Monthly Archives: January 2013

Anti-Abortion = Anti-Sex

Ross Douthat, one of the more thoughtful conservatives out there (weak praise, I know posted today about the relationship between abortion and single parenthood. In an effort to rebut the conclusion that abortion restrictions lead to more single parents, he wrote:

in a post-Roe world, social conservatives often find themselves accepting single parenthood as the lesser (by far) of two potential evils. But there’s good reason to think Roe itself was instrumental in creating the kind of sexual culture that makes the Bristol Palin dilemma as commonplace as it’s become. While the frequent use of abortion can limit out-of-wedlock births, that is, the sudden mass availability of abortion almost certainly had the opposite effect — mostly by changing the obligations associated with pregnancy, and by legitimating male irresponsibility where sex and its consequences are concerned.

For all I know, this may be accurate. However, its efficacy as an argument in favor of abortion restrictions rests on some terrible premises. Namely, it relies on the standard conservative “sex is bad” attitude. How horrible it is that access to abortion has allowed people to have recreational sex! If only people were more terrified of pregnancy, then everything would be fine!

And this continues a familiar pattern, where every single person I’ve ever heard argue for abortion restrictions also takes an extremely sex-negative attitude toward recreational sex, some going so far as to argue that an unwanted pregnancy is some kind of divine justice for being irresponsible, where of course “being irresponsible” means “having recreational sex.”

The sad fact is that Douthat’s claim that “since the 1970s, social conservatives have had more success encouraging doubts about the moral acceptability of abortion than they have had on almost any other cultural front” is true. Douthat would have us believe that people are supporting abortion restrictions due to respect for the sanctity of life. I have my doubts. It seems much more likely to me that support for abortion restrictions stems from the fundamental sexnegativity of our culture.

On Feminism… Are We Talking Past Each Other?

Thanks to Shaun’s latest post (and a couple links he posted on Facebook), I’ve spent the past two days reading feminist articles, critiques of those feminist articles, and critiques of the critiques. I’ve been reading Skepchick, Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Jen McCreight (when she was blogging), and other feminist-friendly atheists for years. What I haven’t been reading are the people at Skeptic Ink or any other major criticism of the Skepchick/FTB-style feminism. The blog that Shaun linked on FB (not approvingly) was Skeptically Left, written by a woman who, to put it mildly, takes some issue with the kind of feminism that is practiced at FTB & Skepchick. One of the first posts I noticed was this one, where Maria Maltseva, the author, takes a collection of words, and gives them the definitions that are used in “certain darker parts of the internet.” A sample:

Feminism — A dogmatic stance on women’s issues promulgated by the likes of PZ Myers, who is notably not a woman.
Misogynist — Someone who disagrees with a feminist. See definition of feminism above. A vile human being.
Rape Enabler — Someone who disagrees with a feminist. See definition of feminism above. A vile human being.
Rape — Consensual sex with a woman after she’s been drinking. Also, actual rape.
Patriarchy — A nebulous conspiracy-like entity responsible for oppression of women in Western society.
Oppression — Being born with a vagina, even if you’re treated like a queen and allowed all the same opportunities as men.
Victim Blaming — The suggestion that women have some degree of control over their own behavior.
Slut Shaming — Pointing out that suggestive attire, inappropriate nudity, and sexual behavior are likely to get attention.
Rapist — Any man who’s had sex. Also any man who hasn’t. Synonym: man.
Rape Culture — A culture that glorifies rape. The one we live in. The same one that makes (actual) rape a criminal act.
Privilege — Something you say to get another party to shut up when you have no real argument, because clearly human beings are incapable of empathy. Existence of actual or even group privilege is irrelevant.

(sigh). I have some sympathy for the victims of unfair attacks at the hands of quick-to-anger feminists, especially at FTB & Skepchick. I too have had the word “privilege” used as a bludgeon to suggest that any opinion I have on a topic that concerns a marginalized group is completely worthless and irrelevant. I have been labeled a misogynist for having the audacity to voice a minor disagreement with a popular feminist. I’ve been decried as a troll and been accused of “JAQ-ing off” for asking sincere questions about a feminist position that I don’t understand. And in none of those situations did anyone come to my defense, so I understand how someone can be upset with the community. But come on, this crap is ridiculous. These definitions are ridiculous caricatures of complicated and nuanced issues, and surrender the moral high ground before the discussion is even started. I think contemporary feminism could use some strong criticism in certain circumstances, but juvenile bullshit like this is just flame warring.

Yesterday, Shaun described a post by Libby Anne at Patheos as “recommended reading.” Libby Anne’s post is a critique of a post by vjack at Atheist Revolution. I was not as happy as Shaun with Libby Anne’s post. The whole post was one big straw man.

vjack’s post was about some people’s hesitancy to identify as feminists, and posited that it was because “feminist” means different things to different people. While many people may be feminists under one interpretation, they may not be under another interpretation, and people don’t want to be associated with the more extreme factions. So far so good. Most of the feminists I know (including me) specifically disavow radical feminism, and specifically its shameful treatment of trans* people. vjack offers the following definitions:

In a nutshell, equity feminism refers to a focus on the goal of social and legal equality. That is, equity feminists believe that women and men should have the same rights, be paid the same for the same work, have access to the same opportunities, etc. They are advocates of equality, and I wholeheartedly embrace this form of feminism. Women deserve equality, and none of us should settle for anything less.

Gender feminism is very different. It looks far less egalitarian, involves sharp criticism of gender roles, and seems to emphasize victimhood. There are aspects of gender feminism with which I agree (e.g., the manner in which patriarchy can be harmful to both women and men, the critique of traditional gender roles), but I do not support the entirety of gender feminism.

So, clearly, those definitions are crap. Aside from the obvious bias of the author, I’ve read them several times now and I still have no idea what “gender feminism” is. As Libby Anne note, vjack did not invent the terms, and followed one of the links vjack provided to this post by Barry X. Kuhle, an evolutionary psychologist. Libby Anne provided the following quote:

What is feminism other than the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes? Regrettably to feminists like myself, far too many other feminists believe that being one means believing in far more than equality for women. These “gender feminists” cling to an ideologically driven, theoretically unsound, and empirically unsupported perspective on the origin and development of sex differences (Kuhle, 2012). To paraphrase New Jersey philosopher J. B. Jovi, they give feminism a bad name. In so doing, they have discouraged women and men who support sexual equality from self-identifying as feminists. … The reluctance most women and men have to embrace the feminist label in the absence of a definitional nudge is due in no small part to gender feminists’ untenable position on sex differences.

As an evolutionary psychologist, I believe that much light can be shed on psychology by considering how the information-processing mechanisms underlying our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affected our ancestors’ abilities to survive and reproduce. As an “equity feminist” (Sommers, 1994), I believe that women should have the full civil and social equalities that are afforded men. Equity feminism has no a priori stance on the origin or existence of differences between the sexes; it is solely a sociopolitical desire for men’s and women’s legal and social equality. Defined in these ways, there is no rational reason why one cannot be both an evolutionary psychologist and a feminist.

Gender feminism is an alternative version of feminism and is the dominant feminist voice in academia (Sommers, 1994) and online (e.g., Jezebel.com). And boy (er, I mean girl, er, I mean womyn) do they take issue with feminism being compatible with evolutionary psychology. They ardently argue that psychological differences between the sexes have little or nothing to do with evolution, but instead are largely or solely socially constructed (Pinker, 2002; Sommers, 1994). Whereas equity feminism “makes no commitment regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology… gender feminism is an empirical doctrine” committed to several unsubstantiated claims about human nature, especially that of the psychological blank slate where sex differences are concerned (Pinker, 2002, p. 341).

Now, Kuhle seems like kind of a windbag, but I can’t point to anything factually inaccurate with his statements, other than that he seems to be doing an awful lot of generalizing based on relatively few citations. Libby Anne, however, finds a lot more of an issue:

In other words, Kuhle argues that there are significant natural and inherent differences between men and women, so while we should support equality of opportunity, we shouldn’t wonder when men and women make different life choices, pursue different careers paths, act in different ways, or value different things. Thus Kuhle appears to be arguing that men and women can be equal even if they, as a result of their evolutionary background, carry out vastly different roles in life.

Excuse me? Did we read the same quote? Kuhle never says “there are significant natural and inherent differences between men and women.” Kuhle merely says that it’s an “open empirical issue.” Kuhle doesn’t say that the idea that the sexes are psychologically identical is incorrect, he just says that it’s unsubstantiated, which is true. The psychological community has reached no consensus on the topic, and there is substantial evidence to suggest that the sexes have genetic psychological differences. Furthermore, Kuhle most certainly does not extrapolate from this that “we shouldn’t wonder when men and women make different life choices, pursue different careers paths, act in different ways, or value different things.” Later in his post (and not quoted by Libby Anne), Kuhle says the opposite:

The first misunderstanding, the myth of immutability, is evidenced when one erroneously concludes that “if it’s evolutionary, then we can’t change it.” As has been discussed at length elsewhere, evolutionary psychology does not view human behavior as impervious to change. In fact, evolutionary psychologists have cogently argued that knowledge of the informational inputs to evolved psychological mechanisms is a crucial first step toward changing the behavioral output of these mechanisms (Buss, 1996; Buss, 2012; Confer et al., 2010; DeKay & Buss, 1992; Geher, 2006).

The second pervasive misunderstanding is the naturalistic fallacy, which rears its illogical head when one concludes that “if it’s evolutionary and hence natural, then it’s okay and hence good.” Numerous evolutionary psychologists have unpacked the mistaken inference that if something is the case then it ought to be the case (Buss, 2003; Geher, 2006; Pinker, 2002).

Evolutionary psychology does not excuse, justify, or rationalize any human’s thoughts, feelings, or actions (Buss, 1996; Geher, 2006). It merely seeks to discover and detail the design of the information-processing mechanisms that underlie our psychology. If some women have been subjugated because they were regarded as different than and inferior to men and some men have excused their misogynistic behavior as being an inevitable consequence of their genes, then a reluctance to embrace a discipline which viewed such pernicious behavior as immutable and excusable would be understandable. But evolutionary psychology is not that discipline (Buss, 1996).

Kuhle may be an asshole, and by the tone of his post, he probably is, but he’s not arguing that women belong in the kitchen. Later in her post, Libby Anne quotes Harriet Hall as saying:

I think it is unreasonable to expect that equal numbers of men and women will be attracted to every sphere of human endeavor. Science has shown that real differences exist. We should level the playing field and ensure there are no preventable obstacles, then let the chips fall where they may.

Libby Anne’s followup:

Kuhle made this same argument in his article when he argued that there are natural differences between men and women and derided the idea that gender roles are socially constructed. Kuhle’s line of reasoning is why some people argue that it’s only natural that the vast majority of engineers are men and that the the fast majority of stay at home parents are women. Men are just better at spacial reasoning, after all, and women are perfectly evolved to care for children!

Again, nobody said that! Kuhle never “derided the idea that gender roles are socially constructed.” And he certainly never suggested that men evolved to be better engineers and women evolved to care for children. It is not “Kuhle’s line of reasoning” that leads to this attitude – it’s unscientific sexism. Kuhle never makes any such suggestion anywhere in his article, and to say that it’s his “line of reasoning” is ridiculous. It’s the laziest kind of slippery slope argument.

Libby Anne spends the rest of her post listing the various evils of assuming that our current gender roles are natural. It’s a good rundown, and would be a good argument against anyone who actually argues the opposite. However, the remainder of the post continuously implies that it is an argument against people like vjack and Kuhle. Libby Anne ironically closes with the following:

it’s critically important to find ways to communicate with those who may not fully agree with us, and listening to each other and trying to understand each other’s perspectives is crucial.

I agree. I hope Libby Anne will make more of an effort to do so next time, before putting words in people’s mouths. Chris Hallquist, of The Uncredible Hallq commented, echoing my concerns:

I’ve read the Kuhle article, and you seem to be reading a lot into it that isn’t there. In particular, [it] can be true that there are some innate psychological differences between men and women and at the same time think the male domination of many fields might be cultural.

Ed Clint, for example, has defended evolutionary psychology (including claims of innate psychological differences between men and women) against its detractors, but has also argued for having 50% women among speakers at skeptic conferences, for the sake of breaking the (possibly? very likely?) self-perpetuating maleness of skepticism.

No response from the OP. Both writers, Libby Anne and Maria Malseva, seem to be ignoring the actual words of the people that they are criticizing. While Libby Anne’s writing is seemingly from a much more conciliatory place, both posts unfairly lampoon their subjects and ignore what they are actually saying. It’s no way to start a dialogue, and it’s certainly no way to reconcile.

We can do better.

The Friendzone and Me

So, Nice Guys of OKC has shut down. For those of you who missed it, it was a tumblr posting screenshots of okcupid guys who claimed to be “nice,” then proving elsewhere in their profile that they were racist, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise assholish. The main legacy of the blog is inspiring a lot of posts (seriously, a lot) about the use of the term “friendzone.” According to Nice Guys of OKC, the mere use of the term precludes one from actually being nice.

Most posts on the topic rely on the “nice guy” stereotype. It looks like this:

1. You become attracted to a woman.
2. You are friendly to that woman in the hopes she will show you her vagina.
3. She mistakes your friendliness for friendliness and befriends you, neglecting to show you her vagina.
4. You act like a butthurt little asswipe, forever placing yourself firmly outside of the circle on the Venn diagram of dudes she will ever show her vagina to.
5. You complain about it on the internet, and 1000 other maladjusted bro-dudes go, “I know that feel,” and you are validated in your misogyny.

Like all stereotypes, some people fit it, and those people deserve the collective derision they’ve been receiving throughout the the internet for the past week or so. But, like all stereotypes, it unfairly lumps people together and makes a lot of assumptions based on very little information. In my mind, the view that use of the term “friendzone” implies all of that is a bit much. Wikipedia defines it as “a platonic relationship where one person wishes to enter into a romantic relationship, while the other does not.” Urban Dictionary, as it tends to, has a few more colorful definitions, some reflecting Wikipedia’s simple definition, some reflecting the Nice Guy stereotype.

I recently had a discussion about this on my friend Angie’s blog:

the term [friendzone] itself always made sense to me. Unrequited feelings suck, and hearing “let’s just be friends” from your crush sucks. To me, the “friendzone” often bespeaks entitlement both ways. Both sides seem to think that, if the other person weren’t such a jerk, THEY would be the one to dictate the terms of the relationship* (i.e. a sexual relationship vs. a platonic friendship), and the other person ought to acquiesce to their preference. To me, getting “put in the friendzone” is being forced into a category that I don’t want. I HATE being categorized, and I hate being assigned labels that come with arbitrary baggage.

It also makes sense because I always saw the “friend zone” as a different thing than just being friends. As many recent articles point out, if you’re complaining about being friendzoned, you’re not really a friend. But you’re not a lover. You’re occupying a strange friend-like place that has its own rules. I view it as a term akin to monogamish. It’s LIKE being friends, but not really.

Angie makes some really good points, so I encourage you to read the whole discussion.

I’m still figuring out how I feel about all of this, but I think a lot of my discomfort with the negative judgments going around is because I can envision a number of situations which I think are rather common where a man (in these articles, it’s always a man) gets friendzoned merely because of a miscommunication, and not out of anything more malicious or blameworthy than that.

Men and women tend to interpret signals differently. Men tend to interpret things as being far more sexual than women do. I can easily envision a situation where a man is behaving in a way that he believes is sending romantic/sexual messages, the female object of his affections interprets his signals as friendly. Then, she reciprocates, sending only friendly messages, but the man interpreting them as sexual or romantic. Then, when the rejection comes, both sides feel as if they have been misled and lied to, and may get angry and/or whiny. Textbook friendzoning.

In that situation, I see the parties equally at fault. They’ve both misinterpreted the other’s signals while being less-than-explicit about their own. However, I don’t think either party is feeling entitled or misogynistic. It’s just been a misunderstanding. The man’s anger isn’t because he’s owed sex. It’s because he feels like he’s been misled and used. In his mind, he was being obvious about his feelings, and the woman in question ignored his feelings and tried to force him into a relationship model that he didn’t want. He’s wrong, of course, but there’s nothing entitled or misogynistic about his view.

I don’t know. I haven’t heard the term “friendzone” much (though according to Wikipedia, it was coined by Friends, the worst show ever). Is it exclusively used by entitled douchebags? Is there a better word to use that means “wants to be friends, but not touch each other’s genitals”? Is it routinely accompanied by the type of entitlement and misogyny noted above?

______________________________________________
*in the comment, I expanded on what I meant by “dictating the terms of the relationship”:

Each participant always and without exception has an absolute right to dictate what the relationship will NOT be. But inversely, neither participant has the right to dictate what the relationship IS. When I hear the term “friendzone,” I sort of automatically assume the dude (let’s face it, it’s always a dude) in question does not actually want to be friends. The presumption on his part is the he thinks the object of his affection is obligated to touch his naughty bits. The presumption on the other side, though, is the presumption that he wants to have a nonsexual relationship. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but it’s not cool to assume that he does if that hasn’t been discussed.

The Molecular Equivalent of Honey Badger

Today Shaun sent me this from PZ Meyers, which links to an article about a pretty bad ass, terrifying molecule:

It’s a beast, all right. The compound is wildly, ridiculously endothermic, with a heat of formation of 357 kcal/mole, all of which energy is ready to come right back out at the first provocation (see below). To add to the fun, the X-ray crystal structure shows some rather strange bond distances, which indicate that there’s a lot of charge separation – the azides are somewhat positive, and the tetrazole ring somewhat negative, which is a further sign that the whole thing is trembling on the verge of not existing at all.

Apparently, this stuff will explode at the drop of a hat, or if you happen to be thinking about a hat while looking at it.  Yep, it’s just going blow the fuck up.  It don’t care.  It don’t give a shit.  It’s the molecular equivalent of a honey badger:

Make a little bit in the lab? BOOM.  Manage to make some and have it not explode but then touch it with a spatula? BOOM. Make some, touch it, and manage to get it into the light of a spectrometer?  BOOM.  This molecule does not give a shit.  It will explode all over your damn lab.  I would venture to say that it would also fuck a honey badger up because it is a nasty ass exploding compound and it does not care about honey badgers.

Though perhaps it is unfair to assume that this molecule wreaks havoc on laboratory environments and the chemists that love them due to sheer James Dean levels of apathy.  Maybe it’s really just the molecular equivalent of Malfunctioning Eddie, who explodes at even the thought of being startled:

Or maybe it just wants to be a star in Michael Bay’s next movie:

Whatever the reason, I am happy to admire these brave, crazy ass chemists from afar.  If they want to do death defying research that results in one picture in a general chemistry book that enables a professor to say, “This is some nasty shit”, then I am all for it.

Intellectual content, shmintellectual shcontent.

Adventures in Therapy: A Cabin in the Woods (Nothing Terrifying…I Hope)

Four years ago I was trying to figure out what to do for Wes’ birthday.  From early on in our relationship, I had wanted to take him away on a ski vacation.  This was not because I like skiing…quite to the contrary.  Wes took me skiing once and what resulted was a day long blooper reel of me falling on my face, my skis flying off my feet skidding across the mountain, and impressive amounts of me rolling around in the snow like some kind of beached whale who fell out of the sky only to find itself in the wrong habitat.

Needless to say, it was not something that I wanted to particularly do again.  But I wanted Wes to get to do it, but ski vacations in places like Vermont are very expensive.  So four years ago I was clicking around on Craigslist and I happened upon an ad for rental of a little 3 bedroom ski chalet in the Poconos only 10 minutes or so from Jack Frost…and it was $300 for the weekend…in January.  This is, I am pretty sure, quite unheard of.  And thus a tradition was born.  We invited a bunch of friends and had a party weekend.  There’s karaoke, a fireplace, copious amounts of booze and food.  It is theoretically a really good time.

And for many, it has been.  For me, however, it has most often been somewhat of a nightmare.

If you have been reading my entries here and at my old blog, you are aware of my journey to mental health.  One of the things I have touched on a lot is that up until recently, I just thought that all my problems were philosophical.  I think that this is a good place to start when trying to improve yourself emotionally, but, as you have read, I eventually zeroed in on a seemingly chemical problem as well.  So you can imagine that with my particular set of challenges, hosting a weekend long party sequestered in the mountains when you struggle with generalized anxiety, depression, and an unrelenting need to take care of people and make everybody happy could be a recipe for disaster.

On the bright side, my issues rarely affected anyone else horribly during the weekend.  Obviously, the people close to me cared and were bothered by it…and it certainly drove me crazy to be such a mess when we were trying to celebrate Wes’ birthday.  The first year happened to be the first year I really started to work to tackle my problems in earnest.  It’s not that I wasn’t working on it before that, but it was that year that I wished to make big strides to be happier because I was so tired of being miserable.  The first year at the chalet was rough and I fell apart multiple times.  The second year was better, but still tough.  The third year was almost perfect except for some unexpected drama that sucked royally.  I am able to look at last year in two parts, pre and post drama and more objectively see that overall, it was a big improvement over previous years.  Each year I made adjustments from what I had learned the previous year and enjoyed more of the party.  I like upward trends like that.

And here we are at year number four and we’re getting ready to head back up there this coming weekend and for the first time since the tradition’s beginning, I am looking really forward to it without a care in the world.  I’m actually excited about it!

I have been wanting to do some sort of 2012 In Review kind of post, but as opposed to previous years where I have various events that I can point to as Important and Worth Enumerating, 2012 feels like an entire devoted to process.

Obviously there were a few Big Deals.  Arcati Crisis began a recording project of Herculean proportions.  Shaun and Ginny got married and then a few months later, they moved in with Wes, Jessie and me.  I stood up for myself in ways that I never have before.   But honestly, it is pretty hard for me come up with a list of the significant because this was the year my mental health became something that I had to deal with in a very big way.

For years I had been dealing with the philosophical: What is it about X situation that bothers me?  Why does it bother me?  Is this the best way to think about it? What can I do to improve the situation and my reaction to this particular stimulus?  Why am I so insecure?  Why do I yearn for the things I do from people?  All these and many other burning questions preoccupied most of my thinking.

And it was really great stuff I was doing.  I made a lot of progress and I can honestly say that my general happiness increased the more I handled things like this head on.  But then I noticed that while my thinking had become considerably more rational and productive, my reactions to things were not…or at least, not to my liking.  It was a daily fight to keep my mind from going to dark and destructive places and much of my time was spent just trying to avoid total meltdowns.  And though I could say rational things to myself, things I knew to be true, I couldn’t quiet the other voice.  A good day was one in which I could feel the anxiety and depression bubbling under the surface, but felt able to keep it at bay.

It was in 2012 that I allowed myself the possibility that additional measures were required to give all this philosophical work I’ve been doing a chance to be the predominant driver of my mind.  And though I have been depressed and full of anxiety for years, I finally decided to try therapy and medication.

And now at about the 6 week mark of taking Zoloft, I can say with a beaming grin that I am doing really well.  I have never felt this good for as long as I can remember.  I don’t wakeup anxious and sad anymore.  I begin each day at a delightful level of OK and generally maintain that level, even if faced with something stressful.  Of course I still get upset about things here and there, but I get upset, deal with them and then I’m done with it.  I don’t tear myself apart for my imperfections.  I actually have the ability to move on from things.  I don’t stew so much and I don’t spiral nearly as often.  And the best part is that I have such increased interest in my life.  I am more creative, more productive, and just plain happier.

I admit that when I first got my prescription, I felt like I was giving up on myself because it was a point of pride that I was able to make so much mental progress through hard work and commitment to a general goal of happiness and stability.  When I started taking it, I was afraid that I was going to get lazy and look at it like some kind of magic pill.  There were moments when I did think that…mainly after moments of disappointment when I felt that the pill had failed me when I got really upset about something.  But eventually its effects evened out and what I was left with was, well, me.

It was not until I had achieved this general feeling of being alright that I realized how much of a goal that had been.  It seems so simple…all I want is to be alright.  Being alright means that I can look at my life and see how amazing it is, how much fun it is, and how rewarding it is.  Some people worry that medication will strip away the parts of them that they like, right along with the parts they don’t.  I can understand that fear, as I shared it.  But all I can say is that I have gotten incredibly lucky here and this treatment pretty much exorcised a nagging demon that kept me from being the person that I knew, deep down, I was.  And now I can see that all the work I did, the life philosophies I adopted in the time leading up to this, are there, ensconced, and effective.  I have not lost the flexibility required for continued growth…I believe it has increased.

So here’s to a new year.  May it be one unobsessed with emotional process.  May that process be simply engrained and positive.  May the accomplishments be viewed with joy and humility and may the setbacks be seen as mere hiccups on the road to a life less ordinary.  May we have health, luck, and love.

And if you have embarked on a similar journey, keep trying but always remember to try hardest to by kind to yourself.  That is the thing that is often the hardest for me.  And know that you are not alone.  This is a journey that ends only when we ourselves end, but it is a trip that is worth it.

In other words, bring it on 2013!