Structure, Gratitude, and Embracing Surprises: This is How You Survive the Groundhog Effect

The year life changed forever

Since March 12th, 2020, my days have begun to blend together. At first, they lost their unique textures and the vibrancy of their colors began to lose their freshness.

Every danged day looked and felt the same. They still do, sometimes.

This isn’t a post filled with promises. It isn’t one with solutions that will fit everyone’s needs equally. But it’s also not a journal entry.

These are just some of the things I’ve learned about maintaining momentum toward the things I want in life, even when life itself has felt like it has come to a sort of grinding halt. Ready? Let’s dive in.

Structure your day

Nothing beats structure. Especially when the normal structure of your days has been upended.

How do you mark the progression of days when you have to go back to your journal to figure out what danged day it is again? That was my first struggle with the new order of things.

Not just remember what day it was, but the best way to mark progress. And not just any progress either, but important progress. Meaningful progress.

Maybe now, more than ever, I want my days to have meaning. Real meaning.

So, the answer I landed on was and remains to be structure. But that’s too big a term by itself. Let’s break it down a bit further. A structure can mean:

  • Having a routine and following it
  • Having a schedule
  • Working rituals into the rhythm of your days
  • Keeping a journal
  • Setting goals and tracking them (but maybe not the great big 5-year variety, stick to 90 days or less for the time being)
  • Celebrating your wins daily
  • And always finding something specific and unique to whatever day it is to be grateful for…

Find things to be grateful for

It’s easy to be lazy with gratitude. Let’s just be honest here. How hard is it to jot down three pretty good sounding things in your journal that you’re grateful for and feel like you really wrote something significant?

Guilty. Been there, done that.

If there’s one thing this turbulent and difficult time has peeled away for me, it’s all the B. S. I had been piling up in my life and acting like it was something amazing.

But gratitude isn’t about what you write down, it isn’t about feeling a sense of accomplishment and it isn’t about checking something off your to-do list.

Gratitude is finding the little things that keep life together. The little things that, if they were missing, everything would fall apart.

Now, before you interrupt and try to correct me, I can hear you asking how the heck do you find things like that to be grateful for? And daily?

It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. Good stuff usually isn’t.

Part of the answer is in changing your perspective. Part of it is just doing the work.

To be fair, I still jot things down in the gratitude slot of my journal that includes items like:

  • Piping hot green tea first thing in the morning
  • Good music to get (and keep) me going
  • The sound of my mother’s laughter
  • The stories my father has told me at least three times already
  • And an ink pen with a good grip and dark rich ink that runs smoothly

You might look at that and say, “OK, some of that I get, but piping hot green tea and music? How the heck does that keep the world together?”

Perspective. That’s the point. Gratitude is personal, it’s about what you’re truly grateful for and cultivating a daily appreciation when you spot those things.

Make room for surprises

I hear you, if you’re living life like I am, every danged day feels like a carbon copy of the one before it. I keep the same routines, the same patterns, and the same basic existence every day.

So, how the heck do you possibly make room for surprises when you don’t know where a surprise could even come from.

You pay attention to the details. You slow down. You take things in. You find the people and the moments that really make everything count and you hold onto them.

And the best surprise is the one you give yourself for how hard you work, how often you dust yourself off, and how many times you get back up and go back to doing the things you’re after.

You and what you do with all these days, that’s the surprise. Here you are in the thick of it all, still moving forward. Still getting things done. Still taking it to the next level.


If you take away one thing, let it be this: Pay attention to the details.

Life happens in the moments. Not the great big ones necessarily. But in those little ones that are so easy to completely pass over. The ones you might not even give a second thought to.

When every day starts to look eerily like the past several, you can’t help but slow down. To stop gulping life and start sipping instead. At least, that’s been my experience through this.

I write poetry, and one of my favorite tactics for finding fresh things to write about used to be hopping in my car on a day off and going to a few favorite spots. Either that or I’d just see where the road took me. I’d rent a cheap room for a day or two and then I’d explore.

So many great ideas came from being a guest to a new location. Or an old friend to a favorite small town.

I miss that, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I don’t have that luxury anymore. So, I take walks. And there for a while, the walks started to look a lot like one another. One walk seemed to pick up where another one had left off.

That is until I stopped and really paid attention. Sure, as Ecclesiastes says, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” But that sun sure does have some different ways of looking day in and day out. You just have to pay attention.

And that’s the lesson.

Kentucky poet & scribbler. Multipotentialite interested in lifestyle design for creatives. Need a coach or have a project for me?

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