Fall is in the air. Once again Mother Earth is preparing herself for her winter sleep. The days are growing shorter, the sun’s rays less harsh.

While many perennials no longer flaunt their stuff, their absence makes way for asters, mums, and golden rod to lift their faces to the autumn sun. Cooler nights trick tomatoes into taking longer to ripen while soy bean and cornfields are busily turning rusty browns and yellows.

Juicy apples, pears, and plums replace summer fruits and berries. Pumpkins and an vast array of winter squash push watermelons and cantaloupes into the background.

A part of me grieves the changing season. I love the chaotic colors and exuberant growth of summer. I love summer’s early morning mellowness. I love the longer evenings. I love walking in a warm rain. I love watching things grow, sunflowers, hydrangeas, roses, daisies, day lilies, carrots, broccoli, green beans, zucchini.

Yet there is something nurturing and reassuring in fall’s slowing down. Shortening days and coloring leaves remind me life is transient. This moment is all I have. Autumn’s gift is letting go, trusting in an unseen future. What was is no longer. What is yet to come, still a mystery.

I cling to the past, futilely projecting old worries onto a future yet to arrive. I pretend I am still young and vibrant, but I then tire more quickly. I see the eye doctor who says my visual challenges are age related. I can’t walk as fast or as far before my back protests. It takes longer to get things done.

My biggest stumbling block is letting go of my 40 year old self and embracing this aging body which still does a good job of allowing me to participate in life. Even though there are many things I can no longer do, there is more than enough to keep me occupied and learning. In fact, slowing down has given me permission to stop feeling guilty about taking naps or reading all afternoon.

Well into my eighth decade I have finally given myself permission to just be, rather than obsessing about staying busy and productive. Whatever illusions I once had about contributing to mankind no longer seem as important. My best days are those when I take my time and simply focus on who I’m with, where I am, and what I am doing.

Growing older gives new meaning to the Bible’s sacrifice of praise, that is giving up something we value (the challenges and worries of this world) for something of even greater value (peace of mind and heart). Even as I long for the physical dexterity I knew as a youth, even as I resist letting go and letting God, I intuitively know the gift of aging is gratitude, for it is gratitude that will make whatever time is left be rich and meaningful.

Joyce Shutt is the author of Steps to Hope and is a veteran 12 stepper. #lettin go #gratitude

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