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  • Writer's pictureMark J. Keenan

Long Time Between Drinks

It has been a long time between drinks for me. More than five million minutes have passed since my last alcoholic beverage and, in just over a month, I will clock up my first decade without a drink. But that's not the reason for writing nor the reason for the title. It's because my last rambling on here was eight weeks ago.

It isn't that I haven't had anything to say. Nor that I haven't been writing. It's just that I had felt overwhelmed for a while. And one place I knew I could create some space was my interaction with other humans via the internet.

I am not a fan of social media. I believe it has done, and continues to do, more harm than good. And I closed my two accounts - Instagram and Facetube* - about four years ago. But I rejoined the latter when I was asked to coordinate some social events for a group of writers participating in a fellowship.

To offset my reluctance in being on the platform, I decided to also re-engage with my website. I felt I could use it as a place to record my thoughts, emotions, and learnings in different ways: writing a monthly post (ramblings), sharing things I have found which help me in my life (tips and ideas), odd creations (bits n pieces), and my passion for music (sound gallery). I settled on using Facetube to share these things, as well as a monthly newsletter. Creating these "things" brought me a lot of satisfaction and I have missed doing them over the last few weeks, so I have decided to restart. Even though it means re-engaging with social media, because I have had a break, I know I can take a mindful approach to it. At least for a while.

As I grow, I have started to understand and appreciate the value of taking a break. From your work, your duties, your daily self. Last week, I headed to Toodyay for a couple of nights, to spend time alone.

I had never done this before. When I have been away from my family in the past, it has always been with the intention of doing something. Inspections at a fabrication facility in South Korea, a heavy metal festival in Sydney, running an ultramarathon with friends in south-west Western Australia. This time my intention was to do nothing. Or as close to it as I could get anyway.

The place I went to was aptly called 'Break Free'. A small cottage at the back of a property in West Toodyay, owned by Pat and Trish, just across the road and up the hill from the Avon River. Next to a studio where Trish provides myofascial massages and runs functional fitness classes.

It was the perfect spot. I ran on a nearby trail, in Rugged Hill Reserve, at sunrise on the first day, and along the dry riverbed of the Avon on the second day. I sat under the stars and the gumtrees on the balcony in the evening and I walked the historic main street of the town, wondering what it was like two hundred years ago, when it was all bushland, all country. I ate the fresh loaf of bread which Pat had made me and watched the galahs dancing on the branches of the tree outside the door.

I wrote and I drew.

I painted and I read.

And I did nothing. Or at least the best version of nothing I could manage.

It's hard for me to do nothing. I'm a fidgety person with a fidgety mind. But my long-time friend, Jason, had reckoned it was what I needed to do. And so I did. No music, no books, no pens, no technology. And it was great. Uncomfortable, but great.

And so I have decided I'm going to plan at least thirty minutes of nothing each week. Put it in the calendar and do my best to not find excuses to do something instead. Wish me luck, I'll need it.

*This is what David Rennie, one of Australia's most brilliant nature photographers, and one of the earth's most awesome humans, calls Facebook. I like it and so I use it.


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