Running to stand still


I am absolutely appalling at relaxing. Today is my first day of a week off, and I spent the entire day on a list of tasks that didn’t need to happen. It was great to get them done, sure, but rest and relaxation were on the agenda too, and yet didn’t make the cut. Literally, I had ‘write’ and ‘nap’ as numbers 4 and 5 on my to-do list respectively, and I’m only just getting to write now, at the end of the day when I’m too tired to devote much mental energy to it.

I’ve learned through experience that short term goals are far more achievable than solemn proclamations that “I shall never do this again, as long as I live!” So for the rest of today, I’m going to sit on the couch and listen to music. Tomorrow, I sleep in, drink coffee and write in the morning, and then enjoy whatever takes my fancy after that.

When you live your life according to a never ending to-do list, obligations and commitments slowly assume a higher priority than serenity and contentment, and that just won’t do.

Déjà vu


I feel better when I write, but I find so many excuses why not to. And after a while, I forget it was even a ‘thing’ I once did, until I rediscover the joy, the release, the relief, and make another commitment to make it a regular practice again. It all amounts to a never-ending cycle of short lived, albeit well-intentioned, promises to myself, to reengage with passions I truly have that I never seem to stick with.

Re-reading the last few posts I’ve made here, it’s disheartening to see how little has changed since I I last contributed anything here 12 months ago. Work is still going a restructuring process in the wake of financial impacts from the global pandemic, which is also still taking place. Greater Sydney is once again in lockdown, and fingers are being pointed by politicians, newspapers, and social media, as to whose fault it is that we’re still in this situation 18-months in, while the rest of the world – it seems – is slowly emerging from the ashes.

I’ve spent the better part of the last year grappling with the seemingly Sisyphean task of trudging ahead in the face of never ending adversity. Rolling the metaphoric boulder continuously uphill, only to find another hill not far behind it. And all the while, the thought that a change to my perspective would improve my reality has not been far from my mind. Yet for some reason, diligent attention to my mental health has always ranked lower on the priority list than nearly everything else. Something I’ll get to later; only later never comes.

It makes me wonder, then, that rather than being a Sisyphean task, where a sustained burden can never truly be cast aside, I deal with something more along the lines of a recurring cycle of opportunity to make the right choices, and do the right thing, and ultimately treat myself more kindly. Each time around, I carry the opportunity to pause, recognise, and change. When I don’t enact it, the cycle is repeated once again. It’s not a boulder; it’s an unclaimed choice. Perhaps the sense of burden stops when I set the weight down, and consciously move on without it.

Old camera and photos sitting atop an old map.

The Environmental Impact of Travel


My family loves travel. It’s our biggest passion in life, and a topic of conversation never too far from our minds. We have a giant map pinned to the wall of our kitchen that acts as a reference and source of ideas, and rather than movies and TV we tend to watch documentaries on different places in the world that we want to learn more about.

Each one of us has a bucket list of new places we’d like to see, or locations we’ve already been that we’d like to revisit and learn even more about. We don’t accumulate possessions, but photographs and memories. It’s a shared avocation that continues to bring us together as a family, and even unpleasant events can eventually become entertaining topics of conversation.

We’ve endured the misery of gastroenteritis in Paris, having our connecting flight from Orkney to Glasgow unceremoniously cancelled without notice and having to frantically re-book everything to reach Iceland on schedule, and arrived at an AirBnB only to find our hosts nowhere to be found. They’re problematic and frustrating while on the road, but become memorable snapshots that add to the colour and vibrancy of a trip afterwords.

And yet, the topic of whether international travel is even ethical has begun to arise more and more these days, and it’s worth examining more closely.


Reading through the headlines and horror stories, there are two main criticisms I’ve begun to see with regards to long distance travel: pollution and overcrowding.

Travel requires fuel, and international travel requires a lot of fuel – enormous amounts of it in fact. And when you are trekking halfway across the world, as we often do, the environmental impact of getting there can be quite significant. So the question arises, how is it reasonable for us to contribute to global warming simply to get away on a holiday? Why not stay somewhere closer to home?

To add insult to injury, once you arrive at your destination, you do so along with massive throngs of other travellers. News reports tell of anti-tourist protests in Barcelona and overcrowding policies in Amsterdam and Venice, while others report locals are increasingly having problems finding places to live, with the ‘Airbnb effect’ leading to significant shortages in local housing markets.

Cruise ships dominate tiny ports never intended for behemoths of their side, resulting in thousands upon thousands of people appearing all at once, clogging the streets and alleyways in the process and polluting the water with what one watchdog labelled the “dirtiest of all fuels.” Then, after several hours of disruption, they return to their floating city and head towards another unsuspecting town.

It would seem that one family’s relaxing adventure becomes another’s burden; another stone added to the crushing weight humanity continues to encumber upon the world.


And yet, were there no benefits to travel, there would be no incentives to engage in it, but the reality is this isn’t the case. Chief amongst these benefits are fostering understanding, facilitating learning, and connecting people.

The spectre of nationalism has been looming for quite some time now, with some countries adopting increasingly isolationistic, self-serving policies that look out for their interests at the expense of the global good. Once unified worldwide commitments to environmental protection and carbon reduction have begun to weaken and wane, and even in the face of pandemics like coronavirus, we see places where national economic growth is being put ahead of human welfare.

In the face of what feels like a retreat from global cooperation, it’s all the more crucial to continue to recognise and embrace the diversity in the world, and explore the many languages, cultures, and people that dwell here – and a key way of doing this is through travel.

Travel pulls us out of our comfort zone and makes life feel real. It presents us with new lessons and sensations, where things are profoundly different to what we know. It makes us stop and pay attention, and helps us understand what existence looks and feels like beyond our realm of experience. It encourages us to become global citizens and acts as a crucial counterpoint to the threat of nationalism.

Changing Behaviour

And yet, the negative impacts that travel has on the world and those that live here – human or otherwise – must not be ignored. It would do no good to foster cultural understanding if it comes at the expense of the very planet we live on. We need to be considerate about how we travel, and the lives we lead when we are at home.

This requires a constant, considerate consciousness about what we buy and consume, how we approach comfort and indulgence, how we commute and get around, and what we teach our children. If we are to continue to travel as a means of seeing the world, and learning about its creatures and its people, we must ensure we offset the environmental impacts of travel by changing our behaviour and being kinder to the world at all times.

Concerned man standing against a blackboard with strength depicted behind him.

Moving Beyond Fear


I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Frank Herbert, Dune

We are more than COVID-19. We cannot let it become all that we read about, all that we talk about, all that we think about. If we arrive at that place, life ceases to be, and there is only fear.

Caution and forethought are crucial during times like this, there’s no doubt about it. But surely there must be a point at which we set aside the topic of coronavirus and start looking forward again to existence in all its diversity and variety. Yes, we must stay vigilant. Yes, we must stay alert. But that doesn’t mean we must shelve our optimism, joy, and hope.

I make the mistake of reading the newspaper every day, and every day I immediately regret it. Yes, there are occasional pearls of wisdom that can be put into practice; useful suggestions that can make a difference in how we cope, and how we stay safe. But more often than not it’s an endless stream of fear-invoking articles about how many people are sick in the world, how many are dying, and how all the things we turn to for solace are failing us.

It is absolutely heartbreaking, and yet passively dwelling on the statistics, the uncertainty, and the chaos contributes nothing to the world, and nothing to our mental health.

Some people may need to see information like this; perhaps those who continue to live in denial about the severity of this pandemic and think it’s a perfect time to gather in droves on the beaches and in the pubs. But for those of us who have taken it seriously for some time now and are already doing our best to social distance, self-isolate, cough into our elbows, not hoard toilet paper, and be considerate of others – to us, these news articles do more harm than good.

Fear is a state of powerlessness, and living in powerlessness is neither enjoyable nor helpful. This is not to suggest we refuse to recognise the people, places and things we cannot control, but to make a conscious decision to accept them as they are and instead focus our attention on what we can control.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Serenity Prayer

Being kind, helpful, and supportive; assisting the sick, the marginalised, or the scared; being present for our children, our brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents; offering a friendly ear to those that need it. These are all things that we can do, here and now. And they can make a real difference in people’s lives. They can help us come together as a community and inspire hope and happiness. But we need to be willing to move beyond fear and search for hope as a matter of daily practice.

It’s the active search for hope and unity, rather than the resigned miring in isolation and fear, that will start to pull us forward and bring us together. We will get through this. The question for each of us is: What do you want life to look and feel like for you while you are getting through this?


Regretful Epiphany


I write to think. I write to explore ideas. I write to help myself learn. Sometimes what I learn is unpleasant. Regretful epiphanies are no less important than those that inspire confidence. In the end they both provide opportunities for growth.

Rereading my post this morning, I’m fairly embarrassed at how self-absorbed it is. I was attempting to be funny, and give some insight into what’s going on for me at home right now, in all its monotony, but in the end it not only fell flat, but was deeply uncaring of the pain and suffering being felt and endured across the globe. That is not something I’m proud of. So much so that I’ve had to actively resist the urge to delete the post.

Yet pretending I did not write that post does me little favours. It doesn’t help me change, or grow. It tries to sweep it under the carpet, as though the mistake never took place. I don’t think that’s the least bit helpful in the end.

Instead, I decided to follow it up with another post, looking at what I was thinking this morning from a different perspective. That’s one of the really powerful opportunities in maintaining a blog like this. It takes the ephemeral – the impermanent – and preserves it. As the Jen from Dark Crystal so eloquently said in the 1982 film, writing is “words that stay.”

So what can I take from my regretful epiphany? First, the need to think beyond myself, and to recognise the opportunities that I have that others don’t. As much as the concept of ‘social privilege‘ may trigger outrage amongst old, white men, there is absolutely truth in it. As a medium-old, white man, I choose to see the reality in this, and own that to the best of my ability.

Moreover, ‘choosing to see the truth in it’ is not something that is done once and then disregarded, as if you can tick it off a to-do list. It’s something that must be chosen, and re-chosen day after day. To do otherwise is to risk forgetting the lessons in social privilege, and the return to a sense of entitlement that can sometimes arise. I’d also argue that entitlement breeds discontent, whereas recognising your privilege can inspire gratitude.

Living in a space of gratitude is not only better for one’s mental health, it can also help them recognise the suffering in others, and to hold compassion in their hearts for those that endure it.

In the end, I regret the underlying selfishness in my last post, but I am ultimately grateful for the opportunity to recognise my shortsightedness. I’m embarrassed that I displayed this error in judgement publicly, but doing so has ultimately kept me accountable, and that’s a good thing.

Man staring out the window, looking depressed.

Life in Lockdown


I’ve been sick for 5 days and am getting really tired of it. After a day or two of nervousness, and the thought “what if it’s COVID-19?!” ever present on my mind, I eventually read that the coronavirus doesn’t do sneezing, and was able to relax into the sniffling, snotty misery instead. But after stubbornly working (remotely) with a sore throat last week – doing voice work to boot – and then losing my whole weekend to bed and sneezing, waking up on Monday with the twin terrors of sniffles and headache still rudely hanging around has been a real kick to the spleen.

Today, my wife’s audible sighs in response to my excessively dramatic whining is a sure sign that I’ve entered the last and most treacherous part of any illness: the man-flu. So I’m trying to look on the bright side and stop taking myself so seriously.

Taking stock, we indeed have a great deal to be grateful for. Through a series of lucky breaks and coincidence, we’ve largely managed to stay in the eye of the hurricane, beginning with the impulse buy I made of a single massive pack of 36 rolls of toilet paper not two days before the panic buying started in my community.

I managed to shift my superannuation investments to a conservative/safe profile just prior to the market crash too, but strangely it’s the toilet paper purchase that stands out as my major contribution in the last 2 weeks. I don’t know what that says about the state of the world right now.

To be fair, we were running low already, and the shelves were stacked full then. There was still plenty to go around. Then the dark times came. The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 had begun.

But really, in spite of self-isolation our lives haven’t changed all that much. With my kids homeschooled and my wife and I working virtually entirely remotely already, the shift to being completely at-home was not difficult for us at all. The fact we’re all introverts was icing on the cake. Time at home is something we all enjoy.

My professional life is certainly stressful right now, but so far – thanks to amazing management at the two universities I work for – it’s been manageable. The last 2 years have been a whirlwind in that regard. I went from losing my job of 16 years as an educational technologist in 2018 as part of a restructuring to a total surge in demand for online learning experts in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19.

Universities are typically cautious beasts, highly suspicious of change. For the huge chunks of the sector to move their courses, units and programs online in one fell swoop in response to the likely shutdown of campuses across the country has been a marvel to witness – albeit a slightly terrifying one given I was (and am) on the front lines of making it happen.

This does represent a bit of a schism at home, since nearly everyone else has seized the opportunity to indulge in long-forgotten projects, new ideas, and napping while I run around like a headless (virtual) chicken from one work crisis to the next, but by now my family is more or less used to me acting like that. I’m still waiting for my Superman cape to arrive, but clearly it’s gotten lost in the mail.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

flaming hand fighting water hand

On Dialogue


One of the first blogs I ever ran was hyper political and extremely opinionated. It was the era of George W. Bush, who at the time was my least favourite American president ever, and I was only too happy to share exactly what I thought of his administration and its policies. I had a whole lot to say, and I didn’t mince words. This resulted in debates, angry words, and even a flame war or two along the way.

Eventually though, I arrived in a place mentally that I really, really didn’t like. I spent my days perpetually angry, looking for reasons to be outraged, and spoiling for debate on even the most trivial of topics. Not only was I unpleasant to be around, let alone live with, I felt positively horrible inside.

After a lot of soul-searching, I decided to retire that blog and completely change the way I approached controversial topics. I realised that, instead of making a difference in the world, my tirades were only serving to sew further discord, and foster even more tribalism. I had joined the echo chambers I was trying to break down, and in the end it seemed totally counterproductive.

The loudest, most outrageous people get the most attention, regardless of their location on the spectrum of opinion. However, this doesn’t mean people actually listen. It becomes more about spectacle and less about substance. If I wanted people to actually listen, I had to stop being divisive, and start being inclusive.

This didn’t mean abandoning my opinions, but it did absolutely mean cease viewing those with differing views as the enemy. My stance on Us vs Them had to go.

The most important epiphany I had was brought on by a growing interest in Buddhism, and the idea that everyone wants to be happy and avoid suffering. People have reasons for believing the things they do, and more than likely it isn’t because they’re trying to be cruel or difficult. People act with their own best interests in mind.

When we assume people act with good intentions, it utterly changes the way we see adversity and differences of opinion. Rather than an enemy to defeat, or a battle to win, they become just another human being we can try to understand. And when people feel that someone else is sincerely trying to understand them, they’re that much more likely to respond in kind.

When respect and understanding are present, even those with the most diametrically opposed viewpoints can engage in a healthy, productive dialogue. And that’s precisely where I choose to be these days.

Art faces masks



This is not a sobriety blog. There are many people in that category on the internet today, with a lot of fantastic things to say about recovery, the sober-curious movement, 12-step programs and the like, and I am truly glad they are here, tirelessly helping others and sharing their experience, strength and hope. It’s a really important role. I may write posts on sobriety every once in a while, but that is not the broad intent behind this site.

The way I see it, I am more than my sobriety. This is not to say that my sobriety isn’t important to me, because it definitely is. It’s given me so much joy, opportunity and freedom over the last 20 years, but it is just one aspect of my identity. And I find when I try to compartmentalise my life into neat, self-contained categories, it feels limiting.

I had a sobriety blog for a while. I started it with the best of intentions, but slowly began to feel boxed in. Perhaps inevitably, I ran out of things to say and the site began to lay fallow. Eventually, my web host account was hacked, a bunch of nasty malware was installed, and I had to pull everything down – and I mean everything.

In an instant, my sobriety blog and several of my other sites, amounting to a decade and a half of web content, vanished from existence. Further still, I systematically deleted all instances of the username I’d used for years in order to mitigate the fallout that had occurred. In the end, for the first time in nearly two decades, I had no personal web presence whatsoever.

In the beginning it actually felt relieving to have a blank slate, but slowly the urge to express myself online began to rise to the surface again. “I blog, therefore I am” was a mantra of mine for many years, and I’ve grown to realise the statement “once a blogger, always a blogger” holds very true for me.

So rather than re-establish a number of different sites, each covering a different topic, or series of topics, I’m going to back to basics, as I did with my first personal blog on Blogspot many years ago, and have one site that discusses whatever I’m thinking at the time. This will give me the flexibility to express myself – my whole self – in one place for anyone who cares to read it.

In the end though, I write to think. The act of articulating my thoughts in print forces me to structure and sequence ideas into meaningful language, and in doing so helps me come to conclusions I had not previously recognised. Even if this site never receives a single visitor, the act of writing is its own reward and I will continue to engage in the practice regardless.