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When every day is Groundhog Day
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When every day is Groundhog Day

Though everyday has felt like Groundhog Day during what has been the longest and most-January January to ever January, today is actually Groundhog Day.

An aside: I always laugh when people denigrate “fake” holidays — you know, as opposed to all those other organic, grass-fed, farm-to-table holidays — though I will agree that Big Greeting Card should stop making Halloween cards a thing.

Anyway, a groundhog may or may not see its shadow today, and there may or may not be six more weeks of winter. (Which is a cute idea. Winnipeggers know that no matter what the calendar or Manitoba Merv says, it’s winter until May Long. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy seasonally appropriate garden tulips?)

Though everyday has felt like Groundhog Day, today actually is Groundhog Day. (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press files)

But Groundhog Day, as I allude to above, doesn’t just evoke a shadow-spooked sciurid. It also evokes the 1993 motion picture in which Bill Murray plays a cynical weatherman caught in a time-loop that forces him to relive the same day — in his case, Feb. 2 — over and over again. Which is kind of what it’s been like to live through a pandemic, especially a pandemic in January.

I’ve found the past month to be really challenging, owing to a combination of pandemic fatigue, social media fatigue, seasonal blahs, etc. I don’t exactly have a fondness for the first month of the year at the best of times: diet culture ruined the blank page/fresh start feeling for me; instead, all I see is an endless string of shapeless blue nights.

I’ve been working on reframing how I see January over the past few years. I’ve tried leaning into being a Winter Person (proper gear really does help), getting outside for some bracing fresh air and vitamin D, and embracing ideas of hibernation and rest, instead of viewing January as a 31-day punishment for enjoying Christmas.

But still. This past month has just been hard. And now it’s over.

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press)

Besides, January doesn’t have a monopoly on fresh starts. This week brings Lunar New Year, the start of a new month (finally!) and also, an anniversary. One year ago — on Feb. 3, to be exact — I send out the first instalment of NEXT, my weekly look at a post-pandemic future. Over 50 issues of this newsletter, we’ve covered burnout, pandemic lingo, revenge bedtime procrastination, being out of social shape, the loss of weak-ties friendships, and what the end might look like. We’ve talked about what’s NEXT for our birthday candles, our grocery bills, our teeth.

I say ‘we,’ because you’ve been absolutely critical to this process. I have been overwhelmed by the generous response to this weekly missive. You’ve not only been reading it in incredible numbers, you’re also taking time out of your busy lives to engage and respond. Many of you have told me you feel seen through my observations; there's no higher praise than that. I try to respond to every email I get, and I certainly read them all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As we begin year three (!) of the pandemic — and also, I hope, inch closer to the end — this newsletter’s mandate remains as relevant as ever. In these darkest days before dawn, we can keep scheming and dreaming of the next normal. I hope you’ll continue on this zig-zagging journey with me. Even when every day feels like Groundhog Day, we’re still moving forward.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti, Columnist

Jen Zoratti

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I feel like everyone who writes a newsletter at the Free Press has binged the most recent season of Ozark on Netflix, myself included.

In addition to crushing that, I have also started Station Eleven. My goodness, what a beautiful show — and I love Mackenzie Davis (adult Kirsten) in everything I’ve seen her in.

Speaking of, if you haven’t yet watched Halt and Catch Fire — an AMC drama about the rise of personal computing and the proto-Internet in the 1980s — I HIGHLY recommend it. Davis plays Cameron Howe, a young computer programming prodigy who goes deliciously rogue.

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