Easter, a flower here and there, the beginning of baseball season, things that remind you the earth has come back from the dead.

What do we get in winter, even in terms of hope for an end to winter, or of something to distract us from the sameness of the cold and the dark, the sneezing and the coughing, the dreary-drab high-fuel-bill pothole filled existential grind of it all?

You get Groundhog Day, where some buffoonish politico holds up a terrified, ugly mammal and tells us another lie, this one about whether or not winter will last another six weeks (you know that it will last until May), and then you get the Super Bowl, wherein the country overdoses on advertising and cheese dip, and then you get Ash Wednesday (did we need another reminder of our mortality) and around then you also get Valentine’s Day, which is a boon, I guess, to people who have someone, but shouldn’t they be happy anyway, by virtue of the fact that they have someone.

What a collection of winter “holidays.” Feh. So you try to bootstrap yourself across the snowy freezing expanse by sticking to your New Year’s Resolutions, but somewhere in late January or February you get that flu, and then they need you to do overtime at work for a week, and pretty soon the yoga and the gym and the healthy eating are right in the toilet, along with your hopes that this winter will be any different than winters past.

So, did you think I was going to say that Bill Murray was right, and that happiness lies in being courageous and kind, having the courage to be kind, being true to yourself, not letting one minute of this precious life go by without affirming that life is worth living? You could do that, I guess, but I would rather go to Tahiti or the French Riviera, or even West Palm Beach if I could get a decent fare.