Lessons Learned: ‘500 Days of Summer’

I just finished the film 500 Days of Summer starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt in preparation for our ‘Toxic Love’ episode coming up this week.  As usual I have felt inspired to write another ‘Lessons Learned’ piece, so here we go!

Common Interest Does Not Equal Communion: Though this is just a piece in a much greater issue it is a very common mistake within the process of romanticizing another person. Tom (Levitt) is a man that is clearly in a life pattern of seeking another individual to complete him. In this mistake when he meets someone he feels instant attraction to he puts a great amount of weight on shared common interests. Sure, this is important for any union. The issue is that he equates these commonalities to a divine sign; it must mean that the stars have sent this person and to have positive commonalities in interest means that this person you have known for a week must be love’s solution. Not quite.

The truth is yes, you have to have things to talk about, but they’re not the factors that determine your potential to last. That has, and always will, depends on your ability to choose each other time and time again. It depends on what you both look like at your worst and how/if you are able to work together in spite of it. 

Believe Them: Why do we not find what we want? Why do we feel we waste our time with someone? Because we don’t believe them when they tell us who they are at the beginning! That red flag-that clue at the beginning more often than not ends up being the thing that ruins the pairing. 

This isn’t to say that you should run at the first sign of trouble. Not at all. If you do that there’s a very real chance you’ll end up alone. You do however, before stepping into the nebula of potential connection, need to know what your bottom lines are.

Summer (Deschanel) lays it out very clearly when they first meet; she is not looking for a boyfriend, she does not want something serious, she does not believe in love. Tom is the opposite in every way shape and form! The healthiness of his perspective is a different conversation, but regardless it is not where she is coming from.

I have seen debates online over who is in the right and who is in the wrong- the truth of the matter is relationships/partnerships, if we humble ourselves to pay attention, are rarely about that. Both partners have their right and both have their wrong. Both of them participate in what is going on.

The two of them no doubt had a connection but they both chose to ignore each other’s deceleration. There was a magnetism and both chose to respond to the pull rather than listen. Common mistake! Though better to not keep making the same one because eventually…

Every Step is Moving You Up: This is not just for romantic partnership. By the movie’s conclusion we understand, or at least should understand, that relationships and love are not the end all be all. To commit mistakes in the sphere of romantic pursuit can, if we internalize the lessons, bring us steps closer to ultimately what will make us happy; ALL the things that will make us happy.

For Tom the thing was he wasn’t happy before meeting Summer. He was in this fictitious mind-space that when, and only when, the perfect person came along would he find the purpose of his life and feel complete. VERY wrong.

The demand is not  the commonly stated, “You have to be happy alone before you can be happy with someone else.” No. That is indeed total and utter bull****. Why? No one is happy alone. Family, siblings, friends, teammates, partners, etc… People need the company of other people to feel truly happy. We are designed for the interaction and connection to others. Period. Just ask Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway with his trusty partner Wilson…

What does need to exist is the contentment and approval of the person you are when in the silence of yourself; who you wake up as, who you see in the mirror, the person you are in bed when you are alone, the choices you have made, the mistakes you’ve made, the flaws you embody…are you in peace with it all? THAT is what cannot be missing. 

Tom was not happy with his life because he was not happy with his lack of actions and investment in his own being. He was, unconsciously, trying to pawn that duty to a stranger.

When you are in the space of peace with yourself and your principal focus is your furthering peace,  good people (not just romantic partners) WILL show up. They won’t create a panic in you for definition and completion but will simply be there and will be a compliment to an already content afternoon. 

Call Fate Serendipity and Participate: Every moment, every day, we are choosing the conditions of our lives. We are active participants in what we live even when we think avoidance is a “good enough” band-aid. If and when we are in pursuit of our own peace and our own well-being there will come moments that someone or something good may come along. No, it’s not FATE. The problem with the word “fate” is that it carries the same disease as “soulmate”; we believe it removes our responsibility to meet these occurrences halfway- we convince ourselves that if they are meant to be, as we suspect, they will take care of themselves. Not correct.

These moments of “fate” are nothing more than happenstance. They are these wonderful, beautiful, and even slightly scary moments of luck that appear when we have prepared. They are serendipity. The thing to this word is that it requires you to join it on the floor; you have to be brave and jump on the moment because that’s all it is- a moment; special electric moments that do quickly depart.

At the end of the film after Tom has had his heartbroken, picked himself up, taken responsibility for himself and begun investing in what he HAD ALWAYS KNOWN HE ACTUALLY WANTED BUT AVOIDED DUE TO THE FEAR OF LIVING, does he by chance meet a delightful young woman in the waiting area of a job interview.

Unlike his attitude at the beginning of the movie, he knows that things only happen and can only take firmament in our lives if we actively take the chance to invite these chances in.

Love is Not Ownership; That is Ego:  There is one moment in particular I wanted to highlight from the movie. It is after Summer and Tom have their fight and she goes to him to apologize. He expresses his desire for her to be more consistent in their “relationship” and his fear that he might wake up one morning to her confession she might not feel it anymore. Her response is harsh but what makes it frightening is how true it is- She can’t promise him that and no one ever can.

She is just a person and the achievement of happiness in a relationship is not a place you have to hold on to with white knuckles. Relationships are almost organic things that move and change as two individuals continue to move and change. The truth is, at any moment, one of you can change your mind. Yes, this makes the vulnerable moments you enjoy in bliss all the more terrifying because will they still love you in the morning?

That however is the risk we take. For love to end does not mean it was never love at all. It had its time and then it ended. We can’t own anyone or hold on to them for ourselves. It just doesn’t work that way.

For these two characters, despite their union not ultimately “working out,” it absolutely worked in both of their favors because they actually did get what they needed- she learned that maybe SERENDIPITY could be moments to capitalize on and he learned he was responsible for his own happiness.






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