How NOT to be an academic asshole during Covid.

Close to half of PhD students are contemplating leaving their studies in the next six months. We need to talk about quitting with kindness and …

How NOT to be an academic asshole during Covid.

I found this really powerful, having been through a troubled PhD myself in less troubling times. It would be useful reading for any PhD candidate, supervisor, or friend or family member.

X-rays

You know you need to ‘get a life’ when you’re inspired by a medical procedure 😀😉

X-rays

Sitting almost naked

Undies and backless gown

Reminiscent of hospitalisation

Though the gown is black.

A little chilly as I wait

Not worried by this

Voices and laughter nearby

Such a tiny room.

Soon in the examination room

Pleasant young woman

Swivels bulky machines with ease

Sliding in overhead tracks.

Directions very precise

Toes together, heels apart

Breathe in, hold still

Roll this way and that.

The procedure over quickly

Satisfying the requirements

The examination complete

Pictures of internal structures.

Results will soon tell

If arthritic or not

The best treatment suggested

Relief hopefully projected.

7/8/2020

Meaning

Another one I liked

Meaning

The need to be special

Runs so deep,

To see oneself in a way

That validates the inner core.

Fragility part of the condition

We call humanity,

Wanting the acceptance

Of those we value.

We know that by all

We cannot be accepted,

Choosing the important ones

A big part of the exploration.

Seeking of self,

Seeking of meaning,

Dispelling the strong need

To be always correct.

Walking in others’ shoes

Is part of this path,

Without this our feelings echo,

Purely a hollow resounding.

We are all unique,

With commonalities aplenty,

But our own truths exist

Developing as we grow.

Where this will take us

Is not the question to ask,

The journey important

Wherever it may lead.

24/5/2020

Sharing Thoughts

Reviewing some recent poems, and liked this one, though mystified as to why sometimes the formatting remains when I copy and paste, and other times not.

Communication, such an important thing, so rarely done well, particularly the listening part…

Sharing Thoughts

Heart on the sleeve

Has problems for all

As observers stand by

Waiting for the fall.

Honesty can be

Weakness and strength

Emotions transparent

Showing the depth

Of feeling shown

Or thoughts stirring

Few barriers up

Emotions showing.

Responding to others

Only when safe

Makes certain sense

That’s for sure.

Letting ideas build

With onlookers nought

Gives that safety

So often sought.

Sharing with others

Has however huge gain

The thoughts in the mind

Do not often remain.

Open to examination

By friends and others

Rarely are remaining

Self reinforcing rumination

It is not though

For those fragile

In danger of comment

Declaring them puerile.

But vulnerability itself

Can be such a strength

Allowing the audience

To leap to defence

Or help to clarify

Thoughts which swirl

And so I think

Best give it a burl.

In the modern era

So easily done

Opinions can flow

Barriers to none.

But casually many sit

On that wide fence

Allowing only others

To contribute their pence

Content though they are

To shoot others down

And make opaque comments

Ensuring others frown.

But many there are

Who have deep thought

But not confident are

To have these outside brought.

To those I say loudly

Your ideas I want to hear

Especially from those

Who to me are dear.

Hide not away

Your deep cogitation

Shout from the tree tops

Inform our nation.

For too often it seems

Shallowness so often heard

Resound through the streets

Like an unformed turd.

4/6/2020

The interaction preferred

The poem, ‘The Visit’ was written three months ago but captures the essence of most of my once or twice weekly visits, at that time, to my 92 year old mother in her unit at a smallish nursing home community, sponsored by an Italian religious organisation. The facility came highly recommended through Italian connections in my mixed race family (Maltese, German, British, Welsh). Though my Mum paints it that her children put her in care, I went to great lengths to ensure that this was her decision after several falls, the last of which left her dazed and confused on the floor for 14 hours claiming that her call button did not work even though it was clearly operational. The first try at a care situation had her in a large single room with en-suite in a new modern facility that was too hospital like for her at the time, though she now remembers aspects of this much more fondly than she did at the time (rewriting history such a common feature of her thinking now). When the current situation became available, my sister and I were optimistic as it was not too different from her former unit, just one bedroom less and with care on hand 24 hours a day. Having a career in deinstitutionalising people with disabilities I naively assumed that these learnings had transferred to the aged care system but, as time went on, and even before COVID-19 restrictions hit, we started to become aware that the priority was the facility’s needs, not the individuals living in what we assumed were their homes.

Many of Mum’s complaints seemed just an extension of her over-fastidious nature but with increasing cognitive and health decline we witnessed staff ignoring basic preferences that would have been so easily redressed. My message here is that her complaints are not always baseless. But we have found ways to encourage more positive interactional styles during her visits: taking recent photos of great grandchildren as a focus for positive conversations, asking questions about her early life, discussing the latest gossip about the royal family, ensuring that we provide her with the little extras she loves (cream and ice cream for the ‘too dry’ sweet dishes, particular lollies she loves, and other favourite things) as well as print outs of her bank account so that she doesn’t get as confused about where her money is going. The following poem, I hope captures more of a sense of a positive visit.

The Interaction Preferred

The old smile on entering
Interest in things brought
Inevitable complaints dealt with
Briefly, not lingering.

Discussing my own issues
Awaking maternal concern
Description of happenings
Interest shown in these.

Some mention of COVID
Concerns easily put to rest
Photos of great grandchildren
But, not of her blood.

Leading to lengthy reflections
On those nearer to her heart
Asking questions about things
Some known and some not.

The conversation flowing
And ebbing at times
Questions about others
Staff both of us know.

A pleasant experience
For both Mother and Son
An unwillingness to end
Common in all visits.

But better tolerated
Because time allowed
This factored in
Planning the essence.

My Mum continuing
To teach lessons
Even though it might seem
The shoe has changed feet.

6/8/2020

The Visit

This poem seemed to go down well when I read it on a community radio station yesterday. Brought a tear to the eye of the segment host and promoted some useful discussion, I thought

The Visit

The complaints start on entering

Nothing is as it should be,

Nobody listens to what I say,

How could my children do this to me?

I let the saga continue unfettered,

Rarely clarifying or challenging,

Noting the inconsistencies and part truths,

The unwillingness to consider alternatives.

Is it in a box that I place you now,

Rejecting the veracity of your ‘truth’?

Or is this just part of the downhill run,

Heading for a type of total confusion.

We have to remember that this is only part

Of the person we once knew and loved,

Pieces do remain and can be found

Amongst the litter of memories of time past.

I cringe at Facebook posts that wail,

About the loss of people so frail,

Romanticised grief so prevalent,

When my wish is for this to end.

Am I heartless and unconcerned?

Do I suffer this from filial piety alone?

Has my love for my mother gone?

Disappeared amongst the blackened foam.

I do remember good times aplenty,

When her body and mind were strong,

And she helped so many when needed,

These times are hard to grasp though.

So many have had similar happenings,

Sometimes the loss rapid,

Oftentimes lingering and slow,

Challenging values and empathy.

The wonder of life seems to be,

In the uncertainty it entails.

Joy can be brief and morph itself

Into a pain so sharp.

Getting bogged in loose sand

Is much better than doing the same

In a time with so much grief,

It like all things will pass.

What can we learn in times strange?

So many things it seems.

Given the chance to reflect

On life and all our dreams.

6/5/2020

A Doctor who listens

Such a different experience
From too many before
Someone listening carefully
Before a diagnosis made.

Accepting what is said
But gently questioning
Exploring alternative possibilities
Not leaping to a conclusion firm.

Taking preferences into account
Probing the nature of these
Examining what informs
Being open and clear.

A person exists behind our mask
Unwilling to display all
Without testing credibility
Interest in more than a solution.

We all have some experience
Of approaches supportive and not
We have a role in shaping this
Not just accepting what’s given.

Our bodies tell some things
Our experience much more
“Doctor’s Orders” something
Avoided at all costs.


3/8/2020

Reviewing some of my poems

Have been asked to do a poetry reading on 90.1 Happy FM at Victor Harbor to read the male part of a poem called ‘The King and Siren’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox but was invited to offer a saying or quotation and a few of my own poems. There are many of both I could do and still haven’t finally chosen (it’s only tomorrow morning 😉) but did find the following that explains why I write poetry…

Poetry

I previously thought

That poetry was a plaything,

Something written in idle moments,

Containing homilies and cliches.

Thus, I did not share

My ditties and scribblings,

But I have now found

That phrases with others resound.

I was always aware, though,

Of the power of words constrained,

By the power of the medium,

The importance of brevity.

Words are so reinforcing

That we often share too much,

Convinced of their importance

Ignoring the strength of concepts.

How long should this poem be?

I often ask myself

But the length establishes itself

Once the message unfolds.

I know little of the frameworks

That experts in poetry demand,

Terms for different types of rhymes,

And all the necessary underpinnings.

But joy they bring me

As I so blithely write,

Expressing thoughts that

Otherwise would remain silent.

I hope others enjoy my offerings

Though this is not my main aim

For generally my main goal

Is the decluttering of my brain.

11/5/2020

Memorials

Memorials and funerals

Increase in latter years

Opportunities to pay respects

And learn some more

About friends or family

Even though long known

Still more to discover

Always a little sad

But joyous reflections too

Marking important features

Things so individual

Passions they explored.

How often close family surprised

By the interest in their loved one

From people unknown to them

Personal networks unknown to them

Anecdotes never before heard

A rare person not valued

By many incidental contacts

Who enjoyed their time together

Learning from each other

To My Once Wife

My calendar reminds me

That many years ago

My Once Wife drew first breath

And first faced the day.

Almost 50 years hence

We were wed

13 at the small event

Surely an omen

Of things yet to come

But four boys came forth

And almost 25 long years

Mixed with blessings and tears

Followed by times harsh

That distanced us both

But after some years

Reconnection did grow

Through issues shared

Family crises for one

Family events another

Until Now Wife can say

On a recent Christmas day

Let‘s have a photo

Of Brian and his two Wives

And all laugh

And photo shared.

It doesn’t always this way go

And some find it strange

But I am very happy

I can now share with her

On each special day