Actually, some of my best friends are groundhogs

Groundhog DayToday is the 2nd of February, that most sacred of days which North Americans have been anticipating for what feels like forever. It’s the day that reveals our destiny…at least for the next six weeks.

Yup, it’s Groundhog Day.

For the uninitiated, Groundhog Day is the annual absurdity that sees normally rational people throw common sense to the wind and allow a portly woodchuck (Marmota monax) to predict how much longer we’re doomed to suffer the cruelty of winter’s icy embrace. It goes something like this:

  • If the sun is shining when the groundhog pokes his nose outside on his special day, he’ll see his shadow and dash back inside his burrow. This is supposed to mean that there will be six more weeks of winter weather, but as far as I can tell, all it proves is that groundhogs are afraid of their own shadows.
  • If it’s overcast and there’s no shadow to be seen, he’ll happily waddle outside. Which allegedly means an early spring, but really just proves my point.

I have a small confession to make: I can relate to that groundhog. I, too, am sometimes afraid of my own shadow.

I’ve never been much of a risk-taker. When I look back at my timid former self, quaking in her boots over the slightest thing, I’m amazed that I managed to move overseas at all. Yet it was expatriation that saved me from myself.

I see now that the first couple of times I got my feet wet as an expat were just trial runs. I duly patted myself on the back for daring to move, but that’s about as far as it went. I’d used up so much bravery capital getting there, I didn’t have a lot left to spend once I’d arrived.

When I reached Singapore, however — and I still don’t know how this happened — I stretched. Maybe not as much as I could have — I do have regrets when I think of all the things I was too timid to do — but what I learned is this: even small risks can reap huge rewards. And small successes build the confidence to take more risks; the cycle feeds on itself.

Unfortunately, like Pavlov’s dog, I’ve been conditioned to respond to a given stimulus with a specific response. I equate risk-taking with expatriation, and now that I’ve repatriated, my brain is trying to revert to its skittish, pre-expat state. I intend to fight the good fight and ensure that never happens.

But let’s return to today’s top story:

This morning, Wiarton Willie (Canada’s official Groundhog in Residence) failed to see his shadow, which means the rest of the winter will be relatively mild. Ignoring for a moment the irony of the huge snowstorm that swept through the area last night, I’m feeling optimistic about the news. If I can shake off my cold-weather lethargy a little earlier this year, I’ll have more energy to devote to some exciting new projects that are guaranteed to shove me to the limits of my comfort zone — and beyond.

Wait a minute….During the winter, I stay inside where it’s warm and sleep a lot. Today, February 2nd, I ignore my fears and make plans for the future.

Good grief — I’m more groundhog-like than I thought.


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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6 Responses to Actually, some of my best friends are groundhogs

  1. bookjunkie says:

    I watched the movie Groundhog Day what seems like eons ago not quite getting what the whole ritual was about. Why a Groundhog – I was scratching my head. For the first time….after reading your post and explanation….it’s now clear to me. I love little cultural rituals like these. Whether they are true or not, it just makes life a whole lot more interesting.

    On that note it’s been unusually wet and cool in Singapore and I hope it continues. It’s never rained this much and had always been hot and windy during Chinese New Year. Many people in Singapore are griping about it but not me…I love the cold…..I long for snow and winter!! I guess we all want what we can’t get much of.

    • Maria says:

      From what I understand, the whole groundhog thing is a German tradition that was brought to America by German settlers in the 19th century, and then picked up by the Canadians. It still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but like you say, these cultural quirks add a little spice to life.

  2. bookjunkie says:

    I am definitely not a risk taker myself, but trying to be.

  3. naomi says:

    For me the imagery of a groundhog is more that of the repetition …. (probably BECAUSE I watched the movie TOO many times??) … feeling as though it is so important to create new memories, new opportunities … less I feel like Bob from Groundhog Day … (was that his name?)

    Have I been overseas for too long to have not even remembered that yesterday was groundhog day in the US? Yikes!

    • Maria says:

      Don’t beat yourself up about forgetting groundhog day. I live here, and it honestly never crosses my mind. (And while we’re in confession mode, is it okay to admit that I’ve never seen the movie?)

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