Mundane Poetry and thoughts on Pandemics

April is National Poetry Month, in the U.S. Inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), the Academy of American Poets established National Poetry Month in 1996.

I have been writing poetry for a very long time and only recently during quarantine had a bit more time in my plethora of life and work matters, to pick up some poetry books to read, and of course write more. Why not published….. hmm? Too busy reading articles. Part of inspiring hope is through literature and poetry. Poetry can take many forms, it can describe a mood, reflect on subconscious or conscious thoughts, history, fantasy or reality. Quotes and poetry add great depth to our lives, to inspire, to make a difference, so dream and think like a poet!

Robert Frost, and many of his writings are classics, one of my favorites, as also the metaphysical poet John Donne. Andrew Spacey in Owlcation poetry analysis of Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (written in 1922) provides a great analysis by stanza (group of lines divided into groups and separated by lines in a poem). Indeed some of Frost’s lines are “dark” but then, a lot of music and poetry is. It describes our mood, subconscious thoughts or simply a state of mind. Frost has that ‘hunky sensitivity’ — endearing to many of us romantic types — this poem is indeed reflective of isolation, and if anyone travels to Vermont or New Hampshire during the long winter months, they can understand the context of a seemingly mundane world.

This may be how some people even view the current pandemic. Mundane and isolationist.

Diseases categorized as ‘pandemics’ used to travel very slowly, in older days. So slowly that it took decades and even hundreds of years for these to reach continental Europe from places like Asia. Although it has been documented that quarantines helped control disease spread in the Middle Ages, we as human beings cannot live very long in isolation. We do not travel solely on ships anymore, we are ‘airborne’ — and this is the issue of the current COVID-19 and related SARS family of diseases. COVID continues to get the reputation of being a ‘clotting disease‘ and unfortunately damages multiple organs. We keep losing people, the medical community is overburdened and fatigued.

One of my students recently lost his wife, mother of two, ages 13 and 9, may she rest in peace. Others we know had been hospitalized, some ‘survived’ but still report extreme exhaustion and having ‘fuzzy’ unclear thinking processes.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) another American favorite wrote more than 800 poems found in her family home in Amherst, MA. Influenced by her context, a strict father, a mother who was crippled from a stroke.

It takes time. We want to believe that self-tests will shed light on the “Typhoid Mary” types of of our communities, the Spreaders and potential Carriers. We hope that having a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated will help humans move forward so it is not as in ‘the end of days’ or some version of the Apocalypse. We need to go back to the basics of trace data, inform close-nit groups, and train community health aides.

There is confusion, an anti-vax movement, and for sure no perfect solution. As with everything, we need to take action, to educate, and to empower. A recent March correspondence article “Covid-19, cults and the antivax-movement” in The Lancet, I am aligned with this: “Burgess and colleagues drew attention to how people who might have suffered disproportionate economic and health consequences from COVID-19 are now being asked to trust the same structures that failed to provide adequate resources and social protection during the pandemic…..However, Burgess and colleagues make a distinction between ‘people wholly opposed to vaccinations (anti-vaxxers) and…vaccine hesitancy.’

MUNDANE

War, Blood,

the tears of pain,

of victory, of power,

the story of greed.

Walk, journey,

the birth of life,

of growth, of courage,

the story of survival.

Hope, fear,

the light of truth,

of freedom, of serenity,

the story of peace.

(B. Kondilis, 1991)

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

We start with a few, and keep adding…. this is how preventive education starts. Individual is good but population-based even better. Meaning the “biggest bang for your buck.” No one knows it better than people trained by the CDC or similar entities. As it seems, it makes no difference if we were trained 20 years ago or 40 years ago. Whether it was the AIDS epidemic or the Covid Pandemic, increasing health literacy remains a consistent goal.

We are trained to give information, to work with teams and media (radio, TV, internet, magazine, newspaper, you name it), for any type of disease (chronic or infectious/ communicable). Mental health trained clinicians deal with loss, help people better understand their strength and resilience, to ‘have a chance’ and make the world a better place to live. We know there is mistrust, but we also know how important trust-building is to the patient-provider relationship. Healthcare professionals, allied health professionals, mental health professionals all bring their ‘arms’ to the “Round-Table” if there ever was a health communication ideal of ‘Camelot’….

Barbara Kondilis & MaryLee Behrens, lifelong health educators
during an online session with health psychology students

Home for the holidays

Hot beverages, home cooking, turning inward, online burnout, family matters. This is what many people described as key themes from this year’s holidays. Perhaps a slowing down is what that “little bugger” Covid intended, for sure we still have much to learn.

Many of us want to look ahead to a brighter year, thinking of New Year’s resolutions…cook more, quality time with family and friends, reading, music, art, inner work…and yes more hot chocolate and the Eat, Pray, Love philosophy. And, a recent gifted book I’m reading by Haemin Sunim, The Things You can See Only When you Slow Down (c) 2012. One thing is for sure it’s great to make comfort food. The leftover candy canes this year went into some fabulous chewy, coconut oil based brownies ! Yummy 😋

We have responsibility to ourselves and our communities in slowing down the transmission of all communicable disease 🦠 so we can give our health professionals and healthcare facilities a “break.” This WHO social marketing campaign makes it clear. Burnout and risk are also clear.

We are amidst a global pandemic. The latest stats show us that there is a big Pharma “war” for the most COVID vaccines as seen by this very interesting site called “Visual Capitalist” (global maps vaccines ), and of course the gaming industry gains (much to the dismay of parents) , and the “Top 20 visuals from 2020” — missing some additional losses (actors Sean Connery [007] Kirk Douglas [Spartacus], David Prose [Darth Vader], Kelly Preston [Travolta’s spouse] & Nick Cordero [A Bronx Tale] , soccer player Diego Maradona, basketball player Kobe Bryant, rockstar Eddie Van Halen, country singer Kenny Rogers and comedian-singer Little Richard, Maestro Ennio Morricone, to name a few in tribute.😕😢 some of whom had COVID related complications.

No, it’s not just “another flu” …it’s likely as complicated as HIV-AIDS once was. It’s also fast forwarding us to what people call “futurism” and there is certainly a lot of mistrust in governments, the global “network” of economic and media gurus… full conspiracy theories. My friend’s card reminder should help all of us cognitively reshift …..

When life gives you lemons 🍋 ….make lemonade! Indeed

….and of course some good tea!