The Autumn of My Life

To every thing turn, turn, turn, there is a season turn, turn, turn . . .

Autumn Leaves

The Beauty of Autumn

These words – originally from Ecclesiastes, made into a song by Pete Seeger, and as I first heard them sung in 1965 by The Byrds – are beginning to resonate for me more deeply than ever before. At almost 65, I am now well into the Equinox of my life. I am beginning to look back at what I’ve accomplished, what I think it means, and how I wish to apply what I’ve learned to what remains of my time on this planet.

Lest you think I’m being melancholy, I’m not . . . though I will admit to occasionally feeling as though time has slipped by far too fast. However, I have a trick I use to deal with that and I’ve been doing it so long I really don’t think about it much any more.

I’m of the opinion the feeling that time has slipped by far too fast is a low-level form of self-pity. That trick I mentioned is something I used to do many years ago when I sensed I was feeling sorry for myself. I would pick a day, perhaps six months or a year ago, and try to recreate all the things I had done or experienced in the intervening time. I never made it to “today” because I always got bored from “reliving” all those things I had already done. Nowadays, I don’t even have to go through the exercise. I only need to remind myself of its efficacy.

Maybe it is because I’ve had a pretty interesting life, full of wonder . . . and not a little strangeness as well . . . but I’d like to think just about everyone experiences a great deal of variety and special things in their life, if only they could (or would) take the time to appreciate them. Unfortunately, too many of us dwell on the past and obsess over the future, ensuring we are incapable of simply enjoying today.

I often make reference to a book by Alan Watts, “The Wisdom of Insecurity”. I do this because its message is inordinately precious and timeless. It has done for me what I suppose many turn to the Bible for; given me strength and succor when I’ve needed it most. The first time I read it was when I was a young man and a woman I was deeply in love with cast me aside after several months of an intense relationship. Back then I was not in great control of my emotions and was capable of spectacular heights and abysmal depths of feeling. By the time I finished the book I was at peace and had learned the value of letting go; a powerful lesson which has remained with me all these years.

The last time I read it was a couple of years ago while awaiting surgery to remove a Melanoma from my lower back; uncertain if it had spread and not knowing if the time remaining with my wife and two young children would be short. Though at first I cried for what it might mean to my family, especially my girls, both of whom had already lost two fathers (biological and foster), it helped me find the strength to go very quickly to acceptance, greatly minimizing denial and depression, and skipping anger and bargaining entirely.

I am also reminded of these words from the Frank Sinatra version of “It was a very good year”:

 “But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs, and it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year.

Yes, it is the Autumn of my life, but the season is a wonderful one, full of color and change. It’s also a season of harvest and of festivals celebrating the fruit of ones labors. For me, I’m beginning to use it as a time to take stock of all I’ve experienced and accomplished.

Because my wife and I adopted two young girls, the oldest when I was 55 years old, I am in no position to sit back and allow myself to ferment (though I still enjoy various grains in such a state), as I might have done in retirement were it not for my girls. I still have an absolutely wonderful life and am looking forward to at least a couple more decades of activity, learning, and experiencing this incredible journey I feel so fortunate to be on. If you’re willing, I will share my harvest with you and I hope you will see fit to share a bit with me as well. Thanks for reading.

About Rick Ladd

I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining. Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence. I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind. View all posts by Rick Ladd

4 responses to “The Autumn of My Life

  • Ed Wade (@edgwade)

    Thanks Rick. Nicely composed. Encourages me to take a look at the Watts title. Also coming to mind: “Regrets, ..I’ve had a few. But then again, .. too few to mention.” Take care. – Ed Wade


    • Rick Ladd

      Hi Ed. Thanks so much for taking the time to not only read, but to comment. It means a lot to me to get feedback. I guarantee you will not be disappointed in Alan Watts’ book. Quoting Sinatra dates you, you realize 🙂


  • Mike Rado

    The good news is that it’s only Autumn. Moving to Florida in my 40s put me in contact with people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s that are leading productive, vibrant lives. Health is key. Some work, some volunteer. The Y, running clubs, bike events and other athletic clubs are full of retireees. 65 isn’t old. It’s not even a bump in the road!


    • Rick Ladd

      Hello Mike. Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post. I agree with you for the most part, but the reality is you are not as old as you think. You are as old as your body has been on this planet since it was born. That isn’t to say state of mind is unimportant. I believe it’s extremely important and that’s why I’m looking forward to every minute I have left. Lots to do; lots to be. I will soon be five years older than my father was when he died. It used to weigh on me because I had always been so much like him. Let’s just say it’s a reminder everyone’s time is limited and, at 65, I will be much closer to reaching the limit than I was 40 years ago. Believe me. I don’t lose sleep over it.


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