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  • Writer's pictureMark J. Keenan

Walking The Cow

Haunted dairy, Wangara.

In the years when I was still drinking it was common for me to organise catchups with friends that involved alcohol. We might meet at a pub after work or take a whole day off and do a train crawl to Fremantle, stopping for a drink at each station. Often we would talk about things we had in common, like our uni days or our time together on a project. There would be a joking and laughing. And usually a bit of taking the piss of each other. It was a boozy affair and I was usually the one leading the charge.

What we talked about in those sessions was mostly surface level things. Rarely we talked about anything important. Certainly never until we were well drunk. They were fun. And organising them made me feel useful and, more importantly at the time, liked.

After becoming sober in 2014, the attraction of these events faded. Not because I couldn't drink. Nor because I was now unable to have fun. What happened, really, is that I started to realise more of the me which existed without the beer goggles.

  • An introvert who needs time alone to reflect, process and rejuvenate.

  • An emotional, sensitive human who feels both the rapture and despair of life.

  • A desperate old soul who never feels like there is enough time to do.

  • A man constantly concerned with how he will ever do enough or be enough.

  • A person who intensely connects to the feelings and experiences of others.

This me was always there, of course. He's not new. He just wasn't comfortable showing himself. It's been nine and a half years now since I last drank alcohol and started, slowly, realising these parts of me which were purposely hidden or subconsciously muted. There is always more to do. My old soul and my concerned man regularly remind me of this. But I am ready now, and learning to be okay with that.

Now, I often catch up with friends individually, or in small groups, because it allows me to be open and authentic. And allows them to do the same, if they want to. But it doesn't mean the fun is gone. It's not all "intensity", far from it. But there is an incredible comfort knowing that you can go from talking with a mate about the impact of a personal loss one minute, to both of you trespassing on a dilapidated train carriage the next minute.

Walking. This is one of the ways I find I connect best with friends now. And, when I need to connect to me, walking alone. There is something about being in motion, outside in the world, that heals your spirit.

Last year, a friend who I walk with regularly shared with me a song by Daniel Johnston. I had never heard it before. I didn't know anything about Daniel. But my friend clearly knew about me. The music and the lyrics made it clear to me what it is that I am doing and why I am here. I am walking the cow.


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