On the political spectrum, I score pretty heavily liberal. By U.S. standards I'm basically a socialist, although more accurately I'd say I'm a social democrat. I'm down with private property and entrepreneurship, but I find it completely baffling that some people don't think it's necessary for government to provide a social safety net to ensure that no one starves, has to sleep on the street, or goes without basic education and healthcare. How can they not feel, as I do, that everyone is just a few lucky breaks, or a few bad choices, away from disaster? To me, the whole point of civilized society is to try to educate and protect its people. That means leaving them the freedom to screw up on occasion, because we're talking about humans here, and also the desire to grow and learn. If we're not free to make mistakes, we're also not free to innovate and experiment. And if we don't offer people an environment where they can fail in relative safety--say, still be able to afford medical care, and to send their kids to school--then only the craziest people will take the kinds of risks that can really pay off. We all lose.

So that's where I stand when it comes to voting, or pondering my personal Utopia. I've gradually come to realize, though, that when it comes to myself? I'm a hardcore social Darwinist. A self-Darwinist.

If I screw up, there are no second chances. I don't deserve help or sympathy, because almost all of my problems (such as they are, and I realize I'm far better off than many, including a lot of my friends) are the consequence of my own freely-made choices. I can complain about circumstances, but I made this bed and need to lie in it and shut up.

The last few years, especially this last year, have stripped away a lot of my illusions. About all kinds of things, but especially about myself. Not that I ever thought I was perfect--far from it!--but I've had to face up to major weaknesses in pretty much every area of my life. As a result, all my carefully constructed scaffolding of confidence proved to be a lot more rickety than it looked, and has collapsed piece by piece. It's humbling.

No, actually. It should be humbling. Instead, it's humiliating. Another thing I've learned about myself is that I have a lot of misplaced pride that gets in my way.

I've been facing some serious cognitive dissonance, and haven't yet figured out how to reconcile it. I've tried having more sympathy for myself, really I have. Sometimes it works, but on the whole not so much. I've tried leaning on my friends, but that just makes me absolutely horrific company, which in turn leads me to avoid people so that I don't annoy them further. (I feel that I've already set fire to a whole lot of bridges.) I've tried concentrating on improving the things that aren't working, with mixed results. I've tried hacking away at the giant prideful boulder that seems to be blocking my exit, but all I've got to show for my efforts are shards of rock lodged in my palms and a messed-up manicure.

This stupid series of health issues plaguing me since June hasn't helped in this regard. Not being able to do stuff, or feeling crappy all the time, makes it tough to concentrate on getting work done (at all, sometimes, much less well), making life plans, feeling confident and in control. (And yet, I know people with real health problems who do all of those things, so I know my minor maladies are no excuse.)

Many (many!) years ago, well before I started journaling, I found out I was infertile. That was a blow; not only did it mean having to mourn some major life plans, and come up with new ones, it made me feel broken. Defective.

It took me years to get over feeling that way, and maybe I never really did. Perhaps there are still some scattered remants of that poisoning the well, making it easier for the newer nastinesses to ferment inside.

I don't want to be a self-Darwinist. I don't want to stand coldly by and watch myself buckle under a relatively trivial set of setbacks. I need to get over myself and just move forward. What that means is that, as this almost entirely lousy year draws to a close, I simply have to find the key to putting it all behind me. Pick myself up, dust myself off, and start over. Find some pluck. I think there's still a kernel of it in me, deep down, but my pluck reserves have been severely drained. So I also need to find a way to replenish them.

The other day, thanks to the magic of a Groupon purchased a couple of months ago, I spent a few hours at a nearby spa. I had a pedicure (which I managed to smudge in short order, natch), took a couple of turns in the sauna, had a healthy lunch by the pool as the sky turned overcast. Mostly, I sat on the sofa in front of the fire and read a silly mystery novel. And I did some thinking. I really came out of that brief escape feeling renewed, and more hopeful about the future than I have in a while. Maybe a little closer to healing in my head, my heart, my body.

I may not be the fittest (lord, especially at the moment, I so am not), but I can still be a survivor. Fuck Darwin.