The Law Office of Paul Black - February 2020


February 2020

What a Movie Can Teach Us About Life BREAKING OUT OF ‘GROUNDHOG DAY’

“Groundhog Day” is a classic for a reason. The Bill Murray comedy is so unique in its premise and stellar in its execution that the movie has achieved “genericization,” that rare cultural phenomenon where a title or brand ceases to represent a particular manufacturer of a product and is used generically. Just as you might sneeze into a “Kleenex” or “Google” the origins of “Velcro,” doing these actions, again and again, might have you feeling like it’s “Groundhog Day.” In fact, plenty of people who use this expression haven’t even seen the film. For those who missed out on this 1993 rom-com, Murray plays Phil Connors, a smug Pittsburgh weatherman who’s begrudgingly made to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in the “hick” town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. When a blizzard forces Phil to spend the night in town, he awakens to find himself once again reliving Groundhog Day. He can change events through his actions, but otherwise, the day is exactly identical. Worse still, he can’t seem to break out of the repetitive cycle. We’ve all had that experience at one point or another, in a less supernatural sense.

While you might not get caught in a literal time loop, it’s easy to feel like you’re stuck in a rut — that no matter what you do, the same old hurdles, anxieties, and pitfalls return again and again. I speak to many people who feel this way about their lives and have found myself in this position on multiple occasions. Thankfully, Phil’s story can lend a helping hand. “Groundhog Day” not only gives us the verbiage to label these sticking points in our lives but also the means to escape them. Phil experiences the same day an innumerable amount of times. At first, he uses his circumstances selfishly, committing robbery, drinking, and womanizing without any fear of long- term consequences. Eventually, these indulgences give way to nihilism as Phil realizes just how unfulfilled they leave him. Taking the advice of his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), he begins to address his own self-absorbed ways. After learning to open himself up to others and give willingly from his heart, Phil is able to break the spell and move on in his life. Now, I’m not saying all those who are stuck in a rut are selfish or have the same impulses as Phil at the beginning of the

movie. What I am saying, though, is that we all have parts of our lives we avoid. For the fictional weatherman, addressing his lack of empathy is key to moving forward, but for others, it may be any number of things. Even avoiding simple things like doing the dishes piled up in the sink or getting in touch with a distant loved one can create major anxiety. And that anxiety can then seep into other aspects of your life, making it that much harder to find enjoyment or fulfillment in your successes. Left long enough, this ambient anxiety can lead to every day feeling like the same, unchanging drudgery — all because we refuse to confront and change that one aspect of our lives. Doing such a thing isn’t easy; we often try to ignore certain aspects of our lives for a reason. But herein lies the final lesson from “Groundhog Day:” You don’t have to do it alone. It’s only through Rita’s support and influence that Phil finally takes the steps he needs to move on in his life. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need to see your day in a different light.

-Paul Black

Do you have estate planning or elder law-related questions? Write to me at with “Asked and Answered” in the subject line. Your identity will be kept confidential. The opinions offered in this column are not intended to replace or substitute any financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. | 1

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