Remember that scene in the classic (released in 1993?; wtf happened to time?) comedy Groundhog Day, when Phil played by the wonderful Bill Murray finally snaps (Andy McDowell’s character, Rita, says it best: “He must have just snapped!”), steals Phil, the groundhog?
Well if you don’t, here’s a video recap:
I mention the film and this scene in particular because I came close to reenacting it or something similar until last Saturday when the horrible spell of shame and failure due to unemployment (which causes you to think too much, question everything, put everyone, including yourself, under the microscope, peel off your skin because you can’t stand to be in it and then end up being super touchy and oversensitive, basically become a woman stuck in premenstrual hell for weeks and weeks) was broken by a proposal. Of the marriage variety.
The comedy of Groundhog Day seems to me a brilliant if loose adaptation of King Lear. Lear gets stripped of everything, his title and his overweaned ego and his tumorous pride, before he comes to understand one thing that redeems his entire life and the whole bleakness of existence, the series of groundhog days and nights that he has been wandering his kingdom crying, “A horse a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” No wait, that’s Richard III. I digress. The only thing that breaks the spell of nihilism for Lear is the love of his daughter.
Whatever you might say about Lear, Cordelia’s love for her father was a monument Lear had built and earned over the course of his daughter’s young life. And it was durable enough to survive his banishment and betrayal.
Phil of Groundhog Day also needs to get pushed to the edge of death and nihilism before he realizes that the meaning of his life isn’t the passing of days but being good to the people in his life and winning the love of Rita.
Being jobless was driving me insane, toward the same end as Phil and Lear, and it’s still sort of driving me insane. Every day started to look the same, TGIF no longer existed, weekends were just week’s ends. I cooked and ate and blogged, I shook cocktails and drank and drank some more and blogged. Eating and drinking and blogging. Eating and drinking and blogging. That’s what everyday has looked like for the past several weeks.
But it turned out it was more like this: eating, drinking, blogging, and loving the people in my life, and in particular, loving my fiance, who has been incredibly supportive and caring.
When he proposed by the Charles at the spot where we’d had a fall picnic in the early days of our courtship (where, incidentally, I cooked for him for the first time and realized that I was in love when I experienced a bizarre, slightly annoying, and deep pleasure from watching him put the food I’d made into his mouth and swallow and take it into his body and become a part of him), he broke the spell of stuck-ness and put a stop to my groundhog days.
I’m still unemployed, but I’m no longer walking the round edge of the pit of eternal unemployment looking into my abysmal career and hearing Nietzsche whispering, “If you stare into the Abyss long enough the Abyss stares back at you.” Turns out the pit doesn’t actually exist and I’m not walking circles at all.
I’d been getting on with my life in spite of myself. I realize now that my groundhog days are not so different from the diurnal, groundhoggy days of other people’s lives. The only thing that made me realize this was (damnit, I think I’m going to have to use this word because it’s the only right word, but believe me I know the pungent odor of cheese that might strike some of your sophisticated olfactory organs to the point of exasperation) love.
That had grown. That has been flourishing. No matter how depressed and anxious I got about my career, money, etc., I hadn’t taken the people in my life for granted. I’d never allowed them to become et cetera.
So Happy Groundhog Days. And be good to the people you love. These are the Valentine’s Days of our lives.