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IF WE STOP (12) // Zahra Dallilah & Julie Tomlin

In a series of numbered written dialogues Call Centre correspondents Zahra Dallilah and Julie Tomlin respond to their own prompt: If we stop: Flourishing. Nourishment. Lockdown.


I think I panicked because the shelves were empty so I figured if there's gonna be no food left we'll have to grow our own. [not consciously] [those seeds had been in the cupboard for months though].

Plus, I was staring down the barrel of a shit tonne of time.

I was terrified of that time you know.

[And of course, you went early into isolation. We were speaking on Zoom already before lockdown happened; it was an intense time in so many ways.]

I had never known such expanse and I had never known such distance. From productivity, from adrenaline, from performance, from spending. A plain with no edges can feel like suffocatingly unstable ground.

So I sat down on it and did some box breathing. Camille says that's good for the anxiety.

The uncertainty.

People are going to die. Lots. But who? – we don't know. How, we do, but who, not yet clear. Sad & scary. Sad & scary. Sad & scary.

Sad & scary. I had thought because I had experienced my world blow up, I had the resilience for when things fell apart. But though the world, the system, seemed strange, bizarre and in utter denial, it still kept going. It was strange, I felt completely out of joint with it, but it was still there, functioning. And then it all stopped. The Instagram moments dried up; people stayed at home. And people were dying, lots of them. And I didn’t know if I would be able to face the pain of losing someone.

Someone I knew got sick and through a friend I got to hear about the hell of not being able to visit loved ones in hospital, of receiving just one phone call a day from the hospital. Knowing they had made it through the night, 24 hours ahead of not knowing.

Do the breathing thing again.

In for 4. Hold for 4. Out for 4. Hold for 4. In for 4.

The system won't survive this.... hold on.... the system might not survive this - * strokes imaginary beard *

“Is this the end?” The eye glints. “It really might be.”

Cheeky grin.

Capitalism, poor baby, we're staying in tonight. Cackle, cackle. Omg, was that me? I didn't know I had such an evil laugh in me.

The self-reveals itself when you stop going out for dinner.

Then the heart rate slows to stable. No running for the bus, no coffee highs and ignored palpitations, no anxiety inducing meetings, no nervous sweats around new people.

How can we keep ourselves in these spaces of third nature, the spaces of the ruins, of the knowledge that all is not well? How do we summon up alternatives, not just sit out the show that insists it must go on?

Image: Andrew Wilson


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