November Favourites

It’s been a big month of discoveries and adventures. Here we go!


A lot happened in November. It was a busy month at work capped off by six days away on pydarerme country (the Tasman Peninsula). I spent the first four days on the Three Capes Track, then had two extra days to explore the area further. I had the best time. Every day on the Three Capes Track, I saw new wildlife and wildflowers, was struck by the beauty of the scenery and enjoyed deep conversations with the people I met along the tracks / in the cabins. Every day was the best day yet!

In 6 days, I probably hiked about 90km. It felt so good to be moving my body like this and I could sense my fitness increasing as I hiked. If I get a chance, I will write some more about my time away and share it with you in a separate post.

Here are some photo highlights:

Fiction books

All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton

I can only imagine the pressure Dalton must have felt to get his second novel right after the roaring success of his first novel Boy Swallows Universe. Masterful storyteller that he is, All Our Shimmering Skies is another wonderful novel starring a strong young protagonist, Molly Hook. Set in Darwin and the Northern Territory during World War II, this is a book about survival against the odds and the humanity within us, with Dalton’s signature magical, mysterious touches thrown in.

No Big Deal and Melt My Heart by Bethany Rutter

Both of these are young adult novels with fat protagonists, something which shouldn’t be revolutionary but kind of is. To be honest, I can’t recall ever reading a young adult novel with a fat protagonist as a teenager. These are novels about loving and accepting yourself no matter how the world tells you you should look, be or behave. As many works of young adult fiction, these are books about friendship and young love with gloriously strong female protagonists. Highly recommended, even if you are not a young adult.

Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson

This novel covers a lot of territory within its 400 pages. Spanning multiple generations of the Billymil family, Song of the Crocodile is a story of racism and violence (from outside the family), but also love and resilience (from within the family). Woven through the narrative are the Yuwaalaraay language, and the observations and machinations of spirits ancestral and recently deceased, giving this novel a shimmering, magical quality. For me, as someone who’s studied and read quite a lot about Indigenous Australians, the narrative was at once familiar and yet utterly unique and compelling.

Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman (reread)

I read this novel just over a year ago and wrote about it in my October/November Favourites (2019). Having reread it, I still think this book is genius because it takes the colonisation of Australia and twists it into a new form, creating a narrative which is simultaneously new and all too familiar. Coleman also has an incredible knack for writing seemingly disconnected strands of narrative and then weaving them all together, something I find supremely satisfying as a reader. You go from wondering “where is this going?” to aha moment, “I see where this is going”.


My wonderful new psychologist here in Hobart recommended both of these podcasts to me following our discussion at our last session about intuitive eating. I love both of them – they are making such a big difference to my thinking about food, weight and my body. In tandem with my conversations with my new psychologist, they are helping me to cross a new frontier in my eating disorder recovery journey.

Food Psych

Hosted by dietitian Christy Harrison, this is a podcast about intuitive eating, Health at Every Size and body liberation. I love that these are not just interviews with experts, these are interviews in which guests share their own experiences.

Don’t Salt My Game

Hosted by nutritionist Laura Thomas from the London Centre for Intuitive Eating, this podcast covers similar themes to Food Psych and is also more than just interviews with experts.



On a post-work evening with a desire to watch something, I stumbled upon this documentary about Australian singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko on ABC iview. Narrated by Blasko herself and including interviews with long-term musical collaborators and her dad, this was a fascinating look at the novel approach Blasko took to writing her 2018 album Depth of Field. Craving the feeling of being on stage and performing, the songs on the album were conceived at the Campbelltown Arts Centre through a two week artist residency.


Watching the aforementioned documentary got me onto Sarah Blasko’s 2018 album Depth of Field. The whole album is fantastic, making it very hard to pick a favourite song or songs. Here are two to get you started:

Savour It

I love the way this song is put together – the synths, the drums, the vocals, the way it ebbs and flows. It is also an important reminder to live in the moment and enjoy what life offers us now, a reminder we all need.

Read My Mind

I recommend listening closely to the lyrics of this one because it is a beautiful song about the singer’s child and experience of being mother.

Self-care action

Stopping and taking it all in, breathing, savouring. Whether this be while walking, hiking or doing yoga, I’ve been giving myself permission to stop and finding so much value in the pauses. As a person who is typically very goal oriented and somewhat averse to slowing down, this is a good challenge and one which has been really good for me.

That’s it for November. It’s hard to believe next month I’ll be writing up my 2020 Favourites.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

October Favourites

Wow – I can’t believe it is already November! The months are passing by so quickly. October was a month of wonderful fiction books, delicious food, fascinating podcasts and some fun adventures. Here are the highlights.

Fiction books

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville

There is a meta narrative built around the narrative of this book. The meta narrative is that author Grenville has found and published the secret memoirs of Elizabeth Macarthur, the narrative is Elizabeth Macarthur’s memoir. To be honest, the meta narrative layer didn’t really add anything to this book for me, but I loved the narrative itself.

In true Grenville style, she weaves history with her imagination to create a rich portrait of a remarkable woman. While Elizabeth Macarthur’s husband is credited with much in tellings of Australian history, this novel explores the role Elizabeth herself may well have played in his success. She is a fierce, intelligent, brave protagonist – you’ll be rooting for her.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

The Book Club read for October, this is a uniquely constructed book which sets out detailed portraits of twelve different characters with variously intersecting lives. While you may not like every character, each one is masterfully rendered and you don’t just see them through their eyes, but also through the eyes of other characters. This, we book clubbers agreed, was the book’s genius – it is a rich illustration of the way multiple and seemingly conflicting truths can and do coexist.

Side note: This is one of those books that ignores conventions like capital letters at the start of sentences. For me, this didn’t add anything and was actually a slight annoyance (I admit I am something of a spelling and grammar fiend), but it was also something I got used to as I read. Evaristo does some other, and to me more interesting, innovative things with language such as occasionally using one line per word to emphasise a point – for me, this worked. The lowercase, not so much.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Bennett’s more recent novel The Vanishing Half for September’s Book Club, I was keen to crack into this one and it didn’t disappoint. Basically, I love Brit Bennett – she is a wonderful 2020 discovery.

Like The Vanishing Half, part of this novels power is that it is set over many years. You get to know the three main characters as teenagers and their relationships with each other at that stage of their lives, then you follow their lives and relationships as they develop and, inevitably, become increasingly complex. Again, like The Vanishing Half, this novel weaves in some pretty important themes – love, friendship, religion, hypocrisy, ambition – but through well written, entrancing characters and plot, making this novel a pleasure to read.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Last but certainly not least of this month’s fiction favourites (I warned you there were a lot) is another novel set over many years, in this case many generations. Lee creates a rich fictional landscape full of masterfully rendered characters through which she, much like Bennett, explores complex themes of discrimination, religion and morality, identity, exile, sexuality and more.

This novel is also a history lesson about the discrimination faced by Koreans living in Japan and the lengths they are forced to go to in order to survive. Sadly, this was history I knew virtually nothing about and I suspect many of my Western and supposedly educated (I say supposedly not to undermine your intelligence but because what we are educated in is so skewed) counterparts are in the same boat. I’ve got Lee’s other novel (Free Food for Millionaires) on order from the library already because Pachinko was so good – highly recommended.


  • David Astle’s brain on puzzles from ABC RN’s Conversations – in my 2018 October Favourites, I mentioned listening to an an interview with “crossword compiler extraordinaire David Astle” and the inspiration this gave me to start attempting cryptic crosswords (something I still do and thoroughly enjoy). ABC RN’s Conversations recently ran a repeat of this episode and I thought it was worth listening to again now that I am an avid cryptic crossword solver. Given I’m mentioning it here, it should come as no surprise to you that it was well worth listening to again.
  • A restaurant named Parwana – Afghan treasure in Adelaide from ABC RN’s Conversations – among many other things (eg educating me about Afghan food and history), this interview made me want to get back to Adelaide to try out what sounds like a pretty wonderful restaurant.


You’re probably sick of me talking about my sourdough creations, but I crafted some winners in October:

  1. Sourdough flatbreads – cooked in a frying pan, these are delicious spread with tahini and topped with caramelised onions, roasted carrots, brown lentils and olives.
  2. Olive, sundried tomato and herb loaves – thankfully this recipe-less experiment made two loaves (one for Book Club and one for me), because this combination is divine.

On the eating out front, a friend and I went to a new shop that has just opened up in Hobart – Lady Hester. Previously only a cart at the Sunday market selling exclusively sourdough (sorry, sourdough overload) donuts, Lady Hester’s little shop sells their famous donuts as well as other baked delights. Their baklava scroll (full of (nuts, honey and cardamom) was scrumptious, as was the dark chocolate donut.


This time last week I was up on kunanyi/Mount Wellington with a friend hiking. It was the perfect hike to do together, with some undulation but not too much, allowing us to chat as we went. The views were great, as was the company – I came home with very muddy boots and a feeling of peace.

As usual, October Book Club was also a good time – good company, great conversation and an amazing spread of food to keep us going.

That’s it for October.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.


I like to think of myself as an enlightened individual aware of, and working to mitigate, my prejudices.

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly aware of a prejudice that has been simmering away within me for years – fatphobia.

Like any prejudice, fatphobia is not innate or natural, it’s learned. Learned from people in my life, from the media, even from the government.

I already had it as a child. In an incident I’ve never previously disclosed to anyone, not even my parents, as an eight year old, I called a girl I went to school with fat. At a table of fellow eight and nine year olds, calling this girl fat was the rudest thing I could think to say.

I don’t think I really meant it to be insulting, it certainly wasn’t factually accurate, but this incident highlights that even as an eight year old, I had learned and truly believed that being fat was bad.

Thankfully, as a goody two shoes, this is probably the worst thing I ever did at school. For this reason, and increasingly as I come to recognise, acknowledge and work on my fatphobia, I remain intensely ashamed of this incident even today.

As a sixteen/seventeen year old, my fatphobia became bound up with an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa served more than one purpose for me, perhaps the most notable of which was providing me with a sense of control in a life which felt almost entirely out of control. But it also served to address the intense hatred I felt towards my own body, a body I had deemed fat (it wasn’t).

Just as a person who knows deep down they are gay may suppress this truth about themselves and come across as intensely homophobic, I worked to suppress my body’s true form and came across as intensely fatphobic in my speech, writing and, most overwhelmingly, thoughts.

While I have been almost completely recovered from my eating disorder for several years now, I have made slower progress in remedying the fatphobia it was bound up with.

I still have so many negative, judging thoughts about fat people, thoughts I know are unkind, uncalled for and untrue. Things like, and I feel bad even writing these and sharing them, but I also want to be honest about where I’m at, “that person is so unhealthy,” “that person has no self-control,” “that person must eat so much bad food” and, in my worst moments, “that person is a bad person”. 

I’m particularly conscious of these thoughts when I see someone fat eating, especially if they are eating “unhealthy” food and seated, mirroring the visuals you see on media reports about the “obesity epidemic”.

All this, despite the fact that I know that body shape and/or weight are far from a reliable indicators of a person’s health and certainly not reliable indicators of a person’s worth or morality.

All this, despite the fact that, in my opinion, the way a person looks, particularly their body shape, is one of the least interesting and least important things about them. I’m much more interested in their beliefs and values, their life story, their passions and what they’ve been reading.

And yet, we are bombarded constantly with messaging that reinforces the unkind, uncalled for and untrue thoughts I listed above, such that these thoughts continue to come to me apace.

As a result, I have to continuously catch myself, challenge my fatphobic thoughts and remind myself of what is true, namely that:

  1. body shape and/or weight are far from a reliable indicators of a person’s health and certainly not reliable indicators of a person’s worth or morality; and
  2. the way a person looks, particularly their body shape, is one of the least interesting and least important things about them.

I’m keen to explore and probe my fatphobia in greater detail when I next see my new Hobart-based psychologist. I’m also a bit scared – talking about this makes me uncomfortable, revealing a less enlightened, prejudiced part of me. But, as they say, the only way out is through.

The other tactic I have at my disposal is to continue to expose myself to the counter-messaging to what comes through the mainstream media, to reinforce the positive thoughts and counter the fatphobic ones. For example, the amazing Instagram of my colleague, friend and fat fashion advocate Katie Parrott.

Hopefully another post updating you on my progress, including my conversation with my psychologist, will be coming soon.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.


I have written before of my fraught relationship with money. In particular, the difficulty I have spending the stuff. I know this is the opposite problem to most people, but allow me to explain.

I grew up in a family of savers – money was something we spent on the necessary items but it wasn’t something we threw at anything unnecessary. For example, meals out were rare, special occasion events.

There is a lot of merit in the saver’s approach to money. I’d hazard a guess that savers are more satisfied with their financial situation than spenders – they’re not constantly after the next new thing, instead they’re more likely to be happy with what they’ve got and there’s likely to be money in the bank to boot.

Having said this, it’s not as clear cut as there being two distinct categories. Instead, there is a spectrum. My family are certainly at the savers end, but they have no issues spending money where it was appropriate. Any further to the savers end than them, you turn the corner from saver to miser or Scrooge. That’s where I sit, at least when it comes to my attitude to spending money on myself – I don’t typically have issues spending money on others.

For me, discretionary spending is always accompanied by guilt and rumination as the miser or Scrooge voice kicks in. While I don’t want to turn into someone who spends recklessly, obsessing over discretionary spending on myself is exhausting and detracts enormously from the pleasure of catching up with a friend over coffee or finding and buying a beautiful vintage dress at the op-shop. Furthermore, it sometimes makes me appear stingy, something I do not like or aspire to. Finally, the guilt and rumination accomplishes nothing, aside from making me feel bad. In fact, the guilt and rumination are exhausting.

There are three key contributors to my saver come miser or Scrooge attitude to money:

  1. I want to buy a house

It goes without saying that the best way to achieve this goal is to save as much of what I earn as possible.

  1. Other people need this money more than I do

I am an extremely privileged person as a member of the world’s WEIRD (white, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic) minority. For me, money is a means to various non-essential ends. For others, money may literally be the difference between life and death. So, when I spend money, I am acutely aware of all the people out there who need that money more than me and am inclined not to spend the money with a view to then being able to donate more generously to charities which help people for whom money is literally the difference between life and death.

  1. Not feeling worthy of spending money on myself

I don’t find it particularly challenging to buy a loved one a present or shout them a coffee, probably because this spending makes someone else feel good. But buying myself a present or shouting myself lunch, something which should and does, to a certain extent, make me feel good, also makes me feel guilty, the guilt often outweighing the good vibes. Deep within me lurks the belief that “I am not worthy”. Years ago, the “I am not worthy” related to food, especially treat foods like cake or hot chips. I have largely conquered the “I am not worthy” related to food but I haven’t conquered the belief itself. Instead, it has simply transferred to another aspect of my life – money.

Of these three, the third point, not feeling worthy of spending money on myself, most concerns me. Where this belief comes from I don’t know. As for how to conquer it, I have two suggestions:

  1. Keep challenging this belief by spending money on myself and, when the guilt kicks in, affirming over and over again something along the lines of the L’Oréal Paris slogan, “you’re worth it”; and
  2. Surround myself, as much as possible, with positive role models who do spend money on themselves as an act of self-care.

The same dual strategy really helped me to conquer the “I am not worthy” related to food, so I’m hoping it will translate across and help me to conquer the “I am not worthy” related to money. In tandem, both challenging myself and surrounding myself with positive role models should help to challenge the deeply rooted belief that “I am not worthy”.

Why is this important? Because I am worthy, I just need to prove this to myself.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

September Favourites

Fiction books

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This was the book club book for September and what a wonderful book it was – the sort of book I was excited to get home from work to read. This is the story of twins who run away from their hometown of Mallard, a town of light-skinned African American people who strive to leave their African Americain-ness behind, at age 16. After years of living and working alongside each other, one twin then runs away from the other to pursue a life of passing as white.

Set over the span of many years, the book not only addresses the impact of this split on the twins themselves, but also on the lives of their daughters. Through its masterfully woven narrative, this book addresses important themes, particularly race but also the importance of family.

I’m looking forward to reading Bennett’s previous novel The Mothers now!

Non-fiction books

Women and Leadership by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iwaela

So I haven’t actually finished this book yet, but it’s so good I wanted to share it straight away. Based on the latest academic research and interviews with eight prominent female leaders including Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, and Jacinda Ardern, current Prime Minister of New Zealand, Gillard and Okonjo-Iwaela present eight hypotheses about women leaders. These hypotheses look at many things including the impact of the leaders’ upbringings, their clothes and appearance, tone and much more.


  • A Herdwick shepherd’s epiphany from ABC RN’s Conversations – a fascinating interview with a farmer who modernised his family’s farm, adopting synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and so on, saw the devastating effects of this modernisation on the health of his land, and consequently transitioned his family’s farm back to the old methods with fantastic results for biodiversity, soil health, even productivity.
  • Georgie Harman on women and mental health from A Podcast of One’s Own with Julia Gillard – I love Julia Gillard’s podcast and listen to every episode, but this interview, with Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman, was particularly good and right up my alley topic-wise.

TV show

The Bureau

This series was recommended to me several times before I finally started watching it this month. Set within the French secret service and with many moving parts, the series keeps you on your toes. One agent is the show’s principal focus, but a whole constellation of interesting characters exist around him. For me, the show has the added bonus of being in French, meaning I get the thrill of understanding a lot of the dialogue without needing the subtitles and a much needed refresher of my French skills. Having studied some of France’s fraught history as a colonial power, it’s also fascinating to see how France operates and relates to (albeit fictionally) former colonies and interests such as Algeria and Syria.

Self-care action

My self-care action for September has been picking and bringing fresh flowers into my room from my garden. Whether it be a sprig of peach blossom, a daffodil, a posy of daphne or some jasmine from our vine, it’s so lovely being able to bring the Spring vibes into my space.


I am so fortunate to live in Tasmania at the moment, a place where it’s possible to get out and about.

In September, I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a weekend on Tasmania’s Bruny Island by a friend from university who actually grew up on Bruny. I enjoyed so much about that weekend, in particular doing the Fluted Cape hike while having a pretty deep dive chat with my friend; eating lots of delicious fresh produce from her family’s fruit and vegie garden; and getting to hang out with a family, something I hadn’t realised I’d missed until we were all sitting around the table for dinner.

Other highlights include going to Hobart’s Veg Bar for the first time where I got to share delicious vegan food and rich conversation with one of my lovely new Hobart friends; a hike at South Arm with the girls hiking group I’m part of; another hike on the Cascades Track up into the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington with the same group followed by a delicious lunch at one of my local cafes with some of the group; and Book Club (The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, see above), which was just an absolute pleasure as always.

View on the Blessington Track
Myrtle Gully Falls (in the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington)

New skill

September has also been the month of learning how to make sourdough bread (and other sourdough goodies). My Birthday present from yet another lovely Hobart friend was a jar of his sourdough starter, so baking sourdough bread (or another sourdough goodie) is now a weekly event. It is one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in a long time. Every sourdough creation has led me to feel very smug, particularly with the high praise I’ve received from my non-gluten free housemate, the friend’s family I stayed with on Bruny, my Book Club pals, and many others who haven’t tasted the goods but have seen photos thereof.

So far, I’ve made a white high top loaf, a white/wholemeal blend high top loaf, an olive and rosemary loaf, a spiced fruit loaf, sourdough ciabatta and a loaf of sourdough banana bread. I’m thoroughly looking forward to continuing my adventures in sourdough and being able to share my creations with loved ones in Melbourne in the not too distant future when they are finally able to visit me here in Hobart.

That’s it for September. It’s been a pretty action packed and enjoyable month.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

August Favourites

Fiction books

download (3)The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

A book about grief, friendship and ageing from the talented author of The Natural Way of Things. Grieving the loss of the fourth member of their quartet, the three remaining friends head to her shack for the Christmas weekend to clean it out ready for auction. Personalities clash and long-buried truths are revealed as the friends navigate their relationships with each other and themselves. A great book about female friendship and its complexities.


Americanah_book_coverAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, looking forward to reading it each night after work. It is written in a format I love where it alternates between the perspectives of the two main characters, giving you insight into two lives and how they intersect. While thoroughly enjoyable, this novel also tackles some difficult themes, particularly race and racism, making it a very pertinent novel for our current circumstances. I particularly loved the way the novel drills down into the intricacies and politics of African women’s hair and how they choose to wear it.



  • The great hope of Isiah Dawe from ABC RN’s Conversations – an interview with an inspiring young Indigenous man who moved from foster home to foster home as a child and is now CEO of a not-for-profit in Sydney’s Redfern which provides a home base for Indigenous kids experiencing similar upheaval.
  • Fascinating fungi – the intelligent kingdom from ABC RN’s Conversations – I wasn’t sure how interesting I’d find this interview but thought I’d give it a whirl. Turns out fungi are absolutely fascinating



The event of the month would have to be my Birthday celebrations which extended over multiple days. This being my first Birthday away from home, as well as being a Birthday in the middle of a pandemic, it seemed important to physically surround myself with the people I love who are in Hobart with me and then virtually connect with my family and friends interstate.

So, I organised a small gathering of my Hobart friends at my house just before my actual Birthday (Hobart has been COVID-19 free for months now so this was allowed). I called the event “Bring a plate and celebrate”. As the name suggests, the idea was that each guest brought a plate of food to share which made my life super easy. All I had to do was to make a cake (I made a vegan and gluten-free chocolate cake to ensure everyone could partake); set up a tea and coffee station; and provide plates, mugs and so on. It was such a lovely afternoon, bringing together many (although sadly not all, some friends of course had work or other commitments) of the wonderful people in my life here, whether they be from work, the hiking group I’m part of, or people I know from Melbourne who have also ended up in Hobart.

My actual Birthday was on a work day. I thought about taking the day off but I ended up having a few urgent tasks to work on which meant I needed to put in some hours. I took in a cake (a second vegan and gluten-free chocolate cake) to share and received a wonderful surprise when flowers and card arrived on my desk over my lunch break. I spent lunch with one of my wonderful work friends and returned to the flowers and card from my previous manager! I did make sure to get away from work nice and early (around 3pm) so that I could have a relaxing afternoon and evening.

After an afternoon tea of leftover cake from the weekend and tea, I took my parents (virtually) with me for a walk via Skype. Then I spent some time replying to messages from friends and family interstate while my wonderful housemate cooked dinner for the three of us. We had a delicious creamy mushroom stroganoff and then played the game “Listen Up” which is essentially a game of conversation starters which took us into some deep and delicious conversations. When I say deep, I mean deep, we only made it through half the game before I had to get onto Zoom to eat cake with my family.

The Zoom call was a lovely way to get a dose of my family on my Birthday. I was regaled with an out-of-sync rendition of Happy Birthday – out-of-sync because my parents were singing from one location, my brother and his fiancé from another. Then we all ate chocolate cake, those in Melbourne ate a cake Mum had made, half of which she delivered to my brother and his fiancé, while I ate some of the cake I had made. Mum had sneakily shipped a present for me to my housemate a month earlier so this present magically appeared on the morning of my Birthday, giving me two things to open as Mum also express posted me another gift. The early arrival was a jigsaw, the late arrival was a box of my favourite dark chocolate, oat and almond cookies which Mum baked for me, plus a notepad.

These celebrations left my heart so full, particularly the beautiful messages people wrote in cards and to my phone. I am still waiting on some more cards which will no doubt add to this immense feeling of gratitude and loved-ness with which I have been suffused for some days now.

Basically, I couldn’t have asked for a better Birthday.


Self-care action

As my description of my Birthday hopefully highlights, I have a lot to be thankful for at the moment. While I have periodically written in a gratitude journal since I was 18, I’ve been filling it out once a week or so recently to record the wonderful things, people and experiences which fill my life here in Hobart. I usually fill it in before I go to bed with three things I’m grateful for from that day. Reflecting on my day puts a smile on my face, which is just the way I want to feel when I turn in for the night.


Love, hope and peace from Emma.

Feeling Vulnerable

Going to the General Practitioner (GP) last Thursday for the first time in Hobart made me feel strangely vulnerable.

At first, I wasn’t totally sure why. Perhaps it was simply a function of the power medical professionals have and revealing my medical history to a new medical professional. Or perhaps I was afraid this new GP would somehow get the wrong end of the stick and form the wrong impression of me.

But then I mentioned this feeling of vulnerability to Mum and she hit the nail on the head – going to the GP and talking through what’s going on for me right now meant admitting that things aren’t completely okay in my life. While the almost weekly migraines and constant fatigue have been trying to tell me this, I’ve been in denial – every migraine an aberration, an interruption to the way things should be; the fatigue a temporary state of affairs, something that will go away. And perhaps this is right, perhaps almost weekly migraines and constant fatigue aren’t the way things should be but, right now, almost weekly migraines and constant fatigue are the way things are.

After seeing the GP, the way things are came crashing down on me like a tonne of bricks. Now, I’m grieving and doubting and wondering.

Grieving the life I want to be leading, a life where migraines and fatigue don’t loom as large, where I can live my life largely free from anxiety about when the next migraine will come and whether I’ll make it through the day.

Doubting my capacity to continue working full time and pretending to be normal (I say pretending because my illness, my disability, has caught up with me – I can no longer pretend it doesn’t exist).

Wondering what happens next, how to progress in this new world where I once again live with a disability and need to adjust the way I live my life to match. Does this mean changing the way I work in some way? Does this mean being less social, less active, less alive because these things, no matter how good they make me feel, also drain my energy? Does this mean going back to napping just to get through my days?

To be honest, I don’t know the answers to these questions and some of what’s going on is out of my control. What I can do, however, is to take things one day at a time and meet myself where I am rather than where I want to be. This weekend, that means taking things very quietly.

There are always things I could be out doing – new hikes and cafes to try, friends to catch up with and so on. But right now, I am tired. I have been going going going, now I need to just be, embracing the stillness and silence. I’ve caught up with my parents over Skype and we’ve tested our general knowledge with the Saturday crossword. I’ve been for a rambling, slow walk in the sunshine while chatting to my brother on the phone and admiring the late winter blooms which are appearing, hinting at the spring to come. And now here I am, sitting at the dining table with my laptop, a crossword, a cup of tea and a couple of slices of sourdough fruit toast settling in my tummy.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

Starting A New Job

Below are some hopefully relatable reflections on what it’s like to start a new job (or in my case, start a new rotation in the graduate program, which is essentially like starting a new job).

I had forgotten how strange starting a new job is until this week when I shifted into my new rotation and experienced it all for the third time this year. So, without further ado, here’s what happens:

  • You attend your first team meeting and a lot of what’s discussed goes straight over your head.
  • You spend a couple of/few days reading documents to familiarise yourself with the sort of work you will be doing, but without having anything practical or tangible to hang all this theoretical information on it rings quite hollow.
  • You feel tired after your first couple of/few days despite doing no substantive work.
  • You have slightly awkward introductory conversations with new colleagues as you try to determine the nature of the relationships you will have with each of them.
  • You find yourself at a new workstation, in a new space, with new colleagues, and you have to figure out how you fit within and use this space.
  • You find yourself at a new workstation which you have adorned with your own things, yet it doesn’t feel like yours yet.
  • You wish you were back doing whatever you did before this because it was familiar, used your skills and made you feel valued.
  • You wonder whether you’ll enjoy this new work, whether it will strike that all important balance of being challenging but doable, whether it will be fulfilling, interesting and as good as what you used to do.
  • You hope your former colleagues won’t forget about you and will remember you fondly.
  • You wonder whether you’ll feel the same when you leave this job as you did when you left your last one.
  • You wonder what a typical day will be, or whether perhaps there won’t be a typical day at all.
  • You have to remind yourself that it does get better, it does, the strangeness won’t last forever.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

July Favourites

More reading this month, thanks to some time off and finding some great, rocketing fiction to read.

Fiction books

9780099458326Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

This was a good novel to read after work as the twisting, intertwining and somewhat magical plot was really engaging and kept me wanting to know what would happen next. Alongside the great plot, Murakami’s writing itself is beautiful and full of gems – turns of phrase, sentences, paragraphs – that beg to be written down and revisited. For example, the following paragraph absolutely hit a nail on the head:

Adults are forever raising the bar on clever children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks they are set and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they naturally have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were. Next to impossible, in most cases.


the-dryThe Dry by Jane Harper

Another totally engaging novel which I read in two days (admittedly one of those was a day off). I loved it so much that almost as soon as I had finished it, I started (and rocketed through) another Harper novel, this one titled The Lost Man. Both The Dry and The Lost Man are murder mysteries set against the vast Australian outback with its cattle stations, droughts and small yet incredibly complex and fraught communities. If you’re looking for something well-written but easy to sink your teeth into, both The Dry and The Lost Man are for you.


9780571171040Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

This is a slim book featuring two short(ish) stories which share a magical quality with Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. This is a book about serendipity and the way our lives, however seemingly separate, are connected by shared experiences of love and loss.


Non-fiction book

becomingBecoming by Michelle Obama

A few months after this was the assigned book club reading, I finally got to it. Becoming is a rare book in that its appeal spans the generations – my Great Aunt read and loved it, as did my Mum, as did my fourteen-year-old cousin, as did I. I particularly enjoyed learning how Michelle and Barack met, as well as getting a behind the scenes look behind being First Lady of the USA. Michelle’s drive to do something meaningful and useful with her life and skills really resonated with me as someone whose whole aim in work and life more broadly is to live a life filled with meaning and purpose.


download (2)Beauty by Bri Lee

This slim tome by the author of the incredible Eggshell Skull is quite an intense read in that it is a brutally honest account of Lee’s struggle with her eating and body. But for that very reason, it is also a mightily important read. Its description of the double standard we hold – one expectation for ourselves (having to be perfect and never quite attaining that), another for everyone else (they are perfect just the way they are) – hit home for me as someone who rages against the unfair beauty standards society sets for women but then still looks in the mirror and picks apart the body reflected there. One of my housemates read it after me and found it similarly intense because for her, as for me, it totally hit the nail on the head. Housemate number three is currently reading or preparing to read it. A housemate book club of sorts is likely to ensue.


16388780One Story, One Song by Richard Wagamese

I must confess I haven’t actually finished this book yet, but I am more than half way through and absolutely loving it. Having read two of Wagamese’s novels, Indian Horse and Medicine Walk, I knew this would be a well written piece of non-fiction and my goodness it is. Broken up into short (typically three to five page) reflections, I find myself nodding, smiling and wanting to write down quotes with almost every page I read. This book contains so much wisdom, kindness, warmth. So much of all that is good and wonderful in this world. I am reading it slowly to really savour the beauty of Wagamese’s words and the depth of his reflections. Cannot recommend highly enough and cannot thank my housemate enough for introducing me to Wagamese.




A new discovery for me, although the existing podcast episodes were released earlier this year. Hosted by Amy Thunig, each episode is a yarn with a First Nations academic. Guests include Professor Marcia Langton AM (Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies and Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne) and Professor Anita Heiss (author of some amazing fiction and non-fiction books I have written about on my blog). I love the way Thunig goes back to basics with these esteemed academics, asking them about their families and getting them to explain academic concepts like doing an Honours year.


Cautionary Tales

The second season of this wonderful podcast focuses on lessons we can learn from history about the current COVID-19 pandemic. The way creator and host Tim Harford links different ideas, research and historical events together into digestible 30-minute episodes is fantastic. A great way to get some perspective on what’s happening in the present, which often seems overwhelmingly bad.



In My Blood It Runs

This critically acclaimed documentary is told through the eyes of 10-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa boy, Dujuan, and his family. It shows just how far we still have to come as non-Indigenous Australians in revolutionising our institutions and attitudes. The scene which stuck with me is the one where a white teacher reads a picture book about Captain Cook ‘discovering’ Australia to a group of mostly Indigenous children. Their very presence in the room highlights the absolute untruth of the story the teacher is telling and yet that’s still the story on the curriculum.


Self-care action and event

My major self-care action and the major event for July was five days away at Freycinet National Park. I am incredibly lucky to live in Tasmania where there are currently no active COVID-19 cases, meaning it is possible to go on a trip within the state. I had a very Emma few days of hiking during the day, then snuggling up in the late afternoon/evening with a cup of tea and a book or a crossword or a TV show, or all three (not all at once of course).

The highlight hike was climbing Mount Amos (photo below is me on top of it). This is a challenging climb which requires use of all four limbs to safely make it to the top. Part hike, part rock climb, the concentration required to navigate the slippery granite slabs helps you to forget about your bursting lungs. The view when you emerge from the climb is sensational and an appropriate reward for the effort. Not one to attempt unless you are fit and well kitted out (hiking boots are a must).


The highlight bird sighting were the hooded plovers I encountered on Hazards Beach and again on the Friendly Beaches. These birds are classed as vulnerable in Victoria (my former home) and while I had seen signs warning visitors to certain areas to avoid walking on the dunes to protect the plovers and their nests, I’d never seen one of these birds before. In Tasmania, the species is classed as secure and the dozens of birds I saw seem to reflect this. They are petite shorebirds with beautiful markings and a hilarious habit of standing near the water but running away as if in fright every time the water touches their feet – ie every minute or so. The photos below shows a group of seven hooded plovers on Hazards Beach.



Other events

Special mention must also go to a Sunday outing a few weeks back down to Snug Falls just south of Hobart. I took a friend with me to the hike which was run by a hiking group I am part of. The group of seven of us had fun squelching our way through the mud down to the falls and back again. The friend and I then came back to Hobart via Margate where we stopped in at a lovely fresh produce store called Meredith’s Orchard followed by an amazing and decadent lunch at Margate’s ‘Pancake Train’, a pancake restaurant in an old train. Pictures of the falls and my pancake lunch are below.



That’s it for July, although I feel certain I’ve forgotten something!

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

Mid-Year Review

On January 12 2020, writing about my intentions for this year, I wrote:

It’s hard to say exactly what new things I will do and experience [in 2020] and I don’t even want to guess here, because being open to the year’s possibilities at this stage means being open to the unknown. I want this year to be a year of further personal growth. I want this year to be fun and surprising and energising. And that means leaving my 2020 intentions at that. Yes, that’s it.

I was open-minded about the coming year, entertaining many possibilities and ideas about what it would bring. But in no vision of 2020 did I imagine a global pandemic.

COVID-19 hasn’t been the only surprise. In addition, 2020 has shown me that I am a lot more independent, resilient and capable than I realised. Because this year, to coincide (unintentionally of course) with a global pandemic, I have also:

  • Moved out of home;
  • Moved interstate;
  • Moved into a share house;
  • Started full-time work;
  • Created a new social network; and
  • Started putting down roots in a new city.

This year has shown me that I am more independent, resilient and capable than I realised because, despite all this change occurring all at once, I have not crumbled. Quite the opposite in fact. Sometimes this year, I have felt happier than I ever have as an adult. There have been challenges, most notably being separated from my family and friends back in Melbourne and the exhaustion I continue to feel having worked on the Tasmanian Government’s COVID-19 response for nearly three months, but I have managed these by upping my self-care efforts. This has included:

  • Doing yoga at least four times per week;
  • Walking to and from work on weekdays, plus getting out for longer walks/hikes on weekends;
  • Reading (albeit not at quite the rate of the previous year or two);
  • Writing my blog (albeit not quite as frequently as I would like because, having spent all week at a computer, sitting down at my laptop to write a post on a weeknight or on the weekend often doesn’t appeal);
  • Listening to podcasts;
  • Eating a healthy vegetarian (almost vegan) diet; and
  • Spending time with loved ones, both face to face with the new friends in my life and virtually with family and friends back in Melbourne or elsewhere.

At the beginning of 2020, I probably anticipated having clarity about what this year would bring by now, but COVID-19 has put a substantial spanner in the works on this front. The most significant uncertainty for me is having no idea when I will get to see my family and friends in Melbourne face to face again. It is now almost six months since I last saw my immediate family.

Some things which have become clear to me so far this year are that:

  • Hobart suits me as a home city (I thought it would, but I now know it does);
  • I like living with housemates and I’m glad I don’t live alone (I wasn’t sure how living in a share house would go and thought living on my own sounded good, but boy am I glad I’ve had company at home throughout the pandemic, it has honestly keep me sane);
  • I can cope with full-time work, despite my chronic health issues (I really wasn’t sure whether I would cope with working five full days each week, but the clear delineation between work and life has actually boosted my health greatly); and
  • Making new friends is possible and, in fact, energising (I was worried I would struggle to make new friends in my new city and/or not enjoy the process, but it has been surprisingly easy to make new friends, despite the pandemic, and I have met some absolutely lovely people here).

But COVID-19 means it far from clear what the second half of 2020 will bring. So, the intention I set at the beginning of the year remains entirely appropriate. I intend to approach the rest of 2020 with an open mind, just as I approached the first half of this year. Because really, who knows what the rest of 2020 will bring.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.