This morning I have on my cranky pants. Actually, I have on a pair of wide-legged menswear-y pants You know that old adage dress for the job you want? If you’re a receptionist hoping to work her way up to CEO, this probably makes a good deal of sense. But I like to occasionally dress like someone who works somewhere else. I find it soothes me. Cranky pants is a metaphor, a needlessly adorable way of saying gee, I really want to smack everyone. Hard.

I’m not pms-y. I hate that assumption that all feminine moods are tied to ovaries. I hate it even more when someone sort of obliquely inquires whether possibly my irritation with their idiocy is somehow my biology and not their…. Oh, you get the idea.

One of my challenges in this job and in my life generally is speaking tactfully. I’m a person with readily articulated opinions and a good measure of frustrated idealism. I enjoy impassioned discussion of politics and religion and what region of India has the tastiest food. And I like to tell people off. I like it a lot. I try not to do it, at least not unless the situation really, really warrants it. But I’m not especially hung up on the idea of being a “nice” girl, and I’m not a person who’s troubled by people thinking that my strong opinions mean I’m a bitch.

I do believe, though, it is important to be kind, to speak to people in love even in the midst of my own frustrations. I try to be unstinting with my praise. I try to avoid letting my schedule or the tenor of my day dictate my friendliness to gas station attendants or baristas or whatever. I try to be kind because it has often been the kindness of others, of strangers even, that has sustained me during difficult times.

Yesterday I said something like this “I understand you’re a person who seeks consensus, and I appreciate that about you. It’s a wonderful attribute. But I hope you’re willing to consider that this is a circumstance in which consensus may not be as important as accomplishing what we seek to accomplish here. We may be better off dealing with this issue forthrightly.” I said that instead of “Can you just not be such a coward and do what you’re supposed to? Dumbass.” It almost killed me. Or it felt like that anyway.

During Lent this year I’m trying to do, well, a lot of things differently. I’m trying to speak only kindly to and about people. I’ve thought about undertaking this project for a while, but I had some reservations about it. Positivity is so often, well, stupid. I am not a person–don’t wanna be a person–who sits on a pile of poo and looks around for a pony. I’m more of a c’mon motherfuckers let’s shovel this manure kind of a girl. Or, at least, a who did this? girl. But I’m finding that selecting charitable words has a small transformative power. Our vices and virtues are so often tied up together: profligacy with generosity, for instance.

The psalmist wrote that his sin was always before him, out there in front leading the parade. I’m working my way through Imitation of Christ–the classic book on Christian living, not the clothing line–right now. The author says we can do no wrong by considering our own sins a little worse than those of others so that we may exercise charity to one another. I imagine we could a lot of wrong–no one benefits by a badness contest or a lot of melodramatic breast beating–but I take his meaning.

There is a continual interaction, it seems to me, between the gentle mechanics of grace and the oily ropes of human failing. I think it is this interaction I’d like to keep always before me, this notion that the grace of God is at work in and on and around us, because in it lies charity, hope, and even salvation.

…You know, especially when I’m wearing cranky pants.