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Reel Inspiration

The film Groundhog Day helps a writer begin to appreciate the blessings in his life.

Bill Murray and Andi MacDowell in Groundhog Day

Everything seemed to be going great. I was a successful businessman. I had a family I loved. I’d traveled all over the world. I’d even written a few books. What was the problem? Why did I feel so unfulfilled? So incomplete?

One night my wife, Sue, and I rented Groundhog Day. I’d seen it before and knew it was hilarious. Just what I needed. Something to distract me from that strange, unsettling sense of discontentment. I hunkered down on the sofa next to Sue with a bowl of popcorn and hit play.

There was Bill Murray’s character, a cranky TV weatherman named Phil Connors. He was sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to report on the nation’s most famous groundhog emerging from its burrow on February 2.

The oddest thing happens though. The day repeats itself again and again. Phil is stuck in a seemingly endless loop of unhappiness. Even while I was laughing—and the movie was full of laughs—I had the sneaking suspicion something serious was going on. The feeling was strong enough that I bought the DVD .

A couple days later Sue and I headed to Hawaii for a week’s vacation. I figured this would make me feel better. We hiked through rain forests and lava fields, ate well, lolled on the beach.

But when I came back I was still wondering what was wrong with my life. “Why am I so unhappy?” I wrote in my diary one day. “What’s the future about? What will happen to my children?” Then for some reason, I thumbed back through the pages.

For six years I had kept that diary. All of the milestones were in it. All of my accomplishments. The business successes. The books I had written. The places we had traveled. But as I turned the pages, I found that time after time, the same questions plagued me. It was like Groundhog Day. I was stuck.

“I need to watch that Bill Murray movie again,” I told Sue. I stuck the DVD in the player and sat back. I watched Phil, the weatherman, relive his terrible Groundhog Day over and over.

Then one morning he wakes up and suddenly has an epiphany. He tells himself, “Hey, if I’m supposed to repeat this day again and again, let me make it the very best day possible.” And that one thing, that slight shift in attitude, changed everything. Instead of being miserable, Phil chose to be grateful.

I thought back to all of the successes that I had recorded in my diary. Had I ever given thanks for them? And what about my family? Wasn’t I grateful for my wonderful wife and kids?

There was no earthly reason for my misery. I didn’t need to change my life; I needed to change the way I saw it, to stop driving myself to make it feel complete.

The next morning I sat down to breakfast and simply took in everything around me. Two butterflies dancing on the breeze outside the kitchen window. My kids slurping their milk and giggling. The gentle press of Sue’s hand on my shoulder as she poured me a cup of coffee.

If I lived the day looking for things to appreciate, there was no end to what I could see.

My diary reads differently now. I’ve come to appreciate all that I’ve been given and all that I can give to others. It goes back to what I learned from Groundhog Day, that choice I make every morning: Let me make today the best day possible. And you know what? It is.


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