Tag Archives: friendship

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

WE ARE THE DREAMERS

I remember the exact moment I realized I had matured into a responsible adult. It was the day something didn’t go the way I wanted it to and instead of saying, “why is this happening to me”, I thought, “what did I do to create this outcome”. Somehow, life became easier after this revelation!

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle in my life I did not create and I can not fix. Scleroderma is the beast I can not outsmart or outrun. It’s there, it’ll always be there. Every once in a while, I just want to curl up in a ball and shut out the entire world. But then I get discouraged and angry that I’m wasting precious time. The older I get, the more I realize how every minute matters. I don’t want to curl up in a ball, close my eyes and wake up having missed years of my life.

The lesson I’ve learned from being chronically ill is that everything matters. My lust for normalcy is insatiable. I want to get up, shower, drink coffee, whine about going to work, drive to work while bitching about traffic, survive my day to come home, make dinner and whine about doing it all again tomorrow. But my reality leaves no time for normal things.

On top of the desire to find balance in a world made for the healthy, I also want to do everything, see everything, meet everyone, and I want to experience all of the goodness in the world. Again, my reality leaves little time for all of these things. I can not tell you how many people have told me to “just do it”, go on that trip, and do all the things my heart is set on, while I still can. But I’m here to tell you that not everyone has the financial means or the health to be that person on TikTok traveling the world crossing things off their bucket list. I’m not hating, I say do all the things if you have the means. It’s just not possible for a majority of the disabled community. Whether it be a physical or mental disability, we live day by day with constantly changing medical needs and paycheck to paycheck trying to pay for those needs. We barely have time to write a bucket list, never-mind live it!

The other side of this is the people who, with negative intentions, have told me to shrink my dreams, to accept I’ll never have a normal life and move on, to adjust my life plans, and to just give in to my new reality. I’ve even had people tell me to just stop fighting the inevitable. What the…This one is probably the most painful and infuriating. When someone says this, I hear, “You’re inconveniencing my life and I need you to just be a good little patient”.

If you get nothing else from this blog, please read this and burn it in your brain. When we dream it’s with some semblance that these things are possible. Hope gets us through our darkest days. It drives us to push & never give up. Possibilities, goals, small triumphs, and even the hard work it takes to see a dream come true, are all burned as fuel to carry on. We savor the thought that the pain may end, that tomorrow will be better, that a cure may be found, and that our dreams will come true. Please don’t take that from us.

Yes, having a permanent and incurable illness means you will have to learn to navigate all the changes and hindrances that come with the diagnosis. But it does not leave a person less intelligent, damaged, incapable, irrelevant, unable to make their own choices, less worthy of friendship or love, and they, sure as hell, are not weak. An illness doesn’t make someone less of a friend. It doesn’t make them less fun or leave them not needing fun & excitement in their life. It doesn’t make them a burden, and it is not a free pass to steal their passions, hopes, and dreams.

I will not climb into my bed and be a good little patient. Sorry if this inconveniences some people & makes “their” life more difficult. But we all have the choice to be in someone’s life or not and love should be unconditional. If you see me as a burden, find a better patient, it’s not me. Unless you have a degree and can put Dr. before your name, I am not your patient. Do not cast shade on my hope. It would be better if you just walked away. It would be your loss. Because I am a fierce & loyal friend and you will never find a more welcoming & loving group than my circle.

Lucky for me, I’m a stubborn bitch who loves learning, life & people. I will not cower, I will not succumb, I will not have my life stolen by Scleroderma. Even on a bad day, I will accomplish something. Sometimes it’s a huge thing & sometimes it’s small. But to me it’s everything. I’ll continue to visit loved ones, make people smile, create, talk, study, practice, help others, make new friends, dream, hope, love, laugh, and fight until I take my last breath. I will not let the lack of money, resources, or bad health keep me from dreaming about doing all the things I want to do in this world. Will I do it all? Probably not. Will I die trying? Absolutely! 

Here’s to the warriors and all who know your worth and willingly step out into the world and share your journey. Keep hoping, fighting, surviving, and thriving, for we are the dreamers & we will not let anyone take that from us.

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.

I CHOOSE

My body has spent the last 2 decades trying to break me. Every day it takes something else away. I didn’t think there was much left to take away. I was wrong.

My job is to stay alive until the medicine & research catch up.

I put in a lot of effort to live. I know that sounds foreign to anyone healthy, but it’s true. Every day with a chronic illness is spent staying alive. My body throws one obstacle after another in my path. In November, I learned that it will take multiple procedures to save my teeth & jaw. It’s been difficult to process this & gather the strength to face it head-on. Then Covid hit me like the sky was falling. I was so sick and my first oral surgery had to be canceled.

At the same time, my meds & treatments caught up to me & I started losing my hair. Within a very short time, we had to cut it, & eventually shave it completely. I know it’ll grow back, but damn, enough is enough. It’s not vanity that leads someone to the breaking point when they lose their hair. It’s another choice stolen, by illness. It may seem silly but yes, losing the ability to choose your hairstyle is a big deal. I was still very sick at this point, with Covid & we ended up postponing our holiday festivities. Losing my hair at the same time was extra cruel. It was one more kick in the gut from an ugly disease. 

A few days later, my quarantine ended and I went for my routine labs. My rheumatologist called later in the day, to tell me that I needed to stop one of my medications immediately. I was on the verge of liver failure. What are the chances that out of all my medications & treatments, I’d need to stop the one medication that made a huge difference in my quality of life? I reluctantly stopped it after speaking to my doctor. In just a few weeks, I’ve noticed negative changes in my body. I’m hoping my labs improve and I can resume the medication soon. 

So here I am my teeth & jaw at risk, with a bald head, and on the verge of liver failure, still trying to schedule time with family for Christmas. Yet, I am still not letting my physical problems terrorize my peace. I was feeling pretty positive earlier this week when I went for my normal urology tests and follow-up. Easy peasy routine visit. I should’ve known better. If you follow my blog you know that my urologist has wanted to put in a permanent catheter port for my bladder. I fought it as long as I could. Last year I agreed to do it, but I never scheduled the surgery. Now I have no choice it has to be done soon. I will have my mic-key port in my stomach & now I’ll have a catheter port in my bladder. Having one of these ports is difficult, but two ports on top of everything else is overwhelming.

I’m not sure how anyone else would handle all of this, but it pisses me off. I refuse to give in to my body. Unfortunately, my body continues to fight back. One would think this would break me, but they’d be wrong. I get frustrated and angry, then I fight even harder. I refuse to feel defeated. I get one damn life, this is it, I have to live with what I’ve been given! When you’re living with an incurable disease your only goal is to stop progression & maintain your quality of life. Just because your disease can’t be cured doesn’t mean you can’t live a full life. I focus on the things I love, the joy in the world & the positive possibilities of what the future might bring. I want a long happy life just like everyone else. None of us know when death will take us. That is a fact we all live with until our last breath.

I’m nothing special. I don’t do all these things because I’m strong or courageous. I do these things because I HAVE NO CHOICE. I do them or I die. I’m not alone in this lifestyle. It is with mixed emotions I watch several people close to me go through similar trials. It’s heartbreaking to know they’re suffering, but there’s something comforting in knowing I’m not alone. Someone else gets “it”. 

If you’re in a health battle my advice is to build your team, your circle, your tribe whatever you choose to call it, a strong support system is imperative. I’m so grateful to have family, friends & a medical team who are there working side by side with me. They carry me when I haven’t the energy, they push me when I’m unsure I can give anymore, & they let me be when I need time to process all of it, they are never out of reach. My tribe doesn’t judge me, I can laugh or cry and they’ll be there. They aren’t afraid to give me a kick in the ass when I need a reality check or if my pity party has gone on too long. 

I know my body will continue to fight me with every minute of my life. It better be prepared because I do not back down, I do not give up & no matter how many battles I lose, I will continue to fight. I will fight for every minute I can get. I’m always saying, I’m going to live to be 124yo. Stay tuned to see how close I get 😉

Despite it all, I refuse to bow out, give in, or become miserable. As my good friend TC says, “I choose awesome!”

I choose to be happy. I choose to survive.

I choose!

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

JUST DON’T

It’s that moment in a social situation when things get awkward. When the person you’re talking to starts squirming & fumbling for words. They are struggling to keep the conversation going. That moment when people are at a loss for words. I realize my illness, my pain, my wheelchair & dozens of other chronic illness-related issues, I live with make “them” uncomfortable. If I’m being honest, saying the wrong thing happens a lot.

These are innocent, benign comments from people with no malicious intent. Many times they think it’s funny and yet they’re completely serious. Sometimes I can shrug it off or laugh it off. Other times, my bitch switch is flipped and it’s on. I’m ready to completely obliterate someone in anger and frustration. Faster than you would think, anger turns to frustration, and frustration turns to pain. Before you know it, I’m launching headfirst into the abyss that leads me down the dark road to depression.

“You’re so lucky you don’t have to work.”

“I wish I could stay home all day, like you.”

When you want to say it, just don’t.

I hear this often. Each time my mind’s eye suddenly sees my day in what it perceives, they think I do all day. There I am on a lavish sofa, the sun gleaming through the windows, making me appear like a starlet under the glow of the spotlight. I have snacks to the left of me, a controller to my right, and I’m snug in the middle with… Netflix. My dogs are at the table playing poker with their friends. My house is a magical place where dirt evaporates and items walk themselves back to where they belong. Once in a while, I glance up from the TV long enough to see my dishes take a bath and dry themselves with my self-cleaning dishcloths. All I do is think about dinner and bam! There it is, ready to serve itself when the time is right. The washing machine collects dirty laundry and bedding, proceeds to wash, dry, put it away, and make my bed. I’m like 5 episodes into my binge-watching by now. This fantasy vision is short-lived, and my brain brings me back to reality.

What they don’t think about is the fact that you can’t work because you can’t function. Your day is consumed with effort through pain, fatigue, and brain fog. There are meds to take, scripts to fill, doctor’s appointments, organizing all of this, and dozens of other equally not-fun medically related things that need to be done. They have not had to consider the implications of being unable to work for an extended period. How do you pay for your bills and healthcare, the isolation, your lack of relevancy in the world, and a multitude of other equally reasonable questions that rattle in your brain, echoing throughout your life?

I don’t work in a regular, scheduled, leave-my-home capacity because I’m unable to. I have physical limitations. I would give anything to be healthy enough to go back to work. I’m not on vacation.

The truth is, when you’re chronically ill, you spend most days just trying to stay alive. Prioritizing what has to get done & figuring out which filth you can live with for today. Because it’s not all getting cleaned. By the time most people arrive at work, your body has already begun to retaliate, to get you to retreat to your bed.

A lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that when someone living with a debilitating chronic illness shares their time with me, I must be very important to them. I know what sacrifices were made for them to give me space in their lives. Don’t depreciate their value. Appreciate every minute they give to you.

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

TAKE INVENTORY

I may be an enigma. If I am, I’m ok with being odd-woman out.

I do not play with drama. I will not listen to gossip. When it comes to love I’m all in. My integrity means more to me than anything. My reputation is so far down on the list of things that matter. Giving first is a compulsion. I trust until given a reason not to. I’m not afraid of confrontation. As a friend, I’m all in. I choose kindness, honesty, love, & peace.

I have a few sayings that if you know me, you’ve heard.

~“Don’t waste your minutes.” Life is short we are only given so many minutes, don’t waste them.

~“Make good choices.” We all have choices. Don’t let anyone make them for you. Remember all choices come with consequences so put thought into them. Once you’ve made a choice, own it. If it was the wrong choice, learn from it, make amends, & move on.

~“Protect your peace.” Set strong boundaries. Do not bend them for anyone. Personal peace is as vital as breathing when it comes to quality of life.

I don’t try to fix people or their problems. I support them, love them, but allow them the space to fall. All of life’s stumbles teach us how to be better. I won’t take the chances to learn away from others & I do not let them take them from me. I’ll handle my business & be grateful for loved ones support.

This time of year we all start taking inventory of our lives. Checking in with ourselves, what we like, what needs work, what we can leave behind, what we need moving forward, etc… We seek out & celebrate our blessings, reminisce about those we’ve lost, & make an effort to express our gratitude to those still here. I always try and do this all year. But life is busy & messy. I’m grateful we have this time to remind us to focus on what is important & to contemplate changes that may be needed.

Kindness doesn’t have a season. It’s so simple. Start with being kind to yourself & it’ll grow. It’s so much better than growing the gossip grapevine.

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


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!

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

MY DOGS

  • dog [ dawg, dog ] noun
  • faithful companion, snuggle buddy, depression buster, biggest fan, gentle caretaker, hiking partner, emergency alert system, unconditional love bug, never-let-a-crumb remain on the floor vacuum, best friend, squirrel chasing, unfailing hero, personal trainer, fierce protector, motivational coach, alarm clock, doorbell, official guest greeter, sled puller, chicken wrangler, hole digger
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