Stop Doing, Start Being

by Sasha Star

Low battery mode. At 11:46am.

To be fair, I’m slightly impressed that my iPhone made it this long before letting me know that I have depleted the very essence of its being with my incessant WhatsApping, call-making, web-searching and frantic typing. It’s been one of those days. And by one-of-those-days, I mean just a typical day in the life of someone whose ambition could probably be considered a danger to her own health.

Facebook had kindly let me know that it has been two years since I wrote a description of my day for The Shabbos Project, whose team then enlarged it, coloured it in the brightest hues known to man, and stuck it on a bus stop. Who needs their name in neon lights on Times Square when you’re being rung by your mother’s patient’s mother-in-law to tell you she’s seen it?

I re-read the breakdown of my 24 hours. And then I stopped because I was exhausted. Not least of all because I remembered how bloody difficult it is to do perfect winged eyeliner… but also because I recall what it was like writing four news bulletins constantly under deadline, partaking in a full two-hour radio show where time seems to operate in a totally different existence, before leaving exhausted, and still attempting to have a social life, practise self-care, and write five articles for an entertainment website before bed. That was two years ago. You’d think I’d have learnt.

These days, my 24 hours (weekends included) consist of penning anything between five to 10 articles about hip-hop artists and their seemingly endless amount of baby mamas (a genre I do not listen to and have had to hastily learn a lot about); updating the social media platforms for an international journalist (which often includes stopping whatever I’m doing mid-process like they do in cartoons so I can report on breaking news, or tweeting at 1 o’clock in the morning when air-raid sirens begin to wail); working as a producer for two international news networks (which involves anything from finding guests and booking studios for live interviews, to pitching stories, narrating scripts I’ve written, and filming pieces to camera); occasionally appearing at events or schools in my capacity as a motivational speaker; managing the Jewish LGBTQ+ organisation I founded; and attempting to read the stack of books I’ve bought, practising my new-found desire to paint with watercolours, preventing the plants I’m growing from perishing, letting the people in my life know that I still like them, endeavouring to find an NJB, and navigating “unprecedented times” thanks to a global pandemic. You thought I was joking when I mentioned harmful ambition, didn’t you.

And yet, the universe has an amusing way of getting one’s attention. The nature of media is one that doesn’t have a pause button and certainly doesn’t believe in “9-5”. People whiling away hours in quarantine meant their craving for news increased – whether it be hard news about the state of the world, or celebrity gossip pieces to distract them from that very state. It meant that journalists like me have been busier than ever and I haven’t taken a break since January. Like those of you who pretend not to notice the flashing indicator that your car requires a service (you know who you are), I ignored the signs of burn-out and the exhaustion I clearly felt... so the universe decided to give me a brutal throat and sinus infection that would force me to take a break.

A dear friend once told me: “When Hashem whispers, don’t force Him to shout,” and I couldn’t help but smile. Had a billboard not explicitly told me to “stop doing, start being” at least for one day a week?! I may not be the most exemplary member of the tribe I proudly belong to, but I do get the concept of Shabbat: to stop every now and again and recharge your inner batteries like my poor iPhone has been begging me to do. And so, it is something that I am now encouraging myself to embrace. My own practice of Shabbat may look different to yours; it may include more vegetating in front of Netflix than listening to the chazan, but at its essence, it is that time and space we offer ourselves to reconnect, to take a breath, to stop doing whatever we’ve been relying on copious amounts of adrenaline to accomplish, and to just… be.

Sasha Star

Despite hating the sound of her own voice, Sasha Star worked in radio for over 6 years in South Africa, before transitioning into international television and the world of global content creation. Her “driven” personality and love of film, music, literature, and food means that in spite of being in a wheelchair, she is often too busy to sit down.

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