Things I’m Learning...A Running List

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1. Don’t be afraid to stand in your truth. The life experiences you have are unique and no matter how many obstacles you’ve faced,  these experiences have molded you into the person you are today. Use your life as a tool to help or change someone else’s life or circumstances.

2. Create boundaries. This applies to everyone from your partner to your parents. Establishing clear lines and limits in all of your interpersonal relationships is the key to maintaining these relationships. These boundaries are vital and can range from limiting phone/text contact to letting people firmly know that private and intrusive inquiries into your life are not permitted. You are entitled to allow people access to as much or as little of you and your life as you prefer.  

3. Be open. To everything. Sometimes we create rigid and ridiculous rules for our lives. By using phrases of totality such as “I ONLY do this, or  I would NEVER do that” we limit our opportunities for gratifying and life-changing experiences by being close-minded to new challenges, different people and revolutionary ideas. While keeping safety and morality in mind, try something new  and you’d be surprised on what you’ve been missing out on.

4. Say what’s on your mind. Too often we bottle things up because we can’t find the right words to speak, we’re worried about offending someone or even worse, we think no one will listen. Carrying around our heaviest thoughts and burdens can cause additional anxieties and worries. People who truly care about you will understand and appreciate the new-found expressive side of you. Speaking about things that upset or trouble us allow us to evaluate our lives and make informed decisions. Also expressing our inner-most thoughts gives us the power over self-doubt/self-hate.  

5. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Too often our trauma and hurt has forced us to build walls in our hearts and minds that block other pain, not realizing that our defense mechanisms or default coping skill of repression creates a hinderance to our healing. We have to be willing to be seen by someone trusted (homie, lover, friend, therapist) as emotional, broken, or damaged in order to truly address our deep-seated issues.

*Each day we are faced with challenges, dilemmas, hardships and heartaches. Searching for the lesson in all of the messes we encounter is imperative in turning our tragedies into triumph. Keep living and most importantly, keep learning.

Quitters Never Win

 “Call it what it is, it’s quitting”. Those are the words a close friend spoke to me recently while I was trying to sugarcoat my tendency to start and stop new projects before completion. 

“Hi, my name is Ronisha and I am a quitter.” 

I tend to have really ambitious plans and ideas. From business ventures and working out to even the creation of this blog, I tend to quit when things don’t go my way. I am my biggest barrier to success. Over the past three years, I was supposed to open a group home, create a child care network, and write a book. I’ve achieved exactly 0% of my goals.

The reason (more like excuse) for my quitting is mostly fear of failing. Fear of failure keeps us from reaching our greatest potential. Not being good enough or as successful as others doing similar things keeps us from even trying sometimes. The opinions of others, both positive and negative, oftentimes stop us from giving our all to ideas and goals. Personally, I have so many people who believe in my ability to achieve greatness that I am sometimes overwhelmed with a feeling of not wanting to disappoint anyone. So overwhelmed, that in my irrational mind, doing nothing is better than doing something that won’t make my loved ones proud. Alternatively, I am afraid of putting effort into my ideas because I won’t be as good, as popular, or as significant as others doing similar or related things. Sometimes I’m just lazy, if I’m being honest. 

As I work towards being the best me that I can be, I have to work extremely hard to get rid of the quitter’s spirit. One method I’m implementing is doing one thing, big or small, daily toward furthering my dreams. Some days it’s researching funding for my ideas, some days it’s writing a few pages that may go in a book or improve my writing.  I have to work diligently to fight against my own self-doubt and actively pursue my dreams. I keep the thought of dying without making an impact on the world around me as my new motivation to keep going. I am realistic and recognize that I will have days when I want to give up, but if I have more days of facing and overcoming challenges, I am hopeful that I won’t quit again. 

Me Too, Her Too, You Too.


     It started when I was about 11 or 12 years old. He was old enough to be my dad. He was family. The first time it was touching over the clothes. I felt dirty, confused, and like I had done the worst thing in the world. After that it escalated to under the clothes touching, making me touch his penis, sucking my adolescent breasts and included making me pose for the most vulgar photographs. I never told a soul for years. It lasted nearly until I graduated high school. I’m not sure why I didn’t tell anyone. Mostly I thought nobody would believe me, a foster kid, saying something so vile about a relative everyone loved.                                                                                    

I held on to this secret for years before I began disclosing to friends in college. I finally wanted to talk about what happened. Being a social work major caused me to think deep into my own life in order to effectively help others. I’ve shared my story and heard countless stories back. The victims are sisters, mothers, daughters; the predators are fathers, cousins, uncles, neighbors, teachers, and coaches. I’ve known for so long that it happened to me too, you too and her too.
   

 #metoo is publicly highlighting what is one of the most unspoken but frequent crimes in society. Sexual abuse/molestation/harassment and rape are the silent killers that plague women, young and old, rich or poor, black or white. Some people are brave enough speak up and report the abuse; some have not yet made it to that place. Both situations are okay. I’ve learned that each survivor handles the aftermath of the abuse in their own unique way. Every survivor may not want to tweet out #metoo, it doesn’t make them any less of a victim. Some survivors pursue legal action, some choose not to take that path. Whatever choice a survivor makes, she’s entitled to. I never reported my abuse to any adults while it was occurring, I’m aware that I can still report the abuse. I struggle with what choice to make each day. I don’t know if I am strong enough to re-open the wounds, I don’t know if there would be enough evidence to convict. I once confronted my abuser as a adult, he vehemently denied the allegations, refused to give me an apology and stated that I am misremembering the past and I was a overly-sexual person; I was a child. He blamed the victim, I fear the male-led justice system may do the same. I choose to get justice for myself by living in my truth.
     

     We must do more to be more vigilant in protecting women from sexual assault and harassment. Men must be active in this change. We must must be willing to police the behavior of men, call out inappropriate treatment of women, be aware of men that pay special attention to young girls, speak of in defense of women being harassed in the workplace. We have to hold predators accountable for their actions, regardless of their status, power or money. We have to stop turning a blind eye to allegations of assault and rape simply because the perpetrator is the boss or is a "nice guy", or because the victim is a over-developed child, or is dressed a certain way, had too much to drink, or is involved in sex work.
 

   Every survivor has different lasting effects from their situation. For me being a survivor means a lifetime struggling to trust men, having challenges with intimacy, and having unhealthy views of sex. Also, for me being a survivor means speaking out about sexual abuse and harassment, not letting it be a secret that eats away at my soul, and doing everything I can to be a listening ear and advocate for survivors.
     

     Everyone knows someone who has been sexually assaulted, and it will take a collective effort to put a stop to the epidemic. Maybe it happened to you too, maybe it didn’t, but stopping sexual assault/abuse/harassment is everyone’s responsibility. 

Meaningful Silence

The time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. It’s life's cruelest irony. Douglas Couplan

     Being alone will cause you to do things or spend time with people who add nothing to your life or serve any real purpose. Loneliness has led me down some unsavory paths seeking companionship. Avoiding spending time alone has led me on a search for what was really inside of me all along, peace. Meeting different people, only to realize they have nothing in common with me, no relevant conversation to engage in and nothing interesting about themselves worth inquiring about, has taught me a lot. 

     First, I’m learning that it’s rude and selfish to to use someone and waste their time simply because I do not want to be alone. Taking advantage of someone’s interest in me by spending time with them when I’m not truly enjoying the occasion is self-centered. I have done it more times than I’m proud to admit, and maybe I’m not the only person so afraid to be alone that I’d use someone’s time as filler for my own issues. Afraid to face my shortcomings and unwilling to be honest with myself has led me to seek out others to avoid the voice of my conscience. 

     Secondly, I’m believing the lyric from the SZA song Drew Barrymore “I get so lonely, I forget what I’m worth” more and more each day. Loneliness will have you scrolling through your phone, texting people you know you shouldn’t and calling people you have no sincere interest in simply to avoid being alone. Loneliness will push you to desperation sometimes, scrolling through social media, handing out double taps, heart eyed-emojis, and comments hoping the poster slides in your DMs or inbox, wanting to “hang out”. Sometimes you keep the fish, sometimes you throw it back. Most times, after I spend time with someone I really did not want to be with, I feel even more alone than before. 

     The third thing that being alone has taught me is how important and precious time is actually. We spend each hour and minute of the day doing something, communicating and working, planning and executing, sometimes we deserve to enjoy solitude and silence. We need time alone to focus on building ourselves up, improving our self-esteem, recognizing our self-worth and loving ourselves. Constantly filling the time with empty interactions works against us in the grand scheme of things. 

     I  recently ran across a quote that said “loneliness is the universes‘s way of teaching you what you can live without.”  I am learning more each day that I can live without constant company or entertainment.  I can live without nonstop communication. Most importantly, I am learning to embrace this period of solitude I’m experiencing. Enjoying and ensuring that I spend time alone has become a priority for me lately. I need time alone, I crave it even. I have had time to set goals, read and research things, and simply relax during my alone time. 

     The idea for creating a blog and writing about my feelings and experiences came from spending time with myself. I used to view being alone as such a negative, sad thing, but when done soundly and in moderation and within healthy limits, quiet/alone time is the best part of the day.  Each day I’m learning that I’m no longer experiencing loneliness; I’m living in a current state of solitude and I LOVE IT!

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I'm Doing Me

Going through a transitional stage in life is difficult enough, but having other people criticize you for the choices you make during that stage makes it even harder to face. A year ago, I was in one of the worst places, emotionally, that I had ever been in. For the next six to eight months, I really struggled to find my place, to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life.  I am still searching for those answers, and have accepted that finding my purpose, peace, and passion make take time and might be very unconventional, but it's what I feel I must do at this time.

Deciding to leave a job that made me miserable, exiting a relationship that was not adding to my happiness and being at my heaviest, sent me into a state of depression. I was internally dying, spending nights crying, not getting any rest, pretending to smile when it was the last thing I wanted to do. I decided I needed a serious change, and I can honestly say that within the past three months, my outlook on life has improved greatly,  I'm feeling more optimistic about the future, I smile more and worry less, and I am willing to try new things to discover who I am. Even through some of my most "WTF" moments, I can say, today, I am getting to a more healthy and happy place. I'm discovering my happiness comes from inside and is not predicated on anyone else or a job. 

Since posting the first blog two weeks ago, I have received some of the most encouraging and uplifting messages, which I appreciate. I have also had friends express concern for me and the choices I'm making and the undertones in my writing. Reallyreaux is not a place of me to complain and gripe about the bad things in my life, but a way for me to express how negative experiences have impacted and shaped me, and the lessons I learned from those life experiences. I appreciate the concern and know that it is coming from a good place but I want to assure anyone reading this, that my writing is a form of therapy. I am finally being honest about the trials and tribulations in my life. Everything isn't always great; I do have bad days. I will share my ups AND my downs. I want to be transparent in telling the story of how I'm "getting to happy" and every path has not been rainbows and sunshine. There have been some rough times, I'm sure there will be more, but I'm learning to truly be positive and actually believe that trouble does not last forever. Writing about my challenges and victories allows me to confront my life head on; addressing my "demons" in a public way forces me to deal with the issues concretely. 

I don't want anyone to think that I am crying out for help or that I am in need of an intervention. Writing and sharing my experiences IS my intervention. I take solace in knowing that everything I went through (and am going through) is not unique to me. Seeing people comment that they've had similar life experiences, makes me realize that I am not alone in the struggle and there is light and love ahead for me. 

Making a choice to take a break from being a social worker was the best choice for me and my mental health. I was growing jaded and burnt out, failing to give my all to my clients, who need me to be at 110% to help them combat life's issues. There is a term call compassion fatigue that people in the helping professions can experience. It is defined as "an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper." I was that fatigued helper and before I literally drove myself crazy, I took a much needed break. Some people think I'm crazy, that I'm wasting my time and potential and that I'm not using my degrees and work experience in the best way; but I disagree.

Taking a break to preserve my mental health is the best thing for me, and if more of us weren't consumed with trying to make a job our life, more of us would probably take the same time away. If being a social worker taught me anything, it showed me that eliminating stressors in our life is the smartest move we can make. Choosing to find peace and happiness for ourselves is imperative. Ensuring my happiness is the best way for me to be the best I can be and be able to help others achieve that same level of happiness despite their turmoil and hard times. 

I know that everyone won't understand my journey, everyone won't agree with my choices but I do wish everyone would respect me as I navigate through this thing called life. 

Keeping Up With Everybody

Too often in life we try to keep up with other people. Whether it's our friends, families, or celebrities, we work so hard to gain things/positions that we truly only want so we can say we have it. I've known of people committing to life long careers just because it's what their parents wanted to them be or the two people who are so obviously wrong for each other in a ten-year relationship just so they won't have to be single. We all have been guilty of it; we all have, at least once, coveted the relationship, career, car, wardrobe, or even body of someone else. It took me a long time to start to grow past the silent competition I put myself in against people around me. I have always envisioned my life a certain way and when I began to see my dreams manifest in the lives of others, I started to work harder to achieve the things I thought were in the cards for me, not because of ambition, but for the sake of being able to say "look at what I did!" While  envy/jealously crept into my mind when celebrating the accomplishments of my loved ones, I still was genuinely happy for them. It's not that I did not want them to have success or happiness, it's just that I also wanted success and happiness for myself!

For a while, I was the only one of my close friends who wasn't in a serious relationship. I felt that I deserved and was ready for a partner, not because I was in love, but simply because my friends had someone. The feelings (mostly jealously) only got worse when my friends began to get married. The fact that they were younger than me didn't make my envy any easier to deal with. I wanted a boyfriend/fiancé/husband so I entered into relationships that I subconsciously knew weren't forever. I rushed into cohabitation because I just assumed marriage would come sooner and then I'd be just like my friends and have marriage stories to bring to the daily dialogues. I accepted less than appropriate treatment in order to keep a relationship with the idea of marriage looming. I gave even less in the relationship because I was not emotionally or mentally prepared to be in an adult relationship at the time. I spent more time trying to convince everyone around me that I was in a perfect relationship than I spent actually trying to make the relationship work.  You never realize how much time, energy, and stress we spend trying to stay in unhealthy situations. In the end, the relationship did not work out and I spent months trying to make "fetch happen" all the while knowing I was unhappy. I finally broke up with my partner and moved out. The failure of that relationship really influenced the way I looked at love and I began to think that maybe I simply wasn't wife material. Although I am growing each day to know my worth beyond marriage, I still yearn for a partner. But now I desire a partner because I want a companion to share my ups, downs, and all arounds with; not because I want to compete with my friends. 

Relationships aren't the only part of life I tried to compete with others for. Becoming a home-owner and having a successful, meaningful career are points of envy in my life. I still am renting and probably won't be financially prepared for a mortgage until a few more years. I still feel a twinge of jealously when younger relatives and friends purchase homes, but I am learning that everything happens in your life exactly when the universe aligns it. Nothing is happenstance and rushing into things is the surest way to fail.

 I always imagined myself having a blossoming career but that has not necessarily been the case. I've had jobs that taught me valuable skills and lessons, but I don't feel as though I have had the best career opportunity that allowed me to fully flourish and experience true success.  Maybe it will come later in life or maybe I'll reflect back and realize I did have the job of a lifetime and did not appreciate it for the teaching moment it was in my life. I'm learning more each day that some people take a longer time to find their purpose and passion and when my time to shine arrives, I know that I will embrace it.  

The funny thing about life is while you're busy comparing your accomplishments to someone else's, other people are silently envious of the things you've accomplished. I have had people tell me how they wish they had achieved the academic success I've had, while I'm wishing I had the house and/or husband they had.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't look around at my friends and family and compare myself to them but each day I'm learning that what is for you, will be for you. We have to stop trying to perfectly design our lives and simply allow some things to happen naturally. That is not to say that we shouldn't plan and set goals, but we must accept that everything we desire may not be in the cards for us. Continuing to compare ourselves to others is detrimental to our well-being and sense of self-worth. We should spend more time embracing the things that make us different from others and less time trying to keep up with anyone around us. 

Intro

I’m such a liar. I lie about tons of things. I don’t lie about where I am, or where I’ve been. I don’t lie about people I’ve met. I don’t tell elaborate stories to make my life seem glamorous. I don’t lie about my age or my weight…well not unless I’m trying to convince the doctor or the DMV that there is no way I am as fat as I really am. No, I tell lies about my happiness. I lie about how satisfied I am with my life. I lie to cover the sins of others. I lie about not being stressed or worried. I lie about painful things that continue to hurt and haunt me each night. Mostly, I lie about how strong and resilient I am.

My life has not been easy or particularly stress free.  I’ve experienced abuse and abandonment. I know all to well the feeling of not wanting to live anymore. Some of the troubles I have faced are because of my own actions. Some of the more painful experiences come from pain, physically and emotionally, inflicted on me. I was in foster care when I was a child due to my birth mother having an addiction to crack. While in foster care, I was repeatedly molested by an older boy in one of my foster homes. I thought I was finally saved when I was adopted. While I am forever grateful to my adoptive mother, I continued to suffer from sexual abuse and emotional problems. It was during these times, I became a masterful liar, displaying an upbeat attitude and infectious smile most days while quietly suffering. I constantly questioned why I seemed to be the chosen victim for my abuser’s actions, what about me wasn’t good enough to be loved by my birth mother and absent father, and why I wasn’t beautiful as other girls around me. I began to try my hardest to work towards making myself the best, while inside; I continued to live in agony.

I went on to graduate from both college and graduate school, a feat that showed I beat the statistics and I over-exceeded the expectations society placed on me. On the surface, I fell into the act of pretending to be so proud of the woman I had become. I became so skilled in telling my story with such vibrancy and fervor, that I almost started to believe that I was such an inspiration to other children/people who were experiencing or had experienced life as I had. I was often told by people around me that I made them so proud and that I would go on to make a real difference in the lives of others. It was nice to hear that people believed I was capable of the impossible, so I continued to build on that lie. I began working with the most vulnerable populations. I volunteered for Girl Scouts, I became a foster care worker, I became active in church; I made myself into a person others would be proud of.

Yet it was all a lie. There was no truth to the person I portrayed to the world. I was not strong; I was weak. I was not an inspiration; I was a failure. I was not a role model; I was a fraud.

It is becoming exhausting living a lie. I recently made the choice to live in my truth and it may be the most terrifying moment of my life.