The Tragic Optimist


Fighting Windmills posted yesterday about kindness and the ways she practices kindness in her life. One of the things she posted really caught me – in her list of ways she is kind to herself is this: “I tell myself my life story in a positive way.” An idea so simple and lovely, yet so hard in practice. I think that for the most part, I am positive about my life’s story. But I still struggle to tell our infertility story positively with out dismissing the pain and frustration of those who are still battling with infertility. Compared to others, our struggle was not so long, or so difficult, and did end well, and yet, to say it was easy would be a lie. And even to say that it was all worth it in the end feels wrong, though I have said just that on occasion. Of course Zoe was worth the struggle, but almost implies that some children are worth more than others based solely on what their parents did to conceive them, which is utterly ridiculous. Zoe would be just as loved and cherished if we had gotten pregnant that first month. The story will come one day.

But I did want to write my own lists of ways that I practice kindness. And then as I tried to write them out, I found the task surprisingly difficult. I’ve always thought of myself as a kind person, but for every idea I came up with that describes how I am kind, I would come up with at least a half a dozen examples of times that I’d done just the opposite and been unkind. So instead, my lists are ways that I want to be kind to myself and others. I think being explicit about the ways that I want to act can go a long way in reminding me to act that way until it becomes a habit.

Ways I want to be kind to myself:

  • Let myself dream and hope
  • Eat good, tasty, and (usually) healthy food and  enjoy it
  • When I make a mistake, do not dwell on it, but think about how I would like to act differently next time.
  • Let myself delight in small pleasures
  • Give myself time to myself

Ways I want to be kind to others (particularly those I don’t know)

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that they are acting out of goodness
  • Remember when I worked in customer service, and so when working with others in the field, whether I called them, or they called me, treat them kindly and thank that person at the end of the conversation, even if it didn’t go as I hoped.
  • Look at and smile at people when I pass them
  • Compliment people when they do, say, wear, etc, something that I like
  • Do not play the pain olympics game. If something is hurtful for someone, then it is hurtful to them, regardless of what anyone else has been through, and I try to keep that in mind and not compare pain.

Ways want to be kind to my family and close friends

  • Give plenty of hugs and kisses and affectionate touches. I guess that could be a way I’m kind to myself, too.
  • Tell them how much I love them
  • Tell them how much I appreciate them, and thank them for their help
  • Try not to complain about the little things
  • Give them my full attention when we’re talking
  • Be silly when they want silliness, sympathetic when they want a listening ear, and angry for them when they’ve been mistreated


  1. You’re exactly right, Ann. Being explicit about the ways you want to act will change your life. I’m so glad you did this meme! I like having it written down, and blogging instead of keeping a private journal is so much more effective for me. I get this wonderful chance to witness the ripples of our interactions.

  2. What a wonderful post, thank you! It really helps me step outside my box and see how I can be a positive influence in other’s lives and even in my own.

  3. I appreciate your effort on writing this topic. It will definitely help many people.

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