Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies. I love it for a few reasons.
- Bill Murray is a genius. Don’t argue this point with me. I won’t be nice about it.
- I love the idea of living life like there is no tomorrow. While in several parts of this movie, he wasn’t authentic to impress the girl, he also uses this opportunity to do whatever he wants with no concern for what people will think of him. I think it would be awesome to be real with no concern for the repercussions, even for one day. And to be honest, on those cringe-worthy days when my parts take over, it would be nice if everyone else forgot about it (just like me).
- Most importantly, this movie is familiar. Before I found recovery, I didn’t get the sense that anything was different from one day to the next. It was the same thing over and over again. And nothing I did seemed to change that.
But maybe, I didn’t want it to. For so many years, I was balancing the desperate need to live a fulfilling life with the desperate need to stay completely safe. My inner child wanted to do amazing things, but my inner defender never wanted to stray from the norm. It felt like I was trapped inside a life that wasn’t mine, but I couldn’t see a way out. There were too many things stopping me. And they were all on the inside.
And once again, it all stemmed from my horrific childhood. Of course, I have talked endlessly that the need for safety comes from trauma (and to some extent being human). But there is another side to this. I had learned in childhood that making efforts didn’t make any real difference. Nothing was going to get better if I tried different things. And believe me, I tried a lot of things. Nothing stopped the abuse. Nothing made any real difference in my home life. It was still horrific. So my inner parts learned to lay low. Don’t try anything dramatic. Don’t waste your energy. You will need it to deal with the trauma.
So I stopped trying. I would do as little as possible to get through the day. I never attempted anything out of the ordinary. I didn’t try to stop the abuse in a dramatic way. Nothing worked anyway. I just did the bare minimum. I saved my energy, because in reality, I was exhausted from the hyper vigilance.
But as with most childhood defense mechanisms, it didn’t translate well to adulthood. I did enough to get by. I worked hard in the office, but at home, I was often paralyzed. And I was particularly bothered by tasks that had to be repeated again and again. It seemed like a waste of effort, a waste of energy when I was just going to do it again.
Why am I putting on make-up? I am just going to take it off tonight and start all over again.
Why am I cooking food for myself? I am just going to be hungry again in a few hours. I’ll just eat something that doesn’t need preparation to get me through.
Why am I cleaning this kitchen again? It will just be messed up in another hour or two.
And don’t even get me started about the structured, repetitive activities that come with having children. They need to eat three times a day at least. What is up with that? (I feed them. Don’t call CPS.)
So I find this mantra in my head that repeats as I go through the daily motions. “I can do that, but it doesn’t matter.” “I can put in the effort, but it won’t change anything.” “It doesn’t make a difference.”
It is just another meal.
It is just another cleaning.
It is just another blog post.
It is just another Facebook image.
But I know the truth. It does make a difference. Food matters. Cleaning matters (sometimes). My writing matters. Even those images matter. The effort and energy matters, especially when it is accompanied by the feeling that it matters. And that is the difference, isn’t it? If I do something while thinking it doesn’t matter (even unconsciously), then it doesn’t matter. If I do something with the knowledge that it makes a difference, even on a small scale, then it does matter. And it doesn’t have to be different than the day before to matter.
But my inner parts struggle to see it. They are stuck in the past. They are reliving the same trauma over and over and looking for a way out. And they aren’t sure how to find it. Sounds a bit like Groundhog Day, doesn’t it?
So it is my job to show them the way out. And that way out doesn’t involve massive efforts using all of my energy. It is in the approach. And that is the hardest thing to change because it happens on the inside. But if there is one thing I know, inner recovery work matters. It may matter more than anything else in the world.