How an old optimist beats the blues—a poem

Carved stone head by a bag of garden rubbish

Sometimes my head turns to stone. Then how to beat the blues?

An old optimist shares strategies to beat the blues.

  1. First, continue going through the motions of everyday life.
  2. Then think a new thought.

How an old optimist beats the blues

I’m pathologically criminally
blindly ditzily
queen of the optimists
but now and then it’s still
a struggle to beat the blues.

I say to myself, You know what to do
and this is only a hitch
a glitch, a gate unlocked
in lockdown for an old
familiar demon to slip through..

You know how it goes.
(Ah me my life is pointless
work is worthless
I’m such a fake my love’s no good
nobody likes me and nor they should.)

Old age makes us ready prey
but also gives us strategies.
The heart may call them nonsense
but experience disagrees.
To start, you go through the motions.

All of our habits have value
especially when we whimper
“What’s the point?” That is the point.
They are the point.
They get the day on track.

Do this. Do that. Eat breakfast. Feed the cat.
You have work, so do it.
Wash some plates. Lift some weights.
Do your income tax.
Help your neighbour Max.

And sooner or later you recall
A thought is only a thought.
You can think a new thought.*
And lo! a new thought springs to life.
Then another. And another.

Finally one of them clicks.
For instance, black lives matter.
Life is short. Why waste a single day?
Suck it up, say thank you
and give something away.

Rachel McAlpine 2020 CC BY 2.0

*Thank you, Louise Hay, for this revelation. I heard you say it on an audiotape (!) 30 years ago and it changed everything.

drawing of stone head and bag of garden rubbish, looking similar in profile

Even a stone statue is not alone in the community garden. Beat the blues with a friend!


12 thoughts on “How an old optimist beats the blues—a poem

  1. This strikes a note! Wonderful tips here – real and achievable.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Achievable. I like that word

      1. Not long out of teaching – it’s a habit. Perhaps a good one to hang on to.

  2. Oh that’s perfect! We need you Rachel. X

  3. Sadje says:

    A brilliant poem!

  4. I love it and, oh, what a lovely friend you have in the garden!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, he is a dear, and distantly related to Siddhartha’s family, I suspect.

      1. I can see a family resemblance!

      2. I can see the family resemblance!

  5. franklparker says:

    Oh yes! I can relate to that. Ban Brexit thoughts, ban Covid thoughts. Everyone’s life matters.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You never know which thought will permit the return to happiness.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I hope you continue your Friday readings. I get so much more from hearing poetry than in reading it. I always have and made it a point to listen to as many readings as I could.