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Day 5, 500 words, 31 days

My mountaintop retreat came to an end today. We made our way down from Cameron Highlands this morning, feeling refreshed from clean air, breathtaking scenery, and copious amounts of tea. If I had it my way, I’d still be sipping on a cup of tea by the balcony, keeping on a few layers to keep warm as the cool fog settled in.

But every season of respite must still give way to work that beckons. We all have a job to do – my wife and our friends are all teachers, and their job right now is, well, to rest as much as possible, before the school year continues after the holiday break. They probably could have used a longer retreat than I did.

We all, also have pets – and for this reason, it was time to go home.

My job remains, to write regularly – something that had proved to be a challenge on a weekend retreat that seemed only to bring about in me a sloth-like approach to my work. Along with my pace, I wanted the time to move as slowly as possible.

After all, isn’t it commonplace for writers to retreat and just clear their minds and create space in their head for the generation of new ideas? As our time away had drawn to a close, I couldn’t help but wonder how I could have still spent it differently. I would’ve wanted to read a little more and write a little more, and somehow, sleep a little more too. I wanted more than 36 hours away from Penang.

But here I am, back in Penang, typing away in the relative comfort of my own living room, wondering where the time had gone and how much more there is still to do.

There aren’t any more majestic rolling hills inviting my mind to wander. I’ve just got to make do with what I’ve got…

And yet, I have the sudden fall of rain, a welcome gift from a scorching day on the island.

I have the suspense of unpredictable traffic. I have the clanging sounds of kitchen utensils scraping against sizzling woks on the road side hawker stalls.

I have the soft, longing meows from Madu, my cat as she sits silently by my feet late into the evening. Even her brother, Miles’, incessant pining for Shuli has it’s own endearing, albeit, distracting, charm.

These are what I have most days, and they are deserving of my gratefulness, for they are good.

Yes, life is slowly rounding back to form – soon I’ll be taking my wife to school still bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, I’ll be monitoring how much meat Miles eats per meal while making sure Madu eats at all, and I’ll be logging into each and every social media platform I manage, hoping to discover the next best way on how to get more “likes” and “follows”.

If I had it in my way, I’ll still be far away from all of this, taking deep, unpolluted breaths and taking in excessive amounts of caffeine because I like having it in the form of hot beverages, and that goes real nice with the cold.

But maybe the way I had in mind isn’t what’s best for me. Maybe it’s best that I’m here now, searching hard for the unfamiliar in the midst of all that I’ve already come to know. There’s more to be had – more to give and more to grow, and it begins right here where I sit, on this poorly constructed dining room chair, in the quiet of my own home.

And here, in my home, I also have caffeine.