I hate doing things because everyone else is doing them.
On a personality test I took one time there was a question that asked, "Do you prefer to do things your own way, or the usual way?" I answered, "the usual way" because I just knew everyone else was going to put "my own way."
I waffled a long time about doing a Landmark Thread. When Moose made 'the Landmark Thread that launched a thousand threads' I was nearing 2000 posts. I've skipped 2k, 3k, and 4k never intending, or missing, doing a milestone. But then after Slash's, I started kicking the idea around. Mostly because I thought it would be interesting to see how two such differing tales can spring from the same family, but also because I was more than a little surprised to realize that it actually had made me know him better. My own brother. A Landmark made me understand my own brother a little more.
It made me realize that Landmark Threads are important. I mean, yeah - they're interesting. They're about people's lives, and most of us find people interesting. But more than that, they give us a little window into the soul of the author. Because we're able to read the major events in a person's life and the epiphanies that they came away with from them, we're able to understand the person as a whole.
This is really important to a place like Hatrack. If we understand where the person is coming from, then it becomes that much more difficult to disconnect ourselves when we are vehemently arguing differing perspectives. We understand them, we understand why they feel the way they do. That familiarizes us with them, and makes it easier for us to love them as people.
Love stimulates interest. Interest stimulates learning.
So, while my particular life story is far from interesting, I'm very happy to perpetuate the Landmark Thread cycle.
Okay, so I told you that to tell you this ( ):
Everybody has some theme in their lives that stands out to them. I mean, we all have many themes. But most of us can point to certain ones and say those are the life-altering, epiphany-inducing pathway-choosing motifs.
I gave this a lot of thought, and I think I boiled it down to this: I cannot get a grasp on my self-worth. Like Gollum, I simultaneously love and hate myself. I'm sure most people do, but there are varying degrees of it. And the pendulum swings back and forth. If there is a balance, it's modesty, humility and confidence. It's knowing your place in the universe, realizing that while the universe with all the stars and planets and solar systems doesn't give a rat's butt about you, the people in your own little universe love and value you.
But there's a fine line between humility and self-loathing; between modesty and cowardice; and between confidence and conceit.
While Slash was born the only child of geniuses, I was born the third and youngest child of an already struggling family. But most of my memories are pleasant. I was a cute, good-natured kid and well-loved by both parents and siblings.
Like Slash, I had a serious speech impediment, but instead of thinking this had to be remedied ASAP it was let go cause it was "so cute." One of my earliest memories is in Camas, WA where the back of our house was crawling with sticker bushes. I remember Slash picking my two-year-old body up to set down on them with bare feet. (I have a vague memory of him deliberately taking my socks and shoes off himself before the event, though he vehemently denies this.) Years later I asked him why he would do such a thing to a helpless kid (besides being innately evil) and he said, "Because you were so cute! You would say, 'Twy, don't put me in the ticky bishes. It's vewy, vewy WUDE!'"
My first grade teacher didn't think it was cute, and fortunately for my ego she took the time to cure me of the impediment. (I'm a proud pronunciator of my "R"s and "L"s today.)
I have memories of my father picking me up by my OshKosh B'Gosh overalls and giggling into my face to make me squeal. I remember my mother laying down with me at naptime on her waterbed, and telling me to watch the leaves on the trees outside "dance" to lull me to sleep. I remember my sister carrying me everywhere she went.
I remember being loved.
While my father was a major player in my brother's life, sadly for the worst, he's actually been the smallest player in my life, though he is extremely important to me. I've always been his undisputed "favorite," which saddens me to no end, but I appreciate the love and concern he's shown for me throughout my life. I find it very unfair that he couldn't manage to be the father he was to me for my brother and sister. But I also realize he WAS that father to me because of them. Slash told me that he had said to my father at around the age of fifteen (not verbatim), "Don't screw up with Toni. I hate you, Tina hates you. Toni is your last shot."
I remember curling up behind my father's knees to watch M*A*S*H with him.
There are some disturbing memories, yes. He held us "hostage" with a Louisville Slugger baseball bat that he never would have had the guts to use. I sat very still on the couch while my sister, who is six years my senior, clutched on to me for comfort and generally freaked out into my ear. I remember Ty standing between us, and my dad backing down. I remember being relieved Tina wasn't screaming anymore.
btw - While my cameo appearance in Slash's thread was, "By this point my parents had three children..." he will figure very prominently in my thread. He's been like a third parent to me, and he's incredibly important in my life. So, warning: copious Slash references to ensue.
All in all, though, most of my memories of my father have been pleasant, and are filled with love. He gave me the circumstances to feel better than others, such as my siblings. He gave me the half of the pendulum that's labeled "arrogance and conceit." He also gave me the part of my self-consciousness that feels unconditional love.
I have lunch with him the last Friday of every month. He pays.
My mother's role has been a little more poignant to me. I literally believe my father ran the bank dry when she championed her children at my very young age, and so by the time my older siblings left the house she allowed the floodgates of depression to finally open. I was the last one in the house, and I was about twelve years old - so capable of taking care of most of my needs - when my mother went on Prozac.
Let me tell you something about my mother. Slash didn't mention this, but in her prime she was, quite possibly, the smartest woman I've ever met. She was kind, compassionate, wise and sharp as a blade. She read voraciously, and handed down her love of reading to two of her three children. All my life she has been crippled with Cluster Migraines. When I was a little girl she would have me sit on the sofa back behind her and "play with her hair" which essentially consisted of me pulling her hair as tight as my little hands could and clipping it into one of my barrettes. She kept the house very clean, and was The Voice of Reason as far back as I could remember.
When her depression hit, it was like someone had taken sandpaper and begun to dull her around the edges. She still had the same frame, she was the same person. But the chronic sadness and social phobias began to slowly strip pieces of her away. And the Prozac, while stopping the tears, didn't give her back her old spark. Slowly she has become a woman unable to deal with noise, unable to deal with confrontation, and sometimes unable to get passed mental blocks even in the face of reason.
My mother gave me this illness. One-third of the population will have at least a mild episode of depression during their lifetime and about 15 percent of the general public will suffer from major depressive disorder sometime in their life. It's a crapshoot.
While Slash may believe he is the bastard my father is, I fear my future is the sparkless woman my mother has become. She was a better person than I am NOW. I'm terrified that the future bodes badly.
She gave me the half of the pendulum that's labeled "self-loathing and crushed of spirit." She also gave me unconditional love.
I have lunch with her every other month (she works much further away). She pays.
My sister has had a tremendous impact on me, but I only realized the size of her role recently.
Let me tell you about my sister. While Slash and I have always been "buddies," Tina was the odd man out. Emotional, melodramatic, bossy, self-consumed... I could never do anything right, unless I was doing it exactly to her specifications. I was continually labeled a "brat" for not accepting my role as indentured servant, and any form of torture Ty passed to her was immediately handed down to me. Actually, from both of them. Bastards.
But my sister is crippled. While Slash took Dad's abuse head-on and became stronger, if not more cynical from it, Tina just became more and more broken. She couldn't handle not being able to win the approval she so desperately sought from my father, and I honestly wonder if she was even born with the emotional tools most people develop to be able to handle stress. As she grew older, lacking imagination she turned rebellious, and added to her burdens an entire list of emotional and physical scars from her lifestyle. She was left with little to no self-esteem, and the immature attitudes that often accompany abuse, both from outside influence and self-imposed.
When Tina turned 18, she developed extremely severe epilepsy. I was called at school to be informed that my sister was in the hospital, and she had had some kind of seizure. It ended up being a Grand Mal, and the beginning of what would be a daily series of them until they could find medication that worked for her.
This was tragic, but most especially for one major reason: Tina had begun asserting her independence. She had her license. She had a job. She was planning on moving out. She had friends she was moving in with. She was becoming an adult.
And with one condition that came out of freaking nowhere, it was all taken away. She couldn't drive, because what if she had a seizure in the car. She couldn't work, because they had to call the ambulance every other day and it was an embarrassment. She couldn't move out, because now she had no money and no car. She was stuck. She was a little kid again. She was embarrassed.
The first time I saw my sister have a seizure, I cried like a little sissy-bitch. We were home alone in the very beginning days, and she just started shaking violently. I held her as best I could, and she threw up on both of us. She urinated. It lasted for, maybe, ninety seconds. I held her as she slowly "woke up," dazed and unable to talk. She didn't know where she was. She knew who I was. She didn't know what had happened. I told her she had vomited and urinated, so I was going to change her clothes. She nodded slightly.
And I cried while I changed her clothes.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't bloody fair. I was the youngest, I was smart, I was loved. I had every advantage Tina hadn't had. And here it was SHE that had developed epilepsy. Her, when it would have been so much more fair for me to have. She couldn't take it. She could barely handle soap operas, how was she going to handle something like this?
In those moments, I hated myself. I hated my advantages and everything that had ever been give to me. I hated that I wasn't Tina, and if I could have shoved a butcher knife into my gut to prevent her from having another seizure, I would have.
But she dealt with it. She made it through. Marriage, a child. Friends. She carved a life for herself, and she's as happy as she can be. She works hard and she's motivated. She's compassionate.
Between the two of us, as we grew up, things got better as they often do. Sometimes we go shopping and talk on the phone. She gave birth to my gorgeous nephew D'mitri, who is the love of my life, and for that I will be eternally grateful. She's also turned out somewhat cool, in her way, and she takes care of her immature husband and her kid. While I don't seek out her company, I respect her. And that's a whole heckuva lot more than I used to say.
She makes me feel like a coward. From her I take away both superiority and extreme inferiority. Her marks are on both sides of the pendulum.
We don't have lunch. But if we did, I'll bet I'd have to buy.
In Slash's Landmark Thread, I said that Ty is the voice in my head. I've tried to exorcise him many, many times. I don't WANT his standards floating around in my brains. I want my own. I think I've been moderately successful, and then something will pop up when I'll think (worriedly), "Oh, what would Slash think about this?"
Get out of my brain, you scaly bastard.
Slash taught me how to punch. "Keep your fist flat, and punch from your shoulder, like this." "Ow." "See? Hurts."
We made lego spaceships and tested their durability with the industrial-sized rubber bands we had in profusion from my sibling's paper route. He stole my LiteBrite, and I would slllooowwwwly open his door and crawl in using the bed for cover while he would yell, "GET OUT!!!" and throw stuff at me.
He called me "Larvae" as a pet name, and he bought me my first teddy bear for my parents' anniversary. When I got suspended in kindergarten for scrapping, he told me, "Good. The kid deserved it."
I get my massive insecurities about how I look from Ty. He had a certain ideal of a woman, I am the absolute, 180-degree opposite. Since I sought the approval of my brother on every conceivable level, I grew up believing I was ugly, because I wasn't what Ty thought was pretty.
Honestly, I have no clue if it was true. One day recently Slash said I have a "cute face" and I looked at him like he had just said, "Um, your arm's fallen off," and been right.
My mother one time apologized for giving me the genes that made up my physique. Probably due to my mother apologizing for how I looked combined with my take on Slash's opinion and I built this all as fact in my juvenile brain. I still to this day believe I'm ugly.
From Slash I take away self-confidence and the idea that no one will ever, ever beat me down. I take from him self-respect and ego. I take from him vanity and a love of sloth and irresponsibility. And I take from him love.
I have lunch with him all the time. His house, my house. Whatever. But considering that monkey-bumps are always forth-coming, it's I who always, always pays.
So here I am, 25 years old with a fantastic husband, two great cats, and conflicting value of self-worth. My religion means a lot to me, and I've gone through my share of analyzation and criticism. It's helped flesh out who I am, and when the pendulum sways too far to either side, it's the one anchor that helps me pull it back to the middle.
My husband is one of the greatest sources of boosting my self-worth that I could possibly imagine. He's wise and humble, and as Ty said one time, he loves me more than breath. I can't believe I lucked out. I have hope, because I want to for his sake. I want to believe I can become the modest, humble, wise, compassionate, confident, competent person he deserves.
If, at 25, I was the person I was going to be forever, I'd be severely shafted. But, while this post has no closure (despite it's overwhelmingly unnecessary length), I'm trying to convince myself that it ends with the excitement of possibilities. I'm a little bit of my entire family, and whatever role they've played I'm eternally thankful. If I become a great person, then it's because they were my launching pad.
At some point, the pendulum will stop swinging. That's probably called "death." But if it ever stops it's huge, arc-like movements, I want Hatrack to know that it's been a part of that, too. You've fleshed me out, you've given me more attention and praise than I could possible deserve. You're part of my family, and I'll take a little piece of you guys with me forever, too.
I've always found it amazing that siblings experience entirely different situations in the same family. Thank you for writing it, and cool that you waited this long to post a landmark. It's worth waiting for.
Posts: 6304 | Registered: Aug 2003
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It was worth the length, Ralphie. Thank you for sharing it with us.
As is my nature, I was going to come up with some humorous response (I did consider "Mawwy me, Walphie"), but instead, I'll just thank you greatly for returning to the time-honored, excellent, and appropriate tradition of giving me credit for instituting the landmark thread concept. It had been a good long while since anyone else did.
I've probably spent as much time talking to you on-line or in person, as just about anyone else at Hatrack. You know I've got nothin' but love for ya, even if I won't marry you. This board specifically, and the world in general, are better because you're a part of them. Thank you for enriching our lives by sharing yours.
Ralphie, that was fascinating. I've always liked you more that I've ever expressed here--believe it or not, I actually remember the first time you remarked that something I'd said made you laugh--and I loved having the opportunity to gain more insight into who you are. My only complaint was that it wasn't long enough. Seriously; you write well, and your story is fascinating. If it were twice as long, I still would have enjoyed reading every word.
Posts: 16059 | Registered: Aug 2000
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Just remember Ralphie, it's not the pendulum but the person swinging from it that is the life.
A life lived and experienced makes for a wonderful person, seems you've done quite, quite well on the journey so far. What lies ahead, no one knows, but you've already started finding the greatest reward: yourself.
Posts: 2848 | Registered: Feb 2003
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Hey, babe, trust me, even after editing it for spelling errors, there were still plenty left! I left in the ones that were intentionally misspelled.
Posts: 9871 | Registered: Aug 2001
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I told you this via IM just now, but I don't feel like I have enough time right now to really respond properly to your landmark. But I'll do what I can with the time I have available.
It takes guts to open yourself, to be vulnerable, to show yourself to people. But we already knew you are gutsy. Honesty of that sort cannot help but be beautiful. But we already knew you are beautiful. The things you revealed to us in your post show strength. But we already knew you are strong.
But by giving us a look into your life we are given a chance to understand in some small way why you are as you are. Such an opportunity cannot help but enrich the lives of those who partake of it, so I thank you for giving such a gift.
Much of what you said is not new to me; we've had a lot of conversations. Still, it surprises me how much of myself I recognize in your tale. It's hard to see anyone else feel the way I did, the way I still do. Although I guess we all have our moments of self-doubt. But I don't feel that I need to offer you any pithy words of wisdom or advice; I know you're at least as wise or smart as I. Besides, you know you've got my ear whenever you need it.
Wait a minnit.... Ralphie's a woman!?!? O_o
Ok, just kidding. See, this is what I get for sleeping in. If I had woken up just an hour and a half earlier, I could have been the first to read this thread.
Ralphie, you've been an integral part of my Hatrack experience since the first time you told me that I should be all about the Ralphie Luvin'... I'm glad to get this chance to find out something about you besides that you have a hot husband.
I've said in many a thread that I don't know much about depression. So it shouldn't be a surprise that I didn't realize that Ralphie, the Queen of the 'Rack (pun intended) was depressive. It's almost enouch to make me depressed. Me! Just want you to know that I'm (we're) always here for you, even though you probably already knew that.
Thank you so much for the glimpse into your history and your mind. It's good to get to know you in three dimensions, and will be useful when we take over the world.
A sense of deja vu' pervades whenever I hear stories from your family, Toni. The relationship between you and your brother is very similar to the relationship I have with my own "little sister". Perhaps that is the dynamic of the three-child family.
You helped pull me out of a blue-funk last night, and I think my wife is more than a little relieved. (I've been a real b***h this week, and yeah, I said as much myself! It seems healthy occasionally.) Your comments are always entertaining, and I always look forward to your quick quips.
Thanks for just being. Makes reality a little lighter for us all.
Posts: 1843 | Registered: Aug 2003
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I can affirm that, unlike some other people in this thread whose names rhyme with "Tacks 'n Heavenly Jive," Ralphie is just as awesome in person. Maybe even moreso.
Posts: 4532 | Registered: Jan 2003
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That was a wonderful Landmark Post. (Yes, I read through it all. Not as difficult as you might think.) Thanks for sharing your life so far with us. You are a brave and witty person. I am glad to know you -- if only from a far.
Hahahaha... "ticky bishes". I am so gonna have to use that one in every day talk.
<== That doesn't mean we are engaged or anything... just being nice.
Posts: 822 | Registered: Jul 2001
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ralphie, i have fallen in like with you ^_^
of course i already loved you. you expresss yourself very well and it is always a pleasure to read what you have written. i miss our long talks and i've really grown up over the course of our friendship. i really hope i can hang out with you again, that was perhaps one of the most fun weekends ever, and i miss you guys a lot. hopefully in the not too distant future i can be more active on hatrack, and maybe i can even get emstar to go with me up north.
Posts: 3936 | Registered: Jul 2000
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