Self defence kicks in — a poem

T'ai chi kick in self defence

T’ai chi kick in self defence

I began a never-ending literature review
I read and I studied
and the news kept coming
and the books piled up
and the waters got muddied
you wouldn’t believe the research out there.
For decades now the ageing horde
has been a coming thing
looming and glooming and secretly booming
and while I’d been dreaming my life away
100,000 scientists
had worked it out, indeed they knew
what we had to do
(and trust me they were doing it too).

We can all of us, no most of us, no some of us
live longer yes, that happens anyway
but simultaneously collaterally
be healthyish and happyish and cheap to run
and maybe even useful
for nearly all those scary bonus years
or so they said.
We were doomed to live long
we could choose to live strong
it was all up to us no mostly no partly
our choice or so I thought they said.
Science had the answers to my fiddle-faddle fears
so I’d thought I’d do a boot camp for my bonus years
take a year to focus, point my laser mind
at certain smudgy areas
where Rachel could do better.
I was very much alive
I didn’t feel old but the facts were there
I was yes I was going to die sometime
but maybe not suddenly, maybe not soon
so I dedicated twelve months of my life
to being old, to knowing old
to feeling old, accepting old
I would have my year of being old
and then I would be sorted, then I would be fine.
I wasn’t anti-ageing
(which surely means pro-dying)
but my all-time self was out of whack
and needed a test and a tweak and a twiddle
I wasn’t at the end and I wasn’t in the middle
the years ahead were an obstacle course
and I needed to train and to strategise.

An onslaught of earnestness
swept away the vicar’s daughter
not as in save-the-worldism
but as in do-your-bestism
and so I planned my boot camp for the bonus years.

MP3 recording of this poem

Poem, recording and photo by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0. Please share, with my name and a link.

21 thoughts on “Self defence kicks in — a poem

  1. “Boot camp for the bonus years” – sign me up!

    1. Afraid it was a do-it-yourself job, so over to you!

  2. A good idea to periodically sort one’s deteriorating self out. Old age happens and we need canes, walkers and crutches to keep us upright. Once we are at that level of goodness again, we can carry on as if old age isn’t happening yet.

    1. Katie, I bow to your authority!

  3. mistermuse says:

    Sounds like you do not plan to “go gentle into that good night.” Nor do I, but “the best laid plans of mice and [wo]men go oft awry.” And yet, it is also said that “LIFE is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I wish those axioms would get their act straight!

    1. Ah, but I’m not raging, just analyzing and strategising. Perhaps the axioms should have a conference and do likewise. They have no place in my personal boot camp. Let them jabber to each other 🙂

  4. virtualtea says:

    Hi Rachel, love your poem! You are, as I think I have said before, an inspiration to those of us rapidly approaching. Just that you took the time to look and publish your research findings is Inspiring. So important to take time out to notice and reflect and I do it so poorly. Love to you in your elegant aging. from Lesley

    1. Lesley darling, you epitomise what I love about blogging… and living… and you. PS I will have a couple of days with Joseph and Gary next month

  5. rhinophile says:

    I really like your poem, Rachel. I’ve read quite a few books over the years written by wise folks who analyze and strategize and it’s definitely the path I find myself most drawn to follow. I wonder if you have read Ram Dass’ book, ‘Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying.’ I’ve read it at least a couple of times. It’s honest and funny and grounding. I’ve also given to people for birthday presents! I’m not sure if that is such a good idea. ☺️

    1. Ruth, so good to hear that you have a similar approach to life. I well believe it. No, I hadn’t heard of this book but I quickly checked it out and bought a Kindle version with one click. A book about ageing that you read twice is special. Thank you.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    At my daughter’s urging a joined a gym and use a personal trainer. Egads. Who would have thunk it? But I didn’t realize how much muscle strength I had lost and how used I had become to “may I help you” offers that reduced my strength even more. So I am still overweight, but I can carry my own grocery bags and suitcases. And my doctor is pleased.

    1. I am so pleased to learn this too. We can save and improve the strength we have got. Daughters are excellent, aren’t they?

      1. Elizabeth says:


  7. Fantastic poem.

  8. Robyn Haynes says:

    Whew! I’m out of breath absorbing all those ‘old’ thoughts! Thank goodness for you Rachel. You do all the heavy lifting for me in this getting older but better business.

    1. Now where do you think I get my own inspiration and role models? But yeah, I’m puffing too.

  9. Robyn Haynes says:


  10. rummuser says:

    Without signing up, I have been in boot camp for the bonus years since quite a few years.

    1. I can well believe it. I thought one year was enough for me.

  11. cheerfulmonk says:

    I’m afraid I’ve always been growth oriented and have never wished I were younger than I was. As I wrote in Building a Solid Foundation, I hung out with a lot of wise old men through books when I was in high school, so I’ve never been afraid of getting older. I figured I would just keep learning and growing, following my own path, and being At Home in the Universe.

    1. Your early dream set you on a rather wonderful path for life. I’m sure your story inspires many readers.