I wish you’d take a walk in my shoes for a start.

I watched the girl look at herself in the mirror, and she turned to me and said, “Miss, what do you think? I need a dress for my school formal. Do you think this one looks okay?”

It most decidedly did not look okay. But as I tried to put words together that would kindly convey what I was thinking, my aunt jumped in and said, “It would look better with more support,” which was true. What I did not say that I wanted to say was, “You can do better.” She didn’t look like a model, even a plus-sized one, but . . . she could have looked cuter in a dress that played up her assets. But I didn’t know how to say that, so I said nothing. As I waited by the door of the dressing room for my aunt to change, I watched to see if the girl came back out with that dress. I listened to her talk to her friends, but I couldn’t tell if she was going to buy it. We left before I heard what was decided.

I’ve been saying a whole lot of nothing lately. People ask me how I’m doing, and I tell them I’m fine or I change the subject. People do things that surprise me (in the bad kind of way) and I stay silent, retreating into (or hiding in) politeness, good manners that dictate that I say nothing. I am starting to wonder if the people around me have noticed.

I have been feeling kind of stuck lately – I’m still working my way through that same Lee Smith book. It’s been slow going, but I felt like I made some good progress last night and today, and I finally feel like the end is in sight. I’ve also been struggling with my response to some relationships, not knowing exactly the right way to handle things. I can be a person who lacks grace, especially when I’m stressed out, and that’s been an issue for me the past few weeks. When I’ve been hurt, I’ve complained to Mike about it, rehashing the other person’s faults and exponentially increasing my own irritation simply by letting it fester. I’d gotten better about that, I thought. Lately, though, every criticism has stuck with me, every slight has been magnified. I’ve reverted.

And I guess reverting is understandable, though I know Mike is getting pretty tired of it. But it’s not what I want. I want to be more compassionate, but I see so many of my heart’s desires slipping through my fingers, and as I snatch at them, I lash out at people. Snatching, as Harriet Vane once told us, is never the best solution. And yet it’s hard to resist the urge.

Yesterday at church, I was reminded by the story of Ruth that God provides family for us even when it doesn’t look like the traditional family that we grow up idealizing. That was a good thing to hear, because it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I feel like I learned that lesson once, right after Mike and I got married, when I was sad about not having his parents, but I am learning it again now.

Ruth also made me think about just taking the next step, doing the right thing right now, and not worrying about the future. Right now what I need to be worrying about is being a graceful compassionate person. I need to speak up for myself without getting so worked up. I need to just keep taking one step at a time.

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