Living positively means accepting that life sometimes asks us to regain our balance before we can move forward.
Posted in , Feb 28, 2019
We often toss around the phrase, “life is short” at moments both profound, as in when a person has tragically died before their time, or light-hearted, as in when we are justifying a second scoop of ice cream. But I will never forget the time when, years ago, a friend was struggling with a crossroads-of-life decision. Another friend encouraged her not to hang her entire future on this one single choice.
“Life is long,” she said simply. She didn’t mean this literally (if only), but she meant it to be a comforting release from the high expectations many of us set for ourselves each moment of the day.
The memory of that conversation came up for me recently when I encountered a famous saying of the early 19th century Hasidic Jewish teacher Rabbi Nachman of Breslov: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge; the essential thing is not to be afraid.”
At first glance, the quotation sounds negative and daunting. One misstep, and any of us would surely fall to our doom from such a narrow bridge. Why shouldn’t be we afraid? And how can we be expected to cross a bridge that’s the length of “the whole world,” anyway?
But to me, the saying embodies the idea of authentic positivity, and it speaks to the power each of us has to keep moving forward through what we pray is a long life that bridges many chasms.
Living with authentic positivity means following Rabbi Nachman’s advice not to be afraid of the narrowness of the bridge, nor of its length, nor of the uncertainty that might loom beneath it. It means finding the strength to keep going, to move forward along the bridge without fear that life’s challenges will blow you over its edge.
It also means letting go of the illusion that we can control the bridge, the wind or “the whole world.” Releasing the self-imposed pressure to widen the bridge or force the breeze to quiet means acknowledging and accepting reality as it is, and courageously placing one foot in front of the other to keep going, moving thoughtfully forward but not being afraid of needing to regain your balance every now and then.
If you start to feel fear creeping up along the way, remember—no one decision, moment or step can define your entire journey. Especially if you live with the premise that "life is long," you will find the courage you need to keep going.