The anti-groundhog day technique

when life feels like groundhog day | Life After Elizabeth

Do you ever fall into those hypnotic spells of routine and before you know it, a few months have passed?

It terrifies me how easily life can slip by if we don’t pay enough attention to it. It’s such an adult thing to experience this feeling. Kids never say, “wow, I can’t believe it’s already June! Where has the time gone?” They’re too busy being engulfed by every single moment of their life. It’s like the older we get the more we have to check to see if a part of our brain has switched off to autopilot.

A routine lures me in like a hypnotic spell. I’m soothed by my daily schedule and knowing exactly what to expect when and where. But then there’s another part of me who is secretly delighted when things go completely off schedule. It’s the same part of me that wants novelty, adventure, and electrifying culture shock. It’s hard to find the balance between the two.

I actually had a dream last night that I was stuck in a loop and woke up every day like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. At first, it was exciting because each day presented a chance to do something crazy and see how it would turn out. Sort of like being in a science lab and trying out a bunch of chemical reactions to see what would happen without any consequence. But then it quickly became an anxiety nightmare because I realised I was very much not in control and would be forced to re-live the same monotonous day at work for all eternity.

The good news is in less than a month I’ll be back in the motherland of Canada, swarmed in the love of family and friends and my brain is so looking forward to the jolt of excitement. In the meantime though, going to work is just something that needs to be done. So, as a little anti-groundhog day technique, I’ve decided to pay extra attention to the life around me and become extremely present-focused. It’s my way of slowing down time and proving to myself that each day is in fact unique. The best cure for anti-Groundhog Day is to deliberately pay attention to even the most mundane parts of our commute to work, to interact with the people around us even if we have a million things to do, and try to expose the mind to new things as much as possible.

Here are some of the little things I’ve come across on my daily routine that I allowed to take up all of my focus.

Lucky Charms on a morning balcony

My route to work involves going down a really large flight of stairs. At the very top of the stairs is an amazing view of the city skyscrapers. Sometimes when I’m all dressed up for work in my corporate outfit with all the other young corporates, I think of that first scene in The Sweetest Thing. This morning I paused at the top of the stairs and my eyes followed a flock of rainbow lorikeets that swarmed a nearby balcony. A few apartments over from the lorikeets was an older man standing on his balcony. He was eating a bowl of cereal (I’d like to imagine they were Lucky Charms) in his pajamas, watching the world wake up. This made me so happy for some reason. Maybe it was something about his morning routine that seemed so pure and childlike that it made me think I should change mine. Or maybe it was the fact that he didn’t look like the type of guy to even have a morning routine. It was like he’s the type of person who wakes up to clean slate asking himself, “hmmm, here I am, still alive. What should I do with this precious day?”

Cute dog decides he’s had enough, wants to be carried home

I’m walking to work in a rush. My mind is already stressing about what I need to do for the day when suddenly a man and his beagle walk in front of my path. Their presence pulls me out of my head. We head the same direction and I slow down behind them to admire this cute little beagle trotting confidently. We turn the same corner to a flight of stairs and the dog stops. You can tell he’s thinking, oh hell no. Not stairs. The owner, perhaps knowing how much his beagle hates the physical exertion of stairs, tugs his leash impatiently as if thinking c’ mon, let’s go, I don’t have time for this. I quickly pass their Mexican standoff and turn back at the end of the stairs to see who will win, dog or owner. The beagle has agreed to walk down two steps. His bum is sitting on one step, his front paws resting on the next and he’s looking up at this owner with eyes of, not up for this today, kid. You can carry me. The owner waits for a minute, then whisks him up and carries him down the stairs. I turn back with a smile on my face.

Dancing to the sound of the crosswalk beep

Again, on my commute to work, I’ve stopped at a red light. I quickly look either way, wondering if I can make a dash across the street. I’m already late for work, but there are too many cars this morning. I decide to wait patiently and notice two young girls waiting on the other side of the street. They both have dark blue hair and are wearing gothic clothing, chains and all. The blue haired girls look at each other and doing a little dance to crosswalk beep while they wait for the light to turn green. I watched them from the other side of the road and smiled at their authentic sense of, “I feel like dancing, even if it’s to a crosswalk beeping, I’m going to dance.” 

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