“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”
Hunter S. Thompson
40 is creeping up on me. It has never bothered me before; getting older that is. I have never had any problems with it. The fact is, when I was in my teens, I never really thought that I would live past 21, and was right to an extent. Every year that I have lived past 21 has been a gift, not because I had some rare diseases or illness or anything, but more because I had sort of a death wish stemming from depression and abuse of drugs and alcohol.
I met my wife shortly after moving back to The Region, after having been gone for a year recovering from my drug problem. I was 22, and my life as a family man started shortly afterward at 25. Up into my 30's I battled with Alcoholism. I still drink to this day, but the quantity of and reasons for have changed dramatically. I don’t get drunk very often at all anymore. Some may think I still abuse alcohol and this is understandable but not true. I abuse it to the extent that, well, I still have lots of trouble expressing certain emotions such as stress and sadness, and I can tend to use alcohol as a release when I get backed up with these two overbearing emotions. Growing up, my father expressed 2 emotions very well, anger and content, but when he was stressed or upset, one could never tell unless he expressed them with drink, and I believe that habit manifested itself in me as well. Anyways, I’ve been working on that but it’s not what I am writing about. The point is that I cherish every year I am alive and every decade I live is marked with its own personal growth.
I never thought I would be one who could go through a midlife crisis. I have always thought of myself to be too mentally fortified for this, but I was wrong. I have always thought of a midlife crisis as a man unable to accept that he is getting older and that this fear plays out by trying to appear or act as they did when they were younger in an effort to still feel young. I don’t think that this is what it is for everyone though. For me it has been different, but somewhat the same, I guess.
My midlife crisis is marked with unease and fear for the future of my relationship with my wife, heartbreak over the fact that my 2 sons are getting older and will soon be off to live their own lives away from me. Longing for the days when they were young. Anger that my body is acting up in ways it has never before and pain at the loss I am taking every year from loved ones passing away.
My wife and I have been married for almost 16 years. That’s a long time in this day in age, and like most relationships that have lasted so long, it has been marked with its trials and tribulations, but most of all, Love. My wife is 6 years older than I am which I never thought as a big deal, though I eventually started to feel that it may have been to her, and I just never really understood it. Hell, she may not have never understood it either.By the time I was still in my early to mid-30's, she was already in her 40s, and while I was still highly active and well, stupid, she was already going through a change of life marked with fears and uncertainty about me, our marriage, Insecurity about her changing body, and questions about her life in general. Unfortunately, I wasn’t at this level of understanding yet and I mistook her feelings as jealousy, insecurity and disdain for me. Very egotistic for to make it all about me though, I know, but nevertheless, this caused a lot of problems between us that lead to many fights and uncertainty to the point where I became unsure of our futures together and the tottling of the notion of divorce. I think the truest test of whether someone is actually still in love with each other is getting to the point when the words finally exit the brain and out of the mouth. As angry as I have been at her, as much as I hate being judged and even falsely accused, I love her and I know she loves me and with every fight we get into, we grow closer together.
Maybe, it’s the thought of ”Forever” that creates this anxiety for married couples when they enter into their 40's, the thought of how the second part of their lives will be lived and who they will live them with, or maybe it’s the fear of losing the young spry body and face to father time that begins to create this fear, and maybe with her having entered this stage in her life well before me, well, I just didn’t understand, but I do now, and I think I have been going through this myself. I understand this now.
Nothing creates anxiety like the thought of losing one’s children, though, Thanks to the Creator, I have not lost my children to death, losing them to life can be equally depressing. Last night my oldest son Alejandro and I were on the phone with a college recruiting program. This program creates professional profiles for student-athletes, a database of sorts that college recruiters can use to scout new talent and hopefully offer scholarships. My oldest son will be 15 in 2 months and will be entering his Sophomore year in High School. He has been playing football since he was 4 years old and I have been there with him, as a coach and a father every step of the way. I still remember being so very excited when I enrolled him for Flag Football at the local YMCA when he was 4. Even though I didn’t sign on to be one of the coaches, because the program became short-handed and because I had lots of experience as a coach, I lent a hand. I went onto being my son’s coach for the next 10 years. I was so excited when my son was born. My wife and I wanted the gender of our first child to be secret until the birth. Unfortunately, his birth became a dilemma with my wife eventually needing a C-section after complications with natural birth. I can still see the doctor removing the child from my wife as clearly as the day it happened, and remember seeing his little balls, marking that I had a new son. It was a joy that I have only experienced once more with the birth of my second son, 4 years later.
My second boy comes with him a completely different sense of joy and pride. About a year after he was born, we began to notice something different about him. While his older brother excelled very early, my second son, Anjel, was a late bloomer. It was later discovered that he has High Functioning Autism. We were very fearful that he would have a difficult life, especially with his inability to communicate properly. He is 10 years old now and has been taking therapy for speech, behavior, and occupational for the majority of his life, and not only is he a very joyful child, he can communicate very well and has his own YouTube channel. He has never been held back a grade and has a common sense that is far more advanced than even his brother. His strength growing up has been nothing short of inspiring to me. His gentleness can warm the coldest nights. He is now entering a new stage in life, A stage where self-awareness is going to bring with it a new set of challenges, challenges that I have already been going through with my oldest, and this fills me with anxiety and sadness, not because of the stages of life they are getting into, but because they are no longer my little boys. They are growing up and soon will be on their own and won’t need me. Still, thinking about the joy of raising these 2 boys brings tears to my eyes, a bittersweet joy marked by the fact that they will be living their own lives away from us sooner, rather than later now.
Nothing reminds one that they are entering the second half of their life more than their body. It starts suddenly, a little ache after a workout, the first grey hair, then boom, Father time dick slaps them in the face! Earlier this year, I was encouraged to go see a doctor after getting sharp pains in my chest. I was given tests for the heart as well as a stress test and the doctor told me my heart was fine but that I had a lot of stress and that my cholesterol was high. After the doctor’s visit I had to take a good look in the mirror. I’ve been denying it and fighting it, but as I look in the mirror at the grey in my beard and the small lines beginning to appear under my eye, I’m getting older, and certain actions are resulting in repercussions I am not used to.
For example, on the things that I love to do with my extra time is Coach Football. I love to Coach and have been doing it for the last 20 years of my life. I have always taught by example, something that I have always been proud of.I get into these drills with these football players, doing the sprints, showing the proper techniques for blocks and tackles.Coaching this ways gets a great response from the students and manages to keep me in somewhat good shape, but these last two years have been a bit more tiring.
I find myself not being able to do as much or am getting winded earlier. I actually have to use the phrase “old football injury” more often now, when my knee, ankle or shoulder gives out during a drill, injuries that have decided to visit more often. I’ve been sore longer after practices than I used to be. Some days, I just don’t feel like going out there at all.
The past couple of weeks I have been laying Paver Stones in the yard. I put in a patio and a walkway from the house to the garage and every night after finishing this work I have felt like a train has fucking hit me. My back is hurt, my legs are sore, my muscles are aching. Seriously man! What the Fuck!? The days of going hard at everything I do seems to be winding up for me, but at least slowing down is not stopping. There is nothing more depressing for me than the thought of stopping. Well? death , of course. The ultimate reminder that our lives are entering a different stage. A stage where the universe starts taking back what is rightfully theirs.
These past couple of years have been marked with loss for me with mentors having gotten sick and passing away. Family and friends alike who have been reclaimed by the universe. Death has always been a cruel reminder that our time here is limited and that we must make the most out of it while we are still here, and though death has always been around me, my recent losses have been a bit more thought provoking. My aunt, who was my spiritual mentor and had a love and faith matched by no other. My father who, though he did many things wrong, was still my father and taught me many, many things that I am grateful for. A man who was a mentor to me, even if the most important lessons I took from him was how not to do things. Recently, I had a friend from High School, an old teammate of mine, who passed away after a couple of years of battling a rare form of cancer. He left behind a wife and 3 beautiful daughters. He didn’t make it to his 40th birthday. This hit me pretty hard. Ryan was a health freak. One of the most athletic men I have ever known, overflowing with life, love and faith in his God! With a nickname like Cyborg, I thought this guy would go on forever and live a very long and happy life with his family. Only he didn’t. His life was cut short, not by a freak accident but by the laws of nature. To have seen him so weak and frail this past November at our annual Alumni Football Game was a shock to me. RIP buddy.
In addition to having death be a reminder that I am getting older, it is also a reminder that I am still alive. Far from that young man that I used to be, willing to put my life in harm's way on a whim. I cherish every year that I am given on this planet and with my family, and even though I know that this second part of my life is going to be met with different challenges, one thing will remain constant; Love. The Love I have for my Wife. The Love I have for my Sons. The Love I have for my Life and the experiences that have filled it since I came out of the womb.
I remember, as a child, my parents used to keep a quilt hung on the wall. It’s actually a famous image of a bull in an arena. It was actually a pretty depressing image with the bull bleeding from the sabers stuck to it during battle with the Matador. The Matador dressed in his ceremonial attire , his lance drawn ,pointed at the bull. Both the Matador and the Bull stood tall, strong, waiting for each other to make their move, and even though the Bull’s life was surely going to end, there was no reason to be a bitch about it. It was going to stand strong and tall and keep doing what it has always done. Fight! Fight until the last breath of life. Fight until life, the Matador, delivers it back into the universe. It was a very poetic image. It’s no wonder why it has stuck with me for so long.
I've had a good life so Far. I have had many different and unique experiences, some have almost taken away life, some have given me new life, but every experience has brought me closer to the man I want to be. There is no experience that I would have changed.
Well, This is 40, and I may be a bit slower doing it, but I am going at it like I have the rest of my life, like a bull in an arena; broken, beaten, bleeding but alive and ready for the next round.
Don't be afraid.
That ringing you hear in your ear
Is just a bit of