Sometimes military life feels like Groundhog Day. You know the movie: Bill Murray is a TV reporter who gets trapped in smalltown Pennsylvania, forced to re-live the same day again and again until he finally gets it right and wins the love of his co-star.
The movie Groundhog Day is a good metaphor for military life, too. Although most military spouses are strong, brave, and know how to make the most of any situation, there are times when we all feel a little bit stuck. Sometimes military life sweeps us along in the roller coaster of training, deployment, reintegration, PCS … And repeat.
If you feel caught in the repetitious cycle of military life, then you might have something to learn from the Groundhog Day movie.
Lesson one: reckless behavior doesn’t help in military life
In the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray’s character learns that he is stuck in an endless time loop, he first does experiments to see if his actions will have any consequences. No matter what he does on Groundhog Day, he starts all over again.
Once he realizes that there are no consequences, he decides to live life recklessly. He eats whatever he wants, drinks too much, starts smoking, and tries seducing strangers. But none of these actions bring him joy, and they don’t bring him closer to escaping the town either.
Military spouses quickly learn that our actions have consequences. Your choices at one base can definitely have an impact at a later duty station. Once your spouse has been in the military for a few years, they are sure to run into people they knew from former units or from boot camp. You may encounter those old neighbors again. And that commanding officer you trash talked on your Facebook page? Yup, you might run into him again too.
So try to be respectful of everyone around you. Don’t burn your bridges, because you never know when you will need them again.
Lesson two: depression doesn’t help
Once Bill Murray’s character learns that none of his actions matter, he becomes depressed. He has no interest in anyone around him. He tries to kill himself several times, and he even tries to kill the groundhog– Punxsutawney Phil! The movie is a comedy, but it’s clear that his character struggles with a dark period where he has no purpose.
For military spouses, life is not a comedy. Sometimes, it is frustrating and depressing. Military spouses have to handle everything from uncertain schedules and solo parenting to facing the death of their spouse. This is a heavy burden for anyone to carry alone. While we all have good days and bad days, there are many spouses who struggle with depression or anxiety. These diseases can overtake someone’s life.
Unfortunately, becoming disinterested and depressed is not an escape. In fact, it makes life much more stressful. If you know someone who feels stuck in Groundhog Day, or talks about their life as an endless loop that is out of their control, then they may be struggling with depression.
Please take the time to be a friend. Ask them sincere questions, and truly listen to their answers. Offer to help with little things, like going for a walk, mowing their yard, or cooking dinner. These gestures can go a long way to helping someone break free from depression.
Lesson three: break the cycle of military life by helping others
Towards the end of the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character makes an important choice. He decides to use his time to better himself and improve the lives of those around him, even if it is just for one day.
While repeating Groundhog Day over and over again, he takes piano lessons and learns how to build ice sculptures. He memorizes details about the townspeople and learns how he can help them. He even saves the life of a homeless man!
Ultimately, he embraces life in the town. He learns to love himself and respect his beautiful coworker. When he has finally learned to love, the cycle is broken, and he wakes up on the next day–February 3.
The happiest military spouses are those who learned to reach out to others and improve their communities, even if they will only be there for a few years.
These spouses are not immune to the challenges of long trainings or deployments. Instead, they have made the choice to make life better. Some spouses use deployments to try out a new hobby or learn a new skill. Others take classes to earn a college degree. Many military spouses have improved employment options by starting their own businesses.
When you make the choice to invest in yourself or to volunteer in your community, you will break the boring cycle of military life. You will fall in love with your community, even if it is on a small base in the middle of nowhere. If Bill Murray’s character can learn to love the groundhog in the movie Groundhog Day, then you can learn to love your current season of military life.