Long ago, it seems like in a different life now, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to nature. Though I got to enjoy nature, I didn’t understand anything about respecting it and why. That’s a whole other story, and I won’t get into it now as I’m just learning, but it has morphed into a love of wildlife and birds.
Since my amazing wife Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller) who is founder of Hike Our Planet and Lee Hiller Designs started taking me on her hikes, I’ve found an amazing new relationships with wild birds. Many of these are birds that fly to South and Central America. Some come back to our forest, stay for awhile and move on. Most of them are very affectionate and talk to us from low branches.
They show off their snacks (usually caterpillars or insects) etc. and sing long songs for us. Many of them follow us along our hikes singing all the way.
Mockingbirds and I have a special relationship and I’ve been known to sing with them for 30 minutes at a time within feet of each other.
A lot of the tropical birds know Lee well and pose for her camera. The robins often “escort” us to and from the forest. It’s really magic and quite healing.
Someone who wants to enjoy nature need not live in the mountains or next to a National Park (though it doesn’t hurt). They can live near a park in their town and just sit on the park bench and look around or at a table, or just take a hike around. Some live in a wooded isolated area or next to a large tract of undeveloped land. Nature is everywhere, and if you watch it with patience, you’ll see a type of drama, comedy and every other “movie genre” that actually is not available in the media; no, not even Animal Planet or Wild Kingdom.
Before long one realizes, as Emerson and Thoreau taught us, we are a part of this wonderful thing called nature. It changes just like we do. Watching it change makes our own human changes much easier and we look forward to it. Though there was plenty to love about NYC, Washington DC and L.A. this is a whole new ballgame; and a healthy one. Lee and I have the “been there got the tees” on the others, and this will do just fine, thank you.
You’ll may find that the birds are not as foreign to us as we’ve been brought up to believe. In fact we learned today that sparrows have the same DNA as humans. No wonder they like us. At least seems that way.
You can see my funny bird gifts at RickLondonGifts.com. I am the founder of Londons Times Offbeat cartoons and funny gifts which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005. I am blessed to have married nature photographer and gift designer Lee Hiller-London who has taught me a great deal about nature (and life).
Today is Valentine’s Day.
For many years that day didn’t mean a lot to me, whether I was in a relationship or not.
That may sound like a “call for pity” yet it is just the opposite. I know now how blessed and lucky I am, not just to have my wife Lee in my life, but both of us understanding with what we deal; autism as well as building our lives together.
Some think I talk about autism too much, and that’s too bad and their issue. Autism is very much who I am, why I do what I do, and how I do it.
For numerous years professionals wondered how I “lived through what I lived through”, and there are times when I did too, yet they never told me what it was in which they were amazed about.
More than one psychiatrist I told I was hidden away in an attic at age five which lasted my entire youth up until age seventeen and then thrown to the wolves. I am sure most of them knew what that meant, but maybe most of them felt it was best to tell me I had been severely abused, simply by the act of “residential segregation” and the very different rule structure set for me as compared to my siblings.
They also felt it best that my siblings were quite abusive as well, for the most part of their own survival. That part I understood and even forgave. One extremely well-versed very well educated therapist told me, “If they’d had a backbone, if they’d had an ounce of good in them, they would have turned off the “hate Rick campaign” and done the right thing, as adults after your parents died, but they were too ambitious to “have their name in lights”. I could easily see them given that I’d had my name in lights several times (and it was highly overrated). I’d never scapegoat a sibling to do so, nor did I ever.
So given the abandonment (and even abuse) combined with the autism, it is beyond comprehensible to most that I survived. I did have the wherewithal to continue seeing professionals in an extreme effort to find out what had happened to me. Remember, I didn’t know I had autism, nor that I’d been severely abused until I was 61. I was programmed not only to fail but to die young.
And that’s probably why I decided I was not going to die young. In spite of two major heart attacks 3 surgeries and stents, I was determined to discover what had happened and who did what.
Then came Lee. She loved me and loves me unconditionally. She helped me in my quest, so that I might not dismiss abuse when it came my way.
Remember, I never even knew I was “at war with my siblings” (I just felt they didn’t care for me) until age 61. At age 60 I decided to write one of them to let them know of my autism diagnosis. Also of my vanus diagnosis; an extremely painful form of flat feet, also congenital. As always, I was dismissed by one sibling by email with a line that read “My spouse’s niece had a bit of autism but is fine now. What will you do for symptoms”. (In other words people live with autism all the time. Get used to it).
Truth be told, most autistic children do not get hidden away in an attic, scapegoated by their entire family, and never diagnosed. The difference is apples and oranges (than simply “being autistic”. I survived a pre-meditated war against me, one I never knew I was in, only to find the real truth, and that the perpetrators of that war were rancid cowards, bigots and haters, and still are. Now they will coddle their autistic niece to show “their goodness”. Educated people expect that and are not impressed…in the least.
I lost it. I was livid. Symptoms? Autism does not have symptoms. Autism is who someone is. It is not something to cure. It is something with which to have compassion because the tools to teach autism are just now coming into fruition.
I told the sibling a thing or two about symptoms (the only true symptoms of such a condition are hate, prejudice and fear) projected by ignorant people, and I made certain this sibling knew what that meant. I never heard from that sibling again and if I’m fortunate I never will. I know it sounds erudite but these siblings do not deserve to be a part of my life.
I am not perfect, in fact far from it. But the torture of another person, especially a child who later becomes an adult, to me falls in the category of serial killers and such. Before you say, “how crude”, so do a majority of the members of the autism groups which have at least 3.2 million diagnosed members not to mention even more than that that are un-diagnosed.
This feeling is real, and the experience/torture is very much of a similar sociopath nature. Those people need help and need it today. They will within a few years, most likely, find themselves way on the fringe, at least that is what is being reported by knowledgeable scholars acting within the mainstream autism communities. I believe it wholeheartedly.
And I don’t regret writing that. I do not want that kind of “person” in my life, ever. And though I know they cannot help that they are that sick, they do have the responsibility to get professional help. After all, I did, and I was not even the one who needed it most. In fact, I am quite at peace with myself most times, knowing that I finally know what really happened to me, and not the “family press release”.
Yes, I still get the occasional PTSD that I used to get often. But PTSD is not a character flaw or weakness. It is a healthy response to something very bad that someone experienced or saw. I can remember having it since age 5 (the year my first attic isolation tank) aka bedroom was built). Why would a five year old have PTSD? Child abuse is the reason about 99% of the time. I was part of that 99%. I survived it and am very proud of that. Not all do. And that is why I write these blogs. I don’t believe any of my family will change. They have too much invested in “the lie”. But I know others might read it and see hope. I know NPD parents might read it and seek help. If just one reads it and seeks help, it’s a success. Torture is torture and if it prevents just one, it proved to be a good thing.
I merely ask you to imagine a 5 year old child alone, isolated in an attic, for 12 years. The first 4 years crying every night to no response (they couldn’t hear me in such a large home and made sure of that). This causes all sorts of psychological problems, the worst of all chronic insomnia (which is not even allowed in the most brutal wars by the Geneva Convention). Neither is that sort of isolation. Some parents truly need not be parents. They are forgiven (by me). They are also forgotten (by me). I survived that and I am tougher than I thought. They are more cowardly than I ever knew. Sadly, they knew what they were doing.
The rest of my life went downhill from there. Until age 58. That’s when God presented my wife, and there was a definite curve upward. Beautiful things began to happen.
I realized rather rapidly I was the lucky one by not scapegoating anyone. I was the lucky one for “taking the fall”. I was the lucky one for letting them cast aspersions and tell lies etc.
I look at my life and I look at theirs. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else. God made certain I would not only enjoy but cherish my 61 year old Valentine’s Day. We have wonderful friends, most married who share the same affection for their spouses.
I now am learning how to navigate life with autism. I realize I read and saw and thought everything differently. I also know that was not my fault. I was not diagnosed purposely for nefarious reasons. Now I am diagnosed for decent reasons and have a beautiful chance to enjoy my life. Lee and I will only associate with good people who support our relationship. If you are one of those who find you are not, do not try to be a trickster. We’ve seen it all, and we fight back. We will defend our love no matter what.
If you and I have been friends in the past, in real life, but you are frightened to express it due to NPDs and their “flying monkeys”, might I suggest those days are over, and they turned out to be wrong. Very wrong.
And if you don’t believe me try contacting one of the major Autism associations. Most of them know me now, know the dynamics happening, and are not happy with it at all. It’s very nice to have that support.
They will assure you that abuse and prejudice against autistics will be a dark part of American History. Please, consider siding on the right side of history. Not the side in which someone might throw you a few nickels or “property one day”, or if you’re really lucky “be a part of their popularity circle”. Just remember how they obtained that popularity. With torture. I will not tell you not to be a part of that. We all have to answer to our God. You know best.
You might look at my life and think it was quite unfair. The real facts is that I was dealt a very bad hand of cards (by humans). When I let God take over, things changed. Suddenly my offbeat cartoon of which I’d worked on for 8 years was the Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoon and a few years later my designer offbeat gifts also became #1 ranked. They have maintained that ranking through hard work all the way up until now (2016). That is 11 years. I am proud, very proud, but I clearly understand now it is from a Hand Above and from the loving Support of my Wife Lee. I couldn’t have dreamed of this.
That may not seem like much, but given there are 100,000+ offbeat cartoons and gifts on the net on any given day (am told), I feel pretty good about that. Had I been treated fairly, that would have never happened. So I do have the culprits to thank, and thank them forever and ever. Nobody has been as good to me (but surely not on purpose), and of course my Angel wife Lee who willfully has been good to me, and has showed me the world in a whole different manner. I will always push to look at it correctly, and not as a “mean ol’ place”. It’s not a bad place at all, and most the people in our circles are very very decent.
Scapegoating toddlers who become children who become adults, with a pre-planned “program” to make them the bad guy and then “buy their friends” is not even considered humane in the very worse cultures and societies.
Sadly, it is done quite often in these United States, and most children/later adults never knew what hit them. My parents never figured I would have the photographic/date/time memory that gave them away the first time they committed such a crime. They were busted. They just didn’t know it. It took me this long to figure out just what the abuse was.
It was so subtle, so professional, so well done in privacy with me; not when other siblings or friends were around, you would have thought it was an Alfred Hitchcock film. But most Hitchcock films offer a bit of grace and negotiation. Mine offered neither. I believe with the help of God and amazing friends, I lived long enough to figure it out, and have enough life in me to help others who find themselves in similar situations.
I am able to vocalize to them they are not alone. I am able to shout to them to hook up immediately with autism legal programs, autism support groups, and the like. They can then safely tell their story and if someone interferes, it can easily become a civil rights matter and that interfering person may just find themselves on the wrong side of history, not where they want to be.
Scapegoating humans and torturing them is horrendous. Doesn’t work nor should it. It’s hate. It’s prejudice and it’s fear. It’s masochistic and brutal. To support it is as cowardly as the act itself. That’s not you I hope, and pray.
Love is truly the answer
The Beatles were right. Money can’t buy that. It can’t even buy “like”.
Rick London is a writer, songwriter, gift designer and cartoonist. He is best known for his Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts “Londons Times” LTCartoons.com. He is married to popular nature photographer and gift designer Lee Hiller-London who owns nature blog Hike Our Planet and brand store LeeHillerDesigns.com.
Am very excited to announce “Anti-Emotional Coercian” laws have passed in the UK. Bullying and abuse are more often than not, not about physical damage, but about “financial/emotional slavery”.
For instance hiding a child away in an attic or basement (or anywhere away from the family core and treating them very differently to make them dependent is some of the most severe abuse imaginable).
I was a prisoner of war in my own family home for 12 years in an attic with tiny frosted slit windows overlooking tall hedges in the back. The abuse actually “looks kind”. It is not. The NPD (narcissist personality disorder) parents make the (usually) weak, disabled child dependent so that a short leash and guarantee of bad public behavior and skills results.
NPD parents want perfection or nothing at all. Trust me, an autistic child is not even close to perfect in their eyes. It is “a curse from God”, evil, characteristically bad, etc. Those are bad parents and siblings (who go along with that); not a bad autistic child.
That child develops PTSD which is a healthy response to such abuse. It is if the child did not have it, that there would be a worry. That generally means the child thinks it is okay and passes it on another generation. No thank you.
This PTSD is absolutely no different than returning veterans who have witnessed or been a part of such atrocities. War is hell. So is isolation.
The room was decorated beautifully so as not to give away the ruse. I was also autistic and that abuse began at age five. I cried for 5 straight years to no answer. Then I was “numb” and did whatever I was told the best I could. But isolation is isolation and has been studied to be the cruelest form of punishment on the planet. That is why it is not allowed in any war and is policed by the Geneva Convention. But it still exists at home.
The Geneva Convention does not even allow that kind of cruel and unusual isolation confinement and hasn’t for years. The damage it does is too monumental and inhumane. Sometimes reversal (I got lucky) but sadly more often than not, not.
I (truly) don’t ask for sympathy. I got through it and am quite happy with a loving wife, community and friends. My life is very blessed.
I mention it (the newer stricter laws) as an alert, it is now coming to the U.S. and if by some change you’ve found yourself as an abuser or enabler of one, please re-evaluate that relationship.
This is a very big day for those of us on the autism spectrum who had no rights (other than basic human/civil ones) but nothing beyond that and often not even that.
I understand the sentence in the UK can be about 14 years but more often than not 5 years. So think about it, parents, especially NPD parents before putting a child/later adult through such a cowardly act.
Now things have changed, and as it turns out, we were “the good guys” after all, just being ourselves. God bless America.
Thanks to my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London who recognized the whole thing. After that, with a bit of research and therapy, all the pieces fell into place. Chances are very slim I might be here otherwise. And it gives me a chance to purvey this important message to others in need. There is plenty of help. Lots and the law is on your side now.
You never have to go through this. Autistics: “Stim, rock, scrape paint”, whatever you have to do for release. It is now allowed (and even encouraged) in public. Public and private school officials are aware of it, as are most advanced workplaces.
When we discovered this, I was sure my beloved wife Lee would run off. I thought to myself “Who could blame her?” Not Lee. She dug in deeper and studied ways to make this work. I will be forever grateful to Lee and to God who sent her into my life.
Rick London is a songwriter, author, designer and cartoonist. He is best known for his Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts he found in a tin shed in 1997. He is married to his beloved wife Lee Hiller London who owns Hike Our Planet, a popular nature and wildlife photography blog.