Thursday, May 30, 2013

The melancholy of things done

"So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more." So wrote the Victorian poet, Lord Alfred Tennyson, in Tears, Idle Tears.

"What am I doing? What is my role in life now? I realized that I was experiencing the melancholy of things done," wrote moonwalking astronaut Buzz Aldrin in his memoir Magnificent Desolation, describing the descent into depression and alcoholism that accompanied his return to life on earth.

As one of the first two men to set foot on the moon, Aldrin had fallen from a great height.

Aldrin's questions are asked by many who, while they have not flown quite so high, have nonetheless enjoyed a sense of great personal accomplishment in their chosen field, and then wondered, "What's next?"

What's next?

A hard question that many try to avoid by striving to remain on the field of glory, even as it is apparent to them and others that their best days are behind them.

As the brilliant moments recede, remembered only by the few who were there to witness the record-breaking season, or the dealmaking coup, or the great discovery, or the brilliant performances, sweet sadness descends.

Then the final test revolves around another question --- Will the sweetness of the memory sustain and energize the present, or will it be overcome by the sadness of things that will never be again?


  1. Certainly a part of one's retirement or maybe it is normal when one is in "the youth of one's old age" when friends and family start to die off. If I recall correctly you yourself went back to wok after you retired??? I don't know the answer but I do know my greatest struggle in the last year has been with the feeling that I am living in the past and can't shake a low grade sdness. I keep reminding myself Winston Churchill's greatest achievements came when he was older than I am now. Hahahahahaha!

  2. A common feeling, I think. I recall a conversation with a recently retired, formerly acclaimed, Chicago surgeon. He said he had gone from feeling like "God" to being just another old fart in Florida. I think the best we can do is to try to find activities that continue to give life meaning. Personally, I am finding that volunteer activity is helping with that.