“The Awful Truth of Loving” by Rainer Maria

65. Song No. 651: “The Awful Truth of Loving,” Rainer Maria
Long Knives Drawn, 2003

…I wanted to be sweet
So you won’t disappoint me
And when the stakes are high
I’m careless with the dice
And now it seems like I’m
Pushing my luck all the time…

My favorite Rainer Maria song from my favorite Rainer Maria album seems like a fitting way to close out the A’s.

I don’t think I really knew how to be in a relationship or do my part to make sure it’s a healthy one until after my husband and I had been dating for a couple years, which means I’ve left probably more than my fair share of emotional wreckage in my wake while jumping around long-term relationships and short-lived fireworks. I was constantly in pursuit of that rush of infatuation that I equated with love and was at the mercy of whoever made my heart race with tunnel-visioned obsession.

For the most part, I wound up either dating or otherwise romantically entangled with some genuinely nice guys. Even if we were so thoroughly incompatible that we brought out the worst in each other, it was more unhealthy coping mechanisms than all-out emotional warfare, and I never even entertained or tolerated the notion of physical violence. My mistakes were the ignorant fumbles of someone too immature to see the consequences of, say, throwing a significant relationship out the window for a one-night stand that was more making out and spending the night with someone I couldn’t believe was interested in me than sex. Anyone can get laid in college: I loved the emotional immersion of falling in love but kept confusing it with the fast-burning intoxication that I was dazzled by.

But I also loved getting to know someone and getting comfortable with them and all the joys of discovery that come after the excitement wears off and the pounding hearts and swell of realizing that you share a mutual attraction. I wanted a taste of what I already had, and not even this song presenting that very problem to me wasn’t enough for me to internalize how fundamentally mean being so reckless with myself was, because it wasn’t just my heart on the line.

I’ve thought about this song as an adult a lot, particularly when harmless work crushes and genuine fondness for another person in close proximity leads to, like, those unbidden what-ifs born of an overly imaginative mind or too-real dreams were uncomfortable reminders of how shitty and toxic and wholly incapable of fidelity I used to be. But, as I’ve assured plenty of friends who’ve joined me in a leftward saunter as they’ve refined their political views over the years and are embarrassed by the bullshit they used to unthinkingly spew, the best indicator of how far you’ve come is how critically you can assess the issues with how you used to be.

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