Fifty Days To 50

In fifty days I will be fifty.

I have this wild inclination to write fifty posts in fifty days leading up to my fiftieth birthday. Things I’ve learned, things that I am so glad I lived to see, and things I wish I never saw. You get the idea. Anyway, here we go…

I have spent the vast majority of this life in one haze or another, wanting deep inside to just get this thing called life over-with. I’d wake up a lot of days disappointed that I woke up at all. Tried ending my own life twice. Early on I realized I was not worth much; if my own mother wanted nothing to do with me, obviously there must be something within me that was inherently shit, right?

When I was in sixth grade I told some kid who was dropping your momma jokes on me that my mom was dead. It stopped everything and he may have even said he was sorry. I went home and wrote something that got me into trouble (pesky father checking up on me) and it lead to a family meeting of sorts. My Uncle Charlie was the defacto family counselor and he called my mom. The day she showed up at my Uncle Charlie’s place, with her new husband, was the first time I’d seen her in two years.

A few weekend visits, a week or two in the summer mostly spent at her mom’s apartment in Boyle Heights, and then the Friday no-shows began again. By the time I was in high school I was over it.
I carried that shit, that self-hate that comes from being so unlovely that your own mother doesn’t love you. My dad bore the brunt of the fucking anger that comes from that kind of self-loathing. He fought hard to hold me, to love me, to kick my ass when I needed it – and I needed it a lot.

I don’t tell you all this to elicit your empathy. I tell you so that you might understand my foundation. Because back then I didn’t understand it. I had no idea who the fuck I was. I just knew I wanted to get the the last page of the book already. The in-between was just something to hurry up and get through, not some amazing, beautiful story you cannot put down and don’t want to end.

Up to this point the in-between has been a mess of bad decisions, addiction, horrible behavior towards the people who have loved me the hardest, and a constant, chronic fucking loathing of the piece of unloveable shit I would see in the mirror. Not all the time, but so much of it that I wonder how different it could all have been if I hadn’t wasted so much fucking time hating the one person who deserved my love and patience the most.

The other day I told my wife that for the first time in a long time (maybe ever) I don’t want to hurry up and get to the end of this life. I want more. More time with her. More of the little things only we get to see of each other, more of reaching across the bed in the middle of the night just to know she’s there, more of seeing this world through her eyes.

I used to give my self a hard limit on this life: 80. If I am still alive at 80 I am jumping on a kayak with a bottle of pills, a bottle of alcohol, and a revolver. That was the plan.
Now? I mean, if my wrinkled old ass is still with the woman sitting across from me as I type this I want to be here for every second of it.

I want lean in not just in the awesome moments, but the whole of this life.

So, yeah, I turn fifty in fifty days. I’ve learned a lot. Sometimes I had to learn those things more than once and even more often the hard way. Sometimes I learned things early on and, well, some things I should have learned a long time ago I am only now figuring it out.

I’ll write about some of the things I’ve learned over the next fifty days. I’ll write about some of the things I am so glad I got to be alive for. Maybe some of it will help someone, hopefully it’ll at least entertain you.
I still fight that voice in my head that likes to remind me that I am trash. I always will. But I have learned how to shout that fucker down. It’s been a few months since I last woke up disappointed. I take that as a win.

So here it is, the first thing I can tell you I have learned in these fifty years on this earth: It gets better. If you hold on and keep on throwing punches, keep on getting up even when everything in you is shouting, “stay down!” I promise, it will get better. Someone will miss you when you’re no longer there. Yes, even you. I promise. It may take fifty years, it may even take longer, but if you hold on and remember that you’re not trash just because someone you thought should stay didn’t, or because you fucked up the last time you got shitfaced, or… fill in the blank… it will get better.

In my absolute favorite poem ever, Rudyard Kipling says it best:

 If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…

It will get better. I promise.

I want to live, dear reader. I want to be a friend worthy of the love from those who stayed when they had every right to leave. I want to love this woman mocking me as I tippitty-tap-tap-tap on my keyboard. I want to make my father proud. And, goddamit, I want to go to Paris and eat cheese with my wife.

Copyright 2022 Rudy Martinez
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