Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Break-ups, "(500) Days of Summer" and the Art of Moving On

As you probably know by now, the girl and I broke up a while ago. Relax, I'm not going to complain about anything; I'm not going to be all emo about it. The reasons and details have no business being on the blog, anyway. I only bring it up because the event itself is relevant to the rest of the post. It's all good. It really is.

I'm doing what you do. Going out and having fun. Dedicating myself to working out and looking and feeling better (I've lost 25 pounds HEY OH). I'm writing more, as shown in my active blogging for the past month and a half or so. I'm throwing myself into hobbies like the writing, my guitar and playing softball, etc.

So where am I going with this? Have you ever seen the movie (500) Days of Summer? As the tagline for the movie says, "This is not a love story. This is a story about love."

If you haven't seen it, you should. Immediately. It's a great, great movie about the 500 days of Tom's relationship with Summer. Tom is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Summer is played by the super hot Zooey Deschanel. It is most definitely not a love story, though it warns you about that right up front -- not unlike Summer.

Anyway, Tom and Summer have this relationship, and then, of course, they break up. And the movie is about everything and all of it. The excitement of being interested in someone new. The unabashed joy when the interest appears to be reciprocated. The blinding, stomach-churning pain of heartbreak. The hope and restoration of emerging from the other side mostly better off. And everything in between. It's just really great.

So I was at home in Charlotte for the week or so surrounding my birthday. My parents have HBO, and during the week I was at my parents' house, this movie was on HBO repeat. You know how that works. It plays every few hours for like five days. Of course it did. Naturally, I watched it every time.

And now, what I'd really like to do is to write a running diary of the movie. I'm going to watch the movie and comment on it throughout with timestamps (where appropriate) so you can follow along if you'd like to see what I'm talking about. It'll likely be a lot of stream of consciousness, too. Mostly, it'll be an exercise in honestly trying to deal with, you know, life.

Every time I watch this movie, I realize more and more how I am Tom. But I guess a lot of people will see themselves in either Tom or Summer. That's probably why the movie was as successful as it was.

Regardless, I think this will be fun, and it's my blog. So here we go!

00:00 -- I'm on the couch with my laptop ready for action. The dog is nervously pacing around the room because it's incredibly cloudy and dark outside from the thunderstorm that rolled through earlier (and perhaps will roll through again).

00:01 -- the narrator talks about how Tom believed he would never be happy until and unless he met "the one." I can sympathize with that because for the better part of college, I subscribed to the same theory. But as I get older, it's not as strong as it once was. I'm not entirely sure why I felt that way. I think it's because my parents got married when they were 20 and 22, so it was just reality to me. That's how you do things. You know?

Maybe that's why I thought it would be a good idea to get engaged at 22. It was not. Live and learn, my friends. Live and learn.

As soon as Tom sees Summer, he knows she's the one he's been looking for. Yeah I know how that goes. I'm pretty sure I've been there more than once.

00:04 -- And Tom is in the kitchen breaking plates against the counter. One of the great parts about this movie is the non-linear way the story is told. It jumps around throughout the 500 days. So that's why it'll talk about things from the break-up before the relationship, etc. Anyway, so Tom and Summer have obviously recently broken up. That feeling sucks, man. You feel helpless, and the only thing that makes sense is destruction.

00:07 -- "I don't want to get over her. I want to get her back." Not this relationship, but the last relationship that ended, I looked her right in the eye after she broke up with me and said, "I'm going to get you back." It took maybe two months, but I did. We got back together and dated for another terrible year and a half. It was unwise.

Sometimes it makes sense to get back together. Sometimes the reasons you break up are temporary and circumstantial. And sometimes it's because you are completely incompatible and forcing it for who the fuck knows why. That time was the latter. I should have left it be, but I was stubborn. Again, I'm not talking about this time. It was a few years ago.

It was complicated by several factors -- among them: we lived together and didn't have an immediate way to work around that. So that was fun haha. But really, it meant we didn't have a cooling-off period. We broke up, and then continued to see each other all the time. I never had the necessary period of reflection you often go through after a break-up. That's the point where you can finally realize, you know, maybe getting back together isn't such a great idea. Didn't happen. Anyway.

00:11 -- Haha I love Tom's reaction to Summer telling him she loves The Smiths after she hears them playing on his iPod. She just smiles and says she loves the band, and that Tom has great taste in music. The elevator doors open with Tom just smiling like a moron as Summer exits. He stands there a beat and says, "Holy shit," as the doors close on him. So great.

It's something you do in elementary school, right? You find out a girl likes something you like (hell even if you don't like it), and you make a point to immerse yourself in it at all times just for the odd time when she might walk past so you might be able to share that initial moment again.

Well, it doesn't stop in elementary school. I'm pretty sure I would do this now, and so would you. Don't lie.

00:13 -- I love how it takes Tom, like, three days to fall completely in love. You can just tell by the way he looks at her. And by the way he breaks out his paper to start sketching again after Summer comments on his architecture studies. Again, when did the writers spend time sitting in my brain?

"Oh boy. Just cuz some cute girl likes the same bizarro crap you do, that doesn't make her your soulmate, Tom."

The words of Tom's sister, Rachel. Wise words, indeed. But impossible to heed when you're like Tom (and me, for that matter). Because when you decide you're in love with someone, you look for the signs in everything that happens. You'll grasp onto the smallest little thing as long as you can spin it in your head as a "sign" that you're meant to be together.

00:20 -- Ah ha. A key point in the movie. Summer talks about how she has no interest in a relationship at all because "they're messy and people's feelings get hurt." She puts it right out there for Tom. He cannot help himself.

Haha Tom is so great at karaoke. I love karaoke. I love singing anyway. I've taken to putting on my iPod while I'm in the shower so I can play my "Songs to Sing" list. I totally jam, too. It's great fun. I do sometimes wonder if people outside can hear me. I'm not exactly quiet. Whatevs.

00:25 -- And then Summer kisses Tom in the copy room. As a guy, I have to say, I'm totally fine with making the first moves. It's the way of the world, and I'm cool with it. I can do it. But man is it awesome when the girl makes the first move like that. I have always loved that.

00:30 -- Summer reiterates to Tom how she's not looking for anything serious. I think this is on, like, day 32 or something. Tom, naturally, says he's OK with it. And, of course, he is not; though I'm not sure if he knows that right now. It's the way it works though.

And just a minute later, after Tom presumably sleeps with Summer for the first time, he walks outside and is all smiles as he breaks into a dance number down the street. The feeling that you could conquer the world, that nothing could ever be wrong again. Good times, man. It's an unbeatable feeling.

And strangely, this is how I feel now. I find myself dancing while I'm walking the dog, or walking through Target, or sitting on the Metro going downtown. I very often catch myself walking around with a goofy grin on my face at all times. And all this despite the knowledge that pretty much everything is uncertain for me right now.

As Leo said in The West Wing, "Act as if ye have faith and ye shall have faith. To put it another way, fake it 'til you make it." Not that I'm faking it. I honestly do feel this way. It's just a strange juxtaposition right now, and I don't know how else to explain it.

00:38 -- The moments when you connect with a person on a deeper level than just casual conversation are amazing. There's nothing better than opening up to another person for the first time and having the other person open up to you.

Look, some people just love being in love. They love the feeling of meeting someone, falling for him or her and then just being in love together and everything that goes along with it. Tom is one of those people. And so am I haha. At least I know it and I can admit it, right? I'm aware of it, and I take steps not to let it control my life. Or something. Whatevs haha.

00:44 -- The douchebag in the bar tries to hit on Summer while Tom is sitting right there with her, and makes the comment, "I can't believe this is your boyfriend." You can see she's a little out of it before then when they're just talking together, but especially after that. She looks distant and uninterested.

And you know what? I've seen that look. Fuck that look, man.

"Friends my balls." Well said, Tom. Well said, indeed. They fight and Tom leaves. Later on, Summer goes to Tom's place to apologize.

Tom wants "to know you're not going to wake up in the morning and feel differently." Summer says she can't give him that. "Nobody can."

And that, my friends, is the terrifying thing about relationships, isn't it? It's true. You can't help how you feel. And your feelings are subject to change. It's happened to me, very suddenly and very unexpectedly. And it's happened to girls I've dated. I know I want to know what Tom wants to know. That things are going to be OK, and we're going to wake up tomorrow and be happy. But I guess you never really know that, nor can you.

00:50 -- I cannot get down with this. Tom insists on asking Summer about her exes. I am way too insecure for this haha. I don't want to know anything about exes. I like to pretend they don't exist. I can't be alone in this, right? Other people feel this way, too, right? Please? Anyone? Bueller? *Sigh.

00:56 -- 167 days into the relationship and things are great for Tom and Summer. So great that it's beginning to seep into all facets of his life. His happiness with Summer is inspiring him. Life is just easy for him right now because of how awesome Summer makes him feel.

00:59 -- "On the one hand I want to forget her. On the other hand I know that she's the only person in the entire universe who will make me happy." Oh love. Such strange and disturbing contradictions.

On day 402, Tom is heading to the wedding for a co-worker. He's riding the train to the wedding, and it turns out Summer is on the same train. I think we can pinpoint the break-up around day 290 or so. So it's been a while. Summer wants to be friends with Tom and tries to talk to him, but Tom is in love with Summer. Then Tom spends the entire train ride (and subsequent wedding) talking with Summer and spending time with her, and, of course, falling in love with her all over again.

Again, this is a total me move. I have done this before. I'm sure, over the course of my entire life, I will do it again. Tom makes the mistake of thinking Summer is falling for him again, too, which is kind of exacerbated by Summer inviting him to a party at her place a couple of weeks later. Tom has no reason to think the invitation means anything, but he jumps to conclusions, as I most definitely would.

01:08 -- This leads to a great sequence where Tom attending the party is given a split-screen treatment: Expectations vs. Reality. In his expectations, Summer kisses him and is warm and loving toward him.

Reality, however, is not kind to Tom. It turns out Summer is engaged to someone else -- someone she was seeing during the wedding where he re-fell for her.

Tom goes into a tailspin, falling into a funk (which I have thankfully avoided) where he subsists on a diet of Twinkies and whiskey, which eventually leads to him quitting his job.

It's rock bottom, man. You have to hit rock bottom before you can move back up. Strangely, I hit my own rock bottom before we even broke up, and I started my own recovery with my commitment to eating better, working out, playing softball, writing more, playing music, etc.

01:15 -- After 10 or so days of Tom's funk, you see the first signs of his recovery. He's at his little sister's soccer practice with his sketchbook -- the first time he's sketched in a while, as his sister points out. And, continuing with her wisdom beyond her years (she's like 12), she provides the next piece of great advice for Tom:

"I know you think that she was the one, but I don't. I think you're just remembering the good stuff. Next time you look back, I really think you should look again."

Hot damn. It's what we do after break-ups. You idealize everything because of the hurt and because of the longing for a return to normalcy. You gloss over the negatives (and of course there were negatives. Every relationship has them.), and you focus on what was good. You only remember what was good.

01:19 -- I love this sequence. Tom wakes up. It starts with him laying in bed, casually bouncing a tennis ball on the ground. In the background, this song is playing with a driving drum beat. Slowly, Tom's casual, random bouncing becomes more forceful and purposeful -- eventually bouncing in time with the drum beat. It's Tom getting his shit together.

He gets up out of bed. He starts sketching. He starts reading architecture books. He starts looking for jobs.

Of course, as he's getting his shit together, Summer is getting married.

There wasn't ONE moment where I woke up and got my shit together. I don't live in a movie. It was a combination of things. It was playing softball and going out with my friends. It was kicking ass running and lifting weights and getting on the scale and seeing the pounds fall away. And after a while, you get to where I am now: down 25 pounds, in a sustainable work-out routine and just generally kicking ass.

01:23 -- "You're married." Summer finds Tom at his favorite place in the city. "You never wanted to be someone's girlfriend, and now you're someone's wife."

Oh, Summer: "I just woke up one day and I knew."
"Knew what?"
"What I was never sure of with you."

I have nothing against Summer here. I really don't. She was honest about her feelings and her expectations from the beginning. Tom just couldn't help himself. But man that's tough to hear. I've heard it. We all have. It sucks, man.

I'm telling you. I am Tom. I would absolutely meet a girl, have the girl tell me straight up, "I don't want a boyfriend," and I would fall in love with her anyway. C'est la vie.

01:27 -- Day 500 of Tom's 500 Days of Summer. Here's the narration.

"Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin and they end with no lasting memories made in between. Most days have no impact on the course of a life. May 23 was a Wednesday."

Tom is at a job interview, and he finds a girl waiting there with him. This girl is played by one of the hottest girls on the planet, Minka Kelly. They make small talk, and he learns her favorite place in the city is the same as his, and she has seen him there before.

The narration again as Tom is sitting, thinking about the girl, and as he is called back for his interview. Brilliant stuff, by the way:

"If Tom had learned anything, it was that you can't ascribe great cosmic significance to a simple earthly event. Coincidence -- that's all anything ever really is. Nothing more than coincidence. Tom had finally learned there are no miracles. There's no such thing as fate. Nothing is meant to be. He knew. He was sure of it now. Tom was [Tom is called back and begins walking down the hall, only to turn around and go back toward the girl.]...he was pretty sure."

And Tom goes to the girl and asks her out. They introduce themselves, and it turns out her name is Autumn. Of course it is.

Tom gives this look to the camera, and the look in his eyes sums up everything. It's hope. It's excitement. It's everything he felt about Summer at first. The joy of meeting someone new. Then, the title card pictures change to autumn colors, and then (500) changes to a (1). Roll credits. Unbelievable. Love this movie.

The look in Tom's eyes. That feeling. It's fantastic, and I know it so well. I've felt it myself numerous times, and it's completely awesome.

It's the realization that everything really will be fine again. It's the point where you can look back and see that things happened as they should -- as they always do. Usually, you can't see that at first. Break-ups are the worst. They blind you from logic and reason. Joseph Gordon-Levitt had a great quote about being drawn to playing the role of Tom:

"I've had my heart broken before. Truly, truly broken. But when I look back at me in my heartbroken phase, it's pretty hilarious, because it felt so much more extreme than it really was. One of the things I love about (500) Days of Summer is that it doesn't make light of what we go through in romances, but it is honest about it and shows it for what it is, which is often profoundly funny."

All of us have moments during break-ups in our lives where we are undeniably not proud of the way we have acted or the things we have said. How could we be? When a relationship ends, it can feel like the most profound sadness and despair imaginable. It takes something like when Tom meets Autumn to get past it and to realize it's just the way the emotions of that situation work.

That final scene where Tom looks up at the camera is my favorite of the whole movie, and even more so now because of what has happened. I won't say it's his defining moment. Tom waking up again and turning his life around is more important. But if he hadn't been able to do that, he wouldn't have met Autumn. And maybe Autumn doesn't work out. It doesn't matter. Autumn represents moving forward and getting on with your life.

It's kind of funny her name is Autumn since I pretty much connect that season with love anyway. I met my last three serious girlfriends in the fall. So while most people probably connect the first hints of Spring and blooming flowers with love, I will always think of love when the air first turns crisp, and when the leaves start to turn. But that's a post for another day.

In the end, break-ups are the worst, and that's just the way it goes. I see a lot of myself in Tom. Maybe you end up getting back together, or maybe you're like Tom and Summer, and you don't. Whatever is meant to be will be. The key is you have to realize your version of that final scene, that moment, is coming.

And you just have to be in the right mindset for it. You have to have your shit together and be ready.


1 comment:

  1. I really love this post. I also love the movie 500 days of Summer. I am going through a rough time right now with my recent breakup and I just find it so hard to move on. I know all the facts but I still can't help feeling the way that I do. This post is really amazing. Thank you for writing it.