All posts by Jon

I am a musician, writer, poet, motor racing fanatic, aspiring world-changer, and someone who's made a life out of using 20 words when I only needed 5. Sincerely grateful!

THRIVE TO SURVIVE #1: AN INTERVIEW WITH RENEE YAWORSKY

Hello all! Welcome to the first installment of Thrive To Survive! This is a very special blog/interview series where I, Jon Phipps, will sit down with some of my closest contemporaries to discuss with them how they overcame various physical & mental hurdles in their journey, or overcame obstacles outside of that realm! I couldn’t have picked a better guest of honor for this maiden voyage of TTS…….I had the thrill of sitting down and chatting with my best friend and closest co-creator, the inimitable Renee Yaworsky!

Renee is the embodiment of the words strength, kindness, fearlessness, love, compassion, friendship, beauty, care and inspiration. A native of New York and a long-time resident of the Peach State of Georgia, Renee has been involved with many different things over the span of her life, including law and prison work, modeling, acting, being a singer/songwriter, poet and novelist-all while valiantly and bravely battling health issues, namely lupus and seizures. Says Renee of first finding out about and subsequently tackling these issues in her life:

“I was 18, I was on Grady Avenue in Athens, Georgia and had a typical Athens night. We were swimming, and doing band rehearsal and was up most of the night and really having a great time, and when we fell asleep in the morning after being up all night, I did not wake up. And so luckily, one of my friends who was there tried to wake me up and was confused that he couldn’t, so he called my other friend and got on the phone with 911, and my other friend, my girl-friend was there with me and they were able to wake me up. The paramedics told me my heart had stopped and that they were gonna take me to the hospital. I said, I don’t want to go to the hospital and they said, well we’re taking you anyways. So they took me to St. Mary’s and determined that was the beginning of the understanding of the fact that I was going to have something going on with me, and I didn’t realize what it was. In fact, the initial doctors were reticent to call it a seizure.…….And then I came back up to New York and I was lucky, I was able to be seen by a cardiologist, a very, very good one, and he checked out my heart. And then I started seeing neurologists back in Georgia and they just, you know, called it seizures. At some point, they started saying seizures because they gave me EGS tests, and I was showing seizure activity. But actually after that moment, I didn’t have that many Grand Mal seizures. The Grand Mal seizures is like that when you’re losing consciousness. I’ve only had about two of those, maybe three In my entire life. Typically, my seizures that I had for the next six years, which I had almost every minute of every day were Complex Partial, I think they’re called. It’s been a long time, so some of my terminology might be wrong, but I was medicated and the medicine I don’t remember ever helping that much. I essentially had seizure activity 24 hours a day for about 6.5 years and that limited my ability. Even though I wasn’t losing consciousness, it affected my sense of self, the way I saw the world, what I was able to do, what I was not able to do. I sometimes would have to stay home because the lights outside could make it worse, fluorescent lights made it worse, sunlight could make it worse, But I didn’t get a lupus diagnosis until about 12 years later, and that’s disappointing because I had all of the symptoms. But for whatever reason, even though I was under a neurologist’s care, they never connected those dots.”

Despite the darkness and uncertainty, Renee nevertheless found a cure for the seizures she was suffering, and it was nothing short of a miracle. Renee portrays the scene when she found this miracle cure:

“It must have been 2005. I had trouble traveling, although I tried to travel as much as I could. I often was canceling trips because if the seizure activity was particularly bad, I wouldn’t even be able to leave the house. In 2005, my mother wanted me to come up for part of the summer, and I was able to make it up there. And when we got there, she mentioned that there was a shrine to St. René Goupil, which was not close, but in Upstate New York. It would have been a day trip. And I said, ‘that’s so weird because my name is Renee!’ I said, ‘how did I not know? I’m a Catholic! How did I not know that? I had a saint named after me that has a shrine right near where I grew up!’ She said, “I don’t know.” And we went there, and we toured the grounds, and it’s a lovely, lovely place. It’s out where the Mohawks were. There’s a lot of Native American history there, and a lot of museums, and it’s beautiful countryside.

I was having my general seizure activities, and the sun used to really adversely affect me. That’s a symptom of lupus, and it also can make certain seizures worse if you have that photosensitivity. And it was a hot day. And she went back to the parking lot and I said, “well, I’m gonna linger down near the river a little longer.” I had no plans, no hopes, nothing. I was just by myself and I for some reason bent down and put my hand in the water of the stream, a tributary from the river, which is where the body of St. René had been martyred. And it was once, it was maybe 3 seconds. I just put my hand in the water and I blessed my forehead and I said, “St. René, take away my seizures.” And I had never prayed for my seizures to leave me. I had never given them any conscious thought. I tried to ignore them. And instantly, my seizures were gone. The whole world looked different. The sun was different. And it was just…..gone. And I walked back up to the car, I didn’t mention it to my mother, but I knew I was totally cured and I never once had another seizure. I went off of medicine, I went to law school, my whole life totally changed.




As mentioned before, Renee has been involved with many different things, but one of her foremost passions earlier in her life was acting. Having taken acting classes at various points since the age of 2, she developed a brawny love of the stage, but a very serious incident made her steer away from acting. Renee recounts this event:

“I’ve been acting my whole life, but I always stayed away from screen because I felt it would be safer, and I love theater. I love the stomps on the stage, I love seeing the audience, I love memorizing the lines and I became a stage actress and that seemed safer to me. Fast forward to about 2007 or 2008, I was in with the acting troupe in Athens, Georgia, and they had a mass shooting there at a function that I was supposed to be at, that I overslept. That was when I made the decision to go to law school and to not continue my acting. So if you fast forward till now, you might understand when people who don’t know me when people who don’t know me think I’m looking for attention, or, “oh, you think you’re so beautiful, you want people to look at you,” they don’t understand how much of my life was spent trying to get people to stop looking at me and for various reasons, and when the mass murder happened, it was very, very intimate and very close, both in proximity to where I literally, physically was and then also emotionally where I was. I did not want anything to do with entertainment again. I only came back to entertainment at all in 2020 during quarantine, but sure that I was going to focus on writing and law, and I absolutely did not want to go back into modeling. I did not want to go back into any sort of public activism and certainly not anything entertainment, nothing with acting, nothing with music.”

Nonetheless, Renee powered forward and dove headlong back into the creative realms of acting, modeling, music and writing. As mentioned before, acting & especially modeling are just one part of Renee’s MO. Through her work in these fields, she inspires and encourages scores of others to find their inner & outer beauty and embrace it, not just for one time only, but throughout the rest of their lives. And Renee is truly a shining beacon of hope for those looking for inspiration, or for those just on a journey to love themselves and accept themselves for who they truly are, not for what society wants them to be. Renee herself talks about the long road it took to overcoming food addictions and to love the skin you’re in, no matter how long it may take:

“I never had an eating disorder, but when I had a fainting spell in my teen years, I was grossly underweight and I did spend many years of my childhood with doctors, you know, monitoring me for bulimia or anorexia. That’s not what was happening. I was eating everything in sight when I was free, but I was highly active and I had a bit of an insecurity about being so underweight. When I was hospitalized for the fainting spell, I weighed 94 lbs. It was quite shocking that that’s why I was hospitalized. There was concern about that, but it wasn’t deliberate. In fact, I would buy these powders and stuff and try to gain weight. It’s what I really wanted. But I was riding horses competitively, so I was active. I was also playing basketball, I was playing tennis, and then I was in a touring rock band while at the same time as starting college at age 16, and I was also running an N.G.O. I ran a nonprofit that I started. I was doing all of that and I was so young, and I just loved it. My mother was so concerned about me because she said, “you’re not eating, you’re not sleeping.” And I’m like, ‘yeah, but I’m so happy.'”

With the modeling & acting work, plus current music endeavors and past activism considered, Renee is no stranger to being in the spotlight. And while this has been a mostly pleasant experience for her, Renee, like any other who is consistently in the limelight, has had to deal with more than her share of catty comments, hurtful messages, situations gone awry, and in some cases, even stalkers and people spying on her. Renee describes what this is like, and what she has done to overcome it:

“It’s disappointing, certainly, because I do havefearful things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I would say that I was exposed to it early, to the point where now I don’t know any other way. I started my my anti death penalty work when I was 14. And the band I was in became really popular when I was about 15, and so between prisoner issues, prisoners or people from the activist world who maybe didn’t agree with me between that, and then the fans for the band……..I was a drummer. I was the drummer, but I was the only girl. So although I was not getting the level of attention that the front man was getting, I was getting the boy attention because I was the girl. And this is certainly pre social media, but the internet existed. I think we had AOL chatrooms, it wasn’t like what it was now, and it never occurred to me that that could exist. The technology wasn’t popular. So when I was 14 starting this, this anti death penalty work, it never occurred to me that I would be able to be tracked down or my family would be able to be tracked down by prisoners or families of victims or families of prisoners or gangs, it never occurred to me because the internet didn’t exist like that. We were primarily still doing things over snail mail. I created an alias, I had a a pseudonym and I had an activist alias, and I felt like that would be enough. I had no idea what was coming in the years to come with that. Now anybody can find anything. The rock and roll business of it was a little different. I felt very safe because most of our fans of course were like teenage boys our age. I remember our school would have events, we had interviews coming out in the papers and they would put us outside and we would autograph everybody’s copy and things like that. Certainly, there was a lot of attention on the band, but again, because there wasn’t social media and all that. One of the funny things that would happen is many times the band and I would be out in normal places, the mall or a carnival and we would see fans wearing our t-shirts and they wouldn’t recognize us because they had never been to a show, They heard our cassette tape or something, they were fans of ours, but they didn’t know what we looked like. There were fans that came to my house, there were fans that came to my mother’s place of work. There were fans that called us at all hours of the day and night, but they tended to be well meaning and I didn’t fear them, but it did make me very cautious.”

To say life for Renee has been ridges and valleys would be an understatement. But through it all, she has never lost her smile, her passion, her drive, and her compassion and love and kindness toward others. She is someone we all aspire to have as a friend and a cheerleader in our lives. I speak for myself when I say that having the gift of Renee’s friendship has benefitted me and change my life in ways I’m sure I don’t yet know. Add to that the fact that we both have a common goal for ourselves in terms of paths forward and creative ideas, and it’s a friendship that is rivaled by few and duplicated by none. Renee is the definition of taking the high road. When asked about how she would like to be remembered when her times comes, she said:

“I would like to be remembered as somebody who truly showed that you can suffer in your life, and shine a light instead of bringing more darkness into this world, and to be known as a bridge builder and a peacemaker. I think peacemaking and bridge building are things that came naturally to me because I have a duality in my nature. I’m that textbook Gemini, I really do see things from different points of view. When somebody is arguing with me, I always see it from their point of view. I can see it from their point of view as they’re describing to me how unhappy they are with me, and I can jump aboard. I really see things from both points of view. And when you do that, you become a diplomat, you become a leader, a coordinator and organizer. And at the end of the day, you’re becoming a peacemaker. You’re sitting down with someone who might have done something horrible to another human being and you’re finding some common ground there with those people. And that to me is the most important thing, because if we don’t have peace, we don’t have freedom. And if we don’t have freedom, we can’t have happiness. More than 51% of my time as an adolescent teenager and young adult were spent listening to older people talk about their journeys, telling me things and I got to sift through what I believed in, what I didn’t believe. But I was listening. I was acquiring that knowledge. I don’t always have an opinion, and that’s the part of peacemaking, when you’re constantly jumping to conclusions without all the data, you’re constantly, stubbornly clinging to what you believe is fact. Even when different facts are presented to you, with that type of rigid personality, it’s very hard to progress, and it’s very hard to build peace because the more that you’re segregating people and telling them how different they are and how horrible one side is and how great the other side is, all you’re doing is limiting truth and you’re you’re not allowing the person you disagree with to ever progress in their own journey. So hopefully, I will be remembered as a peacemaker. You can’t make everyone happy all the time, but at least that’s my ambition, and I think that’s what I was doing even at nine years old with my animal rights. I was trying to build peace even back then. I think that’s been the theme of my life.”

I want to thank Renee for taking some time from her busy schedule to sit down with me and be interviewed, and I want to thank you, the reader for taking some time from your busy schedule to read this first installment of Thrive To Survive through to the end! without you, none of this is possible! Thank you all again, and until next time, take care, much love and may God richly bless!

-Jon

A WELL-SPENT LIFE

Death is a part of life. There is no way we can avoid it, the best we can do is take the steps necessary to postpone it, in the right circumstances. And no matter how we may view it, it nevertheless hits us hard in at least some aspects, whether we care to admit it or not. But for a death to hit us hard means that the person who shed the mortal coil left their mark on us. They may have encouraged us or showed us love, been a bright shining light to us in the darkness, gave us advice on how to best move forward through a tough situation, or just was there for us through mountaintops and valley floors alike. It could be someone you never met in person, someone you saw every day, or even someone you only met once years ago. Their memory and legacy will live on through the lives they touched. And maybe, they will have encouraged you to live your fullest and best life, to take the bad and the good with a smile on your face, and showed you a pathway forward in your own journey.




Earthly angels come in all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and walks of life. Some have had to scale mountains and swim oceans to get to us. Some just seemed to appear right out of the ether. Some came to us when we cried out for help. Some knew we needed a listening ear and a guiding hand long before we ourselves did. Some of them taught us that, even in the most ragged, tattered parts of our lives, there is still a silver lining, there are still reasons to smile. Some of them showed us that hurt is not the end-all-be-all, that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and some of them blessed us with how they did it, how they overcame and thrived, and how we could take their wisdom and apply it to our own lives. Some of them we knew only as folk heroes. Some of them we had the fortune of rubbing elbows with, or sharing stages with, or trading conversation with over a cup of coffee and a sandwich, or a cold pint of beer.

Most of all, these people showed us how to live a well-spent life. Not every part of it will be red and rosy. There will be storms with hail and wind and worse, trying to destroy the flower garden of peace inside of us all. There will be times where the road is rough. There will be times where the best maps cannot guide us. But with the blessing of those people’s presence in our lives, we can understand how to carry on and lace up our bootstraps and pull ourselves out of the muck and the mire, and continue onward toward daylight again. They pushed us to write that book, or record that album, or paint that picture, or express that love or affection. They showed us how to be ourselves, loudly, proudly, unashamedly and wholly. And if they are still in our midst, they will continue to spread their seeds wherever they go in this world. And if they have left this life for the next one, we can still admire what they’ve grown, and take comfort in the shade, color or beauty of what they planted, both in their own lives, and in the lives in which we live.

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please highlight someone who showed you these tips and tricks.

Wholeheartedly,

-Jon



This blog is dedicated to the life and memory of William Orten Carlton, aka Ort.

INTRODUCTION

Hello! Welcome to Thrive To Survive! This is a special side-project that will tie into Just Another Badass Warrior, a blog & interview series taking a look at how folks have overcome the various obstacles presented in their lives, whether they be physical or mental. Your host, Jon Phipps, will take an in-depth look into the stories of those he interviews, while also finding out the pathways to the light at the end of the tunnel for his guests, while seeking the same for himself. May you derive hope, inspiration and clarity from this blog!

LEARNING TO SMILE ALL OVER AGAIN

Happy New Year, one & all! I hope that 2023 has gotten off to a wonderful start for you! Most of us tend to make resolutions when the new year rolls around, some of them minute in stature, others towering over us like skyscrapers. Some are easier to adhere to and follow than others, but all of them carries weight in our lives, no matter how large or small they may be. We all want to see in-person that friend we made over the pandemic, or to go to that city, state or country we’ve always wanted to go to, or to dye our hair that color that would catch everyone’s eye. But what if we did something in the new year that cost nothing, did not require a gym membership or association admission, or did not even require approval from others?

What if we learned to smile again?

2022 was a hard year for a lot of us. Whether it came from events in the noisy news cycle, or events that happened in our own personal lives, or events that happened to others close to us in our lives, 2022 was a very draining and taxing year. Mental and emotional hardships. The projects or opportunities that just slipped through our fingers. The loss of a loved one or a beloved pet. 2022 threw plenty of ways to snatch our happiness and joy at us, and in some cases, it did steal those precious things away. To say nothing of what the last 3 years has done to the world as a whole, with the pandemic considered.

But what if I told you that we’re on a mission to get those things back?

A big resolution for 2023 is to learn how to smile again. 2023 is the year that happiness grows and re-re-regrows in our lives. With the sureness of a rose in the springtime, we will all find our way back to happiness this year. This is your call to manifest it! Cultivate your soul and make it into a garden of peace, love, joy and great happiness! Planting season in just around the corner in our lives; take advantage! This is the perfect time to rid ourselves of the reeds and weeds that was the happenings in 2022; in 2023, we will strive to toss the bad news and the noisy news and the discord and disaster and dissent into the wastebasket, and hold our heads high and look forward with clear eyes to the future! The future is eight months pregnant, and tomorrow has ALWAYS been better than today! Optimism, self-love, self-care, taking bold but calculated chances, speaking out, reaching out and loving others more will take root and flower in our lives in 2023. Gone will be the choking vines and weeds and invasive species of self-doubt, abandoning ourselves and our needs, timidness, fear, people-pleasing, attachments, conformation and self-flagellation. 2023 is our year, brothers and sisters. Let’s grab this thing by the horns and make it ours and MANIFEST all that we deserve!

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please list some ways you aim at keeping to our resolution of learning to smile again!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless

-Jon


RIDGES & VALLEYS

As 2022 draws to a close, I catch myself reflecting back on the year that was in this wild ride we call life. And it much resembles my beloved Appalachian Mountains: Lots of ridges, but a whole lot of valleys as well. Creatively, I summited several ridges, and was able to drink in the views from them. I was able to do things this year that most could only dream of doing. I got to interview several people I look up to across many aspects, I got to organize virtual festivals and fundraisers to help out several dear friends, I got to be witness to and have directing abilities over many wonderful, inspirational, eye-opening and moving shows this year. I scored one-third of my all-time front page selections on the poetry site I frequent this year, and furthermore submitted one of my poems for publication in an actual hard-copy book.

Outside of the creative realm, I was able to spend more time with beloved friends this year, including helping one move to this wonderful Tar Heel State. I also got to visit places I had not been to since I was a child, namely Nashville and surrounding environs. I got to attend multiple racing events this year at an array of historic tracks here in North Carolina, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Hickory Speedway and the famed North Wilkesboro Speedway. I was able to find deeper love, meaning, kindness and care in the friendships I have already cultivated, and was able also to make several new friendships this year, both in my personal life and in my life online. I was also able to find several online communities that catered to the things I love, like auto racing, radio & television history, true crime and more! And not to mention, I finally found a new feline friend in Vidalia!



But also in the span of this 365-page book we called 2022, I fell to the valley floor several times. I let emotions and feelings get in my way on multiple occasions, which led to many worry-filled & sleepless nights this year, as my mind played out wildly unrealistic scenarios and events. I let the “red mist” overcome me on several occasions, and it resulted in me becoming a hassle to work with, and in some cases to be friends with. I found myself unable to take my foot off the throttle and give myself a break & a chance to get my head in a proper place, which resulted in me very nearly ending my life back in August. I lashed out at friends and co-creators when they didn’t deserve it, and when the situation I was mired in was nothing more than my mind feeding me lies and tall tales about those people. Above all, I put my own self on the back burner for the sake of those around me in my life. I thought I could be the knight in shining armor, rushing in at the last instant to protect them from themselves, when all I was doing was tripping over my feet and faceplanting into the mud.

But after every valley floor comes another ridge to climb. I started therapy in November of this year, and I am very much looking forward to scaling this ridge in front of me, and to take in the sweet, unobstructed view from high atop it. It’s going to be a hell of a mountain to climb, but now being equipped with the right tools for such a task, I feel I can fly to the top of it, or better still, take that mountain and move it outright! With the help of great friends, a wonderful therapist, and readers like you, I can do no wrong in this ever-evolving journey ahead! Not every part of this leg of the journey will be easy, but I feel a lot more confident about than I did a year ago, a month ago, even just one minute ago! And I hope you all will stick with me on this journey ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, mention some of the ridges and valley you have experienced in the year 2022!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

A WEDNESDAY IN APRIL

Those who have read my blogs may not know that I also am a poet. I have over 360 published pieces on AllPoetry, with nearly 50 of those being front page selections. On this day, I am dealing with drama within friend circles I am in. And rather than write a long, angsty blog for the millionth time, I decided this time to channel what I am feeling into a poem. This poem summarizes my feelings toward the matter, without saying it directly. In this poem, the title summarizes the wanting for peace, friendship, kindness and love to flourish; simply put, the wanting is a Wednesday in April.

“i wish for a wednesday afternoon
in the middle of april
cotton ball clouds, silver springs babbling

green leaves in the trees
birds standing shoulder to shoulder

on the telephone wire, singing
dogwoods and azaleas blooming

dandelions flying through the air
an apple orchard with shade enough

for a post sun-bathing nap
the hum of a passing car on highway 45

or a plane engine overhead
dogs barking, children giggling

the scents of pies in window sills
still-damp clothes hanging on the line

drying in the springtime
an orb weaver spider spinning a web

in a corner on the roof
a bottle of apple wine

and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses
for you & i
an old blanket and a hillside for cloud-gazing

kisses and embraces”

I hope this poem finds you well, and in the comments, tell me a bit about how you deal with drama.

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

LIFE, HAPPINESS, AND THE WAY IT USED TO BE

On this Sunday evening that I am writing this to you, I decided to do a story reading on my personal Facebook page. Nothing out of the ordinary for me, as I have in recent weeks been doing an increased number of them, as I set about publishing a poetry or short story book of my own in the future. I elected to do a reading from a book I had gotten in the mail the day before, a book by Garrison Keillor called Lake Wobegon Days. I read a section of a story in the book called “Fall”, and went for just under an hour in the reading that I did. After I had closed the stream, I decided to take a look through the log of streams that I had done from the amount I have on the streaming platform I use. It is the same one I have used many times, in hosting shows and recording interviews, doing poetry reading or concerts, etc. And virtually thumbing through the stream log, I saw many things that I had did over the past 18+ months I had been using that platform. Many memories came back to me. And a twinge of sadness darkened my door once again.



I remembered back to those salad days of my virtual creative journey. How I thought I had the tiger by the tail. How I thought I was on the cusp of reeling in the interview, the one that would get my name out there, How I thought I was growing alongside my creative friends, not knowing the strain and worry, spats and darkness that would come in the future. And it made me wonder: Has it always been this way? Has this feeling been a cornerstone of my life?

As mentioned many times prior in my blogs, I’m always one to slink back to the past at times, to the way things used to be. In some part of my mind, I think that, if I go back to that point, I will find a little retreat of happiness, like a shelter or lean-to on a long trail, a tiny roadside chapel on a highway, or something similar. But I catch myself looking back at those places I go to in my mind, and I remember what I was going through during those times. And in many instances, I was absolutely not happy or satisfied or whatever in that period. I often find that I was in a less-amplified state of where I am currently; though the difference in then from now is, back then, I didn’t have as many aggravating factors in my life. I did not have commitments, meetings, shows, platonic and romantic feelings and terrors of creative failure………

…….But I damn sure paid no attention to the mental scars I bore that were weeping and festering, nor did I pay attention to the tornado-in-a-china-shop state of affairs in my heart, mind and soul, and how my happiness and peace of mind were in complete tatters, ragging in the breeze.

So were times ever really better? Or are these times in which we live really the good ol’ days?

It all boils down to perspective. One could easily look back at where I came from in my life and where I am now and say, ‘well, he was a lot better off in the past, if ignorance really is bliss.’ I could have kept putting off the inevitable and kept putting on a happy face and kept going out into the world, wearing my heart on my sleeve, and making cries for help that I thought at the time would go unanswered. I could have kept staying awake until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning stressing over factors and people that were many miles outside my control. I could have kept bottling everything up inside, and letting feelings and fears and emotions control my every move. I could have kept doing it.

But at this very moment, I have so many more tools than I had 10 years ago, 5 years ago or even just a single month ago. Yes, I may have a lot more things going on that amplifies what I go through on the inside, and I may have more eyeballs on me at every turn, and more people willing to spout off with a comment. But, at the same time, I have outlets to channel into when I feel down. I have a therapist I am seeing once weekly. Many of my friendships and creative partnerships are stronger and tighter than they’ve ever been. And I am starting to fall in love with the idea of living again. I am addressing what desperately needed to be said, and in turn, beginning to clean, dress and heal those wounds in my soul. While I may not have my mother in my life, I now have 10 ladies carrying her power and grace at any given time.

So in some ways, the traits of the old me served me well. But in a many myriad of different ways, the me of today is much stronger, with thicker skin, clearer eyes and sharper visions, and with renewed goals for tomorrow. And for that, I am grateful. ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, talk about how you’ve overcome obstacles in your past, and how you can focus on the good of the past!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless,

-Jon

TO MY BEST FRIEND

To my best friend,

I am sincerely grateful for the gifts of your friendship, care, lovingkindness, patience, grace and encouragement. You and I have rode out many a dark time together in our time of friendship, but have had many beautiful days as well, and not a second of this would I trade. You love me when I can’t love myself. You offer me a torch when I am going through the dark wilderness of my mind, and a life raft when I am drowning in the oceans of emotions. You and your unique kind of full-service friendship is so welcome in my life, and to have had it now for two full years is a blessing wrapped in a miracle.

I know I’ve not been the easiest to deal with. I have fucked up many times. I have given you ten thousand reasons to leave me dry. We’ve clashed on many things. But you always take the high road, and are always willing to work things out and listen and hammer out a solution for those issues. I am so grateful you have a long fuse with me, and your patience is worth its weight in gold. I know I worry a lot about you, and I know you wish I wouldn’t worry so much, but you are my dearest friend, my closest confidant and one of the most valuable assets in my life. To win the friendship of someone like you is to catch lightning in a bottle, and I will forever cherish this.

I am so thankful to have a creative partner like you in my life! We’ve done so much together, and have both climbed and moved mountains together! I cannot wait to see what the future holds for us creatively, whether it be in music, television, poetry or book writing, or even something beyond those! I am so proud of you and us and the work that we have done together and apart, but the best is yet to come! Memory lane is in the headlights, and I cannot wait to experience it all with you! Thank you for taking a chance on me over a year and a half ago, and trusting and encouraging me in these endeavors. I hope I’ve been a good leader, and have set a good example for all ❤

Without you, I wouldn’t have so many things. I wouldn’t have been able to create an online network with a wide-ranging variety of programs. I wouldn’t have been able to find the courage to send a writing of mine off for publication. I wouldn’t have been able to find my voice as a musician and songwriter. I wouldn’t have took the time to re-sharpen my skills as a poet. I wouldn’t know all the wonderful people I have come to know over the last two years. I am blessed beyond any possible explanation. You came into my life and completely changed it for the better, and more than that, you have helped me change and grow, and have helped me heal and move past the scars that I thought would define me. You are a saving grace.

I am so thankful you hold my hand when times get rough. I’ve been through so many changes over the past weeks and months, and it’s been hell. But you have stayed by my side through it all. Even though you don’t experience the things I go through, I so love, admire, respect and cherish your willingness to learn, to offer help, and just to be my shoulder to cry on. And I pray I’ve been this for you, when you face challenges and hurdles in your own life. I am so grateful we have experienced both the ridges and the valleys together.

My dearest friend, you are red-on-a-rose beautiful, sharp as a tack, strong as steel and sweet as love. I’ve seen you overcome so many things, and don’t think for one minute that I’ve not been watching! You are leading me and showing me how to overcome the hurdles that appear in my own life, and I would be forever lost if not for your guidance. You wield great power inside you, and to watch you harness it and use it for the greater good is so wonderful, so beautiful, so inspiring and so amazing. You are changing, touching and molding so many lives right now, and your impact will be measured in terms of decades and centuries. I will forever be so proud and so blessed to know you, and to have you as my best and closest friend ❤

To Renee, you are my sunshine, and you are an angel. I am so thankful for our friendship, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the both of us, as friends and creative partners! Thank you for taking me under your wing and teaching me so much. You are the best, and I love you ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please talk about your best friend on this side of life!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

IN THIS VERY MOMENT, EVERYTHING IS OK

Many times in our lives, especially this time of the year, we often catch ourselves hung up on all that has transpired over the last year, or looking ahead to what may be coming in the new year. We may fret over projects we have completed, or a job opportunity that passed us by, or deadlines and commitments. I am not above this, either. Quite frequently over recent days and weeks, I have found myself worrying over friendships, partnerships, when to commence recording music, when to start writing my first poetry book, plus starting therapy soon, getting my ducks in a row for a potential move in the new year, taking care of my new feline friend Vidalia, amid many other things. It can get to be a slog. Until seven words cross my mind. Seven words that immediately put my mind at ease. Seven words that is a saying, one that my dear friend and musical co-creator Kim Ware taught me to abide by:

In this very moment, everything is OK.

I will repeat: In this very moment, everything is OK.

These seven words have become a big help to me lately. It helps me center and focus on the now, instead of worrying about what I should have said or done in the past, or worrying about what the future might hold. I can apply these seven simple words to heart and use it to see the good that is around me at this time: I have a cat for the first time in over two years. I am starting therapy, the first part of a brave, new leg of my journey. I have confirmation that a poem of mine will be published in a physical book. I have a head full of creative ideas. In this moment, I am listening to a podcast and doing something I love doing, blog-writing.

In this very moment, everything is OK.

Never has seven words been so freeing to me like these seven are. Anxiety has always been a bear for me to whip, and so too FOMO, the fear of missing out. But these things cloud my view of life, and as a result, it makes me not see the trees for the woods. Taking in the good around me, the glory in front of me, the sights of my dearest friends, co-conspirators and creatives stepping up to the plate and crushing home runs in their endeavors-and the fact that I’m here to watch it and cheer them on!!! It’s a blessed, refreshing and welcome feeling. Too long I have spent in the midst of fear, uncertainty, the hungry, biting wolverines of my yesterdays and the grim, brooding specters of tomorrows.

I’m alive.

I am six feet above the ground.

I am surrounded by some of the best people a man could ever ask for.

Is every day red and rosy? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but by taking in the good and filtering out the bad in my life, I can see that today isn’t so bad. Nor is it fleeting and forgettable. Every day that I wake up and see the sunrise is a blank canvas, my opportunity to make a masterpiece out of it. And I intend to create many, many masterpieces in my time. ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, tell me about something positive that happened to you today, and how you savor the little moments of your day!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon


THE REALITY WE KNOW NO LONGER EXISTS

As may be the case with some of you reading this blog post today, I am a sucker for the past, the way things used to be. Many nights, I find myself drifting off to sleep listening to old radio airchecks, or an album from decades ago, or even episodes of old dramas from an era gone by. To say nothing of the old sports highlights I cherish, the various pieces of memorabilia from the past I have collected, the classic cars I gawk at when I see them, and the beautiful sound of old guitars. Ditto for friendships, relationships, talks had in the past, some with complete strangers. The reality of the past is a safety blanket, and can be very useful in moderation. But as quickly as those warm, nostalgic feelings settle in over me, a cold chill flashes up my spine and puts the freeze on my mind. And riding on the frosty wave is a realization:

The reality we know no longer exists.

In the hustle and bustle of living in today’s realm, it is awfully tempting to pull off the path and look back. It’s so easy to take a turn down Memory Lane and reminisce about the way things used to be. But if you’re not careful, especially if you are an empath, you can quickly find yourself entangled in and being choked by the vines of yesterday. We will always savor a fragrance, a kiss, a hug, a touch, or sweet conversation. We will always cling to the memories of that one house or apartment, the way the light shone through the trees in a friend’s backyard, long and aimless road trips under the stars, even the sound of a new-strung guitar or the first taste of wine. Memories can be boons, but they can also be banes in our lives, hassling us, making us yearn for a situation or environment, friendship or relationship we’ve since grown out of, but still one we feel comfortable in, if for no other reason than it’s all that we knew at the time.

In my case, I have many attachments to the past. Some of these are healthy and warming, such as memories of where I was for certain sports moments, my first time visiting places, the first time I wrote a song on the guitar, etc. But still, there remains many attachments to the past that drain me and serve me no purpose other than to weight me down, such as seeing friends and loved ones suffering, thoughts of romantic relationships that never played out or blew up in my face, finding things out about friends and partners you once held close to you and in high regard, missed opportunities, no matter how small or large they may be. As much as the past comforts me, it also haunts me with its ragged whispers and icy fingers at times.



While I cannot claim to have an end-all-be-all solution to breaking those attachments and moving on, some of the things I have tried includes talking it out to someone, whether it be to a therapist, close friends, etc. Better still, if you are attached to someone from your past or even someone in your present, talk it out with them. Being honest with them and about how you are feeling can be as rewarding and healing as being honest with your own self in regard to the situation. Additionally, expunge the bad, dark memories from your mind about someone or a past situation or environment. If these revolve around a friend, lover or family member, remember the bright times you had with them, the laughs and smiles you shared, the places you went, and the time well spent. If they revolve around a situation or environment you left, turn those feelings into congratulations to yourself, for escaping that place and landing yourself in a new place that encourages your growth, healing and prosperity.

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments on this blog, feel free to share tips or tricks you have at dissolving attachments and adapting to the reality/realities of today!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless!

-Jon


NANCY PHIPPS: IN MEMORIAM

Nancy Benge Phipps. That name may not mean much to you, but that name will forever warm my heart and set my spine in a block of ice. That name belongs to the lady who brought me into this world, soon to be 26 years ago. She is my mother, and I am forever grateful. On the day I write this blog, she would have been turning 63 years young. She is the first one who shaped me, molded me, inspired me and taught me. She was my rock, if only briefly in my life. Below, I will tell you mom’s story, and I will tell you about five very special women in my life who carry on mom’s legacy in their journeys and what they do, and I will close this blog with a letter, written not by me, but by a son or daughter to their mother, under the auspices of better late than never.

November 6, 1959 was when her journey started, under less than ideal circumstances. Mom was the product of her mother, my granny, being raped, when she was just 15 years old. Her arrival into this world could have easily not happened. And in another realm or time or place, it may not have happened. But November 6, 1959, it did. Back against the wall, from birth. But nobody could back Nancy Phipps into a corner, for damn sure. Mom grew up as most children in rural northwestern North Carolina did in the 1960s and 1970s: Without adequate means, but she always made do with what she had, and always was able to pull a lot out of a little. That was and still is the way of many in the High Country of North Carolina. She was an excellent student in her school days, receiving high marks and higher praise by those she had as teachers. I still have a couple of her notebooks, many pages covered in meticulous notes.

Mom’s first job out of high school was at the Bantam Chef, one of the many greasy spoons in the little town of Jefferson, North Carolina, where her and I were born. It was here that she first caught the attention of my father, and a relationship began. May 28, 1982, the relationship culminated in a marriage that lasted to the day mom left this life for the next one. After several years of trying, on November 25, 1996, yours truly was born. It was I that first gave mom that very badge. And blessed I was, coming under her tutelage and care, and likewise my brother Evan, who came along a little over two years later, on December 28, 1998. Mom gave her all and at least 110% more to the both of us. She loved u with her entire heart, and did her level best to protect us best she could from the world and what all it can and will throw at you. And she did this to perfection. Even when the bottom dropped out.

In 2001, on a date that I don’t remember and honestly don’t care to remember, mom sat us down and broke the news to myself and Evan: She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and that she could die as a result. I hugged her neck like I never had. I cried harder that day than I ever had. It was at the age of 4 or 5 that I first caught a glimpse of what mom was trying to protect myself and Evan from: The harsh reality of life, one of the millions of them dealt to each of us in time. Over the next 3 years, I saw sights and felt feelings no small child or grown adult should ever have to see or experience.

The sight of mom pinned to the couch, not having the energy to do so much as move.

The sight of mom and dad fighting, and getting her getting hit by the man you viewed as your father.

The sight of mom ordering, getting mailed and trying on various wigs, as her beautiful hair slowly but surely fell out due to chemo.

The sight of mom lying in a hospital bed, unable sometimes to keep her eyes open, as every morsel of energy got ripped out of her over time.

The sight of the many face masks and hospital wrist bands, demented souvenirs of the many trips to Boone hospital.

And the sight of a school full of eyes looking at me, when mom’s valiant battle ended.

February 18, 2004. A Wednesday. I remember waking up that morning to the sight of some men in suits setting up a small table in the living room. They were from the funeral home. On the small table was a book, for visitors to sign their names. They told me that mom had lost her battle with ovarian cancer. I refused to believe it. And maybe in some twisted, circuitous way, I still don’t believe it. But whether or not I decided to dwell in fantasyland, the cold reality was that my rock was gone. It did not crumble. Nancy Phipps did not crumble under those unique and hellish pressures. But it left me. The bottom dropped out from under my feet. At 7 years old, my world went dark and forever changed.

I spent several months afterward just trying to make it make sense that she was gone. I swore up and down this wasn’t real. I do not remember mom’s funeral or when we buried her. In a reverse way, I am glad that the waters of time eroded those memories away. But I remember the feelings. The moments. Hearing certain songs on the radio. Clinging to the memories of her I did have. The smells of fresh bread baking, something she loved to do. Taking comfort in friends in and their parents, including Angie Salmons, the mother of my friend Kierra, who took me and Evan in as if she were one of her own, even though she herself was deep in the throws of her own valiant battle against breast cancer. Remembering rides in the red 1994 Oldsmobile we had. Her taking me to the grocery store with her, and thinking the Lowe’s Foods in our town was so expansive. It looked like a skyscraper inside and out, to my child mind. Remembering how mom loved to watch NASCAR races on television, and how she loathed listening to them on the radio. The quilts she loved to knit. The food she made, that she aced every time, without fail. Hugging her. Telling her I loved her. How I wish I could do it all, just one more time. 44 years young. It wasn’t fair, and it isn’t fair now. But it is life. And mom would want me to move on. And I have. Or I’d like to think I have, even though the battle scars I bear from that time period may never fully heal. The milestones me and Evan have reached and will reach…….they are sweet, but also tainted with the bitter taste of knowing she isn’t present for them, and never will be. Me and Ev graduating. Evan getting married. Me publishing my first poetry book and putting out my first album. But the memories live on. And somewhere, some way, somehow, she is there. Even if we cannot see her, she is there.

I may not have her valiance and love and care in a physical form, but I for sure see it in those around me. In six ladies in particular, I see it. Six bright, razor sharp and valiant ladies in their own right. Each carries a piece of what mom embodied, and it is because of this that I gravitated toward them.

The first of these valiant ladies is my best friend, Renee Yaworsky. I first befriended Renee the day after my 24th birthday, in November of 2020. I right away noticed that the beauty of her heart and spirit matched exactly that of mom’s. This would only become exemplified, as I found out about the health struggles Renee so bravely fought and is currently fighting. I saw in Renee’s soul that it carried 10 pounds of mom’s strength and bravery in a 2 pound sack. My jaw was on the floor, and a tear was in my eye when Renee told me her story, as it so closely paralleled my own. I couldn’t believe it. It was as if I was looking into a mirror, and I was seeing mom’s reflection. I gravitated toward Renee, and it connected even more when I found out Renee so loves to wear wigs, or hair-hats as she calls them! Mom courageously rocked the wigs she owned, and I am sure she would have smiled had she seen Renee’s collection of them. From the valiance grew a friendship, which has become a close friendship, and a working, creative partnership, which has so enriched me.

To Renee, I thank you for carrying mom’s torch with such dignity and courage and respect, and for being my light on a dark corner. ❤

The next of these incredible ladies is one of the co-founders of this very site, Em Farwell. Em I came to know through Renee, after we had brought her aboard to help us in Cosmos Creative TV, the wide-spanning array of digital programming Re and I put together. I very quickly noticed how Em ran things: Tight and concise, just as mom had been in the doings in her own life. Like Renee, I soon found out about the various health battles Em faces on the daily, and how she is fighting and overcoming them. After I told my story, Em quickly took me under her wing, and made me one of her own. It’s as if God and mom each put a hand on her shoulders and guided her toward me. With Em’s encouragement, love and support, I am now charting a course to helping heal a lot of the wounds that I received in those times when I was lost in that deep, dark jungle, and was unsure of how and when I was going to get out.

To Em, I thank you for showing me a path forward, and for teaching me that it’s OK to not be OK, and for holding my feet to the fire. ❤



The next of these shining, sparkling souls is Diane Marie Coll. Diane is someone I met through Kimono My House, a virtual concert group on Facebook. As wonderful a singer, songwriter, comedienne and show host as she is, she is also a wonderful therapist, and a close and cherished confidant. When the bottom fell out for me mentally over the summer, Diane was one of the first to pick up the broken pieces of my soul and rearrange them into something presentable again. She loved me at a point when I could not, would not love myself. And moreso than that, she presented me with options and resources, and was firm but kind in her insistence that I seek help, after many years of brushing it off. And am I ever glad I listened. It was Diane’s holding me accountable and spearheading the necessary changes that got me started down the path to self-betterment, and I cannot wait to take those first big leaps!

To Diane, I thank you for being part drill sergeant and part cheerleader, and for encouraging me to see things in a completely different light. ❤

Th next of these clear, powerful voices is Sandie Dee. Sandie is another person I met via an online concert group on Facebook, this one being Socially Distant Fest. There have been few who have encouraged me and waved the pom-poms and drove the hype train for me quite like Sandie has. What she has been as a supporter, she also has been for my best interests. Sandie is a persistent, driving force in my life, and is always looking out for me and wanting what’s best for me. She’s a splitting image of mom in this regard, and I am forever grateful for this. Like Em, she has taken me in as one of her own, and although Sandie and I butt heads from time to time, it’s always from a place of love, kindness and wanting. Sandie has been there for me for so long, and her kindness and support has been greatly encouraged.

To Sandie, I thank you for always being here, and for making sure I am taken care of. ❤

The next of these human roses is Corrie Lynn Green. Corrie is another one I came to know from Socially Distant Fest, and to chronicle her journey is to have it run parallel with mom’s. Like mom, she valiantly fought cancer, in her case breast cancer. And like mom, she fought this awful disease tooth and nail. And Corrie Lynn whipped that bear. And she decided to sing out in joy. Corrie has just released an album of music from my beloved Appalachia, and like mom, Corrie loves to sing, and her voice fills me with joy. Mom would be so proud of Corrie and how she has fought and continues to fight for others, even though her battle is won. Precious is the souls who can continue to shout and advocate for those who are fighting cancer in place of mom, and Corrie’s is one I hold in the uppermost echelon of my being.

To Corrie Lynn, thank you for being a voice to those fighting, and for encouraging me to find my own, in the Blue Ridge hills. ❤

To conclude this tribute to those in my life who carry mom’s legacy, I will honor my friend Jaime Bennett. Jaime is someone I came to know a little later down the pike, though also from Socially Distant Fest. I had the pleasure and honor of directing Jaime’s show called The Warrior Within, and in that show, Jaime would always touch on a topic that was near and dear to her heart. In directing these episodes, and hearing her tell stories of things almost unimaginable happening to her over her life, it made me cry to know that she had fought many of the same battles mom had fought in her time. While Jaime’s battles align a lot with ones I have fought in my own life, it drew me that much closer to Jaime to see the battles of mom’s that she has fought, and all of them so fiercely and valiantly.

To Jaime, thank you for showing me that my battles are valid, and that I can indeed talk them out without fear of judgement. ❤

In closing, I will include a letter. This letter was not of my own hand, but is influenced by me. It is a variation of a letter that Paul Harvey read on a Father’s Day broadcast many years ago, and one that I changed slightly to be from the point of view of a son or daughter writing to their mother. The letter reads as follows:

Dear Mom,

I am writing this to you, even though you have been dead for 30 years. Whether you can read these lines, perhaps you can read my thoughts, but there is still some things I need to say, even if it’s too late.

Now that my own hair is gray, I remember how yours got that way. I was such an ass, mom……..Foolishly believing in my own teenage wisdom, when I know now I would have benefitted most from the calm, right, wholesome wisdom of yours.

Most of all, now that I have children of my own, I want to confess my greatest sin against you, the feeling I had, for which you did not understand. Though when I look back now, I know that you did understand. You understood me better than I did my own self……How patient you were, and how futile your efforts to get close to me, to win my confidence, to be my guardian angel were. I wouldn’t let you. I simply wouldn’t let you. What was it that held me aloof? I’m not sure, but despite my best efforts, my own children had to build the same wall between them and I. And there’s no way I can climb over it or go through it, and what a shame, what a waste.

I wish you were here now, across this table from me. There’d be no wall now. We’d both understand, now. And God, mom, how I do love you, and how I dearly wish I could be your companion again. Well…….maybe that day isn’t far off. I’m guessing you’ll be there, waiting to take me by the hand and lead me up the further slope. I’ll put in the first thousand years or so, making you realize that not one pang of yearning, not one morsel of thought, not one second of worry you spent on me was wasted, it all came back, and it all paid off eventually.

I know that the richest, most priceless thing on earth and one of the least understood things is that mighty love and tenderness and that everlasting craving to help that a mother feel toward her little ones. But none of her children can realize this until the roles are reversed. Even now, mom, I’m tired, weak and longing, and would hasten to join up there in the Great Beyond, except for my children…….They’re all fine, sweet, caring and upstanding young ones, all very capable, self-sufficient, highly talented and loving toward all. But, mom, I reckon I’ll stand by a little longer, to help them along, and to watch them shoot for the moon and land among the stars, and to be there for them, if they ever need me. You understand.

Signed,

Your loving child

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please feel free to share memories of your own mother, whether she is still with us or not.

Take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

WHERE THE END AND THE BEGINNING MEET

Milepost 264.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in my beloved North Carolina will find you at The Lump Overlook, one of 195 scenic overlooks on the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Following a short trail up the hill, you can see for miles into the picturesque Yadkin Valley region. A plaque telling about Tom Dula (Tom Dooley) stands at the trailhead at the bottom of the hill. Wooden fences lines the hill and adds to the charm of the area. Beyond the hill, there is a narrow paved walkway, offering travelers and tourists a second opportunity to peer into the Carolina foothills. The scenery is lush and green in the spring, and alight with many colors in the fall. It is a place where snapshots are taken, and memories are made.

And for me, it is the place where I nearly ended my life.

In August of this year, I hit absolute rock bottom mentally. I have touched on this in previous blogs, but have never fully dove into it. I found myself to be completely frayed in my personal life, and in my work/creative life. I found myself constantly worrying and obsessing over everyone and everything in my circle. Even in doing things I enjoy, I still found myself straddled by the weight of anxiety, of uncertainty, of FOMO, the fear of missing out. It was completely wrecking my life. Being an empath, it can be very hard to tame your care for others down when you need to. And in my case, these feelings were like kudzu, covering every fiber of my being in a thick layer of choking anxiety vines and leafy panic. But I kept ignoring it. And ignoring it. And ignoring it. I kept lying to myself, saying I things under control, when it was gnawing-no, eating-at me, from the feet up.

Many times, I had visited The Lump Overlook in rides on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I remember vividly the view, and how sharp the drop-off was from the aforementioned narrow paved walkway down into the chasm beneath me. I had my mind made up. I was going to free myself from these feelings, emotions, worries, panics and fears by jumping from the overlook into the valley below. I didn’t care how long the fall would be, nor what I may or may not hit as this body cascaded into the valley below. I knew I’d had enough. I had reached the end of my rope. A running start and a leap into the valley from the overlook was going to be the solution to all of my problems, so I thought. But little did I know, a new beginning was about to meet my planned end.

I confessed my intentions to a handful of close friends, even going as far to admit I had begged and pleaded my own brother to drive me to the overlook, so I could carry out what was to be my final wish. Shocked and terrified they must have been, but judgmental and critical, they were not. They sat me down and identified what had caused this to build up, things I had wholeheartedly ignored. The stresses, the worries, the anxieties, the fear of not being present, the pressures of making sure everything ran correctly, and that everyone was appeased, both within the group and outside of it. They made a map of progress for me to follow, with careful and concise instructions going forward. And at times, it’s been damn hard to follow. Even now, I get that wrenching feeling in my gut that I should be present, I should have my sleeves rolled up and that I should be getting my hands dirty in the online network we are running. But I know that, if I was insistent, I’d just find myself right back at where I was, and I would have erased every shred of the progress I have made.

Instead, I take those wrenching feelings and tun them into knocking on doors, looking into options for mental health services, emailing potential therapists, and airing out these wrenching feelings to that same close knit group of dear friends. And apart from that, I am channeling those feelings elsewhere, into writing poetry and short stories, and in recent days, even going as far as submitting one of my poems for publication in a physical, hard-copy book! And I’m always looking forward to the future……..some of my early goals for the next year is to find a solid therapist, to visit some more dear friends, to write and publish a full book of my own poetry, and to take some of my music ideas and get them recorded, with the hopes of having at least an EP of my songs released by the end of 2023! Many bright things await me, and it all came when my end and my beginning met, at milepost 264.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, talk a bit about how you’ve overcome those feelings of anxiety, the fear of missing out, suicidal thoughts, etc. Your feelings and stories are valid, and well welcomed and cherished!

As always, thank you all for taking some time to read this blog! Take care, much love, and may God richly bless

-Jon

P.S.-Special thank yous to Renee Yaworsky, Diane Coll, Sandie Ingrande and Just Another Badass Warrior co-founder Em Farwell for taking me into their arms and helping me chart a course toward a better and brighter future for myself. Without their care and love and kindness, I do not know where I would be. Thank you ladies, from the very bottom of my heart. ❤ ❤ ❤

NOISY NEWS, PASSIONS AND GIVING PRECEDENCE TO HEART, MIND & SOUL

On the day I am writing this, I am currently visiting with a friend in the wonderful city of Statesville, North Carolina. The last few days away have been a much-needed retreat from the real world, but I woke up this Monday morning to the awful news that more violent attacks are ongoing in Ukraine. My heart was in my throat, knowing the people I know that are touched deeply by the ongoing war in that country. To say nothing of those who are deeply affected by news stories that may not be front page headlines every day, but are nonetheless topics folks invest a lot in, ranging from self to state to world. And it made me wonder: At what point do our hearts, minds and souls take precedence over the 24 hour noisy news cycle? At what point do these three things take precedence over things we have deep passions for? Can a happy medium be reached?



I know this is a slippery slope, especially in the times in which we live. The 24 hour news cycle is a hard thing to get out of once caught in it. Couple that with the social media boom, and the fact that anyone can say anything about anything, and you find yourself in a draining, depleting mindset. And that’s just with news stories. What about things we are fiery and passionate about, thing that may not make the headlines routinely, or may not even make the news at all? It’s good to have that drive, that passion, but I believe a healthy dose of moderation is also required, so we don’t find ourselves in the whale’s stomach time and again. After all, it is the testing time once again with humanity. We stand at the precipice of today, with the golden horizons of tomorrow within sight. But storm clouds and lightning bolts lie between us and that, and to traverse these metaphorical storms, we must be well prepared for what lie ahead.

The legendary Paul Harvey once said about the seemingly never-ending news cycle: “Noise makes news. One gunshot makes more noise than a thousand prayers. And we will continue to be attracted to it, so long as the fire which burns others warms us.” And this statement I couldn’t agree with more. The human race has such an obscene fascination with bad news. But I also understand where that fascination may be coming from. We may be broke out with woe and worry and discord and disaster in our own lives, but if we see the news about a village in Ukraine being decimated, or about an athlete with a broken leg or torn muscle, or about stock market numbers plunging, or a small town somewhere getting blown off the map by a tornado or hurricane, we can all feel relatively comfortable in our own lives and positions. We can see the misfortunes of others and say to ourselves, “well, at least I’m not as bad off as those people!” But before you do this, please stop and ask yourself the following questions:

1) Is this the way to be?

2) Is it right to make light of the splinters in someone else’s eye, when we have logs sticking out of ours?

3) Is it right to mock and ridicule others’ situations, just because we’re tired of facing our own, or not wanting to face our own?

4) Is it OK for us to bury ourselves in other’s despair or worry or anxiety?

5) Is it OK to substitute what I’m going through with what someone else is going through?

If your answer is no to any of these, I advise you look deep inside yourself and take an inventory of your mind, heart and soul. I used to be one of those who would find some twisted level of comfort in the pain of others. Then I found myself following the news cycle 24/7, and finding that the happenings of the world were replacing my own needs and low points in my life. Every little breaking story would send shockwaves through my being. I found myself losing sleep at night over everything. Someone else’s bad news was something I would revel in. I had to divorce myself from the noisy news cycle before it completely enveloped me. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was a first step in setting boundaries in my own life. And the great thing is, it’s never too late to set those boundaries in your life!

If you feel the fire in your belly by the news stories that impact you, a good place to start would be donating to a worthy cause tied to said news stories, ranging from a local food bank to medical donation websites to storm relief. Spreading the word about notable causes tied to news stories is a much better way of channeling the fire inside one’s self. Another way is to volunteer, if you are able to. So many charitable causes are short-staffed in these trying times, and every helping hand is welcomed. Detoxing from the social media cycle is also highly beneficiary. Try and limit yourself to checking the news cycle just once a day, but if you struggle with that, slowly decrease your time spent on news sites or watching various 24/7 news channels, until the number dwindles downward all the time. And if you find yourself getting caught up in the rat race of the cycles, take a step back and a deep breath, and remind yourself of the positive. Take a look at what’s around you. Go for a long walk. Read, write, listen to music or take a nap. Remember that misfortune for one does not necessarily equal fortune for another. We are all in this boat together, and we must look after one another, if we are to make this work.

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please feel free to share tips you use for pulling yourself out of the news cycle and into brighter, better mindsets!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless,

-Jon

ATTACHMENT, ABANDONMENT AND BONDS

Throughout my life, I have had the pleasure and privilege of forging many brawny ties with those in my life, and I referenced this in my earlier blog on soul ties, and in a way, this blog will be a sort of part two to that soul ties blog. But today, I want to talk with you about when the soul ties get to be perhaps too strong, and you find yourself fighting attachment issues-thinking that those you are close with hung the moon and sent the sun into the sky every day.

When someone shows you daylight after a long period of being in the darkness in your life, you cling to that. You cherish it. You become intoxicated by it. You cannot believe it. Your mind rejoices, saying:

Someone showed me the light!

Someone showed me a path out of the forests in my mind!

Someone offered me a hand to pull me out of the weeds!

Someone offered me a life raft from the sinking ship of a situation I was in!

Someone encouraged me in my creative endeavors!

But if you are not careful, you find you will begin to obsess over these feelings, and starting to chase them. It’s like a drug, far more powerful than any of the ones circulating on the streets today. And you find yourself smothering those around you in time, worrying over their every minute movement in their lives, when 99.99% of the time, the moves they make will not impact the friendship, partnership or relationship you have cultivated over time. But still, your mind worries. You’ve become addicted. And now you can’t let go, because attachment and fear of abandonment have you pinned to this person or people. You find yourself lashing out when they want to do something that doesn’t conform to what you want them to do, whether it’s something as major as a cross-country move, a new creative journey, or something as minute as what color they should dye their hair, or what books they are wanting to read. I know this well. Because I am one of those people.




As I have mentioned in blogs past, I deeply value and cherish soul ties I have forged in my life. I value hugs, conversation, sharing laughter or making a meal for someone. But the dark side of this is precisely what I’ve mentioned above. I found myself getting attached to the people I have forged these ties with. My brain sank its teeth into their kindness. They listened to my story and didn’t run afterward. They sat with me and held my hand through the tears and the fears. They heard every single reason why they should toss me in the ditch and leave me, but yet they stayed. And I greatly value and cherish that. But the down side is that my mind always takes what they’re doing and stores it away, and just assumes that they will always have the time to give it, at the drop of a hat. And when even the smallest of changes comes, it pulls out those files and says, “you’re not getting this from them anymore!!! They are fixing to abandon you, just like how everybody else close to you has! You don’t deserve this, and you’ll never get it again!” And as a result, you find yourself lashing out, not from a place of hate, but from a place of trying to maintain the good thing/things that are going on. You instantly go into fight or flight when someone this close to you shares news of a new event or happening in their life, because you are scared shitless that what you have is eroding, going the way of the dodo, and that the bond you have with them is about to buy the farm.

Sometimes, these can even manifest themselves as feelings for someone. And no matter what reasoning you might try to do with your mind, it will have you convinced that the person you are close with is head-over-heels for you, and that, no matter the situation, you can show up as their knight in shining armor riding a white horse, coming in to save the day. You cannot picture yourself without them. You find yourself fawning over them constantly. You dream about them every night. You find yourself messaging or emailing them multiple times daily. And before long, you’re so caught up in the addiction, you can’t even recognize yourself anymore mentally and spiritually. Nor can you recognize your own heart, soul and mind. The addiction of attachment has you fully ready to shed your body, cares and woes, to become one with the person you are closest with, and to become a specter in their lives, hanging over every little decision they make, and ready to declare war on anything they do that may jeopardize the “special thing” your mind has tricked you into thinking you have.




I am an addled soul. And I have fought this exact bear many times in my life. Attachment and fear of abandonment has leeched so much from me, and I know it has strained many friendships along the way, to say nothing of the opportunities it has cost me. I am still reeling from years of this addiction, the debilitating need to be loved and to go above and beyond for everyone.

But you know the beautiful thing about it?

It’s never too late.

It’s never too late to take your life back into your own hands. I am slowly realizing this. I am seeing firsthand the damage my attachment issues and abandonment issues have caused, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work in the repair process. These issues and fears have carved through me like a Category 5 hurricane. There’s a LOT of work to be done to overcome these issues and addictions. But it’s a bright and brand-new day in my life. And I am fully prepared to do whatever it takes to shed myself of these problems, and I encourage you to do the same!

I hope you all have gleaned something from this! In the comments, feel free to share your own stories about fighting attachment, abandonment issues, fears of losing someone close, being too clingy, etc! I am always willing to listen to your stories, and I want you to overcome and succeed in your journey to be a better person!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

P.S.: Special thanks to my dear friend Renee Yaworsky, who inspired me to write this blog on this subject today!

MEMORIES AND MEMORABILIA, AND THE JOURNEY ALONG THE WAY

All my life, I have been obsessed with how things used to be. I am 25 years old, but in age only. I love the way things used to be, whether it be in music, sports, you name it. Any piece of the past in something I love, I try to cling to it. Old guitars, ticket stubs from auto races long ago, vinyl records, old signs and books, I love it all. And on top of that, I am very much Mayberrian or Lake Wobegonian in my mindset, and although I don’t regret this, I do sometimes find myself standing out like a sore thumb, especially in my own generation. And sometimes, the journey through the past can be a painful one, but the knick-knacks and souvenirs picked up along the way continue to serve me well.

I often find myself not adhering to many things my generation glorifies and follows. That makes me somewhat odd in my friend circles, but I still hold steadfast. I still believe in true love. I still believe in the good in people. I still believe that there is hope. I still believe in loyalty, trust, support and taking time for yourself. I still believe that, some way, somehow, everything will get better. And if that isn’t the way to think, it’s certainly the way to pray.

Being an old soul has its perks, but it also has some pretty hefty drawbacks as well. If you’re not careful, those trips down Memory Lane can end in sadness at times, especially if you have an overactive, overthinking mind like myself. And it can be the littlest things that start you in on trips down that road. An old radio or TV commercial. An issue of a magazine. Smells of certain plants or foods. A song. A video of an old sporting event. Even the sound of the wind or the falling of snow. I have found myself taking that journey back in time off of these things and many more. And time was when I would think back to childhood, and it would make me sad. But these days, I look back sometimes, and while there is a twinge of sadness and longing for the safe harbors of yesterday, I can smile knowing I have the memories and the memorabilia to highlight the good times, while at the same time respecting the perspective that time has added to the not-so-good parts of the quarter-century I have spent on this earth.



I have mentioned my dear mother Nancy in past blogs. The memories I have of her are of her being a valiant, strong and ethereal force in my life, and being the fighter that I model myself after today. I didn’t know it at the time, but kid me was taking notes watching her and how she gracefully fought ovarian cancer for four years, after doctors only gave her six months at first diagnosis. Three memories of her stick out strongest in my mind, the first of which being her love of cooking. The lady never failed in anything she set her mind to in the kitchen, and if I put my mind to it at times, I can still taste her wonderful cooking. Whether it be something as simple to make as black gravy, or a full-on Thanksgiving feast, she excelled. Any time I smell fresh-made bread, I think of her, for she absolutely loved making homemade bread.

The second of these memories is of an excursion to the grocery store during a snowstorm, probably 20 years ago at this juncture. It was dumping the snow, so much so you could hardly see 10 feet in front of you, but still, mom persisted. I remember giant clumps of the heavy, wet snow hitting the windshield repeatedly. I remember making the comment of, “if one more of these things hits the windshield, I’m going to scream!” And just like that, the clumps of snow hitting the windshield stopped. To this day, whenever a heavy snow event occurs here in the mountains of my beloved North Carolina, I think of her and that moment.

The third one is of how she inadvertently planted the seed that sprouted into my love of auto racing, and NASCAR in particular. It was October 13, 2002, a Sunday night. Mom was flipping through the TV channels, when she landed on NBC’s coverage of the 500 mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jamie McMurray, who was in just his second-ever NASCAR Cup series event, held off 2000 series champion Bobby Labonte to win his first-ever race. I remember watching McMurray doing burnouts on the frontstretch, and looking at mom and asking quizzically, “why’s he spinning out like that, mom?” To which she just smiled and said, “because he’s happy.” With that, she planted a love of motorsports that still runs strong, 20 years on.



There are also the memories that are not pleasant. Seeing her laying on the couch, hardly able to move after chemo treatments zapped her energy. Holding her hand as she lay motionless on a hospital bed some days. Climbing “The Tree,” a winding and hilly stretch of road leading to Boone hospital. Having every eye fixated on me as I walked into class the day after she died, 18 years ago. And the ongoing pain I feel from those days. Some days, I wish it were I instead of her that left this life for the next one, but then she would have had to have been saddled with that pain, and I wouldn’t wish the pain on anyone. Though more days than not, I find myself looking back on those days-and feeling a sense of gratitude. Yes, it was difficult. Yes, it was painful. Yes, it completely changed and re-shaped me. But over the long arc of time, it helped me. It helped me realize that I can overcome anything thrown at me. I can ride the waves and weather the storms and still come out in one piece. And through low times and high alike, I have the memorabilia to show for it-not all of it physical, but all of it are keepsakes of this crazy, beautiful ride I am on. ❤️

I hope this blog finds you well, and I hope you mention in the comments what the knick-knacks, souvenirs and other memorabilia you’ve collected along your journey mean to you, and the impact they have on you!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless you all

-Jon

SOUL TIES

I am someone who greatly values the importance and significance of forging soul ties in my life. I cherish these ties I have forged with the many wonderful people who have entered into my life, but the trade-off is that, with an overactive and often lying mind, even the slightest change in someone results in me thinking those close to me are pouring acid over the steel used in these soul ties, thus causing them to rust and weaken, and the bond to ultimately break.

Where this omnipresent and sometimes crippling fear originates from, I could not tell you. One could argue that it originates in the loss of mom 18 years ago, and that it is wrapped in the abandonment issues that must have stemmed from that. Still others could make a case for it being a part of seeing how many others in my life have done me, taking my word and running with it, and in some cases, using it against me. Although I have a much healthier and stronger team of friends and co-creators now, I often catch myself questioning even their allegiances to me, and if they will ultimately kick me to the curb or not.

This is something I’ve struggled with mightily over the span of my life. Especially recently. Whenever my closest friends make even a slight change-a change that more than likely won’t impact anything-my mind still sinks its teeth into it and tries to convince me that I am being put on the shelf, to do no more than collect dust in the lives of those around me. I have forged so many close connections with those I am co-creating with and making memories with, and I love and value those experiences. But lately, I catch myself wondering if I may have poured too much into those around me, and gave my all to those, when I should have been reserving part of me for myself and making my own memories and adventures.

I catch myself watching what I say around my friends, and what I open up about. I find myself walking on eggshells in their presence, worried silly about doing the wrong thing. Every missed call or unanswered Facebook message brings me significant consternation. It’s a forever high-wire act between trying not to say or do the wrong thing, and the fear that I already have. It is what it is, and what it is is hell. I often wonder if the same worry and care and love I have for my friends is reciprocated from them to me. After a life of second-guessing, and knives sticking out of my back many, many times, I sure do have my doubts about who all is in my corner at times.

But, slowly but surely, I am learning to dial myself back and not worry so much about what my brain might concoct. I know that the ones who truly have my back will continue to love and support me, no matter what might happen. And what changes my friends may enact in their lives won’t terminate the friendships and soul ties I have forged with them, more than likely. I am slowly learning to put my trust back into those around me, as more and more have shown their trust in me by opening up about various things in their lives, and seeing those them put their trust in me to carry these tidbits of knowledge with me, and to use them to help them in the grand scheme of things.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my most recent blog! In the comments, please share your experiences about soul ties, and if you have ever fought those fears of soul ties dissolving in your life, and how you got them back, if some of them did dissolve!

As always, take care, much love to you all, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

ON TINY ISLANDS, LONELINESS, SMALLNESS AND FIGHTING YOUR MIND

“Sometimes I feel like a tiny island, floating in the sea……..”

Today is the 77th birthday of one of my favorite guitarists, the inimitable Leo Kottke. And on such a day, I figured I would write a bit, and center it on a theme of a song he had on a record called Greenhouse 50 years ago, a cover of an Al Gaylor song called Tiny Island.



In my mind, I often find myself stranded on tiny islands. Feeling like I am stranded in a place where the only person I truly have is myself, a place hundreds of miles from those I love and cherish. A place where dark clouds and stormy gales are moving in, and I can do nothing but watch, and maybe put my hands over my head and curl into a ball for protection, if I can think clear enough to do so. And I write to you this day, September 11, 2022 from one of those sun-baked and lonesome islands in my head.

These tiny islands manifest themselves as feelings of smallness, forgottenness and abandonment, and feeling as though I’ve been placed on the shelf to collect dust. I know where this stems from. When I was 7 years old, I lost my mother, Nancy, at the all-too-young age of 44. My rock, my safe harbor from life’s great storms. The solid ground I walked on as a child. My sunlight and the North Star in my sky at night. Gone. At the all-too-young age of 7, I had this first taste of loneliness, forgottenness and smallness. And it’s a taste that has only grown more bitter to me over the long arc of time.

In the 18+ years since that day, I have been fighting those feelings tooth and nail. And like kudzu, they spread, wrapping their choking vines around friendships, relationships, creative partnerships, etc. Always feeling like I’m one comment or missed call away from a dissolution of said friendship, relationship or creative partnership. Always walking on eggshells with my view on certain things within my creative work or elsewhere. Going down dark rabbit holes and snapping off at people I love and care about, because I feel they are forgetting me. Being too clingy and overbearing, and slowly having those things drive a wedge between the folks I love and care about. Always having hellish and insanely unrealistic scenarios about friends and loved ones. Fearing I will wake up to bad news about someone I love and cherish. Feeling 50,000 pounds on my chest when someone I love and cherish does have bad news in their lives, knowing I can’t physically be there to help. Projecting my fears and concerns on those around me, and my mind trying to pin those fears onto those around me, and trying to paint them in a bad way. People pleasing. Losing sleep. Backsliding in my mental health. Shutting down. The loneliness and need to feel accepted has cost me dearly, and very nearly cost me everything a couple of times.

But, on those tiny islands I find myself on, I am finding something I’d not noticed before now: Bottles washing up on the shore with messages inside them. Messages of folks relating their experiences to mine. Messages of love, hope, care, and help. Messages of support. Messages I desperately needed to hear. I have had it in my head for so long that I and only I could fight my way off these islands and swim to help, even though the waters are infested with sharks and the waves are high and whitecapped. But I am no longer alone in these struggles. I finally have a viable, healthy and loving support system in the many who have stepped up to help me in my fight, including one Em Farwell, one of the founders of this very site. In these kind, loving, sweet and wonderful people, I have a team who are willing and ready to roll up their sleeves and chop wood and help me build a boat to sail off these islands with, toward calmer waters and islands with my friends and loved ones on them.

Though it doesn’t come without those friends having a healthy dose of patience and VERY long fuses. Even with the support team, I still find myself having to weather storms that move in. I have to sometimes encounter parts of my path forward that are flooded. I have to sometimes cope with the fact that my torch lighting my way gets put out due to the rain and wind. But at least I have these friends to turn to when storm fronts move in over me. In their friendship, kindness, patience, love and understanding, I have a home with impenetrable and unbreakable walls. I have a home where the bonds are strong, the love runs deep and has solid roots, the foundation is sturdy, and the roof over my head provides cover from all that life may throw at me. Sincerely grateful am I, for these people that are willing to share my experience and help me in my journey, and are not afraid of getting rained on and getting battered by the wind at times.

I hope this blog has inspired you to reach out and find your team that will be a home to you, and will be boat-builders and shelters from the storm in your life!

Much love, all the best, and may God richly bless,

-JP

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j5ilgP1Ov8

MOVING AT THE SPEED OF LIFE

My name is Jonathan Phipps. I am 25 years old, and at a time where I should be full-throttle in my journey forward in life, but at this juncture, I find myself wanting to take my foot off the accelerator and just coast for a bit. I want to enjoy the scenery I am surrounded by, both in my personal, physical life and in my mind, each and every day. Long story not so long, I have been moving at the speed of life, and it’s time to dial down, hit cruise control, and let the road unfold before me.

A bit of context on this: Since April of 2021, I have been a show host, director, producer and content creator for Cosmos Creative TV. CCTV is a budding network that myself and my dear friend Renee founded, as one way of taking our foot off the accelerator in our lives, at a time when we needed it desperately. But in the ever constant fram-and-bam and bump-and-grind of being a creative with a revving heart and a double-barrel mind, it’s easy to find yourself right back in the rat race. And sometimes, we don’t realize the toll it takes on us and the damage it can cause to us, physically, mentally and spiritually.

I had lied to myself for so long. Seeing people falling about in their mental health journeys and saying to myself, “that’ll never be me. I’ll know when to pull out. I’ll have an exit plan.” Swearing time and again I would step back if it got to be too much. Promising I would take the actions to get my mental health reigned in. Saying aloud that I would never let my work life and my personal life intertwine with each other.

And those words sound like Shakespeare sonnets to you, until you actually have to implement them.

I had told myself truckloads of lies about my mental health and stepping away from Cosmos. Until I found myself at a place I had only really experienced once before, in 2018.

I found myself sharpening knives to open my wrists and end my life.

I found myself wanting to jump from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I found myself losing interest and joy in things I once loved.

I found that my creative refuge, my apple orchard safe haven from the real world had been poisoned due to my mental health.

I found myself going back to the fans time and again, when I was threadbare and in desperate need of a hand to hold onto.

I found myself losing sleep night after long night, worrying over shows and having hellish and wildly unrealistic scenarios in my head about friends and co-creators within the network.

I found that, even in things I love and enjoy, such as attending races, traveling, etc, I was always going back to the happenings within Cosmos, and in turn was being leeched of any joy I could have gleaned from these events.

In short, I was moving at the speed of life, and had inevitably found the concrete wall I was going to smash into at some point.

I am early in this crash repair/slowing down process, but I am learning tons of new things in this new leg of the journey. Learning how to conserve my energy, and not burn out too quick. Much like the racers that have run at my home racetrack (North Wilkesboro Speedway), I am learning to make the most of what I have, and not use it all up in one shot. It’s a lifelong process, not a five minute, run-like-your-ass-is-on-fire sprint. And also, I am learning that it’s perfectly OK to run your own pace, instead of letting others dictate what you do and when you do it. And to be perfectly frank, these are lessons I took entirely too long to learn. But the beautiful thing about this is, there’s no expiration date on when you can learn these things. It’s never too late to run your own race at your own speed. Persistence and patience will land you in Victory Lane, if you have the willingness to do these things. And at the young-but-old age of 25, I am drinking from the fountain of knowledge every single day on this.

I hope my maiden voyage on this wonderful site has inspired you to take your foot off the gas and coast for a while and enjoy the scenery, and I hope you accept me and my story, as I tell it here over the next long while!

Much love and all the best,

-Jon