Surviving Progress?

18 08 2012

Surviving Progress – A HowTo?

last Wednesday we went to watch Surviving Progress, shown as part of the Possible Worlds Canadian Film Festival, at Dendy (Opera House).  it’s apparently based on a best-selling book A Short History Of Progress, by Ronald Wright.

Possible Worlds billed it “From the makers of The Corporation and executive producer Martin Scorsese comes an absorbing, multi-faceted documentary on evolution, progress and social change”, which immediately got my attention.  The Corporation is a documentary I credit with triggering (not causing) my 5+ year plunge into dysthymic depression after watching it in 2005.  However there is no such reference to The Corporation on Surviving Progress’s website, and from a cursory glance at at their respective producers, only Mark Achbar appears to be common among twelve key creators.

i’m happy to report i’m not drowning in my own blood this time!  unfortunately for Surviving Progress, that might not be a good sign.  The Corporation struck me light lightning, a true epiphany, albeit one in which my path (of the three likely) after seeing it was to become totally overwhelmed & motivationally impotent (the other two likely options being: sticking one’s head back in the sand, or doing something).  Surviving Progress gave me nothing new, taught me nothing I didn’t already know.

even the film’s name, Surviving Progress, is, being generous, enigmatic.  does it mean “this documentary will offer a path of hope, a parable on how to survive Progress”, or merely tread old ground and pessimistically ask “how can humanity survive progress?”.  perhaps i was naive (nice to know it can still happen!), but the former was my interpretation.  unfortunately there are few if any answers on offer in Surviving Progress.

The Corporation was comparatively epic, a roller-coaster that dive-bombed into and out of a selection of topics that left one with the sense that this documentary barely scratched the surface of the myriad issues that face us.  but it was also more than that.  there were rays of hope that shone out, people making a difference and prevailing against The Machine.  even its closing credits had a laundry list of organisations and websites of those who are trying to Do Something.

Surviving Progress had no message of hope, no heroes, no call to action.  and yet, despite it’s depressing lack of hope, it washed over me and barely left a mark.  what gives?

J & I both commented afterwards that the audience was full of lefty alternative types.  that might seem like the likely target audience for such a doco, but really it’s just preaching to the converted – and in Surviving Progress‘s case, doing so with little to contribute to those of us who are already ‘tuned in’ to ‘issues’ (at least some of them).  to a small degree i feel like a senseless consumer, sucked in by the heritage alluded in its promotion and 2 cinema tickets poorer.

i remember thinking after watching The Corporation “OMG!  more people need to see this!  Important people who normally wouldn’t intersect such media need to see this!  the Prime Minister needs to see this!”.  i know, so naive.  to be fair to Surviving Progress, whilst it’s not an uplifting documentary, perhaps it could still impact others who haven’t yet had the wool covering their eyes removed, and effect transformation.  but how do you reach such people?  one at a time, organically, slowly, doesn’t seem to be cutting it against the overwhelming power of The Machine.

and then i look at myself, and think “WTF am I doing about it?”


just another fucking hypocrite.


All good things…

17 08 2011

my next blog post was originally going to be a “hey, J & I just celebrated 1 year together!”, due about a month ago.  but life got in the way of blogging it.

now, I’m faced with the decision of whether to follow him to Sydney, or not.  WTF!??

you see, J, in his disenchantment with his now-former employer, started applying for jobs, particularly targeting places he actually wanted to work (as distinct from simply applying to places who just happened to be advertising on Seek or whatever).  in the interim, he accepted a 3 month contract with an agency, which he’s a few weeks into.

one of those leads was with a major globally-recognised web-based software company, BASED IN SYDNEY.  after a lengthy courtship, including a trip to Sydney at his own expense, he’s been offered the position, including significant assistance & reimbursement of relocation costs.  and now after several days of deliberating & number-crunching, he’s decided to accept it.  ignoring the bigger picture it’s almost a no-brainer, it’s a great opportunity that should directly facilitate his desire to live/work overseas in the web world a year or two hence.

but there IS a bigger picture.  those who know me know my thoughts on Sydney, and why I left there 11 years ago bound for Melbourne, and would understand my reluctance, or at least extreme ambivalence, to return, and in the process jeopardising my Melbourne-based client income.  (and for those who don’t know, no, it wasn’t for any of the classic reasons one usually flees a city (love/hate, STDs, parking fines), it was just, to cut a long story short, being totally over Sydney Life & needing a big change).

and there’s J’s youngest brother who lives with us, who’ll need to relocate – somewhere.

J starts at the new job in Sydney in mid-September, less than a month away.

suffice to say i’m a little shitty at J’s lack of consequential thinking.  although I was aware he’d applied, there was no “what if?” discussion if he were to be offered a job, and naturally need to start there within a month.  partly that’s because of his lack of self-confidence at landing a job with a high-flying company.  but partly it’s the reality of our ‘partnership’.

as you might remember, after I returned from Byron in April last year, I started hatching a plan; a plan that perhaps would’ve seen me living up there by now, perhaps continuing to service my clients remotely (with the assistance of a local pair of hands for on-site work), or perhaps doing something altogether different.

you might also remember that, shortly after I announced that intention, J “changed his mind”, and we rekindled what had begun & quickly ended 6 months earlier.  acknowledging that lightning doesn’t usually strike twice, there was still more than enough mutual attraction, interest & respect to “enjoy the ride together for however long it lasts”; which put my half-made plan to migrate north on hold.

well, now i need to balance “however long it lasts” with the financial feasibility AND desirability of moving back to Sydney.  don’t get me wrong, the last year with J has been totally joyful.  but, a man’s gotta pay the bills, too!

as far as my willingness to leave Melbourne, nothing has changed.  many of the friends I made in the first 5 years have left (or died), and 5 years of social stagnation from depression did nothing to rectify that situation.  whilst there’s still a few people here I’d really miss, there’s even more back in Sydney who are already rallying for my return!

it’s more than geographically closer to my intended destination, it’s a rut-busting move of similar proportions to the one that got me down here in the first place, and if there’s anyone who needs a comfortable, financially subsistent 11 year rut busted, it’s me!  1 to 2 years in Sydney (before J finally fulfils his overseas ambition, and I mine) could be just what I need to unsettle, stress and stretch me in hopefully positive ways, getting rid of some of the old, to make way for some of the new.

or am I just being a pathetic lapdog?


“depression – my story”, 1 year on.

11 08 2010

it’s not quite a year since i wrote “my story” for, but i’m feeling the urge to talk about this black dog thing again.  seems to be topical lately!

last October 09 i “woke up” and realised that the ground of life was rapidly rising to meet my slo-mo free-fall.  the consequences of 5 years of blocking out life in a haze of THC smoke loomed like a tsunami  SFX in Hollywood movie.  thus began a tumultuous process of getting my life back into sobriety, balance, positivity & connection.

i quit dope cold turkey, which was a huge step forward in clearing my head to re-engage with life.  curiously, this was easier than one might have expected, though i can’t really explain why.  i guess i’d been in the pot-hole-of-depression long enough to finally realise that nothing was going to change, until i changed.

i saw a psychologist for several months, turning over several of the rocks in my mental garden to see what scurried out.  i can see now there were significant contributors dating back at least 10-12 years (5-7 years before Dysthymia struck), all of which layered additively, like blankets over my life’s fire.  sometimes it’s helpful to simply become aware that specific factors in your past have had an impact you were previously unaware of, and sometimes you need to dissect things a little more.  that’s where a qualified psychologist can really help.  i may yet go back for more, if and when i feel the need to peel away some more layers of my onion.  the $80/session Medicare rebate certainly helped there, too!

getting back into my physical self has also been critical.  it’s hard to beat the natural high that comes from a mildly exhausting cardio or gym workout at least a few days each week, especially when it’s one of the first things i do in the day, it leaves me feeling good for the rest of the day, and helps with sleep, too.  sure, it’s hard to break old lazy habits and establish momentum, but i just take it one day at a time, and i don’t berate myself if i miss a day’s scheduled exercise.

having several friends who have used or currently use anti-depressants, i carefully weighed up that option for myself.  i believe they can be of tremendous benefit, even necessity, for some people.  but my gut instinct was that my issues were more – for want of a better word – situational & attitudinal than brain-biochemical, and thus far i’m not regretting that decision.  i’m also wary of the “life on ADs is ‘nice’. nice can kinda suck though” factor, as articulated so eloquently by my friend Richo.

and last but not least, there’s the people factor.  one of those ‘blankets’ over my life of the previous 5 years has been a major erosion of my ‘inner circle’ of friends for a bunch of reasons, leaving me feeling isolated and restless.  i don’t make friends easily or quickly, so it’s a slow process, but i’ve pushed myself to connect with new people, and reconnect with some ‘lapsed’ friends.  it makes a hell of a difference.  it’s nice to complain of not having enough hours in the day when the main reason (other than work) is time spent with friends, instead of time spent in the pot-hole-of-depression in front of the tv!

it’s an ongoing process, a work in progress, and some say that’ll always be so (i’m not so sure about that).  but it’s a state of mind so different to where i was only a year ago, it’s starting to feel like a receding memory.  my spiral upwards out of depression and the things that propel it bear a curious symmetry (equal but opposite) to the habits that dragged me down into it years ago.  i couldn’t have done it without the support & understanding of my friends & clients alike, a professional psychologist, and a huge bunch of awesomely inspirational people on Twitter :).


29 04 2010

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives. (Wikipedia)

ok so i’ve been away on a chilled-out holiday for the last month – what’ve i got to say for myself?

not much as it turns out.

despite the calm and stillness of being away & not having to think about much at all, the faerie of inspiration hasn’t laid an egg on my yellow brick road.

it’s probably too early to say this in seriousness, but i’ll say it anyway.  i think my days of city living are numbered.

i’ve always felt drawn to the Northern Rivers area of NSW, an affinity with its geography, climate, way & pace of life, and even some of its inhabitants.  it was “option 2” when i decided to move to Melbourne 10 years ago.  whilst i don’t regret my move to Melbourne, with the benefit of hindsight & if i had a do-over, i’d probably choose option 2.  but which begs 2 questions:

– if i had chosen option 2 back then, would i tire of the remoteness of country living & want to come back to one of the big smokes now?

– if i choose option 2 now, am i setting myself up for another 10/whatever year cycle & want to change it all again?

stupid unanswerable questions really, i know, but this comes back to yearnings that came up 10-12 years ago, that i believe i left unresolved when i moved to Melbourne 10 years ago, becoming distracted by the challenge of changing everything (home, work, friends) by moving interstate; a distraction that lasted several years, but once that dust settled, i think has been one (of unknown qty) key contributor to my dysthymia.

as usual when i’m up there, i wonder what i could do to support myself (financially) up there.  re-create a bunch of clients in IT consulting?  do something that can be done virtually anywhere with a broadband connection (electronics design? iPhone/iPad app development?)?  or something completely different?  these are options i’m now giving serious consideration to.

and then there’s Paul.  i hired him in my last workin-for-the-man Sydney job in 99, & we’ve stayed in touch ever since.  we seem to have some kind of connection, exactly what i’ve never been sure, but certainly kindred spirits in some ways, especially when it comes to a growing dissatisfaction with city living.  when we caught up at Easter, long story short, he’s thinking of ‘going bush’, perhaps to the Northern Rivers, and living the kind of lifestyle that i think he’s always wanted.

and he asked if i was interested in joining him.  which kinda blew me away!

it’s an extremely tempting offer, but until i either clear my debts by doing what i do in Melbourne, or find alternative income up there, i’m kinda stuck where i am.

we’re having lunch again today…

the road to recovery…

7 03 2010

…is fraught with potholes and roadkill.

i’ve been moving into some interesting territory with my psych lately.  until a few weeks ago, for some reason i forgot that my five year dysthymic depression (2005+) was preceded by two (relatively) short periods in the 3rd quarter of the two previous years.  until recently i’d considered my sense of helplessness at ‘world issues’ as being a pivotal factor.  but like the layers of an onion, the truth is usually deeper, and usually more personal.

those two previous phases were very much about interpersonal disappointments.  the first was a series of let-downs with a few guys i’d been seeing, including a younger couple where i was ‘piggy in the middle’ <evil grin>, but who dropped me like a used condom when a younger hotter candidate came along :(.  the second period was more of the same, but moreso about the loss of a close friendship, for reasons that were never clear to me, but which has been painful ever since.

when i started dating J in early november last year, my social life took a steep upturn, which was symbiotic with my rapidly improving state of mind.  unfortunately J’s contribution to that process came to an abrupt halt just after xmas.  since then i’ve been relying on twitter to continue that process under my own steam, and also been using Grindr on my iPhone to meet other guys.

the life of a recovering recluse/depressive is a fucken rollercoaster.  one moment i have several days or a weekend booked up with stuff, the next i spend a week &/or weekend (or two) ironing my socks.  i still haven’t wrapped my head around the twitter etiquette of social events organised in this public forum by people i know, & recognising when it’s appropriate to just join myself in, and when i should wait for an invitation.

unfortunately salvaging my friendship with J is proving to be difficult.  don’t ask, i don’t know why.  and Grindr, well, lets just say i’m quickly getting over the gay MO of guys who say they’re interested in meeting *friends*, but want to interview you in the bedroom first :(  (in the interests of not doing to someone else what J did to me, i’m avoiding that scenario for a while); or you have a casual g-rated ‘date’ but never hear from them again.  i deleted a few phone numbers from my phone this weekend – they hadn’t been in there long.  i think i might need to put Grindr back in the box for a while – it’s not doing my head any favours.

the word here is obviously rejection.  i thought i coped with rejection fairly well.  maybe i just burried/internalised it?  right now it’s an open question…

there’s no place like…?

19 01 2010

it’s hard to find words to summarise the maelstrom of thoughts that have reverberated around my head this past few weeks since xmas.

after crying for a couple of days ‘post J’, G&G flew me up to Sydney, partly to help them fix The Shed’s server, but partly i suspect to rescue me from moping around in Melbourne over the NYE long weekend.  love those guys so much.

it’s was a complete and very welcome distraction. it’s been a LONG time since a trip to Sydney has left me wanting more, instead of being toey & anxious to return home from the rat-race.  for a while i wasn’t sure what that meant.  i even sent J a positive forward-looking email on NYE, and got a positive, if typically guarded, minimal reply the next day.  but then on returning to Sydney came the (small) crash, Mondayitis to say the least, & i realised Sydney had been not much more than a distraction.  or had it?

i’ve been in Melbourne almost 10 years now.  i’d probably say it regardless, cuz that’s what most of us seem to do when the passing of year(s) is highlighted, but not only do i ask myself “where did it all go?”, i also can’t help but think 5 years of dysthymia had something to do with that sensation.  so much lost/wasted time it almost makes me cry.  whilst i have little or no regrets about what i’ve done in melbourne, i feel like i have so little to show for it.

in bringing mum & dad up-to-date on the J situation (something they were very sad to hear, i think they were as hopeful that this would be The One as I was.  and i don’t think i’ve EVER used that expression before), they moved the conversation into broader issues of my happiness.  wow, if that isn’t the perfect time to bring them in on the depression history, as i’d planned to do on that trip, what would be?  they took it remarkably well, i think it was a penny-drop moment for them.  and i think they understood why i hadn’t told them about it sooner, that they’d only worry about something extra which they had so little ability to help me with, at least in a tangible way from 750km away.  i also learned my own brother has/had been on ADs because of a major trauma in his wife’s family a few years back.

back to the grind in Melbourne for 2 weeks, back to a client’s fucked-up & serially postponed server upgrade, thank you Dell, a story i’ll save for a separate post.

had dinner with J for the first time since he brought my little world – existing largely in my head – to an end.  despite nearly piking several times through the day, i persevered; actually it was OK.  suffice to say, he has issues, and he knows it.  i hope he seeks some professional help with that, and also reaches down and pulls out the big ones to draw the line with the festering domestic situation, which will come to a head in a month from now when he & ex go to Malaysia to bring his little brother over here to start uni, expecting a roof over his head for X months ’till he gets on his feet.  i don’t look at J beyond friendship now, a special friend for sure, but his circumstances will probably out-live this window of opportunity, and beyond which i sure can’t see with my own uncertainties.  that sucks.  really really sucks.

anyway, back to Sydney for my postponed xmas trip – another 4 days seeing family & friends, loving every minute of it.  but this time the emotional turmoil dial was turned up to 11.  borrowed my brother’s spare Jeep to get around – so butch!  with no iPod connector i found myself rocking away nostalgically to the classic 70s/80s/90s rock on Vega FM on the car radio.  so many familiar places and people and smells and memories and feelings and music, but in a place i’d still rather not live  (+ the higher cost of living up there), except for the superior weather.  sunday morning i had coffee on Bondi Beach with Raz Chorev (, which was great, except for the population density.  there’s no fucking way i could live in that dense environment!  the inner west is my limit :).  but at the same time being in that Sydney buzz made me feel more alive. TORN!

but the biggest surprise was getting back in contact with ‘T’.  i met T via WhosHere iPhone app (as i did J, both over a year ago), and he came up to spend a few days in Byron Bay with me a year ago.  despite us strangely adopting the ‘boo’ term of endearment, that was a mostly G-rated time.  unfortunately we only spoke on the phone once or twice last year, but apparently i left some lingering impression on him.  T is a 25yo quintessentially gen-Y anarchistic-socialist, nurse, skater, good-looking and brutally honest & forthright – right up my alley is an understatement.  he met me at G&G’s and the warm, fond reunion quickly turned hot n steamy!  whoa, wtf?!?  i resisted, for a while – went to the pub to talk & meet G&G, and then a walk, talked & caught up on he & his bf, me & my issues.  says he’s been missing me all last year (and I him!), but we both accept the reality that while we live in different states nothing more than friendship can happen & neither of us wants to move.  but for that one night, we were in the same place at the same time, and the chemistry was utterly intoxicating. with the situation with his bf explained, i couldn’t resist, and a drought was ended :)

but could i *really* cope with such a handful as T, and with more than half a generation between us?  for a long time now i’ve felt like i was born into the wrong generation.  i vacillate between the Baby Boomer-ness of my heavily parentally influenced upbringing, and the tell-it-like-it-is reject-all-convention digital natives of Gen-Y, existing increasingly unhappily amongst my Gen-X “peers”, but as they and I age, feeling like i fit in less and less, a chasm of world-view, concerns and day-to-day interests growing between us.  it is driving me insane, restless and adrift.

the question has to be asked:  now that so many of my closest Melbourne friends have moved overseas, interstate, died, or just disappeared after years of dysthymic neglect, what is left here for me?  right this moment the thought of ripping up my now shallow roots all over again and moving elsewhere, or back to Sydney, makes me sick in my stomach.  but now that the fog of dysthymia has lifted, my feelings of loneliness and unattachment to Melbourne are a sharp splinter in my mind.  do i want to continue making a renewed effort to deepen my Melbourne roots?

oh yeah, and another old WhosHere / MSN Messenger contact (in Melbourne) has reappeared out of nowhere on MSN, seemingly happy to see me (and I him!). ‘A’, another mid-20s, employed, laid-back, once-was/occasionally dope-smoking cutey wants to meet.  at this preliminary stage i’m confident that so long as *I* don’t have possession, all is well, and he says he doesn’t smoke it much anymore, only on holidays.  we seem to get along like a house on fire online, and we’re both curious to see of that translates IRL, which will probably happen next week.

but underwriting all this dilemma is the need to maintain a healthy income to pay off my small mountain of debt.  i can’t just run away somewhere new and start a new life if it involves uncertainty or lowering of income.  i feel trapped – in one of the most livable cities on the planet – not just in place, but in career, one i don’t have a lot of passion for any more, but as yet with no freakin idea what to do instead.


29 12 2009

so J made up his mind.

lose-lose-lose for all involved (in my humble opinion).  just as i was indirectly warned would happen many weeks ago – but i didn’t act on that warning, rose-coloured glasses n all.

i’ve never been someone’s rebound before.  always thought i was smarter than to get sucked into a bad situation like that, but i was so caught by surprise that i had feelings for him at all, and naively taking it on face value that when J said they’d broken up, they’d really broken up, and well, you know the rest.  i guess that’s why i have no idea what to feel or how to react, other than badly, woodpeckered thoughts of the jilted & rejected echoing around my head.  my bitterness toward J is exceeded only by my fury at myself for not recognising the situation for what it was a lot sooner.  hopefully both will fade before too long.

merry fucken christmas.  i’m done with this fucked up 2009 now.  surely this is rock bottom?  no wait, there’s that other thing looming…

the urge to block all this out is massive,  and only an SMS away.  but so is the instinct to bathe raw in it, music my masochistic balm.  to give in to the former would be the ultimate failure and a guarantee of re-entering a circular path.  the latter a well of slowly fading pain and blind trust in tomorrow.