My favorite movies are the ones where the same day starts over. I love them, in part, because of my fascination with narrative, and the way these films disrupt our expectations of what a time line is supposed to be. More than an infatuation with storytelling, films such as Groundhog Day, Run Lola Run, Edge of Tomorrow and others, speak to my warped desire for second chances. But as a person who has gotten up close and personal with chaos, trauma and death, I know there is no rewinding the reel of life.
While it may feel like Coronavirus has triggered a Groundhog Day scenario, time still slips by. I know this because I’ve seen the rise of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and witnessed 8 hard-working chefs win Hells Kitchen. Don’t ask what my obsession is with HK. Somehow Gordon Ramsay’s shouts of “You donkey!” and “Move your ass!” seem to fuel my rage-cleaning during these troubled times.
When Bavaria went into lockdown, I took several days to mope. My social life, my career and my future were suddenly paused on the cusp of what I thought would be a climactic moment. Instead of rising at dawn to walk the dog, I would lurk online while sipping coffee from under my weighted blanket. My idea of a workout was sneaking into the kitchen to brew a second pot without waking my oldest daughter, who is now (thanks to London’s lockdown & the premature release from Uni) sleeping on the couch.
The beginning of lockdown was like the part of the movie where Bill Murray’s character shoves doughnuts into his face and chain smokes. “I don’t even have to floss,” he quips. Likewise, I don’t have to shave my legs or color my hair or even swap yoga pants for jeans. Hell, my dog is impressed when I put on socks because it means we are going for a walk.
Groundhog Day isn’t really about second chances; it’s about doing a thousand little positive things every day. It is mundane. It is a chore. But in the end, it all adds up. At times, this freeze-framed life makes me so damn bored, I start thinking things like, “Can I learn to play guitar online or learn to ballroom dance alone?”
I haven’t taught a writing class in two years, and yet to pass a few hours, I’ve updated all of my training certificates. It is mind-numbing, which is why it took me two years to make time to do it. In a normal world, I don’t work out when I’m on vacation. Instead, I lounge on the beach while reading chick lit. But Lockdown is not vacation — it is a new type of existence. So, I do the workouts our gym posts online. I go running. I work on athletic skills, such as double-unders (which I should’ve been able to do long ago). Though my first novel isn’t published yet, I’m plugging away at the second one and have begun reading the sterile psychology books that will ground the third.
Life is not actually on hold. Each day we make choices that can make or break us. This was true in the pre-coronavirus world, but it is amplified in lockdown. When this is over, and it will be over, I want to come out having met my own little goals. I want to master skills I’ve neglected for too long. I want my relationships to be strengthened, not weakened. I want to emerge with a better sense of who I am and what I really want in life.
This is an emotional time, and I am reminded (mostly by the guided meditations and various podcasts I’ve been listening to), that I need to be gentle and forgiving with myself and with the people within my sphere. The entire world is in turmoil, not just one character, and the world will never be the same post-corona.
Those of you who remember what life was like pre-9/11 know what it’s like to wake up one morning and see the world has changed while you slept. Before 9/11 we would simply turn in a stray backpack in the subway to lost & found and cry at the gate as grandma waved goodbye from the jetway. I didn’t have to worry about the pocketknife in my backpack; and the idea of dumping out an entire bottle of perfectly good water would have been ludicrous. Then terrorism was injected into our bloodstreams, and we had to adapt to a new type of living. Likewise, life is changing while we hunker down with Netflix.
When the Coronavirus lockdown was extended 3 additional weeks in Bavaria, I went back to bed, my version of eating doughnuts and chain-smoking — and I reminded myself that it was okay to feel that way. This is a time of ups and downs, and there is no shame in being down, as long as you get back up.
By the time the clock radio stops playing the same song every morning, I want to emerge a more fulfilled person and grateful for the things I’ve taken for granted. The day is not repeating itself. Rather, each new day is an opportunity to build myself up. Eventually, it will be the day after Groundhog Day. It will be my chance to emerge as a new person in a familiar, yet altered world.
And damn it, when I step into that world, I want to wear my skinny jeans to the gym, show the coach my double-unders, and read chapters of my second novel to my friends over coffee. That is the happy ending I envision as the credits finally scroll across this pandemic.