It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Yes, 2015 has me quoting Charles Dickens. We’re not even a month into it and it seems that there is SO much going on. On one hand, there are many of us who are celebrating grand opportunities and experiences—career changes, new relationships (business and otherwise), and so on. It also seems that there are so many people experiencing hardships right now, very difficult trials. My heart aches to witness friends experiencing tragedy-the loss of loved ones and other life-altering circumstances. So, how do we get through these tough times? How do we help our loved ones to endure? What I have learned, from my own experience, is that there is always hope.
When Life Felt Like Too Much…For Me
It seems like a lifetime ago, but I can recall being in high school and having such high hopes for my future. I wanted to become an engineer. I was always an honor roll student, never got in trouble, and everyone just knew that I would go on to college, graduate, and embark upon a successful career—my happily ever after. My senior year of high school arrived. I recall receiving my acceptance letters from USC, Charleston Southern University, Benedict College, Coastal Carolina University, and Clark Atlanta University (that’s the one that I was waiting for). I was beyond excited.
After considering my choices, I decided on Coastal Carolina University. In the Fall of 1997, I was registered for classes, had started communicating with my roommate, and I was ready to begin this next phase of my life. And then… I got married and moved into a trailer park. Yep, I disenrolled from CCU. I got married, and moved into a trailer park (nothing against trailer parks but this one was atrocious). As you might imagine, my family was up in arms (my brother…literally-but that’s another story), but you couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t making the right decision. I was a naïve, lonely girl who had fallen in love-at least that’s what I thought it was at the time.
I’ll spare you the details of it all. So, to make a long and chaotic story short, what ensued was a very tumultuous, abusive, and short marriage. At its end, I found myself a single mom of a 2 year old son, and another child on the way. My most painful memory is of me, broken, on the floor crying out from the pit of my stomach while my baby boy stood by me, not knowing what to do. At this point, life had become too much for me. This is not the life that I imagined for myself. And now, I wore an intense guilt for bringing two beautiful, innocent children into what felt like a hopeless situation. What was I going to do?
I started looking for answers. I needed to know how I ended up this way. I needed to know why I had chosen this path for my life. So, to begin my healing process, I talked to and sought counsel from women who had gone through experiences similar to mine. I knew that I had to heal. I was no longer living just for me. I was determined to provide a nurturing, stable environment for my babies. One thing about having children is that it creates a sense of urgency. There was no time to waste. I had to heal. I had to get our lives on track, and I did. Was it easy? No. I knew that we deserved better. Through a whole lot of prayer, faith that things would get better, support from my loved ones, and dogged determination, I managed to finish college (graduated Summa Cum Laude), and I was blessed with a career that has allowed me to take care of us. I thank God every day, many times per day, for bringing us through that very dark period.
Have the Audacity to Claim Your Charmed Life
My Advice for Those Who Are Going Through Setbacks
January’s Gem is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Constance D. Johnson was born on December 26, 1980 in Columbus, Georgia. She is a poet, song writer, public speaker, and a loan processor. She ventured into writing at the young age of 17, while on a journey of self-discovery. In 2011, Constance published her first poetry CD entitled Liberated Love. Determined to live out her dreams, Constance has spoken at numerous women's conferences, weddings, and poetry events. She's a lover of life and dares to live in the moment. Her story is sure to touch us all.
In The Beginning…
AC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
CJ: I wanted to be a counselor. This was influenced by my aunt, who is a psychiatrist at a prison. I always looked up to her.
AC: What made you happiest during childhood?
CJ: Family gatherings during Christmas were the best. I love my family to the fullest.
AC: What was your biggest fear as a child?
CJ: I was shy. I did not feel that I was worthy. My weight was an issue during my childhood. My family made a big deal out of my weight. I didn’t want to stick up for myself. I would say that I had a rough childhood. I would even say dysfunctional. Don’t get me wrong, my parents did the best that they could, but certain things that went on affected me. My mom and dad were out there. My dad was a provider to us, and that was the way that he showed his love. He didn’t show love in emotional ways. It was hard for me to believe in myself and feel confident. I didn’t receive the affirmation that I needed. As a result, when I got older I didn’t know my worth. I experienced depression. I sought out love in the wrong people.
AC: What was your safe place?
CJ: My Grandma. She comforted me and was my stability.
Her Growth Through Faith and Healing
AC: How did you overcome feelings of low self-esteem?
CJ: Through my relationship with God and my weight-loss. I had so much junk to deal with. I’ve dealt with depression, even went through two nervous breakdowns. At times God will break you down to build you up. I was at the point where I had to look at myself in the mirror and deal with myself. God put it in my heart to believe that I could conquer my issues. I began to work on myself mentally and emotionally. I decided that enough was enough.
I started working on my diet and exercise routine, and initially lost 40 lbs. on my own. I had the gastric sleeve surgery June 29, 2013. My highest weight was 485 lbs., and I have lost 176 lbs. in 2 years.
AC: What are your diet and exercise regimens?
CJ: For the first 6-8 months, I worked out 4-6 a.m., 4-5 days per week. I then went into a title boxing gym and worked out there for 7 months. I would go 4-5 times per week, for an hour a day. I also took swimming and dance classes. Now I work out with my boxing coach (and sometimes by myself) in my own gym 5-6 days per week.
My diet consists of lots of fruits, veggies, and protein, up to 1500 calories per day. I’m not perfect, so I do have my cheat days. But I never stop working out, even if I’m sick.
Finding Her Voice
AC: In what ways has your healthier lifestyle improved life for you?
CJ: It has certainly helped me to deal with depression. I’m more confident as a speaker and poet. After a boyfriend and I broke up, I experienced major depression. After that, I started writing. A coworker invited me to a spoken word event, and I went and performed. I then began to study the artist around me so that I could perfect my art. I wanted my voice to be heard. I now feel worthy, because I trusted God and left the past behind.
AC: What makes you happy?
CJ: My relationship with God makes me happy. Life is constantly changing. People change. Their motives change. God is a constant. He makes me complete.
AC: What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment, so far?
CJ: My weight loss, finding my self-worth. There is definitely correlation between how you feel about yourself and how well you take care of yourself. There was a time when I would lay in bed, eating. I just knew that I would end up having a heart attack. Thank God that didn’t happen!
AC: Are you where you want to be in life?
CJ: I’m not where I want to be as a speaker, motivator, and poet. But I feel like I’ve found my stride and I’m going after it. I’ve published a poetry CD, entitled Liberated Love. I have a YouTube channel that is an avenue for me to offer inspirational messages and my poetry. I feel that my purpose is to be a speaker-to encourage and motivate people, especially the woman who has not yet found her strength.
AC: Do you have a song that you consider to be your life’s theme song?
CJ: Well, no, I wouldn’t say that I have a theme song. I do have a favorite musician. I love Kem. I admire his music, it’s like poetry. I respect his struggle and how he uses his gift. My favorite song of his is When Love Calls.
AC: What would be your advice to your younger self?
CJ: Be true to yourself. Be present in the moment. Celebrate yourself because you are more powerful, intelligent, and brave than you understand. Keep God close. Struggle builds character, so don’t sweat the pain.
From Constance to You
AC: What would be your advice to other women who are dealing with issues such as weight management, feeling less than beautiful, and women who don’t feel worthy?
CJ: I want to tell them that we are children of God and He is our affirmation. We all have a reason for living. Cry out to Him because he always hears. You will discover who you are and it will change your life. Trust in God. He wants your light to shine bright.
What I’ve Gained from Constance’s Story
· Our struggles are often intertwined with those of our loved ones. Though their actions may sometimes impact us in a negative way, it is not usually their intention to hurt us. Consider this when dealing with issues of forgiveness toward people in your life.
· Be persistent in pushing through life’s struggles.
· Through faith and dedication, you can find God’s purpose for you and happiness is sure to follow.
· We must take care of ourselves-mind, body, and spirit!
Words cannot express how grateful I am to this Gem, Constance Johnson, for sharing her story, and being so transparent about her experiences. She is certainly a motivator! To show Constance our appreciation for her openness please do the following:
1. Comment on this post to let Constance know how you were moved by her story.
2. Share this interview with others who may be inspired.
3. Visit and follow Constance on YouTube. Be sure to comment on the videos that you view.
Until next time, continue to be blessed!
Be Inspired! Be an Inspiration!
Antoinette C. is a blogger who delights in all things that foster unity and growth in women. After all, if the woman is happy and fulfilled, so is her family and community. Through Truly Charmed, Antoinette will introduce you to women who have inspired her, and who will, hopefully, do the same for you! Here's to your charmed life!