500 Days of Summer on the First Night of Winter

Who would’ve known that North Carolina has the best snow storms? I remember my first snowfall in NC 11 years ago. I was so annoyed that it was snowing after leaving Chicago. I did not move to NC to have snow! I remember being even more annoyed by the responses of North Carolinians. They were excited! So excited. They wanted to play in it. Build snowmen, sledding, and snowball fights. I remember thinking, “Hello! We’re Freshmen in college, not 7 year olds.” Then came the warnings: Hurry! We have to get to the store to stock up on milk, toilet paper, and beer. It’s snow, people, not a nuclear war. Where I came from it was just a normal part of life that you learned to ignore and tolerate. Well over the years my annoyance has turned into laughing at the comedic overreaction and now into the same joy that I saw 11 years ago.

In NC, the threat of snow shuts the city down. You know that if it’s going to snow all obligations are off. It’s best to hit the store, stock up on food, booze, and movies and find someone that you want to be stuck inside with for a day or so. It’s best to stay off the roads. Even if you know how to drive in it, most people in NC don’t. It’s the universe giving us an unexpected vacation day. Over the years, some of my most enjoyable days have been snow days. Remember crazy card lady, Stroh?

So yesterday when the snow started falling, I knew junk food, wine, and DVDs were on the evening agenda. Chuck and I bundled up and headed to Blockbuster. 20 minutes and $35 later we headed home with 2 boxes of M&Ms, 2 rentals and 4 pre-viewed purchases, one being a favorite of ours- 500 Days of Summer.

We first saw this movie over a year ago in a local indy theater. It warns you at the beginning of the movie that it isn’t a love story, but we didn’t know that when we decided to go see it (and actually missed the precautionary line for the first watch). We both thought that we were in for a cute, romantic comedy. I will save the details from the movie, and try not to spoil too much through my rhetoric for those who haven’t seen it. I’ll just say that we both love it, but not because it is any representation of our current relationship.

I won’t speak for Chuck because he may like the movie for simpler reasons, possibly the Hall and Oats flash mob scene (that’s a good one), but for me, I like this movie because it reminds me of the grueling process of dating. It demonstrates the constant compromises that we make in bad relationships and how we talk ourselves into thinking things are better than they are. Essentially, it reminds me of the necessary work I had to do before I could be with the man I have now. It is very easy for me to think of a healthy relationship as common sense at this time, but that wasn’t always the case. I, too, once compromised rationale on putting a title the relationship. “Who needs a label? It’s what we feel that matters.” Oh hodgepodge! (Pardon my 1940’s slang) If what you were feeling was so great then a label wouldn’t matter. Saying that you are “In a relationship” wouldn’t be restricting. I remember being mad because words and actions weren’t consistent. The other person didn’t think that they were to blame because one of them represented the truth. I thought that they were solely to blame, because I chose to listen to whichever one was telling me what I wanted to hear. And it was usually the wrong one. I wanted so badly to be within the security of a healthy relationship that I would try to convince myself that it was. I would focus on only the good times in a relationship. I would ignore the unresolved conflicts, the underlying messages, the agony of insecurity.

There are a couple of things that I now know about a healthy, long-term relationship.1. It is more important to find someone that you can conflict with than get along with. Obviously, if you two have decided to pursue a relationship, you find something positive in the other person and can get along well. That’s the easy part. However, the real genius is the ability to resolve each and every conflict so that both of your self-respect is in tact, you both feel heard, and you feel that the issue is rectified and you can move forward. You’re gonna conflict. It’s healthy from time to time. You need to know how to resolve it or you will find yourself still fighting about that original issue months and years later. 2. Lasting love has maturity. It is not the same utopia (nausea) you experienced at 16. There is not the concern/excitement of “I wonder what he’s thinking,” “How come he hasn’t called/text/written,” “He’s late. I wonder what he’s doing,” or “He said ______. I wonder what that means.” You get to be present and functional in the rest of your life. Since there aren’t these worries, you can be engaged in whatever you are doing with the complete security that your partner has your best interest in mind and heart. 3. Relationships take reciprocal commitment. This is the scary part because it requires trust at a depth few of us will ever think about. This means that BOTH of you commit to each other now and to the ongoing process and work that it takes to stay in a lasting relationship. This takes constant reaffirmations of love, trust, and security.

I suppose the reason why I adore 500 Days of Summer is not because it reminds me of the love I have, but because it reminds me of the process that I went through to get to the love that I have. (And it doesn’t hurt that it does it in a smart and funny way.) This movie represents growth and gratitude. It makes me appreciate my relationship more than a movie that reminds me of what I already have. I suppose the fourth thing that I know about a lasting relationship: Make sure it’s someone that you love being snowed in with.