Feeling At Home In My Body

Recently, I’ve been feeling much more at home in my body. Instead of fighting against my body, I find myself increasingly able to work with and into this body of mine. Instead of tuning out the inevitable unpleasant sensations and imperfections, I am aware of its sensations and, yes, even its imperfections. Judgment and criticism have been supplanted by curiosity and openness. How does my belly feel after a big dinner? What does the flesh of my thighs look like when I kneel down, bum to heels? What signals does my body send when I’ve been sitting at my computer for too long at work?

Fullness, fleshiness and flickers of unpleasant sensation no longer set off alarm bells that cause me to disengage from my body. Now, these are all just pieces of information which I trust myself to experience and respond to if required. And the more I do this, the more the effect multiplies, my belief in my ability to positively engage with body reinforced.

As a result, I feel far more confident and comfortable in my body, just as it is. Confident and comfortable enough to practise yoga on the beach in sports shorts and a bikini top. Confident and comfortable enough to undress and look at myself in the mirror after eating a large meal and simply observe the roundness of my stomach. Confident and comfortable enough to take myself off on hikes I haven’t done before, knowing my body will respond to the challenge.

I feel liberated – I have liberated myself.

It has taken me years to get to this place. I now realise I have lived years and years disconnected from my body because of my discomfort with it. So why now? How is it that I am finally coming back into my body? There are a few things which have helped me immensely on this “journey”, each of which I will address in turn.


Intuitive eating

In recent months I have finally, after years of holding on to just a little bit of control over what I ate, making rules (albeit nowhere near as extreme as the rules my eating disorder set for me in my youth) about when it was “normal” and “healthy” to eat, how much it was “normal” and “healthy” to eat and so on, I have let go.

Intuitive eating is a multi-faceted concept, but ultimately for me it about trusting that my body knows what it needs and will ask for it, and then honouring these requests. At its core then, intuitive eating is about coming back to the body. In doing so, I have found so much freedom and headspace. I have given myself unconditional permission to eat whatever, whenever, however feels right and I have quieted the voice in my head that tells me what, when and how I “should” eat.

You can read my post Intuitive Eating & Body Trust for more on this.

Spending an increasing amount of time in nature

Being in nature reminds me that I too am natural. I am not a machine, I am a complex organism made up of many parts. Every weekend now, I find myself called out into nature. I wend my way up hill after hill, feeling the sweat coat my body, my heart pound in my chest and the air rush in and out of my lungs. I stop to watch an echidna forage for a snack or to feel the smooth bark of a eucalypt. I apologise aloud to a mob of Bennett’s wallabies when my footsteps startle them into action. I break into a run on a downhill stretch, feeling the wind in my face and the strength in my legs. I come home with blisters on my toes, sand in my socks, mud on my boots, tangles in my hair and a smile on my face. On the boulder fields, in the forest, on the sand, in the water – this is where I find myself, find my home.

My deepening yoga practice

Breath and body – these are the fundamental building blocks of yoga practice. Breath and body. As with nature, I increasingly find myself called to my yoga practice, to my mat. On work nights, I am drawn home by the desire to get onto my mat and reconnect with my physicality – with breath and body – after a day spent in the cerebral space that is my work. My yoga practice is a chance to explore and celebrate my body’s strength, flexibility, balance. It is a chance to play with movement and stillness. It is another way in which I honour my body and show it kindness, because I respond to its signals. And throughout, whether in movement or stillness, I breathe deeply into every fibre of my being, refreshing, renewing, restoring. On my yoga mat, I am again at home.

Positive social media

I only got Instagram about six months ago, primarily to share photos from my hikes and other Tassie adventures. But the other thing Instagram has allowed me to do is to curate a feed of images, videos and messaging from people unashamedly, passionately inhabiting their bodies, feeding their bodies, moving their bodies, dressing their bodies, whatever that body may look like. In doing so, these people inspire me to unashamedly and passionately inhabit, feed, move and dress my own body. As such, my Instagram feed becomes a constant reminder to come back to my body, to nurture it, love it.


As I said at the top, in reaching this place, I have realised how disconnected I had been from my body because of my discomfort with it. I never want to go back to that state of disconnection because feeling connected has allowed me to feel free. And what an immense gift that freedom is.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

I Weigh

On Friday, I found out what I weigh for the first time since 2013. When I was in the throes of my eating disorder, I weighed myself at least once a day in order to track my “progress” downwards in weight, “motivate” myself to continue and investigate the impacts of different meals or forms of exercise on my weight.

When I was admitted (voluntarily) to hospital for treatment, while I was weighed once per week, I never saw the number on the scales. The weekly weigh in was solely for the benefit of my treatment team as they tracked my “progress”, this time upwards.

Leaving hospital, I vowed never to weigh myself again. I didn’t need to (newsflash, you probably don’t need to either) and I didn’t want to give the number on the scales even the merest chance of regaining power over my thoughts and behaviour.

For years, not weighing myself served me well in my recovery, but in the past couple of years discussions with psychologists (first my psychologist in Melbourne, then my psychologist in Hobart) revealed to me that not weighing myself had in a way begun serving the disordered voice in my head rather than the healthy one. This is because not weighing myself had become a safety behaviour borne of a fear that if I found out what I weighed, it would spin me back to disordered thoughts and potentially behaviours. The number on the scales hence gained gravitas, precisely because I didn’t know what it was and feared the truth and the effect this might have on me.

So, on Friday, in the middle of a busy workday, in a room surrounded by intuitive eating and eating disorder recovery books and soft, upholstered furnishings, I stepped onto the scales and looked down at the number blinking back at me.

The number was lower than the fairly arbitrary number I’d been telling myself, and any person or form who asked, for years. The disordered part of my brain jumped for joy at this. The healthy part laughed – who cares? When I left the appointment, the disorder part of my brain told me I could, and should, calculate my BMI now that I knew how much I weighed. The healthy part laughed – who cares?

Why should I care what that number on the scales is when I weigh so much more than that, here I mean in a metaphorical sense, in the Jameela Jamil I Weigh sense. Here are some of the things I weigh:

  • I weigh my resilience, the fact that I have withstood chronic physical and mental illness over many years.
  • I weigh my kindness, compassion and care for others and the world.
  • I weigh my family, friends, colleagues and all the wonderful people in my life.
  • I weigh my love of words – written and spoken, by me and by others.
  • I weigh my commitment to my work and to excellence in all that I do.
  • I weigh my strong self-care practices including yoga, cooking good food, hiking and staying connected with loved ones.

Weighing myself was anticlimactic, exactly as it should have been – take that disordered voice! But it was simultaneously a significant moment that illustrated to me just how far I have come. Here I am in Hobart enjoying my work and my life more broadly, going for amazing hikes, practising yoga, connecting with new people, cooking and eating lots of good food – in summary, living life to the fullest and loving it. Knowing the number on the scales isn’t going to change that!

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

January Favourites

Fiction book

Free Food For Millionairesby Min Jin Lee

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, I was really keen to read Free Food For Millionaires and it didn’t disappoint. Lee’s characters are always so wonderfully complex and multi-faceted, making them relatable and realistic. The protagonist of Free Food For Millionaires, Casey Han, is the child of working-class Korean immigrants in New York who, after attending the prestigious Princeton, is trying to work out what she wants in her life. Where do the expectations of her parents, peers and mentors end and her own desires begin? Casey’s struggle to work out her answer to this question is the central force of this novel and it’s a highly relatable struggle – I imagine we’ve all struggled to find that line between what we want versus what other people tell us we should want and what they want for us.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I know I’m a bit late to the chorus of people praising this book but I’ll join in anyway! This is such a beautifully written and constructed book, with the natural world as its beating heart. One of my friends told me I’d love the way Owens describes nature, especially birds, and she wasn’t wrong! As a wildlife scientist, Owens clearly has a keen eye for the natural world in all its intricacies which shines through in the prose.

The novel centres a wonderfully unique protagonist, a girl, then woman, who essentially grows up alone, is finally taught to read as a teenager by one of the few people who take a genuine interest in her and, by combining her love of the marsh where she lives with the natural science books he brings her, becomes an expert in all aspects of the marsh.

This is also a story of learning how and who to trust, and ultimately love, when you’ve been let down again and again by all the people who are supposed to love and protect you. And it’s a murder mystery. Yes, I know that sounds like a lot, but nature is the very effective and affecting thread weaving it all together. At times, this book made my heart ache, at others it made me smile. At all times it inspired with its beauty. Obviously highly recommended!

Podcasts

Dara McAnulty and the joys of nature from ABC RN’s Conversations

Continuing on the theme of an appreciation for the natural world, this interview with a 17 year old naturalist and author (so impressive, I know!) was a beautiful ode to the landscapes and fauna of Northern Ireland. While I don’t know this landscape intimately, the way McAnulty talks about the landscapes and fauna of his home just served to deepen my love of the natural world in general and the landscapes and fauna I live with here in lutruwita/Tasmania more specifically.

I Weigh with Jameela Jamil

Each episode of I Weigh is an interview with someone interesting, whether they be a writer (eg Matt Haig, author of Reasons to Stay Alive, among other things), comedian (eg Celeste Barber) or something else entirely. The underlying premise of the podcast is that we are much more than the number on the scales, so at the end of every episode Jamil gets each guest to tell her how much they “weigh”, not in terms of kilograms or pounds, but in terms of their qualities, their values, their achievements and what is important to them in their life. Common themes of the broader conversations are mental health and illness, body image and acceptance, and feminism. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every episode I’ve listened to so far.

Discovering this podcast this month has also been really serendipitous as this was also the month that I found out how much I weigh in kilograms for the first time since 2013. I will write a separate post about that soon.

Music

Seasons of Change by Half Moon Run

I’ve been really enjoying this EP from 2020 from a band I already love. I particularly love the way this EP starts – the first song begins with a combination of acoustic guitar and bird song which is like relaxation in musical form!

Self-care action

Outdoor yoga practice

I’ve practised yoga outdoors a little in the past, but having wound up with a migraine a couple of times after this style of practice I got scared off. When practising outdoors, I definitely do need to think about the position of the sun and shielding my sensitive eyes from its glare, however recent experience has proved that outdoor practice doesn’t inevitably create migraines. In letting go of the fear somewhat, I’ve been able to enjoy the benefits of outdoor practice.

  • At a guided morning class in the Botanic Gardens, I had the joy of practising under a huge canopy of green leaves and listening to the contended quacking of ducks as I meditated.
  • In practising on the beach after work on a hot day, I enjoyed the somewhat cool breeze off the Derwent River and a well-earned swim at the end of my practice.

I’ll definitely be going to yoga in the Gardens semi-regularly (I’m actually going back tomorrow) and I’m looking forward to repeat performances of the yoga on the beach and swim combination when we have warm Summer days (rare but not unheard of).

Yoga pose

Half moon

I’ve been practising both of this posture quite regularly and am hence developing some sense of mastery over it which is very satisfying. As a balancing pose, half-moon can still have its challenges as my balance (like everyone’s) varies from day to day, but I’m now mostly able to stay fairly steady in the pose. I love the sense of extension you get from the tips of your fingers on one hand to the tips of your toes on the opposite foot on both sides, on one side in a horizontal direction and on the other vertically.

Also, side note, I love the synergy of the fact that my music favourite is from Half Moon Run and my yoga pose favourite is half moon!

Events

So many lovely things have happened this month – life is just feeling full in the best possible way at the moment. Here are a few highlights:

  • Spending New Year’s Day with my brother for an unplanned sibling bonding day. We went cherry picking at Sorrel Fruit Farm, shared an amazing cheese platter for lunch at Wicked Cheese and spent the afternoon exploring the historic town of Richmond which is full of amazing old buildings and lots of lovely shops.
Richmond Bridge, circa 1825
  • Dinner at Dana Eating House with someone I met on the Three Capes Track. This was a highlight not so much for the food or venue, although both were wonderful, but for the company and conversation.
  • Seeing an echidna up at Knocklofty Reserve.
  • Attending an exhibition at the old K&D Warehouse in Hobart as part of MONA FOMA with a friend, followed by a lovely dinner at a Mexican eatery nearby.
  • Walking from Roches Beach to Seven Mile Beach and back, followed by a swim, with three girlfriends.
  • Hiking from Lenah Valley all the way up to the Lost World and back again. Climbing more than 800m in altitude over the course of this hike, I really enjoyed watching the vegetation change and seeing the ever more impressive views as I ascended. The lost World part of this track (about 45 minutes one way) is more bouldering than hiking, requiring you to follow orange arrows on the rocks and use all four limbs to haul yourself up. This is my favourite sort of hiking/almost not hiking – so satisfying. I did get slightly off the track at one stage and incurred some minor injuries as a result, but nothing is broken and I would do the hike again in a heartbeat!
  • Farewell morning tea from my current team at work. As I finished my time in my current role and team this week, my team hosted a morning tea to say farewell and thank you. The really special parts of this were the speech my manager gave (“we threw a lot of challenges her way, although nothing really seemed like a challenge for her”) and the card I received with messages from each of my colleagues. I also received a generous gift of a voucher to one of my favourite Hobart eateries, Veg Bar.
  • Seeing a blue tongued lizard in the Waterworks Reserve on Gentle Annie Falls (a dry stone structure).

These are just some of the highlights of what has been a wonderful month.

Food

Just as there have been lots of event highlights, I have also eaten a lot of really good food. I’d have to say though that the dark chocolate, oat and almond cookies which Mum baked for me and brought down in December have been the delicious Christmas gift that has kept on giving all through January. These cookies make the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up in the midst of a busy work day and every time I eat a cookie I am reminded of how much I am loved, which is obviously a wonderful feeling.


Love, hope and peace from Emma.

Educate Yourself – Recommended Reading This Invasion Day

Often around Invasion Day, NAIDOC Week and other significant times in the Australian calendar for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, news outlets and book sellers will publish lists of recommended reading. I thought I’d steal the idea and share my recommended reading list. I know it’s quite long but don’t be put off. Even if you just pick one book, that’s an important step as an Australian. Our education system does not do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories and experiences justice, so it’s up to us to do the work to learn and understand. So, here are my recommendations.

Note: The same list is under the recommended reading (Indigenous Australia) tab on my blog.


NON-FICTION

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Talking To My Country by Stan Grant

Grant was inspired to write this long letter to his country following the racist booing of Aboriginal footballer Adam Goodes. It is a deeply touching book, a powerful call to action, a succinct explanation of so much of what is wrong with Australia and how it needs to change, written in Grant’s eminently readable prose.

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Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

This book lays out a stunning array of evidence that Aboriginal people in what we now call Australia have been practicing agriculture and aquaculture, building houses, and doing many other activities associated with so-called civilised people for tens of thousands of years. The popular belief in Australia is that Aboriginal people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, but the evidence points to something quite different. This book is a must-read for all Australians, because it corrects many of the popular misconceptions we have about Aboriginal people which we then use as the justification for dismissing their land and rights claims.

Van Diemen’s Land: An Aboriginal History by Murray Johnson & Ian McFarlane (non-Indigenous authors)

A must read if you are a Tasmanian or are going to be spending any significant period of time in lutruwita/Tasmania. This book is the culmination of years of work and teaching by Johnson and McFarlane which charts the history of Tasmania’s Aboriginal people from before the British invasion through to the present day. Significant elements of this history include the Black War, the Black Line, Wybalenna, and the resurgence of Tasmanian Aboriginality led by figures such as Michael Mansell. It’s tough reading at times, this being a book about invasion and violence, but it’s also a vitally important account of a history which has been swept under the carpet for far too long, perhaps due in part to the assertion that Tasmania’s Aboriginal people have died out (newsflash, this is far from true).

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Beyond White Guilt by Sarah Maddison (non-Indigenous author)

A highly informative discussion of the issues stemming from the British colonisation of Australia. Maddison highlights the importance of confronting our past and making changes in the present which will help to remedy the injustices which Indigenous Australians have faced and continue to face. This is a book written largely for non-Indigenous Australians, encouraging us to ‘unsettle ourselves’ by reimagining our country, national identity and future.

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Why Weren’t We Told by Henry Reynolds (non-Indigenous author)

This is a wonderfully accessible and engaging book about Australia’s history, the parts of our history they don’t teach you at school. The book’s triumph is in the way it relates our history to the present, illustrating how the past informs current attitudes, policies and practices. In doing so, it helps you to understand your own experiences in the present day in a historical context.


MEMOIR

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My Place by Sally Morgan

Considered an Australian classic, My Place is about Morgan’s life experiences and her journey to understanding her family history and culture. This leads her to explore issues such as the attempted assimilation of Aboriginal people into white Australian society through the institutionalisation of children; the rape of Aboriginal women by white men, often leading to pregnancy; the years of labour done by Aboriginal men and women on stations and properties without adequate, if any, remuneration; and much more.

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Wandering Girl by Glenyse Ward

This is a memoir by an Aboriginal woman who grew up on Wandering Mission (hence the title) under the care of German missionaries. Once she was old enough, she was sent to work for a white family as their black servant girl. Most of the book is about her experiences in this white household and the horrendous racism of her employers. As a reader, you find yourself well and truly on Ward’s side as she finds ingenious ways to subvert her employers and assert herself.

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Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss

This book is a joy to read. Not only is it well-written, but it’s also very funny and entertaining. Heiss’s sharp wit and infectious personality burst off every page. But this book is more than fun, it also has a serious side. Heiss is the daughter of a Wiradjuri woman and an Austrian man, so she her story tells us a lot about race relations in Australia and the various ways in which discrimination can be experienced.

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Too Afraid to Cry by Ali Cobby Eckermann

This book is another at times confronting memoir, written by another remarkable woman. The author was part of the Stolen Generations, taken from her family at birth and thereby disconnected from her culture. The book follows her journey to rediscover her Aboriginal roots, find her family, and heal herself. This book has very short chapters, making it very easy to read, and also includes panels of poetry every now and then as the author is an acclaimed poet.

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Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara

Marie Munkara grew up in a strict Catholic family. She always knew she was different (i.e. adopted) but has never been able to learn much about her true family as her adoptive parents would simply say that the past was best left in the past. All they’d told her was that her mother didn’t want her. Then, as a 28-year-old, she discovers a link to her true family. Keen to know more, she follows this lead and begins a remarkable journey that challenges and surprises. Her account of this journey is both touching and funny, as it is an account of two worlds colliding – the clean, strict world of her childhood and the chaotic, frighteningly different world inhabited by her blood relations in the Tiwi Islands and Arnhem Land.

Riding The Black Cockatoo by John Danalis (non-Indigenous author)

Growing up, Danalis’ family had an Aboriginal skull on the mantelpiece. It was only through an Indigenous writing course that Danalis began to realise how bizarre and inappropriate this was. This book is the story of his inner journey to this realisation and his physical journey to return the skull to its Wamba Wamba descendants. This is a very honest book which I absolutely loved and is a very accessible read.


FICTION

Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman

I have read this novel twice and will probably read it again, which should tell you how good this book is as I’m someone who rarely rereads books. Terra Nullius is genius because it takes the story of 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”. This book will certainly make you think.

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Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko

Through its thoroughly engaging narrative, this novel explores many of the issues Aboriginal people face, including the difficulty of claiming native title, the loss of language and culture due to colonisation, and the complexities of Aboriginal identity. Words from the Bundjalung and Yugambeh languages are mixed into the prose, and the novel has a sharp focus on the land and natural world – the birds, the trees, and the weather all feature quite prominently.

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Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko

A much grittier novel than Mullumbimby, Too Much Lip deals with some fairly difficult themes including crime, incarceration, sexual abuse, and so on. The characters are all too real, people who are far from perfect and are just trying to survive. Sadly, the difficulties faced by the characters are similar to those faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. This book provides an important insight into their struggles, all the while highlighting their resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

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The White Girl by Tony Birch

I have written of my love for Tony Birch’s writing before, both his novels and short stories. This is his new book and it is absolutely fantastic. The book explores the lengths a Grandmother will go to in order to keep her granddaughter and protect her from the authorities. The book is set at a time when it was common practice for lighter-skinned Aboriginal children to be removed from their families and placed into care or foster homes in order to assimilate them into white Australian society. This book is so well written and an achingly beautiful reflection of the power of familial love.

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Ghost River by Tony Birch

This book is set in Melbourne, Collingwood or Abbotsford specifically. The Yarra River plays a prominent role in the novel, almost becoming a character of its own. But it’s the two boys, Ren and Sonny, who give the book its substance. The novel follows their adventures in their thoroughly working-class suburb populated by a suite of interesting characters – crims, corrupt cops, the homeless ‘river men’ and so on. This is a gritty book, well written and well worth a read.

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Blood by Tony Birch

This novel is narrated by a thirteen-year-old boy, Jesse, unusually mature for his age because life has forced him to grow up. His mother Gwen is neglectful, and his younger sister Rachel has needed looking after, a job which has fallen to him. Moved around from house to house and city to city, the kids are forced not only to fend for themselves, but to protect themselves from Gwen’s boyfriends, many of highly dubious character.

The Promise, Common People, Father’s Day and Shadowboxing, all by Tony Birch

Tony Birch’s short stories are fantastic. Set in Melbourne, his stories feature gritty, often troubled characters who are just trying to get by in life. Each story sucks you in and you become invested in it such that when it ends you are devastated. But then you start reading the next story, and immediately you’re invested in it.

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Home by Larissa Behrendt

This novel starts off late in the twentieth century with a young woman who is visiting the traditional land of her Aboriginal grandmother for the first time, but the majority of the action is set much earlier in the century when her grandmother was a girl. The novel follows the grandmother’s life experiences as she is taken from her family, placed in a home, sent to work for a wealthy white family, marries and has a family of her own. While being a really engaging work of fiction, the novel touches on so many of the injustices Aboriginal people in Australia have faced and continue to face, making it educational at the same time.

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Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison

This novel is about a young girl who, when she leaves her home town in rural Victoria to take on a law degree in Melbourne, begins to discover who she really is. Adopted at birth, Kirrali gradually begins to understand her Aboriginal heritage as she connects with her biological parents and meets others who have embarked upon similar journeys. A really heart-warming read that is hard to put down.

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Bitin’ Back by Vivienne Cleven

At once funny and deadly serious in its subject matter, this book explores life in a small town for single mother Mavis Dooley and her son Nevil, who wakes up one day and tells his mother he is now Jean Rhys, a woman who wears make-up and dresses. Mavis is mystified, but determined to hide her son’s new identity from the town, resulting in a series of hilarious yet revealing encounters that tell us a lot about issues of identity and belonging.

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Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

This book won the David Unaipon Award in 2013. It is a lovely collection of short stories which, like all good short stories, completely draw you in, only to spit you out the other side. You become totally invested in each character’s life and fate, only to be left hanging and wondering what did happen next. What I particularly loved about the collection was that many of the stories feature gay or queer characters, characters who sadly remain quite rare in works of fiction.

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Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane

This book won the David Unaipon Award in 2010. Like most winners of this award, it was a great book. Based on the author’s experiences as a child, Purple Threads is the story of an Aboriginal childhood in rural Victoria, with all its challenges and triumphs. Identity is a significant theme in the book, as the young protagonist tries to figure out who her father is and therefore who she is.

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Dancing Home by Paul Collis

This is yet another winner of the David Unaipon Award (2016). Very different from Purple Threads, this book focuses on the exploits of recently released prisoner Blackie, who is determined to get his revenge on the corrupt cop who sent him to prison, as well as reconnect with his grandmother’s country. These two aims, while they may seem antithetical to one another, are symbolic of the way in which Aboriginal people can become wedged between the white world and its institutions, and the Aboriginal world. This is not a book for the faint-hearted – drugs, swearing and violence abound.

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Bloke by Bruce Pascoe

This is a fantastic novel, written by an incredibly versatile and knowledgeable writer in Bruce Pascoe. Most famous for the factual Dark Emu, What I love most about Pascoe’s writing is the way he weaves nature into his narratives, particularly birds and bird calls. Bloke is a book about a young man (Jim Bloke), a fisherman and diver who gets caught up in illegal business dealings (not his fault); escapes to La Paz, Bolivia with his girlfriend, the wonderful Giovanna; is extradited to Australia and scapegoated for the illegal operations; finally finds his family thanks to some blokes he meets in prison (he grew up an orphan); and on it goes – I won’t keep listing because it will reveal too much. It’s well worth a read, that’s all I’ll say.

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Mazin Grace by Dylan Coleman

While this is classified as a fiction book, the story is based on Coleman’s mother’s life and experiences living on the Koonibba Lutheran Mission in South Australia in the 1940s and 50s. The story is told by a young girl on a quest to figure out who she is, specifically who her father is. Aboriginal English and Kokatha language are woven through the story, giving it a really authentic feel and linguistically reflecting the multi-faceted identity of the narrator who finds herself living between two worlds – the Aboriginal and the white.

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Sweet Water… Stolen Land by Philip McLaren

This frontier novel focuses on events in the lives of two families, one black and one white. It is an incredibly powerful account, albeit fictionalised, of how Aboriginal people’s lives are turned upside down by contact with white settlers, as well as being a fascinating exploration of the psychology of white missionaries. This work’s great triumph is in the way it exposes the violence and immorality of white men on the frontier, particularly the missionary and one of its main characters Karl Maresch. It reminded me of Kate Grenville’s historical novels The Secret River, Sarah Thornhill and The Lieutenant, all of which focus on the same time period and themes.


CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Silly Birds, Mad Magpie, Kookoo Kookaburra and Cunning Crow by Gregg Dreise

This series of four picture books is wonderful. The illustrations are so beautiful that every page is like a work of art, and there is a strong moral to each of the stories, each based upon an Aboriginal saying. For example, Kookoo Kookaburra is based on the following: “Kindness is like a boomerang – if you throw it often, it comes back often. If you never take the chance to throw it, it never comes back”.

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Stolen Girl by Trina Saffioti and Norma McDonald

This is the story of an Aboriginal girl who is taken from her family and sent to a children’s home. We share her heartache and grief at being separated from her family and land, and placed in a foreign, loveless world, before she finally finds a way to escape.

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I was on my way to Tasmania to start a new chapter of my life – new city, new living situation, new job.

Time is such a strange beast. On the one hand, the year since I hopped on the Spirit of Tasmania with my brother and my car packed to the rafters with all my stuff seems to have flown by. And yet, on the other hand, it feels like I’ve lived here forever, I think because I feel so at home here.

The concept of home is something I’ve had cause to think about over the last year. When I had just moved, I definitely still thought of, and referred to, Melbourne as home. But as the months passed and the border restrictions meant I basically had no choice but to stay here, Hobart became, both in thought and word, home.

They say home is where the heart is. You could say my heart is divided – so many people who I love are in Melbourne, but there are ever more people here who I love too. And when it comes to the land, it’s the land here that makes my heart sing – the mountains, the rivers, the beaches, the cliffs, the oceans, the forests.

Now, Tasmania is a small place full of families who’ve lived here for generations, so I’m not sure I can claim to be Tasmanian. But what I can say is this – Tasmania is gradually claiming me. And while in some ways it’s inconvenient – note my earlier comment about there being many people I love in Melbourne – I’m also not resisting it, because this place has been so good for me.

When I moved, while I was doing better than I had been in the years prior, I was also still struggling with chronic fatigue, migraines and low mood. I honestly wasn’t sure how I would go with attempting to work full time, wasn’t sure whether I would cope with having to take care of all the life admin tasks Mum and Dad had previously taken care of, wasn’t sure whether I would find people to connect with.

I would love to be able to write that I now no longer suffer from any of these ills, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I still get tired more readily than your average person and have to, ironically, put energy towards managing my energy levels, but I no longer need afternoon naps just to survive my days (the occasional weekend nap suffices). I definitely still get migraines and headaches – Tasmania sadly hasn’t fixed them, not that I expected it would.

What has changed enormously though is my mood and outlook on life. As you would know if you’ve read previous posts (for example see The Happy Ending Is Just The Beginning), in the last twelve months I have enjoyed the novelty of actually feeling happy / contented / fulfilled. I say novelty because, if I’m honest, I probably haven’t felt this way since I was a child.

It seems strange to have written this without really discussing COVID-19, when COVID-19 has had a massive impact on almost everyone’s past 12 months. And while the pandemic has undoubtedly inflected my experience, it is not the thing I look back on the past year and think of. Instead, I think of that novel feeling – happiness. I think of how I have grown as a person, how my heart has opened to the world, albeit from a little corner of said world. Ultimately, I just think of how grateful I am that I made the leap – out of the family home, across the Bass Strait and into the unknown – a new city, a share house, the workforce, new friends, new landscapes, new experiences – and that now, the unknown feels very much like home.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

Genuinely Doing Well

On my way back to the office following an evacuation (thankfully it was a false alarm) on Wednesday, I happened to see someone who was quite senior at the school I went to in Melbourne and stopped for a chat.

So often in the past when I’ve run into people I know, I’ve felt defensive when they’ve asked how I am and what I’m up to, because I have been coming to the encounter from a place of dissatisfaction with my health and my life, but wanting to give the impression that things are going well. This desire to give the impression that things are going well I think comes from my perfectionism – I don’t want to reveal any form of weakness or lack in my life. While I’ve probably been quite successful in maintaining the charade, it has always felt duplicitous and slightly uncomfortable to do so.

I could analyse my desire to hide away anything messy in my life until the cows come home, but what I really want to highlight is that this interaction was different. The reason it struck me is probably because it’s the first time I’ve had this sort of interaction since moving to Tasmania. With the COVID-19 border restrictions of 2020, I haven’t yet been back to Melbourne and for the most part Melbournians haven’t been able to come to Tasmania. Consequently, the opportunities to see someone with whom to have this sort of interaction have been quite limited.

It was such a good feeling to be able to be both honest and positive in what I reported. My defensiveness was gone because there was nothing to hide. I could genuinely report that things in my life are going well – I have a good job, good friends, good fun. In short, I’m enjoying my life. And it felt so good to say it out loud to someone who will probably go home and pass that news along to teachers and other senior staff at my former school.

There was another element to this interaction – the person’s lack of surprise at where I am in my life. When they asked where I worked and I told them, they said, “of course you do,” as if my “success” (noting this is a subjective notion) in life has always been guaranteed. I want to acknowledge here that I have benefited from many forms of privilege in my life which have made this “success” more attainable – I have a loving, supportive family; I had a good education; and I am a white, middle-class, cisgender woman who benefits from all the unearned privilege that comes along with those traits. But I’ve also had significant issues with both my physical and mental health over the course of many years. Consequently, for many years, it didn’t seem likely, even possible to me, that I would be in the position I’m in now. And this, I think, made the interaction all the sweeter, because I know how hard won my ability to genuinely report that I’m doing well has been.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

2021 – Embrace Every Moment

For me, 2021 is going to be about embracing every moment. Having found my happy place last year, I just want 2021 to be about soaking up the still quite novel feeling of happiness when it’s with me. I also want to continue opening myself to new experiences.

I’ve gone for a slightly different format for this year’s 2021 Intentions, making use of the “stop, start, keep” concept. This is something teams at work use for forward planning and it appealed to me because of its simplicity. So, here’s what I want to stop, what I want to start, and what I want to keep in my life in 2021.

STOP

  • Beating myself up about my body.
  • Trying to control my eating (I’m going all in on the intuitive eating path).
  • Avoiding knowing how much I weigh – I’m not going back to weighing myself, I will just do it once with the support of my psychologist to prove to myself that the number on the scales doesn’t say anything about me – my health, my worthiness, my goodness, my happiness. This is an insurance policy so that if I happen to see how much I weigh in a medical setting or something along those lines, it won’t impact how I feel about myself or my body.
  • Doubting people’s love for me – they do love me and there are good reasons why they do.
  • Working in, and being paid for, a graduate role in the Tasmanian State Service (I have a new, non-graduate role which I will commence very shortly – I’m moving up in the world which is exciting after not quite a year of full-time work).

START

  • Looking for a house to buy in earnest, with the aim of buying something by the end of year.
  • Working on climate change policy and projects again, having secured a position at work in which I will be doing just that.
  • Being a ‘human book’ in the Hobart Human Library, telling my story at workshops for school children and workplaces to break down stigma and biases about chronic illness and mental illness.
  • Learning to identify and name Tasmanian flora (I received a field guide book to assist me in this quest for Christmas).
  • Looking for a bridesmaid’s dress (my brother and his fiancé will get married in September, all going to plan in the time of COVID-19).
  • Camping – this is not something I’ve ever done but if I want to do multi-day hikes around Tasmania (which I do), I’ll need to get accustomed to putting up a tent, sleeping in a tent, cooking on a portable stove and so on.
  • Attending a yoga retreat – there are regular retreats on beautiful Maria Island that I’m keen to try.

KEEP

  • Attending a weekly yoga class at my local studio with my wonderful instructor.
  • Practising yoga at home, albeit not to any rigid schedule aside from attempting to practice both days of the weekend and any other evening I feel so inclined.
  • Staying connected with my family through regular messages, phone calls, video-based catch-ups and hopefully face-to-face contact as well (COVID-19 permitting).
  • Developing my Tassie friendships, both one-on-one with people and through groups like book club, Tassie Girls Outside and so on.
  • Maintaining my Melbourne friendships through messages, phone calls, video-based catch-ups and hopefully a trip to Melbourne (again, all going to plan in the time of COVID-19).
  • Exploring Tasmania – my only specific idea (and it’s not especially specific anyway) is to head up to Launceston and surrounds, because I haven’t spent any time up there since moving here and I know a few people in Launceston (thanks Three Capes Track) and in Scottsdale (one of my Dad’s cousins).
  • Reading at least a book a week.
  • Writing my blog – while I can’t promise to be any more prolific than I was last year (and I wasn’t very prolific at all), I am committed to doing a monthly favourites post each month and a few other regular fixtures such as a reflection on the anniversary of my admission to hospital for eating disorder treatment, a mid-year review of these intentions and my progress on them and all the usual year in review type posts at the end of 2021.
  • Volunteering with Beyond Blue and Vinnies.
  • Baking my own sourdough bread and experimenting with ferments and pickles.
  • Procuring as much of my food as I can without packaging (eg taking all my own bags along for purchasing fruit and vegies, buying pantry goods at the bulk foods store in my own containers, making things from scratch).
  • Being a vegetarian.
  • Purchasing as many of my clothes as I can second-hand from the op shop.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

2020 Reflection

What three words best describe your year?

Happy, adventurous, satisfying.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Definitely moving out of home, moving interstate, working full time, managing all of this in the year of COVID-19 and ultimately ending the year by securing a new role at work for 2021.

What are you most thankful for?

My new home of Hobart; Tassie’s amazing landscapes, flora and fauna; my housemates; my wonderful work colleagues and the opportunities I’ve been afforded at work; being reunited with my family at Christmas.

What new thing(s) did you learn?

At work, I learnt a lot – how to write for Government, how to manage up, how to develop positive working relationships, how to manage all my various responsibilities, how to manage being stuck between a rock and a hard place professionally and more.

At home, I learnt how to make sourdough bread as well as how to make fermented foods such as sauerkraut and pickle things like red onions and watermelon rind.

What new thing(s) did you do?

  • Moved out of home and interstate;
  • Lived with housemates;
  • Worked full time;
  • Managed my own finances;
  • Joined a book club;
  • Delivered Beyond Blue presentations virtually;
  • Did a multi-day hike;
  • Embraced intuitive eating; and
  • Interviewed for non-graduate jobs.

What activities made you lose track of time?

  • Being busy at work;
  • Hiking;
  • Spending time with good friends and family or talking to them on phone/video calls;
  • Practising yoga;
  • Reading; and
  • Cooking.

What little things made you happy on a day-to-day basis?

  • Nature, especially Hobart’s abundant pademelons;
  • Positive feedback from managers/colleagues at work;
  • All the wonderful new people in my Hobart life;
  • All the wonderful, longer-term people in my life;
  • Cups of tea;
  • Sunshine;
  • Good books; and
  • Music.

How was your head? What was your most common mental state?

My most common mental state was feeling happy, followed by amazement that I was feeling this way.

Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?

  • That I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself living away from home;
  • That my health would prevent me from living well;
  • That I wouldn’t be able to cope with full-time work;
  • That I wouldn’t be good at my job; and
  • That I wouldn’t make friends in Hobart.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Being separated from my family and friends in Melbourne for almost the entire year after only just moving.

How was your body?

Often tired, sometimes plagued by headaches and migraines, but ultimately better than it’s been for years.


That’s a wrap for my 2020 themed posts. Stay tuned for my 2021 Intentions.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

2020 Favourites

As per usual, pulling this together has been challenging due to the sheer quantity of good books, podcasts, TV shows and so on I had to choose from.

Fiction books

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Indian Horse and Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

Both of these novels were lent to me by one of my housemates because Wagamese is one of her favourite authors. They did not disappoint. Wagamese is a member of the First Nations of Canada, so these novels complemented the deep dive I’ve done over the past couple of years into First Nations Australian writing. Both are slim books but with powerful, hearfelt prose ripping simultaneously with the aching sadness and dazzling beauty of life. Indian Horse tracks a substantial chunk of its protagonist’s painful life from growing up with his family to life in a residential school to a troubled adulthood and finally an ending of sorts. Medicine Walk is the story of a young man’s troubled relationship with his father and their journey to understand each other before it’s too late. While the themes are challenging, Wagamese’s writing is a pleasure to read – highly evocative with every word and phrase adding value to the story. Medicine Walk

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Floundering by Romy Ash

This book reminded me of Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe and Tony Birch’s Blood. All three are books about the resilience of children and solidarity of siblings in the face of parental neglect. Floundering is at once beautiful (thanks to the prose), disturbing (thanks to the behaviour of adults) and heart-warming (thanks to the behaviour of children). This is my favourite type of fiction – the gritty, realist novel which shows humans at both their worst and best.

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Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less is a delightfully funny and poignant novel centred around protagonist Arthur Less. Self-doubting and hence very relatable, failed novelist Less embarks on a round-the-world trip in order to avoid having to attend an ex’s wedding as he nears his fiftieth Birthday. This leads to all kinds of silly adventures. I particularly enjoyed Less’s time in Germany due to his imperfect command of the German language. A series of hilarious faux-pas and misunderstandings are the result.

The 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.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I looked forward to reading this novel 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 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.

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.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Set over 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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

Non-fiction books

Pain and Prejudice: A Call to Arms for Women and Their Bodies by Gabrielle Jackson

This book wasn’t necessarily enjoyable to read but it was such an important read. This book is many things – a guide to women’s bodies, a history of medicine’s treatment of women’s illness, the science of chronic pain, and the bias of medical science and research aganst women. As a journalist, Jackson writes extremely clearly and steps you through this array of fascinating issues.

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Van Diemen’s Land: An Aboriginal History by Murray Johnson & Ian McFarlane

A must read if you are a Tasmanian or are going to be spending any significant period of time in Tasmania. This book is the culmination of years of work and teaching by Johnson and McFarlane which charts the history of Tasmania’s Aboriginal people from before the British invasion through to the present day. Significant elements of this history include the Black War, the Black Line, Wybalenna, and the resurgence of Tasmanian Aboriginality led by figures such as Michael Mansell. It’s tough reading at times, this being a book about invasion and violence, but it’s also a vitally important account of a history which has been swept under the carpet for far too long, perhaps due in part to the assertion that Tasmania’s Aboriginal people have died out (newsflash, this is far from true).

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by various (edited by Roxane Gay)

Wow, fierce and frank writing from a plethora of amazing women and men. As the title suggests, this is not en easy read, it’s about sexual harassment and violence, but it is such an important contribution to popular discourse as it highlights just how many different and perfectly acceptable ways there are to express and cope with a trauma which is all too common. There were a lot of gems in this anthology, but a single line which stuck with me was this: “A good therapist knows you have to live in the house while you remodel” (& The Truth Is, I Have No Story by Claire Schwartz).

Hobart by Peter Timms (reread)

I read this book for the first time in November 2019 when I was gearing up for my move to Hobart. It was a great introduction to what was to be my new home which made me start falling in love with it. After three months in my new home, I thought it was worth reading the book about this place again as I became increasingly familiar with its streets and suburbs and moods and people. It didn’t disappoint, just bolstering my sense of love for this place. It was also a particularly timely read given that I was basically stuck here due to COVID-19 and searching for new places I can walk and explore which are close to home.

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.

Becoming 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.

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One 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.

Women and Leadership by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iwaela

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.

Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

This memoir by Australian singer, songwriter, musician, actress and many other things besides Clare Bowditch is a very raw, brutally honest account of her struggle with mental illness and body acceptance. As a songwriter, Bowditch has a way with words which makes her account of her struggle very vivid. Consequently, it hit very close to home. It’s not all gloom, this is also a book about recovery (a long, effortful, but ultimately worthwhile process), love, motherhood, creativity and much more. Also, how good is the image on the cover? I love it!

Podcasts

  • A Podcast of One’s Own with Julia Gillard – interviews with world-leading women about their paths through life, experiences of misogyny and hopes for the future.
  • Blacademia – 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.
  • 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.

Music

As a much prolific podcast listener, I don’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of music discoveries from 2020. I find I just return to old favourites over and over again. Nonetheless, here are three albums I discovered (albeit very late given they were released in 2015, 2018 and 2012 respectively).

  • Sun Leads Me On by Half Moon Run – for some reason, this has been my Saturday morning go-to music this year. It seems to instill me with chill vibes and positive feels. Amazingly, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this album in my favourites posts this year (definite oversight on my part) but given the amount I’ve listened to it, it is worthy of inclusion here.
  • Depth of Field by Sarah Blasko – Blasko is the queen of variety and experimentation. It’s amazing how much variety is contained within the 10 songs on this album. This makes for a satisfying listen over and over again.
  • 151a by Kishi Bashi – I have listed Kishi Bashi in my favourites several times this year. Like Blasko, Kishi Bashi is a master of variety and experimentation, but also fun.

TV

  • Stateless – episode six of this six-part series made me absolutely bawl. Based on true stories (including the story of Cornelia Rau, an Australian permanent resident who was unlawfully detained in an immigration detention centre) and set in an Australian immigration detention centre, this is a heart-wrenching series which highlights the immense cruelty and heartlessness of Australia’s asylum seeker policy. I don’t recommend watching this if you’re feeling emotionally tender, but if you are up to it please do watch it. It is absolutely amazing, it really is. And it features an all-star cast including Cate Blanchett, Asher Keddie and more.
  • The Heights – back for a second season in 2020, season two of this classy soap opera is almost as good as season one. I say almost because while the writing and acting is as good as ever, there has been a change of actor for one of the main characters and the substitution is not particularly convincing. This is not a comment on the new actor, it’s just that the old actor was quite distinctive looking and fit the character he played so well that the change has been quite jarring. After four episodes with the new actor, it’s still bugging me. However, I love this show so much that I’m persevering.
  • You Can’t Ask That – perhaps the most perfect idea for a TV show, You Can’t Ask That is back for season five. So far, there have been episodes with firefighters, nudists and people who’ve killed someone. All have been just as insightful as previous seasons’ episodes. Everyone should be watching this show.
  • Mystery Road – Mystery Road’s second season is as gripping as ever. This is a show packed with Indigenous talent, from lead actor Aaron Pedersen to directors Warwick Thornton and Wayne Blair. In season two, the inscrutable Detective Jay Swan (played by Pedersen), takes on a grisly new case in the coastal community of Gideon, where a headless body is found washed up in the mangroves by a fisherman. Racial tensions and outright racism, drugs, toxic masculinity – the narrative explores all these themes and more.
  • Filthy Rich and Homeless – back for a third season, the premise of this TV show is to take five high profile Australians and give them a taste of homelessness. They spend a few nights sleeping on the streets, alone and then with a buddy experiencing homelessness; experience life in crisis accommodation; and finally spend time in boarding houses. The experience changes all of them, as it always does. I just wish more people could be put through the experience, especially those who judge people experiencing homelessness harshly. The lessons resonate strongly with me as someone who volunteered with people experiencing homelessness over several years.

New skill

The most significant thing I learnt in 2020 (outside of work I hasten to add) was how to make my own sourdough bread. I got on this bandwagon quite late and relatively reluctantly (having to look after sourdough starter and keep it alive made me anxious), but a good friend gave me some of his starter for my Birthday and encouraged me to give it a go. It’s safe to say I’m hooked! Since September, I’ve only bought bread once (on holidays when I couldn’t make my own). Otherwise, I’ve been living off my own creations – yum!

2021 Intentions and a bit of a reflection on 2020 still to come – stay tuned.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.

December Favourites

Following this post, I will also be putting together my 2020 Favourites and 2021 Intentions, so stay tuned for those posts.

My reading and other cultural consumption dropped off in December due to much of my time being taken up by social engagements, job interviews and more. As a result, this post will be light on that sort of content.

Events

The festive month of December did not disappoint. It was filled with Christmas get-togethers and, most importantly, my first face-to-face time with my parents, brother and his fiance since late January/very early February 2020. My nearly two weeks with my family was definitely the highlight of the month. It was so lovely being able to show them around Hobart and surrounds now that I have settled in and spent the year getting to know my new home. We went on lots of my favourite walks and hikes, ate lots of delicious food, both home cooked and out, and ventured further afield to explore some areas even I hadn’t visited before.

We had a wonderful Christmas day feast at my place, including a whole roasted stuffed pumpkin as the centrepiece (Christmas lunch was vegetarian given it was on my turf), followed by a lovely walk up the Cascade Track into the bush.

Prior to my family’s arrival, I thoroughly enjoyed hosting my first proper visitor since COVID-19 hit in the form of my cousin from Adelaide. I spent two action-packed days with her, followed by an action packed day with her and her friend who she then went off to explore Tassie with. Other highlights were a casual Christmas get together of baby public servants from my Department, my team’s work Christmas lunch and the Book Club Christmas lunch and book exchange.

Final highlight was the news I received on 23 December that I had been successful in securing an amazing new position at work. I don’t know exactly when I will start in my new position but I am really looking forward to the new responsibilities and opportunities it will afford me. I’m particularly excited because I will be working on climate change policy and projects.

Book

Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

This memoir by Australian singer, songwriter, musician, actress and many other things besides Clare Bowditch is a very raw, brutally honest account of her struggle with mental illness and body acceptance. As a songwriter, Bowditch has a way with words which makes her account of her struggle very vivid. Consequently, it hit very close to home. It’s not all gloom, this is also a book about recovery (a long, effortful, but ultimately worthwhile process), love, motherhood, creativity and much more. Also, how good is the image on the cover? I love it!

Food

The Crescent Hotel‘s garlic bread

This is very specific, and will only be available to those anyone reading this who happens to live in or near Hobart, but it is so good and I was lucky enough to eat it twice in December. The Crescent’s garlic bread comes as two thick slices of house-made bread covered in grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley and a small (but generous) jug of melted garlic butter alongside. You drown your bread in the melted garlic butter, watch the parmesan cheese melt, and then enjoy. The Crescent is in general a very nice place to eat so I would recommend it even if you don’t like garlic, but the garlic bread is something else entirely.

TV

I’ve been rewatching and thoroughly enjoying “best of” style clips from Would I Lie To You. I would recommend the following for a belly ache inducing laugh:

On the Rhod to Happiness – Rhod Gilbert on Would I Lie to You?

Mortimerian Tales – Bob Mortimer on Would I Lie to You? – Part 1

Mortimeriados – Bob Mortimer on Would I Lie to You? Part 2

Self-care action

With my family visiting, I was initially quite overwhelmed by having to think about the needs of five people not just one and became somewhat irritable with them as a result. Important to my ability to manage my feelings better, which I think I did as I got used to their presence, was actually asking for what I wanted/needed, instead of expecting them to guess/know, and giving myself some space of my own to practise yoga, write or do whatever else I needed to do. I found that I didn’t need long on my own, just enough to let my brain process and get itself in order so that I could better manage the dynamics with my family. My family are wonderful, I love them to bits and they are not hard to get along with, it was just a big change to go from being just one person to being a group of five.


That’s it for a pretty brief December Favourites, a much longer 2020 Favourites (longer because I’m struggling to narrow down my lists of favourite books in particular) will be on its way very soon.

Love, hope and peace from Emma.