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Growing Up In Mississippi, Alcoholism, Dysfunction..Redemption

(Caveat) I will be posting Londons Times Cartoons and various products I design and even a pic of my gorgeous wife in case you get bored at any time reading my blog; you can take a visual break and start back when /if you’re ready. Thank you. The management.

When I lived in Washington, D.C. throughout the 1980s and early ’90′s I was lured to newly-formed self-help groups that taught victimization.  One was the “Men’s Movement” by Robert Bly & Sam Keen (Bly had been a protoge’ of Jack Kerouac and a former beatnik-turned extreme capitalist after his book “Iron John” was released). He did the speaking circuit to all men audiences and took us into the woods to “become men”. That consisted of dressing in Native American attire and yelling very loudly.  Each of us in the audience left several hundred dollars poorer, but at least we could now  yell like real men.  That meant a lot.  For a day or two. Who could have known being a man simply meant yelling loudly in the woods loudly while painted in traditional Native American war paint. hyenasm While that was occurring the 12-step programs decided on a new self-help group based on the victimization of having grown up in an alcoholic home called ACOA or Adult Children Of Alcoholics.  It taught us the fine art of whining about our tragic lives due to the effects of one or more parent that drank alcohol and found it more appealing than they found us. Don’t get me wrong. There were some terrible dysfunctions that, if not for interventions, could have turned into even more tragedy.  But this group never seemed to want to get to the core issue so it became a whining contest and a “My Mommy Or Daddy Was a Worse Alcoholic Than Your Mommy Or Daddy”.  I lasted there about 3 months.  I can’t say that I didn’t learn the fine art of whine.  I learned blame. I learned guilt. I learned all the emotions I had stifled for many years.  But I was not seeking these skills. I was seeking ways to bring serenity and a bit of happiness into my life.  This group was definitely not the answer.  I left the group and that was a positive thing to do. That was 17 years ago and I bet the same players are whining the same whines about their parents in the same chairs in the same rooms.  It was cathartic a few times, then rather silly, mainly because it was clear that it not only wasn’t effective, it was counter-productive; substituting whining for action to change one’s life.  I decided changing mine was a better idea than chronic lifetime whining. londons times logo final large Fast-forward  about a decade sitting in a coffee shop in Lumberton, Ms on Main Ave. I was sitting with my best friend an Episcopal Priest (Ed) discussing life; as we did about three to four times a week.  We could talk for hours about politics, religion, war, peace, movies, books, and (you name the topic).  He was an intellectual giant so I felt humbled that he would choose to spend that much time with me and apparently enjoyed our conversations. We both had come from childhoods that were far from exemplary.  But we both still had our senses of humor intact, and neither of us were chronic complainers or whiners. Yes, like any human we had our bouts, but it was not traits by which people identified us.  We were more known as creative productive thinking people.  Not necessarily great, in fact probably not. But good guys.  In other words we’d moved past our childhood. Faith and humor were two important factors for both of us in that “moving on” process. joel_chicken_or_egg I became a writer, cartoonist designer and musician. Ed earned two PhD’s and became (in addition to a priest in a wonderful church) and was also a professor at the local university.  He also often went on road trips on his “Harley-looking” BMW vintage motorcycle in mint condition.  He had two beautiful children in college.

Ed was a few years older (and a few centuries wiser).  One day I decided to ask him an important question. He had been the black sheep of his family and I’d been the black sheep of mine.   Some of the treatment (to both of us) was brutal at best, torture at worst. And that is a fact.  I asked Ed,  “Ed, why do you think my family treated me that way?”  He said, “I have theories, but I can’t be positive.” I couldn’t wait to hear his answer. queen elizabeth black bagsqueen elizabeth slip ons He added, “It was probably a combination of things Rick.  Your parents were in a war zone.  They had issues between them that were not working out.  Couplease counseling was not really an option in their generation. They were most likely very good people and cared about you the best they could with the tools they had, but when a couple is married and at war full time, their tools are not very functional.  Plus, if your Dad was drining 2-3 large martinis a night (and he was) alcohol played a major part in your Dad’s life.  You rebelled, as any bright child would, and consequently acted out (the only way a child or teen really knows how to make changes). The changes didn’t work, but you did try.  You had to be sacrificed and/or scapegoated.  It is sadly psychology 101. It happens more often than you’d wish to know. You were more or less “orphaned” emotionally by the time you’d reached about 18. How did he know? I never told him I worked for my dad’s real estate firm  for nearly 4 years and was only paid sales commission on  real estate sales in a department he was about to close. He paid not a penny beyond earned sales which, during the Jimmy Carter years with interest rates at their highest, was slave wages.

Years later, after Dad had closed the fledgling residential department my younger brother started in the commercial/apartment department and he was making a very nice salary from the start.  He now owns it.  I am happy for him, and he has a good life.  And even better new is that his oldest daughter has shown an interest and may take it over.  So that part of the family is happy, and I turned out happy. And the real estate legacy will continue which is very good news. The injustices were long ago.  But I’m alive today because of those injustices. I’m happy. I am doing just what I wish to do with my life.  If life had been fair, I’d have been dead a long time ago. Ed added, “You hated real estate.  You had this creative existence in a town (Hattiesburg, MS) which, at the time, had no outlet for my talents.  You were made persona non gratis and forced to live in a tin shed like an animal.  In reality, they thought I was crazy; but as it turned out, I had a dysfunctional vagus nerve, and thank God, in 2005, a procedure was approved, an implant that pretty much cured it; certainly controls what had appeared to be garden-variety depression, but was nothing more than a vagus nerve which didn’t function.  It functions with an implanted pacemaker now;  and I was one of the few lucky ones to get one. UALR Medical School in Little Rock was able to prove the Ms psychiatrists wrong; there was no depression or mental illness, simply a bad functioning nerve that runs up the chest to the top of the neck. I do not know if the procedure is available in Ms. but if someone has thought they had depression, tried at least 6 therapy and/or medicine modicums, and they did not work, chances are very good you are in need of a Vagus Nerve Implant.  See Cyberonics.com; the firm in Houston that invented it.   Don’t expect your psychiatrist or M.D. to go along with it; he/she is losing a patient and a lot of money.  But you are getting well.  It’s worth it, trust me. a sushi salmon roe mini

Finally Ed said, “Just think, Rick. What if they had treated you as you deserved to be treated?  What would you be?  A bored (probably mostly drunk) Realtor in a town that did not encourage you to be creative, probably drinking in some neighborhood bar every night.  But you probably would not have done it for long.” I asked why. He said, “Because you wouldn’t have lived to be fifty, that’s for certain”. He was so right; even if that long. And even those fifty years would have been pure misery.  God was looking out for me and sometimes it takes the free will of humans (acting badly) for the right thing to manifest in someone else.  Thank God for them. Back home to stay busy,   I had already started my offbeat cartoons with an inventory of over 1000 on a free website with popup ads which were quite aggravating, but I couldn’t afford a domain at the time. I had plans to move to Hot Springs, Ar in 1999 which I did (where I live now with my wife Lee Hiller-London, the woman of my dreams). We hike in the mountains often and commune with nature.  We do not smoke or drink. She is a master photographer and designer.  She teaches me a great deal of things I could never have learned in my hometown.  Hot Springs is only 1/5 the size of my hometown and is as progressive as any big city in the world.  We have millions of visitors annually from nearly every country in the world.  It is an amazing little place.  A fairly well-kept secret. Since my move, this is what has happened. I enrolled at age 46 at Western Governors University; one of the best colleges for business and IT in the country.  It should be.  The advisory board consists of Bill & Melinda Gates, Google, Michael Dell, HP, IBM and many others.  I learned a great deal, pragmatic knowledge that was easily transferable to run an Internet business.  I run eight Internet businesses; or for the most part they run themelves.  I mostly design products, create cartoon concepts and go hiking if I wish. I have the number one Google and MSN-ranked cartoon on the internet. My website has 5000+ cartoons which have lured 8.7 million visitors and my manufacturing plants have an inventory of over 1/4 million products carried by such outlets as Amazon, Sears and others.  I receive emails worldwide asking for my autograph. I just discovered my  autograph sells on Ebay for $45 by an authentic-autographer-finder firm. My first compilation cartoon book is published and will be in Barnes & Nobles & Amazon within a month.  I am working on my second one.  My signed cartoons sell for up to $200 at charity and other non-profit auctions.  It boggles my mind. Shirley Temple Now I also design shoes, clothes and gifts.  My shoes have been featured positively in USA Today. Last month I opened ShoeShies (Sushi Shoes & Gifts). Yes,  I am grateful and full of good cheer for the negative way I was treated. I am lucky to have been demonized.  I don’t whine. I wouldn’t have it any other way.  To live the life of one’s dreams does not often come easy.  It didn’t for me.   And I finally know the meaning of happiness. It’s an inside job…and outside…in nature . Ironically, sometimes others hate, fear or mistrust of you, is your ticket to paradise. And by the way, that kind of “treatment” does not happen in our little village.  Everyone knows everyone.  We know each other’s neighbor’s character as well.  Am sure there are the gossips and troublemakers but that kind of behavior does not stand, not for long, in a town like this, that believes in equality, liberty and justice for all.

My beloved wonderful wife Lee.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————— Rick London says he’s a natural mountain man.  He also happens to be a cartoonist who launched Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons which have been Google and MSN #1-ranked since 2005.  He has licensed image shops with over 1/4 a million funny gifts & collectibles. He founded the worlds only famous love quotes shoes ShoesThatAmuse.com and a shop that sells sushi print shoes & sushi gifts called ShoeShies.com

One Comment

  1. Posted June 12, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    I am so very blessed to be your wife… thank goodness we did not settle into perfect hometown lives in our youth or we would never have met.

    Love Your DW Lee xx00xx

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