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IF WE STOP (6) // Zahra Dallilah & Julie Tomlin

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

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.


In fairy tales, people learn through the tasks of daily life - from the little girl in the house of Baba Yaga, who learnt how to wash clothes, keep the fire and cook, to sweep the floors and sort what seemed impossible to sort.

Work as initiation, as transformation is a strong motif of ancient stories; the weaving of nettles, the spinning of gold. These were pathways to transformation, but as is the case with the story of Rumpelstiltskin, they also suggest the presence of a deep unease with work.

The cultural somatic framework, “a constellation of ideas pivoted around the fundamental principle that groups of people i.e. cultures are in fact bodies. In this framework, oppressions such as white supremacy are understood as manifestations of traumas held in our collective nervous systems, which in turn become embodied in our cultural systems” (Tada Hozumi, A cultural somatic reader on whiteness, trauma, and allyship, The Selfish Activist).

And now, as we are inching our way slowly out of this event, not knowing if it’s really over, when the virus might return, spike, can we look with the eyes of unfamiliarity and ask ourselves is this really the life that we want to be living?

Can we really crank our bodies into action again, defy all the weight of a body slowed down, ignore all that we have experienced and simply return to ‘normal’?

Surely in the silence of a world that stopped for just a while we could hear the cry of the deep, the cry of a different world waiting to dance with us?

If you close your eyes and sit in the stillness,

can you hear it begin to rumble?

Work, the notion of it, the experience of it, the dread of it, the demand of it, contorts my body, pushing me into a shape that isn’t mine. We work, and as women we have fought to work, fought to be equal, but realise now that the game itself is flawed, that what is needed is what we knew at the outset, but forgot in a swirl of red lipstick feminism, that what is needed is fundamental, radical change. And so here we are, the world having been stopped, trying to get on its feet again, trying to be well. But I don’t think it knows just how sick it is yet.

I see a women’s feet, wet and glistening, she has been under water, away, for a very long time. But she is walking carefully, her feet feeling the ground, being held by it. She is coming, and the work of becoming begins.

Living by sea for a few days, days of precious refuge from people, such a privilege of a problem, the overwhelm that comes from too many, reading, I realise that there is far more than this, that these are just the tumbling out, the foam on the shore of a greater, deeper mass. I see the gaping wide mouth of the sea, hear its tides, the constant battering of the wind, and realise that here, now, there is something new, of salt, and cleansing, of newness and beginning.

Image: Andrew Wilson


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