I can’t believe that it’s already mid-July. It seems like last week was the first week of January. Maybe it’s our busyness or the chaos of life intertwined with the never-sleeping age of technology that keeps us buzzed, connected, and feeling like time is passing us by.

Some days feel like they zoom by while others feel like they painfully linger to remind you that you don’t have your “stuff” together.

Today I’m going to be transparent which is difficult for most people who even in their oversharing through social media, aren’t authentically transparent—it is still a mirage. But I’m moved to share with you today because there are plenty of people out there that see a public image of me and I’ve heard the fantasizing remarks made by some of you about how much you wish you could live my life, even the fast-paced moments that you have seen captured by video and pictures. I think it’s important to see the inside of the humans we admire, so we can see the real and appreciate the struggle. So this post isn’t a quick quote but rather a longer message, giving you a peek inside of me. I hope it helps someone.

Today I reflect on a Walt Disney quote:

This is a snapshot of a journal that I bought and began using briefly in 2014. I now am fully invested in writing in it. It’s my Dream Book, where I list and map out my dreams that I intend to pursue as goals. It’s about me overcoming fears and accomplishing what some may deem the impossible.

When I first started writing in this book I had huge lofty dreams that were being taunted and attacked by some real-life “dream terrorists”. I didn’t realize how exposed and vulnerable I was. I didn’t realize that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the people around me and my personal and professional circumstances. I had no clue what I was facing. I had no clue the role I was playing in my own destruction.

My intuition told me to prepare myself for these attacks and for my world to be tossed and turned, trampled over, and discarded—but the dreamer in me wanted to believe that my gut instincts weren’t accurate and that it was merely fear and a need to protect self that was motivating these thoughts and feelings. I convinced myself that I was self-sabotaging out of fear of having greater than I imagined.

I was partly correct but mostly incorrect.

My dad used to tell me growing up, “listen to that faint, small voice within…that’s God speaking to you…when you ignore that voice you always screw things up…” Dad was right. When I don’t listen to that voice that we call our intuition, that voice that people say women are more in tune with than men, we find ourselves blundering and things really fall out of control.

What I know to be true about me is that I self-sabotage a lot, both personally and professionally. I can take a huge leap and then freak out because I begin to speculate if the leap was too big and “what if I can’t handle what comes next?” and so I shrink within to find a comfort zone, a neutral place, that ultimately sabotages what I really want—and that’s to fulfill and live out my dreams.

I’ve passed up major career opportunities.

I’ve avoided other career opportunities— refusing to even make the call, apply for, submit the bid, etc.

When I was in my twenties I walked away from romantic relationships that I felt were moving too fast or too good to be true, or the guy was too nice (ummm yeah, stuck on stupid I most definitely was).

But in 2014 that wasn’t fully the reason for my grief. Yes, I was sabotaging my professional life due to second guessing my abilities and if what I was doing was relevant. I also discovered that my personal “reality” wasn’t accurate and there were people around me and in my inner circle who didn’t have my best interests at heart. I realized that there was a game of deception being played and I just never realized I was the key target. I found myself pulling back and settling into a position and role that I was both unfamiliar with and uncomfortable in.

It was eating me up from within. The pain began to manifest physically and my body was under attack, but doctors in several different specialities could never ascertain what was causing the issues. I was poked and prodded for what turned out to be 18 months, and even now, three years later, no one knows what caused me so much physical pain for almost two years. All we do know is that I’m no longer in pain.

The only tool and weapon I had (and still have) to combat what I was facing was prayer. For those of you who aren’t the praying types, consider meditation or self-reflection, or anything else that positively takes your mind off of the negatives and helps you to disconnect and focus on the positives. Please note that drugs and alcohol aren’t positive releasers and disconnectors. No judgment just facts.

In 2014 my Dream Book began as a book for positive affirmations and dreaming. I used it to help me see myself and my circumstances in a different light and through a different lens. But as I mentioned earlier, I was also in denial about the attacks against me. In 2015 the attacks became more frequent yet I remained in denial, still trying to hold on to my reality and thinking that I could still live out my dreams—even though I was slipping farther and farther away from reaching them.

The public saw me in one light but my reality wasn’t even close. I began to feel like I was in quick sand and I couldn’t remember what to do to get out. I went to counseling and I will never forget what my therapist told me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Natasha you’re invisible in your life. Everything is about everyone but you. Where are you? Where are your clearly defined boundaries? What do you want and need?”

My therapist was correct. I had molded myself for others but when I looked I couldn’t really see me and that’s why I had also began to lose my zest and zeal, and lose a grip on my passion. I was helping other people reach their goals, fulfill their missions, but I was no closer to reaching my own. I altered my thinking to align to others, for a cause, for a mission, but what about the things God had called on me to do? What was I doing to fulfill those things? What about my dreams that were sitting on standby? I convinced myself that my busyness was action, when it really was just quick sand.

December 2015 I was in the hospital fighting a pulmonary embolism, and I began to see glimpses of my truth. I was determined to turn things around in 2016.

I thought I knew how. I thought I was ready. Boy was I wrong….

The year 2016 clobbered me extremely hard. Literally (okay, figuratively) I got hit with a right hook the first week of January. Jeesh, who starts out the New Year with a psychological fat lip? Yours truly! It was like fighting a heavy weight contender with your hands and feet bound.

I was going through the motions and praying for positive change, but sadly I wasn’t even listening to my “boxing trainer” that was sitting in my corner of the ring. My “trainer” kept telling me to “get off the ropes…block it…hands up…hands up dang it“. Before I knew it I got rope-a-doped.

Year-end knocked the wind out of me and as I reflected back over the year I realized that with the exception of a few minor things, my 2016 was really no different than the two years prior. I was still invisible and clearly still ignorant, because I kept pressing forward thinking that the attacks against me would subside and that there was no true threat, that eventually everything would work itself out and all would be well. And guess what? To add to all of this, I was still self-sabotaging and not seeing it.

If only I had paid attention to the fact that my Dream Book had dreams that I never fulfilled because I never truly took the steps to attain them. I wasn’t actively pursuing them, I was passively wishing upon a star. I was in a rut. I never untangled myself from the things and the people that were holding me back and preventing me from having what I desired most. I never checked myself and put a stop to the self-sabotage of my professional career.

My fears were helping my attackers.

You can operate in fear short-term but it’s not a long-term strategy. Short-term it can give you the adrenaline rush to eventually build the courage to fight back. But long-term it paralyzes and destroys you from within. No one that we read about in books, watch in movies, or see in magazines and interviews are or were successful because they walked around in a constant (or near constant) state of fear every day. It’s not that they don’t fear things and have moments of anxiety and depression. It’s that they learn how to pick themselves up and push hard for what they want because they are driven by their passions. It is when they lose hope and stop living for those passions that they slowly start to die (first spiritually and then mentally and physically).

December 6, 2016 I had written in my Dream Book the things I was grateful for and the things I claimed I was still passionate about pursuing.

Then my Dream Book wasn’t touched again until May 5, 2017.

What happened?

One of my biggest fears and nightmares became my reality. I was blindsided by something that my intuition, the little voice within, warned me about years earlier—that voice that kept prodding me to be prepared, yet I ignored it. Well now the fear that was keeping me from making certain moves in the past, was glaring at me in my face and nothing I did to fight back worked. I was praying for something that clearly wasn’t meant to be, not for me, not based on the factors placed before me. By the end of January I gave up and faced my fear head on. It hurt deeply. It hurt like sudden death.

My dreams seemed shattered. Everything fell down around me and I didn’t have a back up plan. I wasn’t prepared for my world to implode. I wasn’t ready for what God had been trying to prepare me for, for a few years now.

So I took a break from all personal and professional obligations, well with the exception of keeping my household in order and teaching my college classes—because I still needed structure to keep me going strong. But everything else took a back seat.

I had to peel back the layers and look at my life and my world. There were so many layers that were merely a facade. I looked at my life and where I was professionally and with the exception of teaching at the collegiate level, my other passions were so far out of my grasp. I wasn’t jumping up out of bed excited about starting my day. I had spurts of this excitement over the years but honestly, those were reactionary moves in response to attacks made against me—they were reactionary and reflexive, a sign that “old Natasha” was still inside of me, still fighting, still trying to shine and live life fully and intentionally. It was “new Natasha” that was confused, scared, and lost.

The woman that people applaud for her public efforts, philanthropy, passion, and “let’s get it done” attitude was and still is battling the fear within that paralyzes and leans towards sabotaging behavior.

May 6, 2017 I looked at my Dream Book. I looked at how I had survived the year thus far, and I looked around at the people who were still beside and those who were no longer there. And I smiled brightly.

One of my worst nightmares didn’t destroy me. I wasn’t prepared for it but life’s earlier storms and nightmares had strengthened me enough to endure this clobbering. Two months earlier several friends, new and old, joined me for dinner to celebrate blessings, life, and my new chapter in life. The month of May I made the decision to stop with the self-sabotage, to stop being invisible, to stop being everything for everyone but me, to chase and grab ahold of those dreams, to stop being consumed by other people’s opinions, and to start being more obedient to that still, small voice within.

I know it’s a process, “one moment at a time“, as my aunt Debborah taught me a few months ago. I also know that God keeps these dreams brewing inside of me for a reason, and I don’t want to take my last breath with shoulda, woulda, coulda regrets. I want to leave here saying “dang I did a lot, lived a lot, loved deeply, and had a blast!”

The attackers in your life don’t think you have it in you, or they fear that you do, so they work ten times harder to beat the hope out of you. Fight back with action, with living, and with snatching back every dream they try to crush. This is your life so live it like tomorrow isn’t promised, because it’s not. People can only take what you give them access to. People can only ride your back if you bend over.

If you want to start your own business, get the tools and resources that you need to succeed and then go do it!

If you want to be a parent, stop waiting for perfect and just go do it!

If you want love stop running from it!

If you have a dream to be something great then do whatever it takes (positively) to make that dream your reality.

God doesn’t place big dreams in your mind and heart for you to simply skim small portions off for a nibble or two. As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it“. They are our dreams for a reason. Pursue them. Don’t allow anyone or anything stand in your way, not even your biggest barrier—you!

Oh and by the way, when you step or fall in quick sand the fastest way out isn’t struggling against the sand. Experts say that by laying flat on our backs and allowing our bodies to come to the surface, it actually releases the grip. There’s a lesson there. Sometimes we have to just calm down, let go, stop struggling, and allow the grip to release. When we don’t, the more we freak out and struggle the farther down we sink in the quick sand. 

Here’s to being free!

Love,
Natasha

By Natasha Foreman Bryant
 
 I’m not sure what you call the Creator, or even if you believe that you were created by a higher power greater than humans. I call the Creator: God, Father, Father-Mother God, Lord, Love, Light, and Good.
 
 Since I was a small child I can remember my dad telling me to always listen to, answer, and obey the faint voice within me. He used to say, “Tasha you can never go wrong when you obey that voice“. You can call it intuition, your gut feelings, or “something” that told you to do or say something. I believe that all of these things are God speaking to and through us. Now please don’t confuse that with the battle of multiple personality disorder, etc.
 
 Why and what else could have easily swayed me to pull over and rush to the aid of two drivers, and one passenger involved in a car accident Saturday afternoon off I-75 southbound between the exits for Zoo Atlanta and Atlanta Technical College?
 
 I didn’t know any of the individuals involved, but the voice inside said, “pull over and go help“. So I did. I didn’t think twice. I didn’t contemplate that I was in my business wear, coming from the Women 2 Women Conference that just wrapped up at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel, and that I just wanted to get home and relax. I obeyed and pulled my car over and jumped out.
 
 What I saw moved me. I saw a dark-colored (possibly burgundy) Monte Carlo with damage to the front and rear of the car. I saw the road signs it had ran over, now underneath the car. I saw a young African American girl (maybe 11-years-old) and her father with a look of panic on their faces. I saw another vehicle parked several yards back, a smaller white car, missing the front end, and the driver, a young white woman in the driver’s seat looking frazzled.
 
 I approached the father and daughter and asked them repeatedly if they were okay and if they needed medical attention. The father told me that they were okay, and that his daughter said she was okay. The young girl confirmed that she was okay, but her eyes said something else. I knew that look. It was pure fear. The father was on his cell phone, so I told him I was going to check on the other driver.
 
 As I approached the driver who at first was in the driver’s seat, had gone to the trunk of her car (when I approached the father), then the passenger seat (before I finished speaking with him), and was now quickly approaching me with her hand inside of her purse. She looked infuriated and very focused. That’s when the small voice said, “stop her and calm her down” so I did. I verbally reassured her that I was a concerned driver who wanted to make sure that everyone was okay. I put my hands up slowly and I told her that I knew what she was going through. She then said, “he called the cops and he’s going to lie on me and say this is my fault“. I could see the panic in her eyes and it was coming through clearly in her voice. At that point I knew that I needed to spend more time with her. She was alone with no one to comfort her and tell her it would be okay. The father had reassurance coming from the other end of the phone line, and his daughter got reassurance from him.
 
 I asked the woman had she called anyone, and she said that the other driver called the police. So I asked her again had she called anyone, someone she knew who could console her, and help her through this. She started crying and said, “no“. So I did something without thinking about it. I obeyed the next two words that came to me. I saw her name tag said, “Carrie Ann” and that she worked at Zoo Atlanta, and I said, “Carrie Ann right now you’re in shock and what you need more than anything is a hug. So I’m going to hug you Carrie Ann.” I leaned in and gave this total stranger a hug on the side of the highway. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t contemplate what her reaction would be. I obeyed that voice that said, “hug her, comfort her“.
 
 As I held her in my arms I told her, “I know what you are experiencing and it’s fear and gratitude. Fear in knowing that you just experienced a trauma, and gratitude that you are alive and unharmed. Carrie Ann you survived this and no matter what you are thinking and feeling right now, you will survive the aftermath of this crash. There could have been serious injuries even death, but all is well and right. You are okay Carrie Ann, the father and daughter from the other car are okay….” As I spoke Carrie Ann embraced me tighter and at that very moment I told her it was okay to cry and let it out, so she did, and hugged me tighter. Once we could both sense that small ‘release’ we let our arms down and looked at each other.
 
 A tow truck pulled up and I said, “see, it’s almost over” and as I directed her to sit in the passenger seat of the car or on the guard rail, a fire truck pulled up. Carrie Ann sat on the guard rail, and even though still shaken, she was better than when I first approached her. She was no longer looking like the panic-stricken woman who thought she would be blamed and found guilty of causing an accident. As the first responders approached I thanked them for getting there quickly (lovingly ignoring the rolling eyes of the first guy who approached), and I gave Carrie Ann another hug and told her she would be okay. As I began to walk away she burst out in tears. I think she was having that big ‘release’ we all get when it hits us that we’re being ‘saved’.
 
 I approached the father and the tow truck driver, and asked the father again was he okay. He said yes and thanked me for helping. The tow truck driver asked how was I involved, and I said that I was a concerned citizen who just pulled over to help. He thanked me and said that we need more people willing to stop and help. After checking on the little girl and gaining reassurance that she was okay, I left the drivers with the fire fighters. I asked the tow truck driver to slide the sign that was crushed under the car, off the highway on ramp so that other drivers wouldn’t hit it and possibly cause more damage to the father’s car or to theirs. The tow truck driver agreed and slid the sign out of the pathway.
 
 Even without knowing how things would turn out, or if the drivers would turn their fear and confusion on me, I was filled with such peace the entire time. As I walked to my car I just kept repeating silently, “thank you“. Inside my car I looked through my rear view mirror and saw a second fire truck pulling up. I had done what I was supposed to do. Be there for people in need, and bring some calm during a time of chaos.
 
 I think of the multitude of cars that drove by before I got there, the large number that drove by while I was there, and the countless others that drove by after I had left. There were tons of looky-loos but no one pulled over to help.
 
 How many people considered for a brief second, “should I pull over?” but didn’t. How many people said, “that’s not my problem, it’s not me or a loved one”? How many people saw a black male driver and a white female driver, and thought to themselves, “that may turn into a volatile situation and I don’t want to get caught up in that mess”? How many people were torn with their decision to keep driving even when they saw the little girl with fear all over her face?
 
 I’ve done it before. Matter of fact I couldn’t even tell you how many times over the years when I said a prayer for those involved in car accidents or seemingly stranded on the side of the road or highway, but out of fear, preoccupation, or convincing myself that it really wasn’t my issue, I didn’t stop. I’ve called 911 when I’ve seen accidents, even in real-time, but I haven’t always stopped to check on those involved.
 
 Heck, Saturday evening (maybe 3 hours after helping out the three in the car accident) I didn’t stop to help a man in a black SUV with his hood up. I obeyed the voice that said to check to make sure he was okay, so I visually saw he was and that he had a passenger (although I couldn’t see their face) but I didn’t stop and ask if they were okay. I didn’t verbally confirm that they were okay. Maybe it was the area that I was in and that it was dark outside, that he hadn’t turned on his hazard lights, I was with my mom, and I couldn’t clearly see their faces, so fear and self-preservation overruled everything else. It happens to all of us. But when those variables (of safety) aren’t present, and that faint voice tells you to act, we should act.
 
 No matter what you call God, no matter what you call the voice you hear that tells you to do or say something in love, no matter what your gut tells you, just obey. You could be the very presence someone needs at that very moment. You could be the balance needed to create or maintain calm, peace, and order. You could save someone’s life. Your presence could prevent someone from being victimized. Maybe your act of care and kindness will be returned to you one day. Let’s pay it forward in advance!
 
 Remember your ‘gut’ keeps you out of harms way, it’s ignoring it that draws you in to drama and danger.
 
 Oh, and if anyone knows Carrie Ann from Zoo Atlanta, tell her that Natasha is thinking of her and praying for her. If anyone knows the father and his brave daughter who were involved in the car accident, tell them that I’m thinking of them and praying for them. Tell the father that I commend him for keeping focused on his daughter and getting help, and not feeding off the energy that was trying to grow from the situation.
 
 
 ~Natasha
 
 
 Copyright 2014. Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.