- Countries Visited: 9 or 12 if you include stop-offs + long layovers
- Travel Wishlist: China and Japan. Especially Remote Rural
- China and Rural Japan. Scuba Diving Thailand, Pacific Islands and Micronesia. An Australian immersive travel wishlist; Like Sailing around Australia, to every island in our waters (including remote Heard Is., Macquarie Is. and Antarctica) and traveling the breath and depth of the Australian Mainland.
- Locked down in: Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne, Australia
“Well actually Lockdown was a blessing. The world stopped! It was like the clocks stopped! The wheels came off the world … and not me for once!”
Return to kids book illustrations and to teach kids to draw via an online “EdTech” Platform or Video Channel.
COVID-19 and lockdown was pretty frigging awesome!! *
* Please let me explain.
Firstly, Lockdown has somewhat affected me – It affected us all. And yes! It brought with it ‘some ups and downs’. Yet, it probably hasn’t had the same effect as it has on most people. I guess, what I’m saying is it wasn’t a “crushing blow.” Actually it was a “beautiful relief” to become a hermit again. But let me go back, back before lockdown and explain briefly the sheer hell I was in before the world seemed to grind to a halt and completely shut down. Melbourne by stage four lockdown was surreal where everything for me went silent as things just ceased to matter anymore. It was like a horror movie; 28days Later or I Am Legend. But that isolation was the best thing that could have happened.
Please let me explain firstly why lockdown didn’t deliver a “crushing blow”, or disappointments that it has produced for some. Then if you read on let me explain how I’ve used lockdown to produce better mental health for my friends, my online FB community, my clients as a professional communications strategist, and for me personally as an artist who looks upon life with optimism and positivity.
Before Lockdown, I was technically homeless. I was in poor health and I had my eldest son with me who was possibly depressed and disengaged from life and school. I was divorced and had 5 years of an ongoing mediation, a real life drama or a domestic saga with my ex-wife and a custody battle – basically legal issues up to my eyeballs! I was trying to run a boutique sole trader styled business in advertising design and branding strategy. Things were insanely stressful and then life throw in some curve balls!
To top this all off, I was doing some artist volunteer work in a National Park and I had a crippling accident and couldn’t walk (I lived in my office in a loft above a vet) and had to train myself to walk up stairs. It was sheer hell! On top of that I was Cub Scout leading, and this where I met James and together we connected with his Scout Survivor weekend where I have done some cool artistic set pieces each year. Plus for many years, I’ve had aspirations to go on the TV show Australian Survivor. Another dream which aligns me to James, But that’s another story. People could say I was doing too much and I was insane but life was a rollercoaster and the reward was the altruistic work and dreams I was pursuing helped me mentally through.
So let me get to some of this pain and pressure. I was under court orders and custody issues, extreme stress and my mental health was cracking. Not many people know or understand, but I was nearly driven to suicide at least twice and then I had this knee accident in the National Park. On the back of that I discovered a highly malignant highly aggressive skin cancer on my back. At first I was cool! My business between 2015 – 2016 was increasing in sales by 400- 675% and I was living in tents, cars, in my office and showering at the local gym and public camping grounds. But I was technically homeless. Kind of squatting possibly illegally in my office at times. Slipping between the cracks of a conventional normal life.
I guess, on one hand, life was good in all the aspiration stakes, but absolutely hideous in the personal and domestic life. Not many people knew the facts as I slipped further and further between the cracks of society and only close friends and family could empathize with me. But what could anyone do. “You’re a guy!” “You’re a man!” “You’ll be all right!” “Suck it up buttercup!” “Tomorrow is another day, she’ll be right!”
I never took the dole. I never took charity (maybe a couple of times a food hand out). I lost two cars to “ware and tare” and loaned over $150K all while being hounded by lawyers, chased by child support, chased by the ATO and fines Victoria for stupid needless parking fines for not moving my car regularly enough. I kept accumulating debts and didn’t want to face the shame of it. In the fog of this stress and manic-depressive “rollercoaster” nature of this life I rarely saw my kids for two plus years or even received a phone call from them as I was governed by the courts that I wasn’t allowed to communicate with my ex-wife and it was sheer hell. The calls from DHHS, CSA, ATO and numerous debt collectors, the bills the responsibility the stress was deafening.
In this time, while I was doing well business wise, I had a business partner walk out owing hard costs of $10K and services rendered to his company of $55K plus he had lied about the rent was ripping me off as a sub-tenant. So things just even got worse and worse. Then clients started to default on payments and then they asked for discounts and then moved their work away and the wheels started to come off. How do you hold your head up high and how do you battle through these compounding issues? How to you stay sane and honourable in the most hideous time in your life.
I was stretched! I ran or had like three jobs on the go. “Be diversified!” and “Forge ahead!” and “Stay positive!” was my motivating catch cry. So I Knuckled down and pursued other artistic and creative projects … I did teaching part time at the community art centre in Croydon and I was running art classes in the bush and was also a bestselling children’s book author and illustrator for ten years I had a reputation and public image to maintain. Then, after 10 years of success … my publisher, the ex-CEO of Angus and Robertson’s books died relatively young of throat cancer and my children’s books career and book sales flat-lined.
What do you do? Was I cursed? Did I jinx myself? How can I stop the string of bad luck? How do you defeat Life’s curve balls? Hell! All my business ventures were “on the rocks”, court cases pending or ajourned, custody issues, not seeing my kids … Hell I was alone and scared and finding it all too much. Life deteriorated, until I was deeply and emotional crushed and working just to service everything I hated about the world. I was at rock bottom! Man I could not get any lower than this!
I withdrew from or quietly quit Cub Scout leading, a role I deeply cared about in my darkest days, but even then the emotional stress and self-pity and anger consumed me and I withdrew from the world and just suffered alone. I think it’s the shame and guilt and the pain of not being able to succeed coupled with wild dreams of being somebody, being a leader and trying to on the surface to please others and finding it hard to please yourself that really drives home the isolation and the regrets and the pain of our individual existence.
But I can tell you I’m strong! Ultimately, I was lucky to have friends around me and I loved using my art skills to create things for the Scout Survivor Camp, and I liked posting the good stuff on social media and remaining positive as best I could. Yet, I was a complete wreck, a shell of my former self.
For those that don’t know my story and the accident that nearly destroyed me in 2017, I will just quickly enlighten everyone.
I went on my annual camping trip and fell on some steps and torn my left knee apart in a National Park. In essence I “Bruce Lee’d my Knee!” With one foul kung fu chop, I T-boned my thigh to half way down my calf and dislocated my left knee. It was so bad there was nothing left to be described as tendons, soft tissue and muscles. My knee-cap snapped so fast it was lodged halfway into the muscle of my calf. The damage report when the two micro-surgeons opened up my knee up 5 days later was described as; “meatballs with spaghetti!” The tendons were so severely snapped they had frayed like carpet tassels on a rug or rope fiber that has snapped under extreme loads.
Anyway, I was devastated and it took me 5-7 months on crutches and nearly 9 months learning how to properly walk again. Plus being on painkillers and medications tipped my mood from “positive” to “negative” and I became angry and spiteful. This contributed to my loss of business, my girlfriend or long-standing companion at the time walked away – In my mind I lost everything. It was a slow grind and the most painful descent into madness.
In 2018 I had put on 25kgs was looking at diabetes then … Like I said before briefly, to added to this, I discovered a rare and aggressive skin cancer appear on my back that was growing so fast it could have infected my Lymph nodes and lymphatic system. I thought I was going to die and I reconsidered suicide many times. But lucky for me they cut the cancer out in two surgeries and I slowly recovered through a health care plan and started to fight back by taking up boxing.
This is a lot of disclosure, I understand, but it’s a human story of survival and resilience and I have to “paint the picture” of why COVID 19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns was “a walk in the park!”
After surviving a hideous knee accident and reconstruction, cancer treatment and weight gain triggering diabetes scare. On the outside, people might think I was doing ok? Frankly they rarely asked or seemed to care, for whatever reason, but in saying that, there were a few that knew and helped me through. I guess also, I never really wanted to burden people with my deepest most drastic mental health issues and for me the “hour of power on men’s line”, constant threat of CAT teams, anti depressants “against my will” meant … I wanted to see this depression and period of my life out on my sobering terms … my will against it all … especially free of prescribed drugs and redefine and show myself my own inner “true grit” and determination.
I hope that “illustrates” of my headspace in October 2019.
It was time to look at healing me! In late 2018 I took up boxing, so by October 2019 I was definitely making progress in these stakes. I lost 23 Kilos and started to fight back at life. I set a goal to train for Australian Survivor and after a failed audition in 2018/2019 I decided to do another audition tape. In October/November 2019. I packed up my office, put my life in a MOOR ROOM storage, and ran away to Queensland to live on a yacht with my son and a friend, and with the hopes of two months sailing back to Melbourne and filming my new audition video – Crazy, but simple plan!
This plan was ill conceived. I ran out of money and was marooned on a yacht for two months between Airlie Beach and Bowen in the Whitsundays’. Not a bad place to be, but totally childish and fool-hardy.
I made the most of it though. I filmed as much of the reef, yachting and the adventures as I could. Tried to make Lemonade out of my lemon basket! I had plenty of lemons by now I could probably start selling “Sprite” or “Lemon Squash” on the street!
Looking back at all this, I think sometimes having a stupid goal or a ridiculous dream, even if public opinion deems it crazy or fool-hardy … it was the saving light in my life in those dark days to go chase stupidity with zero cash and just pure whimsy. Isn’t that what’s traveling the world is all about when you are young and free and on a gap year? Pity I did it at 47 yrs of age with my then 15 yr old son in tow as a coming of age adventure!
Anyway, if we weren’t going to sail back to Melbourne, it came time to find a way back. I had court cases to attend to and responsibilities to face up to, like “Bill and Teds” new adventure movie just released … I had to … “face the music!” once again.
When I returned I was thrown back into the trauma of life. Even though I had loaned family money, borrowed of friends, ridden off the back of unpaid debts to suppliers and trade credit. I returned to my family home with zero … I was traveling shot gun, homeless with my teenage son … No job, No future … Everything was too much … debts, fines, police, creditors, courts, judges, systems … I refuse to take the dole … I refuse to let other “tax payers” pay for my bullshit and … to go to Centrelink and wait 8 weeks, filling out all these forms, which frankly I had zero ability to answer, because my life was in such disarray. What’s the point!
In January, Luckily … I had some work. But faced with everything … I immediately used all the money to escape again and went to NSW for a friend’s wedding and SA to a friend who I’d missed their wedding too while I was away on the yacht in Queensland. Yet I knew in my soul, I was running away again, and also did another couple of day trips in Victoria. I photographed the bushfire damage and didn’t stop to see the world was in turmoil. The bushfire damage was heartbreaking … It wasn’t great to witness … But hey! I’m glad I got to see the devastation first hand. Yet, it still didn’t squash the pain I felt, the mental health within me was numbing.
With no time left, I was at rock bottom after 5-6 years of hell.
The point I’m making is you can’t run away from this hell. So everything I ran away from came back like a tornado and I was within two days feeling sick and loathing life with a boiling hatred and sick to death of the grief and pain of it all.
Then I exploded. Not literally, but in a meditation ZOOM session I seriously had a split with reality or for some unknown reason … told a unempathic Supreme Court Judge who refused to hear about my depression, poverty and plight and continued to judge and kick me, while I was down in such a deep depression … he decided or elected to force me to pay certain things I had no way of paying … I told him is a blind split with reality “to shove a …” Let’s just say it was too graphic for this story and it was a regrettable outburst … caused by a cocktail of depression, hatred, rage, shame and guilt … I hung up the phone and contemplated suicide with my 15 year old son in the next room. Tears in my eyes, exhausted with life – I was gone. I was done!
But life has a way of changing things doesn’t it!
Two weeks later … it was mid February 2020.
So Then COVID 19 hit! I was now back at home with my elderly mother and my son and trying to get him into a new school and trying to cope with life. Everyone was talking about COVID and I Just said to someone “Hey bring it on … I just did 5 years of hell, so what’s a little Isolation.”
Well actually Lockdown was a blessing. The world stopped! It was like the clocks stopped! The wheels came off the world … and not me for once!
I relished the opportunity!
Suddenly, the world feared this, the world was in pain and suffering! I used this time to; finish 5 years of taxes; I used the time to sort out and negotiate my debts; I had time to do personal projects; I had time to meditate; I had time to go to the psychologist; I had time to write out my legal proposals properly; I reread my child support documents and wrote to my local minister; I wrote to the authorities; I wrote to fines Victoria; I found some work; I started a new children’s book and rang friends to see how they were doing.
All the missing pieces of my life that overwhelmed me … I had time to do. While the world was fearing; recessions, COVID outbreaks, Job Keeper, Job seeker, Lockdown … I went … “The world is snoozing I’m going to change my losing streak” … So while everyone went mad … I got busy and enjoyed the personal power I had. I started playing catch up football and I snuck in some real life goals before the siren.
Don’t get me wrong … Melbourne Lockdown was hard. Very hard! But everyday I set my goals and chipped away. I had two legal cases still to contest and try to win and I had to get all the mess I had let go to keep my sanity and drive through those dark days … now in COVID I was on a race to finish it before the end of lockdown.
I switched off the TV, I never bothered with Dan Andrew’s news updates, I refused to part take in social media arguments, I refused to talk to negative doomsday people, didn’t go in for political debates and tried to only do my own poetic positive and kind stuff that I liked. I practiced gratitude, looked into reeducating myself and signed up for MasterClass, I read ancient Chinese texts, (Like the Tao Te Ching) plus ancient Buddhist texts and played translated audio books on the theories of human experience and the power of quantum physics and things like cosmology and thermal dynamics, I went to the doctor for my mental health, I started photographing sunsets and seagulls, I walked in the garden everyday, I started looking after my inner soul, drawing a writing diaries and poetry and worked mighty hard on taking out my own “personal trash” and solving my own “position” and “tidying up my own financial mess”.
After 7 months … I have 2 weeks to go and things have changed. I have nearly paid off my debts or negotiated out of my hardship. I have apologised as best I can to people for things I said or did and tried to be kind to all those around me. I reconnected and stayed positive with many friends in Lockdown via Facebook and messenger, I have lost my anger and I have found my mojo again. It’s touch and go and constant maintenance – but things are brighter!
It’s been a journey. But I’m glad to say that I have used my experiences before COVID to help “lead my tribe” of close friends to better outcomes.
Plus some close business clients, I have mentored them through this lockdown to thrive and survive. I have encouraged and listened to their stories and even helped their kids over the phone and on texts and through the Internet. Plus had some confronting experiences with some friends as I had to talk them out of suicide several times.
Lockdown for me was a blessing in disguise. It gave me the peace and serenity to shut out the world and the noise and get on with clearing up my problems and finding stability again.
COVID? … Lockdown? I must live on another planet, but really it was the best thing that ever happened. I needed the world to “turn off”, so I could relax and “turn on” and truly do the work on fixing me.
I now have found myself again. My inner child, My love for life, My love for people again. I feel compassionate, kind and full of confidence again, after years of drama and trauma that I couldn’t control, literarily because it was the view of social opinions and constructs, societal systems and rules, legal systems and other narrow minded people of the world that imposed their views on me and refused to help or support me. This pandemic stopped all that. Their systems broke down. So I jumped and overcame it and it became “a deeply healing journey for me”.
Look! I’m as fat as butter or buddha, but I can rub my buddha belly and feel happy within myself now. I’m free and ready to journey the world again.
I’m planning to travel to Japan, HongKong internationally with two clients. I will probably do domestic travel first and build my business model/prototype for my art and tech-education projects about Australian wildlife conservation.
Life is good and having a positive vide, an acceptance to embrace life whether good or bad, a willingness to pursue your soul or life journey and an attitude to enjoy the outcomes that you create whatever they are.
You are only here to compete with your own expectations of yourself. You are only here to grow and leave the world in a better place than when you came into the world. This is self-respect, self-love and self-responsibility. The world will test you, but it’s you who has the choice to react to the world.
Lockdowns for me helped me face myself … and becoming “a hermit” was the best thing for me and it enabled me to give to the people that I truly care about. My “tribe is strong” and I’m stronger for it too. I thankfully mastered my mental health in March 2020 and healed my pain. This gave me the opportunity so I could help friends and others get through COVID with my story and life experience.
I hope everyone enjoys my journey. It wasn’t easy to tell. But hey – that’s life. The entanglement of truth, power and self is important to understand. We must find our path and then we find ourselves and … “a way”. We are all blessed in this state of being – the human condition of being human.
Thanks James for your friendship and starting this Blog.
Appreciate the opportunity to share my story … I hope my story helps “the life in lockdown” cause, even though my experience was probably “a-typical” to everyone else’s. It was still … life affirming. I hope it shows everyone the resilience of every human soul’s capacity to find the silver linings in life’s storm clouds. I hope it inspires triumphs within others that we can all achieve something no matter how dark the times are.