Almost daily, I chat with my former sister-in-law Arleen. She and I have always had a close and special bond. A bond that would and will never be broken. We are connected spiritually, so marriage nor divorce, had a say in the matter of whether she and I would be family. She will always be a part of my family.

I awoke this morning to my daily text from Arleen. It included a quote that moved me and made me emotional. I felt compelled to share it. So I did and I am. I hope that it speaks to someone, maybe you. I also hope that you will forward this message to someone who may truly need this as a reminder each and every day.

Some may question the title of this post. I wrote it to speak to those individuals who share common beliefs with me. I don’t assume that everyone who reads my messages are believers of God. Matter of fact, I know that I have athiests, agnostics, and even conditional believers (when things are going great they believe) who are subscribers. I want them to make a choice to read my message, or not. I’m not here to trick or blindside people. I believe in choices. So with that, let’s delay this no further…

Sending love and light to all of you!

~Natasha

Copyright 2019. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

I don’t know your religious beliefs, who and how you pray, or if you pray. You may not believe in a power higher and greater than you. Whatever, however, and whomever you lean upon each day for strength, courage, and inspiration—modify the words, as needed. No judgment from me. All I desire is your internal peace and that you share that positivity with the world.

Say it until you believe it and live it. I needed to read and speak this prayer today. It will be part of my daily prayer.

I’m grateful for my former sister-in-law, now sister-in-love, Arleen, who sent this to me. We chat almost daily, sharing words of love, empowerment, and healing.

I thank God in advance for all that comes my way—for the lessons, blessings, and any redirection. 🙏🏽
~Natasha

My oh my oh my…having the courage to admit our flaws, when we’re wrong, when we don’t know, and that we messed up…oh the agony of forcing that confession out for others to hear and realize. Daggumit it can be a doozy to the tenth power, especially if you’re as stubborn as I am—or more.

This morning I took the time to really pull back some layers and admit some things that I’ve passively admitted in the past, but honestly never took the time and required steps to fix, heal, and make right.

It wasn’t an easy process. It took me about 3 hours to really process and reflect my truths. It can be difficult looking closely in the mirror at self, looking at the things that you don’t like or that you try to mask from others. Unlike those external blemishes many people attempt to conceal, the internal ones are hard to mask and run from. At some point you’re going to have to face your demons, truths, and even your lies. Everything will have to be confronted. Everything will have to be revealed. The truth always comes to light. Nothing can remain in the darkness forever.

The only way to heal is for the yuckiness below the surface to be compressed until it has no choice but to rise up and get plucked, blotted, or drained out. When I had an infected wound from a second degree burn, the doctor had to scrub, scrape, and pull out the infected areas so that healing could take place. It was painful. I don’t have any enemies, but if I did, I wouldn’t wish that pain on them. I felt like I was going to black out and die. The doctor apologized before, during, and after. He kept saying, “please don’t hate me” and I cried and kept repeating, “I don’t hate you. I know that you’re trying to help me!”

Looking at my inner self and how the negative and toxic things that I’ve said and done to myself and others has had a lasting impact, is something that hurts deeply. Today I had to really face some harsh truths so that I could really heal. Not that superficial healing, where the wound is tolerable because it’s better than it was. Nope, I mean that deep healing that is so complete that there’s barely a sign of a previous injury. That’s the kind of healing and wholeness that I want. I don’t want to walk around visibly wounded and clearly wounding others. As the old saying goes, “hurt people, hurt people” and I’ve been hurt through self-infliction and through the actions of others, but I’ve only made it worse by turning around and hurting other people—especially those that I love. How can I genuinely love you if I hurt you? The same is true in reverse. And just because someone hurts you through words or actions, it is our decisions that determine how much more hurt will be inflicted through our desire to retaliate. Are we truly ready to live with the painful consequences? Self-control is easier said than done. It’s far easier to try to control others. It’s also more pitiful.

Over the weekend, someone I love did and said something that hurt me. Yet, my lack of self-control made the wound deeper and far more painful. I lashed out, shut down, and dug my head in the sand to try to block out the internal voice of peace and reason that said, “just shut up, listen, and stop trying to control the narrative and outcome“. The more that I argued the more I hurt myself and this person. It hurts to type that. But it’s the truth and in seeking the truth we have to be willing to pull back layers that are ugly, smelly, painful, and difficult to tolerate.

You gotta go and grow to know.

So if you have a moment, visit my Breaking Bread With Natasha blog post for today. Maybe what I’ve shared can also help you or someone you know begin the deep healing process that we all desperately want and most definitely need. You don’t need to be Christian or even spiritual to connect with today’s message. It’s a message that digs past and beneath the ordinary so that we can reach and embrace the extraordinary.

I share this in and with love!

~Natasha

Copyright 2019. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

This morning I was moved to read and reflect on this scripture in the Bible:

First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. –Proverbs 16:18 MSG

I then began to write the reflection below followed by a prayer, that you can read in its entirety by visiting my Breaking Bread With Natasha blog. My message for today is lengthy but as it helped me to share it, hopefully it will help someone to read it.

Pride

Pride driven by ego is a dangerous weapon that always leads to self-inflicted torture. This form of pride should not be confused with being “proud of” overcoming obstacles or being proud of your children. That’s not the pride that causes crashes.

Pride, as referenced in the scripture above, is the manifestation of being so self-absorbed that you refuse to ask for help, admit that you’re wrong, admit that you can’t do something, etc. You could be struggling financially, spiritually, mentally, or physically yet you refuse to reach out for assistance so that you can struggle less or not at all.

This level of pride would allow you to leave a job or a relationship simply because you couldn’t see yourself letting go of the little control that you thought you had because you refused to be vulnerable, open and exposed with someone else. Not wanting it to appear that someone outdid or outsmarted you, you would rather uproot, disrupt, destroy, and walk away than to give in to the process that could bring peace, harmony, and restoration.

Ego says that you don’t need to pray to God before speaking, because “you’ve got this“. Ego convinces you to never surrender in an argument, to fight relentlessly to the end regardless of the collateral damage, and regardless of the fact that you could be and probably are 100 percent wrong. Pride says, “oh well if I am, you won’t get me to admit it”.

Strong people have a difficult time letting go and asking for help, and admitting that they simply don’t know or that they are weak in certain areas. Highly intelligent people oftentimes can’t fathom not knowing the answer to a question, having a solution to a problem—so pride will step up and declare all sorts of misinformation, distortions, and even blatant lies to mask the truth. Pride will sacrifice everything for self-image.

The ego doesn’t want to lose so pride steps in and cheats to win. To the ego the consequences of actions are meaningless or can easily be counteracted. The reality is there are always equal or greater consequences to the actions that we take, even if not immediate, they still come with a heavy penalty.

My Admission of Guilt

I’m guilty of letting my pride get the best of me. My ego can be whopper size and my stubborness to defend my position at all costs can and has left me severely injured and a lot of collateral damage along the wayside.

My pride has caused me spiritual, physical, emotional, and financial harm. My pride has caused damage to personal and professional relationships. Things said and done oftentimes can’t be reworded or undone. It’s usually set in and embedded so deep that your only options are to flee (pride) or work to make things right (humility). You have to be willing to surrender, admit that you’re wrong, and pursue the steps required to make right your wrong. The ego hates that. It digs deep into your gut causing you a pain that makes you feel like dry heaving (also known as “retching”).

In the late 1990s to early 2000s, my pride cost me my career, car, home, furnishings, and lifestyle. I hit rock bottom and had to humble myself to slowly get my face up off of the ground. It was a devastating blow. I was reminded that my priorities were off and that I was listening to ego when I was supposed to be listening to God. My pride was quick to blame others, but God quickly silenced me with the bold reminder that the decisions I made were done so consciously, so credit and fault rested with me. You can argue with God but He has time on His side, so choose wisely.

Pride stepped in and caused me much grief after my March 2017 divorce. Ego told me that I could deal with the trauma on my own, alone, and isolated. Ego told me that I could heal, recover, and rebound faster and better if I did it by myself, without help from anyone. The problem with that scenario is that you tend to also block out God’s voice and avoid seeing the blessings in the form of opportunities and redirection.

God speaks through people, but if you’re isolated how can you interact with them to hear His message? And sadly, because I’ve always projected myself to be “strong” and a “super woman”, others see me this way, so when I did reach out for help, friends and associates dismissed the level and severity of my pain and circumstances because in their mind, “Natasha’s strong, she’s got this,” but what in my past has ever truly prepared me for divorce?

In my past I’ve experienced gut-wrenching heart break, I’ve experienced extreme loss and numerous human deaths (all of which were untimely). But nothing has ever prepared me for the devastating blow that comes from divorcing the person that you planned to spend the rest of your life with. You’re not given a handbook or put through a training program before or during marriage that prepares you for divorce.

Church, family and society preaches “for better or for worse, til death do you part…” and with that your mind isn’t focused on the death of your marriage, your union, your relationship—but that’s what divorce looks and feels like for so many of us—death—and you have to go through ALL of the stages of grief to fully heal. My ego was even fighting that process. My ego had me to wear the mask of “I’m perfectly fine with this situation, it is what it is…” knowing that it was a bold and blatant lie. I wasn’t even an inkling of “fine” or a shade of “okay”.

I was in denial and the pain and frustration reared up and clobbered me in November 2017 and dragged me like a ragdoll through January and February 2018, and plopped me on a stump in March 2018 with my truths staring me squarely in my face. I finally got my head turned around and senses together so that I could sit up and assess my situation. That happened in April 2018. I had a tumultous 2017 and 2018 had some very painful stumbles, but it didn’t have to be so extreme, had I listened to and obeyed God instead of my ego.

For two years my company, Foreman & Associates, LLC suffered because I wouldn’t get the help that I needed personally so that I could focus on the work that needed to be done professionally. Because I didn’t protect and take care of myself, my business was punished. That collateral damage is real!

I’ve come to realize that it’s not one single thing or even a handful of things or circumstances that prepare you for life’s clobbering sessions. It’s the culmination of all of the times that you were beat down in the “boxing ring” of life, and you got back up. It’s all of the times that life beat you and you found yourself pinned against the “ropes”, trying desperately to fend off the hits and not get knocked out—yet you never looked to your corner begging with your eyes for your trainer to throw in the towel of defeat.

When I look at all of my failings, disappointments, heartbreaks, losses, and blowups, I can see how I would pick myself up and go through the necessary steps to rebuild. I can also see the times when I thought that a shortcut to healing and recovery would work better, and jeesh was I painfully wrong. I can reflect on the pain that I felt and still feel from loved ones passing away and knowing that I won’t see and hear them here and now as I did before. Selfishly I want them here.

All of those experiences have tested, strengthened, challenged, and refined me. All of those experiences made me wiser and more humble. And yes, all of those experiences combined have prepared me for the death called divorce and the rebirth that I’m experiencing post-divorce.

It’s the shedding of one layer for the growth of a newer and better layer. It’s going from the caterpillar stage to emerge as the amazing and graceful butterfly. It’s being less of who you were to be more of who you’re supposed to be. It’s opening yourself up to the possibility of loving and being loved by someone new and unfamiliar in a way that is pleasantly new and unfamiliar.

Divorce is not the end. Losing your job, car, and house is not the end. Those things and experiences are only pages or chapters in your life. They are not your everything. What will you do, see, and experience on the next page or in the next chapter?

Through God I am confident. Through God I love and am loved. Through God I forgive myself and forgive others. Through God I can let go and gain more than I ever imagined. Through God I have peace, joy, happiness, and comfort.

The opposite of all of that comes from choosing ego instead.

This Week…

I’ve been under a lot of stress over the past two months—tied to work and house-hunting. This week my anxiety flared up and reached a level that scared me. I had to meditate on being present and not focusing on the what-ifs of the future or the past. The unknowns of the future are irrelevant when you’re focused on the present, and you can’t change the past so obsessing over it is deflating and counterproductive.

That’s ego getting in the way. I have to learn to stiff-arm ego like a football or rugby player and slam it to the ground.

Today I’ve been presented with a test, an opportunity, to do exactly that—put my ego and pride to the side and instead focus on God’s plan for my success. Will it be uncomfortable at times? Yes, that’s why it’s called “growing pains”. Would I prefer the temporary discomfort over the long-term agony that comes from being ego-driven instead of God-led? I will take those growing pains so that I can be, see, and do what God has called me to be, see, and do.

Will I slip up and let pride step in from time to time? Yep, I’m sure that I will. It’s my go-to default switch when I’m being stupid.

What I pray for is God’s love to see me through, the discernment to know His voice above all others, and the courage to stand and quickly realign on His path.

Change Starts With You

We can counter our pride with humility. We can start by saying:

…I don’t know”

“...I have no clue what the answer is”

“I don’t know but I can try to search online for the answer or ask someone who may know…

“…I need help with _____”

“…That’s not my strength. I’m better at doing ____ but maybe I/we can find help through ____”

“…I’m sorry. I was wrong. I won’t do it again. How can I make things right?” (And then you work to make things right)

“…I’m sorry I was being selfish/childish/stupid…

“…You’re correct, I’m wrong…”

“…I can see your perspective and that it differs from mine, so how can we compromise?”

Do you see how making it less about you (ego) allows you to be whole, healthy, and complete with and through God?

Being flexible and fluid, like water, allows you to bend and consider more than your perspective—it allows you to discover that it’s not all about you, you don’t know as much as you think you do, you can’t do everything you set your mind to, and the world doesn’t revolve around you. And it’s perfectly fine that way. It should actually be liberating to no longer carry that baggage that you have been lugging like deadweight for decades. Let it go!

We have to decide if we want growth or stagnation. Do we want pleasure or pain? Do we want health or sickness? Do we want prosperity or suffering? Do we want to be right or do we want peace?

We are given the freedom of choice. Our decisions have lasting consequences. What will you choose to do today? Don’t concern yourself with tomorrow. What choice will you make today about how you will think, speak, live, treat yourself and others?

Lovingly,

Natasha

Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved. Natasha L. Foreman.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc

There’s something about getting away from the norm, from home, from the daily hustle and bustle. There’s also something about getting outdoors, absorbing vitamin D from sun rays, and taking in the sounds and sights of all sources not associated with a box-of-a-building.

You can call it a vacation, a getaway, or whatever you want. The most important thing is that you take one.

July 4th

I spent July 4th with friends and for the first time in years I was not hosting, cooking, or organizing a thing. At first it was awkward, but eventually I got the hang of it. I got to chill out and just have fun.

I went to one friend’s house where we ate, drank and merrily watched her husband and his friends light stadium-quality fireworks in the cul-de-sac on their street.

I was at first nervous because I used to live in the same subdivision for 7 years, and no one risked lighting fireworks or firecrackers—because of the huge trees and close proximity of the houses. But my friend’s house is next to a few vacant lots so there’s more space, and since it had just finished raining, the grass and trees were still wet. It was an amazing sight to see. I felt like a little child as I found myself saying “ooh” and “aah” and “wow” every few moments.

After spending quality time there I drove around the corner and spent several hours with one of my other friend’s, and her husband. We had a great time catching up while also learning a lot about each other. It’s amazing what you can learn when you share.

I left their home at almost 2am and was grateful that I didn’t have to drive and that my destination wasn’t as far as my home. I had a big plans for the next day and I needed to get my beauty rest.

Orlando

On July 5th I opened my eyes and smiled at the thought of my reality—I was about to hit the road and get away from Hotlanta, and I couldn’t wait.

We spent four days and three nights in Orlando, enjoying the sun, splashing in the pouring rain, prancing through Sea World, taking in the action at Aquatica, and laughing at a dinner show.

The rain kept trying to get in the way of our trip, but I just shrugged my shoulders and told myself I would just adapt and overcome—which I did.

I mean how could I complain?

It was my first time in Orlando, I had never been to any of the places we were visiting, we were staying at a beautiful resort with a view that stopped me in my tracks and a bed that made me melt, and all of this was only roughly a one-hour flight or 6-hour drive away from Atlanta. It was all a blessing and I wasn’t going to waste a precious moment complaining about the weather or missed opportunities. I was determined to make the most of each day, and we did.

Just Get Wet

I will say that on July 6th, when I found myself having to choose between walking into a full-blown thunderstorm while leaving the grocery store, or standing inside and waiting for it to pass, I looked down at my sundress (that covered my swim suit) and flip flops, and I smiled and giggled as I walked boldly into the rain.

We were soaked by the time we got into my SUV. I mean soaked. I looked like I had jumped into a pool. Nothing on me was dry or even damp. I was dripping water everywhere. It was hilarious. I laughed for several minutes as I dried off in the SUV, and found myself giggling as we drove on to our next destination, with my hair dripping water all over the place.

Sea World & Aquatica

I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted at Sea World and Aquatica—but at least I got to go and take in the sounds and sights. We were disappointed that Shamu was away at another park as the Orlando park staff prepared for a seasonal show to be featured there for several weeks. We really wanted to see Shamu, but we got over it.

I was in awe of the shark exhibit and the restaurant that was attached, allowing you to see the sharks swimming while you dined.

We also got to ride Mako, the new rollercoaster at Sea World. It’s exhilarating. I found myself screaming “oh shhhh” with each drop and flip (mindful that two seats over was a child with her mother). I was surprised I kept my eyes opened the entire time. I’m also glad that it’s not a long ride or I would’ve probably lost my cookies halfway through. I was hungry and dehydrated (but didn’t know it), and it was humid (at 8:30pm). A bad mix that almost messed up my night. But it quickly turned itself around once I got some electrolytes in me.

We watched the laser and fireworks show at 9pm and once again I was transfixed. Thank goodness one of us had a phone that could capture the beauty and excitement—and I can say, it wasn’t my beloved phone that did the capturing.

After the fireworks show we dipped into a chocolate shop and treated ourselves to some of the yummiest fudge I’ve had in years—one bar of chocolate and one bar of chocolate with walnuts. I nibbled on that fudge until I took the last bite two days ago (yep, it took me roughly three days to finish savoring it). It was pure bliss.

It was also exciting because we were given two tickets to return to Sea World on July 8th. How cool was that?

The Aquatica waterpark on Saturday was jam-packed. It had been raining on and off that day so it was humid and hot. It was also the perfect environment to people-watch, as you find people from all over the globe trekking through amusement parks and waterparks in Florida.

You wouldn’t expect to get a good burger at a waterpark but guess what? We did. It was huge and we got them for free. Yes, free. It made the cheeseburger taste even better.

An added treat to the experience was watching the mammals that they had creatively positioned throughout the park. Imagine zooming through an enclosed slide and witness these two cuties:

Dinner Show

Saturday night we spent laughing and chatting away with complete strangers at a dinner show. I’m so glad that the tickets we purchased had us seated at a long dining table with several people. We got to meet and learn about them, and vice versa, all while being entertained by a group of awesome actors. I would definitely return to check them out again.

Randomness

And here’s some randomness for you…

I’m still puzzled as to why I can travel throughout most of the 50 US states and find a 7-Eleven, except in the state of Georgia. Stop hating on 7-Eleven, Georgia, it’s a national fixture—embrace it. They’re all over Florida (and almost every other state). Being different, in this instance, does not make you special Georgia. I’m just saying!

Something cool I finally got to see in person, was an Amazon locker. I’ve heard of them and saw one pictured online—but I finally got to see one up close over the weekend. It’s a cool concept. Especially if you’re traveling and don’t want to risk your packages being stolen from your home. It’s also a cool idea if you’re trying to surprise someone with a gift and you don’t want to risk the gift arriving home before you can intercept and hide it.

My Takeaway

As my time in Orlando drew to the end I had to pause and reflect over the four days that I spent in a city that I’ve never been to before, in a beautiful resort with great amenities (I especially liked their fitness center) and a gorgeous view from my suite.

As I stated earlier, this was an absolute blessing. There are thousands of people around the world who wish for an opportunity like that, and there I was enjoying the experience. I’m grateful for each moment.

My week started off awkward as I attempted to celebrate my late father’s birthday, missing him and wishing he were here—and my week ended with me smiling at the fact that I finally made it to Orlando, and now living much closer to Florida than when we lived in California, I would be able to return with my nephew Logan and our family—to fulfill my dad’s dream of taking us there for a vacation. That moment is becoming more of a reality as I plan in my mind the details. I’m excited.

I’m grateful for the breathtaking moments that I experienced over five days, and even the twist and turn moments (that could derail a trip) because each moment I spent being present and with someone I love, value, appreciate and respect—and who loves, values, appreciates, and respects me. Can it get any better than that? To me, my week and weekend were priceless.

I pray to always cherish those memories. I look forward to building and capturing more moments and memories along this great journey we call “life”.

Don’t put off even a day of bliss to ‘plan’ for a more convenient time in the future. The future in your same body is not promised, so you should seize the moments as they come. I’m ready for my next adventure—whether it be big or small—I plan on making it feel bold and beautiful!

What are your plans for this weekend? This summer?

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

I re-posted the picture (above) on my Instagram page on January 27, 2016. I saw it at @i_amrachelg

This picture and what Rachel G had to say in her caption, speaks volumes about some of today’s relationships. Let me reflect on some things:

When reading the words on the picture I can’t help but to think about myself and how I’ve always viewed my role within a relationship. I was raised to focus on my mission and purpose while making sure that I also stood firmly next to my man to help him with his mission and focus, because guess what? My man should be doing the same for me. Iron sharpens iron.

(more…)

Audio Message

What I’ve shared below can also be heard through this audio message. Click play and enjoy.

I’m sitting here at my desk reflecting.

My reflection is focused upon my life, specifically my love life.

I’m a romantic. I’ve always been. I don’t need the big and grandiose. I love the simple things in life and love. Oftentimes it’s the smallest of gestures that have the biggest impacts, the smallest packages can contain the best of gifts—and that, for me, brings me the greatest joy. A handbag has a price tag and can be damaged, lost, stolen, sold, or given away; sitting by my bedside holding my hand, rubbing my head, kissing me and telling me that all will be well, while I’m in the hospital fighting fear and whatever else—that’s priceless and can never be damaged, lost, stolen, sold, or given away. That time, attention and affection is for me and only me. That is precious and everlasting in my heart and mind.

(more…)

So far we have discussed the overarching ways in which we attack each other, the phenomenon of baby mama-baby daddy syndrome, and today we will roll out the fourth part that must be discussed in greater detail than I can from this medium. But at least we can get the ball rolling, so-to-speak.

I said a lot over the past three days. Hopefully none of my words injured anyone. Hopefully the tough love was felt as more love than tough. It’s difficult to peel back the layer on self, as it’s much easier to peel back the layer on someone else. When you’re hurt and angry it’s easier to point out the flaws in the other person, to point out what they did and said wrong—but it’s extremely difficult to self-reflect and “check” ourselves.

I started these conversations because it’s important that we realize that this toxic environment has been growing out-of-control for more than 60 years. The seeds were planted during slavery in the US, it grew roots after emancipation, it sprouted during the 1920s and by the 1950s we saw more and more trees forming. By the 1970s we had woods lining our nation. Now we’re in the 2000s and we have full blown forests.

The reason we must have a conversation about each other, amongst each other, is because we represent each other. No matter who we engage and interact with, we still represent the other half of this dynamic. We share cultural and social truths that are unique to our people.

The only way for others who are non-Black to understand us in whole or in part is through dialogue with and observation of us. What we say to each other, how we treat each other, is how non-Blacks learn to speak to and treat us. It’s human nature yet we’re offended when we experience it.

We have a hyper-sensitivity because of the hundreds of years of past and present abuse that we have suffered at the hands of civilian, corporate, and government oppressors.

There’s a saying that “you save your worst behavior for the one closest to you” and that is not merely the one that you are in a familial, dating or marital relationship with, but one that you share the same “roots” with. Black people have been taught, trained, molded, and brainwashed to hate ourselves and to hate other Black people.

We have been brainwashed to believe that certain skin tones, hair textures, lip sizes, body frames, eye colors, and hair lengths are better or worse than others.

The slave masters tactic of pitting light-skinned versus dark-skinned is still present today.

We’re still buying into those twisted beliefs.

The tactic of turning the Black man and woman against each other, using sex (often rape), breaking up the family (selling one of them), and other methods, is still present today.

But when will we individually and collectively say, “no more” and mean it? When will we stop subscribing to past lies masqueraded as truths? When will we stop buying into the stereotypes that were created as propaganda mechanisms to divide? When will we stop perpetuating the lies that even our elders told because they didn’t know what they didn’t know—but we now know the truth.

When will being sick and tired of being sick and tired turn into a radical change of healing, acceptance, growth, and love?

To Black Men and Women I Say…

Ladies and gentlemen, brothas and sistas, we need to cut each other some major slack. We need to heal and we need to find a place of solitude within each other to help with that healing. Or we will continue to self-destruct and the only people that will be left to blame is you and me.

Let’s take ownership for the roles that we have individually and collectively played in the slow destruction of our people, families, and relationships.

Yes, others manipulated many things.

Yes, others introduced elements of mass destruction (drugs and guns) but we made and make the decision to use these things against ourselves and against each other.

Just like on the plantation, our minds are still enslaved.

Today we pimp each other, we serve death by drugs, we take the liberty of ending each others lives through the pulling of the trigger, stabbing of a knife, stomping of a foot, punching of a fist.

We have some harsh realities that we must take ownership for…

Today, Black women are raped by Black men more than by any other ethnic group.

The vast majority of Black drug addicts get their poison from Black drug dealers.

There are more Black deaths by Black hands (and by weapons used by Black hands), than by anyone else. Before the 1950s this was not the case.

We can guesstimate the number of lives lost to the periods of slavery (including the Middle Passage) and if you compared those numbers to the death toll caused by our own efforts from the 1970s to 2018 alone (we could go back farther but we don’t need to) those numbers would be staggering.

It doesn’t negate or make light of the death toll of Black people caused by non-Blacks and law enforcement.

What I’m saying is, why are we not mortified by the lives taken by our own people?

We have gang members and drug dealers wiping out our people. We live next door to them and do and say nothing.

We must police ourselves.

We must protect our families and neighborhoods. Sometimes that means protecting them from our own family.

Mothers need to stop protecting their deviant and criminal child. If your child harmed someone they must face the punishment of their offense. Mothers should be escorting their children to the principal’s office, to the police station, etc. When you shield them you only enable the mania that is brewing and waiting to be unleashed.

Mothers, if dad isn’t around to be the rock of your family then you need to turn to the village to step into that gap. And then you must rise up with the strength and courage that God gave you and gives you, and you must declare and enforce the rules of your home. If by chance dad is available to help lead your children, don’t be a fool–don’t be that ignorant baby mama–let that man in and let him help you raise your children right.

Reclaim your family. Don’t let your child be the menace we all fear and grow to resent and hate.

We must end this ignorant belief that “I ain’t no snitch” and “snitches get stitches“.

So it’s okay for Black people to terrorize and kill us, but when someone else takes our lives then we want to protest and demand change.

Law enforcement can barely solve crimes in our communities because we refuse to cooperate with them, yet we’re quick to dial 9-1-1.

Why are we not picketing and protesting outside of the homes and buildings of drug dealers and gang members?

Honestly, we act like we have Stockholm Syndrome.

Sexism and Misogyny in Our Community

We say and do nothing about the Black women and girls who are kidnapped, raped, abused, pimped and trafficked.

Are they not valuable enough to fight for and defend?

We read and see news footage of Black male celebrities who victimize Black girls and women, and we side with the celebrity. We rationalize his actions because we’re a fan of what he does in his professional life.

Our lack of outrage is why there’s no outrage from non-Blacks. Now let’s be clear, the moment the victim is white, the outrage from non-Blacks will be never-ending. They see the value in their women and girls, even if not fully (but you can’t victimize them).

Are Black women and girls not valuable? Is that why we are not valued? We already know that society values females less than males, but we value Black females even less.

Why do we celebrate calling and being called “bitches” and “hoes”?

Men should cringe and stop any man, woman, or child who uses those words to describe a female. Women and girls should immediately stop, correct, and redirect any person who feels entitled to refer to them using those words. It’s not acceptable, by anyone—not even our friends and family.

None of my friends or family members can say “bitch” or “ho” in relation or reference to me. Not even in anger.

We need to stop this mentality of “well I will just make lemonade out of it” by taking words meant to harm and then trying to flip them to make them fit and feel right to us. That’s distorting the lemon-lemonade premise and guess what? This ain’t lemonade. It’s just lemon with a splash of water.

We do it with “nigger”. Because we say “nigga” (a switch of two letters) we have convinced ourselves that this version is better and more acceptable, but only when said by another Black person.

Okay. Okay. Okay.

Whatever coping mechanism that we want to use to take away the power of that word.

But it can’t be applied with “bitch” and “ho”.

Those are gender-specific terms that we have flipped to also apply and reference to men (which enrages men), to balance, and take the weight out of their meanings and inferences.

But women can’t then say, “we can use these words but men can’t use them“.

So that same coping skill switcheroo does not and will not ever apply. We live in a sexist world where women and girls are always only seen as receivers not doers.

If men don’t want to be called bitches and hoes then they need to stop using those words, and they need to speak up and speak out about other people using those words.

We must protect ourselves and each other, and that means that sometimes that means protecting us from us.

What Are We Going to do to Resolve This Problem?

How will we leverage these tools of destruction to be lessons of redemption? Yes, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper.

We have proven right those who enslaved our ancestors that we can be easily manipulated and controlled, we can be taught to devalue ourselves and each other, we can be extinguished as a race, we will never be united, and we are not as wise and intelligent as we profess—for if we were then we would see clearly that the shackles aren’t actually locked…

Free yourselves. Free others. Lift yourself up. Lift up others. Love yourselves. Love each other. Take off those shackles!

Stop Limiting Love to Black Love. Let People Love Who They Want!

This one may cause some anger to spew at me, but please listen with your heart.

The vast majority of Black people, especially African Americans, are affiliated with a religion that is based on and teaches love, inclusion, forgiveness, repentance, and atonement. If you are Christian, you have been raised to believe that Jesus said love everyone as you would love yourself. Jesus did not discriminate or hate.

So why are we so bitter when we see a Black man with any other woman except a Black one?

Why are Black men bitter when they see a Black woman with a man who isn’t also Black?

It’s especially true if the other person is white. Why?

The hurt and anger caused by our enslavement and by the hundreds of years of being told “you ain’t nothing”, surfaces to the top. The more than 100 years after being emancipated to earn the right to vote as a citizen, to have the right to eat and drink next to the same people whose families not-far-removed enslaved our people—those memories and that pain surfaces to the top. Knowing the history of Black men being lynched for looking at white women, speaking to white women, touching a white woman, and having sex with a white woman—even 50 years ago—those feelings surface and sting. Knowing that white slave masters raped and oftentimes impregnated Black female slaves is something that churns in the stomachs of our men.

But…

Knowing all of this does not change the fact that God, no matter what name you call Him, commanded us to love. He didn’t say “only love people of your race” or “only love people of your religion“. No, He said that we’re to love.

That Black man who is dating or married to that non-Black woman is not less of a man or less Black because of who he loves. The same is true of the Black woman. I’m so tired of hearing people spew hate, sounding like the racists that enslaved you, and making absolutely no sense.

Stop the rhetoric of “watering down our race“. Most of you don’t even know where your ancestors came from before being shipped to the US.  Most of you haven’t even taken an ethnic DNA test to see your racial makeup. All of this talk about “watering down” will have many of you shell shocked when you realize how not “pure” you are.

Some of you are walking around with so many races in your DNA that you look more like a pot of gumbo.

If Blackness is merely skin tone, then we’re all in trouble. Some of us are the same skin complexion of Latinos, Asians, and other olive and brown-skinned people. You’re ignorantly obsessing over the color of someone’s skin. You’re anti-white, yet your DNA most likely ties you to white ancestors. Some of you have issues with Mexicans and Latinos, yet some of you probably have their blood running through your veins. You have issues with Asians and don’t even know why—-but would be shocked to find even a small percentage of Asian DNA in you.

You sound just like your slave masters. You sound just like those hate mongers of the Jim Crow era. You sound just like the racists of the 1960s. You’re filled with so much hate that it is killing you and destroying our people. It’s not our “race-mixing” that is destroying us, it’s your ignorance that divides, turns away—and ultimately destroys us.

It’s all just ignorance and it goes against everything you’re taught in religion.

Love sees no color, religion, gender, race, or nationality. Love has no limits.

Love freely. Love whomever you want. Stop judging people for who they love.

I can tell you one thing, if I’m attracted to someone I’m going to get to know them—I don’t care about the color of their skin or the country where they originated. I’m going to love who loves me.

To All Humans I Say…

Let’s all be mindful of the things that we do and say, the biases we possess, the beliefs that we hold to be indisputable truths, and the stereotypes and labels that we perpetuate—and the impact that all of our words and actions have on others.

We can divide or unite. It is our choice, individually and collectively.

I can say that it has never been a time that one group of people stood strong without others supporting them in some way. Even in religious texts you can read stories of people from other tribes, religions or ethnic groups being moved and inspired to lend a hand, to provide refuge or resources for another groups freedom, safety, etc. Free yourselves. Free others. Lift yourself up. Lift up others. Love yourselves. Love each other. Take off those shackles!

What do you want to talk about next? Comment below.

Love,

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

After watching this brief clip that someone posted on Facebook that shows a recording of an episode where Iyanla Vanzandt has Black men and women openly expressing their hurts, anger, and disappointments, I share in this multi-part reflection and plea that I’ve started below.

I know that it can apply to any ethnicity of people (for internally we all have unique and sometimes even similar struggles), but I can only speak for and directly to the group I share the most commonalities with—Black people—but I encourage all to read this, to get a better understanding of the unique struggles that Black people and specifically African Americans face daily in the US—see the commonalities within your own ethnic group—and consider the ways that even you may have unknowingly perpetuated one or more of the stereotypes that continue to divide one group of people (in this case, African Americans) and reinforce the stigmas that keep nations of people divided:

To Black Women I Say…

Ladies listen to your men. Truly listen. Don’t ignore their complaints. They are crying out and they need us.

Stop allowing the past and what society has forced us to do to survive to be the barrier that prevents us from having a genuine and loving connection with our men.

To Black Men I Say…

Menfolk, you need to come together and give each other the “pass” and approval to be vulnerable, to open up and share your hurt and anger in a way that allows women to fully understand in a healthy way, without us feeling the need to mother you or chastise you as being “weak”. Those are the two extremes that we keep repeating and reinforcing, that further attacks and emasculates you.

To Black Women I Say…

Ladies we can’t say we want a gentleman who possesses qualities of nurturing, tenderness, and compassion—but then call a man a punk when he shows sadness, fear, depression, etc.

He is human just like you.

He has feelings just like you.

He has insecurities just like you.

Just like you, he faces rejection and pressures from the world simply because of the color of his skin.

He wants to be heard and understood, appreciated and celebrated, forgiven and shown compassion—just like you.

You should be more concerned about the man who does not cry than the one who does. The former is boiling and dying from within. The latter is releasing the toxins that could do harm to him, to you, and to others.

I’m guilty of not being empathetic and sympathetic enough to realize that I placed men, especially Black men, on a pedestal of Super Hero status—with expectations that they are to be stronger, braver, and more resilient because they are men—-that they should just “suck it up and get past it” all while forgetting that even super heroes have weaknesses, flaws, areas of vulnerability that leaves them exposed and easy to harm.

I forgot the very important lessons that my Black father taught me about Black men, and how to love, appreciate and support them.

I forgot that just like the burden of being labeled “Wonder Woman” or “Super Woman” is draining on me, the labels placed on men also drain them.

All super heroes need a break— refuge.

Batman went to the bat cave, switched out his gear, took the secret door back to his “normal” life as Bruce Wayne. When Wonder Woman isn’t out there saving the world with her lasso and shields, she’s just a regular person—Diana Prince.

Super heroes can’t always be “on”. They need a break too! And they also need healthy companionship. Look at the super heroes and their love interests. There’s a sense of balance.

As Black people we have shared experiences of slavery (past and present), of injustice, cruelty, and racism. We have shared pain just as we have shared hope.

Just like we need a safe place to rest our head, men do too! They need someone they can let down their guards with and be vulnerable to, and trust that they won’t be attacked when they take off their super hero costume, or simply—just when they turn their backs or close their eyes to rest.

When they turn to us we need to be there for them. Not to mother them—society already says that they are boys and not men. But instead to simply provide refuge from the outside world. A safe place of peace, tucked away from a world of conflict and chaos.

Home is not merely a physical place. It should be what we have in and with each other.

To Black Men I Say…

Men, you need to stop negatively comparing Black women to other women. Stop telling Black women how inferior we are to other women. Stop telling us how ugly we are, inside and out.

Stop reducing us to our bodies as merely sexual props for your pleasure, to be easily discarded—as it reinforces the trauma inflicted on our women when slave masters raped and discarded us.

Please don’t keep opening that wound and torturing us.

It’s one thing to honor and celebrate us, it’s another thing to exploit and pimp us out—to basically say that we’re only as good as our booty is big.

Stop perpetuating the labels and stereotypes of Black women.

These labels and stereotypes are not merely reinforced by the few Black women who proudly or ignorantly display these traits and characteristics.

They are co-signed by your affirmations of their truth.

Others turn to the Black man and ask, “is this true about Black women?” and when you say “yes” it stamps all Black women with a seal.

What you say about Black women is a clear affirmation of what you think and how you see your mother, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, and yes even your daughters.

Are the words that you use to describe Black women the same that you would want someone else to describe the females of your family?

Is that what you want your daughter to hear and respond to?

Are the ways that you treat Black women the ways that you would want your daughter, mother, sister, and grandmother to be treated?

The negative labels devalue and destroy us.

We are not ALL one way or another. Just like Black men are not.

———————❤️——————-

Ladies and gentlemen, please let this sink in and marinate. We have to engage in dialogue and take ownership for our roles and parts in this disconnect.

I cannot possibly dive as deep as I would like because I’m limited by this medium that I’ve selected. So we will go as deep as possible to allow for discussion that can branch off into your own independent discussions.

The first step towards healing is to admit there is a problem.

Tomorrow we will continue with part two of this discussion. I hope that you will join me and share your thoughts and suggestions.

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
All footage in the video is owned and protected by Iyanla Vanzandt and the Oprah Winfrey Network. I do not claim any rights to the content.
The image art used with this post is not my creation. It was found at https://twitter.com/blaclovematters

Those of us who love R&B music and spent the 1980s growing up or growing into our lives remember the song “Just The Way You Like It” by The S.O.S. Band.

Do you recall the lyrics?

You have been single for a long time and I don’t want to cramp your style…as long as I can be your number one you can still have your fun whenever you need love, I can give it to you just the way you like it…you keep your other girls until you settle down, until you get bored, I can give it to you just the way you like it…

Such a catchy song. I remember singing it with so much passion and confidence as a girl. I didn’t know what the lyrics truly meant and I didn’t know that they would in many ways conflict with my beliefs, values, and morals—but that there was also one principle represented in the song that would be the guiding standard I would measure all relationships, and would escape me in most.

Let me explain.

I’m a person who values monogamy, faithfulness, and loyalty in monogamous relationships. I don’t cheat and I don’t tolerate cheating—even though I stayed in relationships where men cheated on me, but that’s for another post.

I’m not going to “share” you with another person if we agreed in the beginning on “no sharing”, just so later on you can decide on your own to break the rules and go dabble in someone else’s yard.

I’m also a person that believes that if we are truly honest about our wants, needs, desires, expectations, and standards then we can maturely engage in a relationship of our shared liking.

If you want to freely date and be intimate (on whatever level) with other people, then that should be clearly articulated at the beginning and throughout the life of every relationship you form. Because I’m also a believer that open relationships are a mutually agreed upon arrangement. So we both have to agree to not be exclusive and monogamous, or to be exclusive in one area of our life but not in another area.

I’ve been involved with men where we made clear, upfront, that we are not dating exclusively, that we are dating other people, so that also means we are intimate on some level with these other people. The clear communication reduces confusion and hurt feelings. You shouldn’t be upset when you see me (or hear that I’m out) with another man because you already know that I’m not exclusively dating you. The same is true in reverse.

Well, let me clarify–I better not, or should I say, “I bet not” see a man I’m dating out on a date with another man (even though I’ve suspected at least one man I used to be involved with of doing so). We never discussed that, I never agreed to it and for me, that’s a deal breaker. For me. Whatever floats your boat, it just doesn’t float mine.

However, if “blended” relationships (in whatever context) are agreed upon between two people then there should be no reason for discord when you see the other person dating another person regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

If you and your partner are into dating and/or having sex with multiple people, multiple genders, or a blend of the two all at the same time—there are rules of engagement that should be clear and mutually agreed upon, and frequently reinforced. I’m not interested in sharing a bed with more than one person, so you can guess my answer to this request.

I strongly believe that people should be honest about their intentions, desires, wants and needs. If you want multiple wives or husbands, have no desire to marry, don’t want children (or you do), you’re bisexual, bicurious, a swinger, love the BDSM life, have fantasies of being a part of the mile high club, or you’re simply against monogamy—tell the person you’re getting to know these things upfront before feelings, emotions, labels, expectations, and roles are set.

If you are extremely conservative and only engage in relationships based on your traditional conservative upbringing, then make this clear in the beginning.

What are your dealbreakers?

State them upfront not when the person has crossed your boundary.

What does all of this have to do with the song “Just The Way You Like It“? Keep reading and you will find out.

We have more issues in relationships because we aren’t being honest and communicating fully and frequently with a depth that is required to put ‘all of our cards on the table’.

It’s not even good enough to say “let’s not complicate our relationship” because what exactly does that mean to you? It may mean something totally different to the other person. What makes something complicated or not? And doesn’t using the term “relationship” already make things feel a little weighted and intense. “Friends with benefits” doesn’t seem as intense as “relationship”. A “relationship” sounds and feels deeper, more connected and intimate. A “hookup” or “booty call” doesn’t. They sound casual.

What is the casual equivalence of “booty call” when sex is not involved? Hmmm….I suppose that would just be a friendship. Then why do we complicate and blur things by calling a sexual relationship a “friendship”?

Can you see how even the things we perceive to be “little” should be discussed and made crystal clear so that there’s no confusion and room for potential future conflict?

Imagine talk shows and “reality tv” shows if everyone was open and honest. We wouldn’t have drama, no “you’re the father” results, no need for the TV show “Cheaters”. If everyone knew where they stood and the predefined boundaries weren’t crossed, there would be no need for some of these shows. Love & Hip Hop and similar shows wouldn’t be half as appealing if no one was being cheated on. Track how much time is being dedicated to drama tied to romantic encounters.

The withholding of information, secrecy, lies, game-playing, and cheating makes for great television, and makes courts and divorce lawyers wealthier.

Keep tracking with me as I’m tying it all back to this song.

I have a personal example that I would like to share. The song made me think about my life and decisions that I’ve made.

I was in the transition phase after ending a long-term relationship and I became casually involved with a man that I met at a friend’s party. Although we sort of discussed the casualness of our interaction and that we didn’t want to “complicate it“, we immediately and over time complicated it by engaging on some levels like a couple, but since we never clearly addressed and identified our roles in each other’s life our lines were always blurred. We spoke in what I can now articulate as coded inferences, but not clear expectations and rules of engagement. Maybe it was the thought of “rules” and “boundaries” that caused us to avoid having genuine conversations about us.

As I started meeting other men I would tell him about these other men and he would give me advice at the same time jokingly make comments that seemed as though he wanted me for himself. I didn’t take serious his comments that stated his desire for what would resemble a (genuine) dating relationship with me. I assumed he was joking or just testing me because it contradicted what he initially stated as his desires to “not complicate our friendship“.

He seemed content being single even though he would sometimes say he wanted more. He even admitted to feeling awkward and jealous about the time and intensity of my relationships with other men. He didn’t feel comfortable feeling like he had to compete for my attention. He even slipped up and admitted a level of love for me, then tried to joke around to lighten its impact. He would try to make light of his declarations that I was his. I would laugh with him but would always silently wonder.

When he and I would spend time together it was passionate and there was a strong chemistry, and I’m not just speaking in sexual terms, I mean in general (but the former is also true) but you could also feel our struggle to “not complicate it” and so to keep us from spiraling I eventually suggested that we part ways. I could feel his energy and I also knew that I was developing strong feelings for him…like, you know…love.

I also knew what he told me from the beginning, he wasn’t interested in getting married again or having any more children (he had two from his previous marriage)—so I knew that there’s no way we could be a couple because I wanted children and possibly even marriage (the latter was a complicated concept at that time in my life).

We thought that these vastly different desires and outlooks would make the casualness of our arrangement easier. We could pretend on a certain level to have some of the benefits of being a couple but without the labels, and with the freedom to date other people. He could put me in a box and take me down when he wanted me. He didn’t have the pressure to bring me around family and friends, and I wasn’t pushing for those introductions and interactions. We didn’t have the pressures of celebrating holidays together because we kept those occasions separate from our world.

I found myself spending more time with another man who was showing me the level of attention that I honestly wanted from “Mr. Uncomplicated”. It was easier, in my mind, to give in to the pursuits of another male suitor (not him) than to put on my grown woman heels and tell this man who was increasingly capturing my heart, that we needed to have a grown folks talk about us and what we truly want. We didn’t want to “complicate” what we had so we were willing to part ways to protect that. It was and is as stupid as it sounds.

Our “relationship” was a walking contradiction filled with inconsistencies and complications. Maybe things would’ve been different had we said upfront “we’re gonna strictly be friends with benefits, contact me when you want to hang out or when you just want a booty call, but we’re not exclusive and are free to date, spend time, and be intimate with other people of the opposite sex“.

But then again, maybe not.

I tried that approach during and after college and each time it backfired. The men always “caught feelings” and couldn’t handle sharing me with other men; they wanted to date me exclusively—although each and every time they were the ones who proposed this “friends with benefits” arrangement.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we all share and exchange energy and the more you engage with a person, the greater the bond that is formed.

That bond now complicates a casual arrangement.

Now it’s like someone trying to play with your G.I. Joe or Barbie without your permission, you’re filled with all kinds of emotions and can’t see straight. You don’t want to share your G.I. Joe or Barbie. It doesn’t matter that you left it outside on the playground, it’s yours and you don’t want anyone else playing with it.

So months later when “Mr. Uncomplicated” contacted me and we reconnected, we further complicated our “arrangement”. My baggage mixed with his and once again we never fully communicated our desires, wants, needs, expectations and standards. We didn’t clearly outline the rules of engagement. We just foolishly restated that we didn’t want to “complicate things between us” which once again translates to two dummies about to complicate things.

Our lack of communication and our mixed signals that we sent led us to create a fence between us. His desire (seemingly) to not blur the lines meant he kept what we had in a “box” that did not mingle with the other “boxes” in his life. He attended events that I would see through pictures but never in person, and he would have to see my separate life through pictures.

My desire to make him feel like I was doing my part to keep it casual meant that I was speaking boldly in absolutes that made clear I had no interest in a relationship, although that was far from the truth. I would joke about my interests in dating other men. I would tell him the types of women he should date, which would always exclude me. I would tell him how he should cut women slack and be more open in his interactions with them, but I positioned myself to never be one of those women.

The crazy thing is we both wanted what the other provided but admitting that mean’t “complicating things”.

I recall the night I slipped and said I loved him, but didn’t think he heard me. He did. He mentioned it the next day. I was dismissive and nervously laughed through it.

Oh my goodness was I now violating our pact to not complicate things?

So what did I do to remedy this? I verbally and on many levels emotionally helped to further separate us and at some point I’m sure that I hurt or offended him, or both. He started pulling away, flaking on dates, called and texted less frequently, and when he did text it didn’t feel like I was speaking to him most of the time. It became clear that the fence between us was too high and he was no longer interested in me. The reality that he could be more interested in someone else was also a pill I had to swallow.

What had we done? How did we get here? Why did we reunite just to damage something that was special to us? To me?

Strange how that can happen with something as casual as “let’s not complicate this”. Now two people are hurt and offended.

I never got the chance to openly and honestly tell him what I wanted, needed, expected, and what I would be willing to give in return. I never got the chance to tell him how I felt about him and how I felt about spending time with him.

I would’ve enjoyed dating him and having the freedom to date others.

I would’ve also enjoyed dating him exclusively.

We wasted so much time sending clues and signals, dropping hints, playing games of avoidance (so not to appear “sprung”)—but never being mature enough to sit down as two adults and have an honest conversation about what mattered most to us.

I enjoyed our friendship. I enjoyed spending time with him, going out to dinner, sampling his food (yes he can cook), watching and talking about sports, planning trips and excursions together (although things ended before we had a chance to travel together). I enjoyed our phone calls and the random text messages.

I enjoyed the steps of falling…

…gradually…

…in love with him….

I loved how I felt when I was with him, how he looked at me, how he held my hand or when he would reach across the table to touch my hand or arm. His energy shot through me. Just like one of his magnetic kisses. So intense. So telling. Yet we said nothing.

I loved how he said my name and how he would call me out for being judgmental. I loved his voice, his eyes, his smile, how he walked, and his laugh. I loved how thoughtful he was and how he would stop by my apartment and bring me food. He would check on me when I wasn’t feeling well. He would also check to make sure I was eating since I can go hours forgetting to eat and then I’m left starving.

I loved that we are both diehard fans of the LA Lakers. I loved that he never genuinely badmouthed my Dallas Cowboys like I would his beloved team. He would even cheer for my team when they weren’t playing his.

I loved how passionate he is about life, his family, his career, and the organizations and activities that he’s involved with. Being a family-person myself, his love of family was what really attracted me to him. Of course his hot looks clearly mesmerized me, but even the sexiest of people can grow to look ugly on the outside if what’s in the inside is ugly. So for me this was a bonus—a man who puts God first, family second, and career third. Oh yeah he’s a winner in my book!

But we messed up because although we thought we clearly communicated what our arrangement was and wasn’t, what our relationship was and wasn’t—we didn’t. We threw gum on the wall and hoped it stuck. We hoped the other knew what we meant when we said or did something. We struggled with honestly expressing our feelings and desires, out of fear that our declaration would “complicate things”. We avoided confronting what was staring us both in the face.

It’s sad because we could have had a healthy relationship on our terms, built the way that we saw fit—as casual or formal as we wanted. We never got to travel together. We missed some of the events, concerts, and venues we planned to attend together. We never danced together. Not once. And we both love to dance.

We made plans but never kept them. We disconnected because what held us together wasn’t meant for “complicated” and we clearly were complicated.

So now FINALLY…back to the song “Just The Way You Like It“…

Do you know what makes this song work for the singer/writer?

Clear and honest communication.

She knows that this man has been single for years and is showing no signs of settling down into a committed and monogamous relationship anytime soon. She also knows that it is his decision, not hers or anyone else’s, as to when he chooses monogamy or not.

You can’t force a person to pick you or to be monogamous to you. It’s their decision. They have to have a desire to be with you and only you. If they don’t, there’s nothing that you can do or say to change that.

The songstress in “Just The Way You Like It” is mature enough to know this fact. She tells the man to keep doing his thing, keep dating and having sex with other women, but she has one request—she wants to be his number one; she wants to be the one he calls when he’s tired of the others; she wants to be the one he chooses when he decides he’s indeed 100% ready to be in a monogamous relationship. For her, she’s okay with the casualness of their interaction, their relationship. She knows what she wants and needs from him and she states it boldly.

Interesting enough she never says that she too will be free to date and be intimate with other men (or women, or both), so we’re left to wonder if she’s the woman that just waits to receive whatever he has left to give (which repulses many women)—or if she’s the woman empowered to say, “you get yours because I’m gonna get mine, and when you’re ready to make this just a you-and-me thing then let me know because I will be ready…” which can freak out a lot of men.

We’re left with questions.

You could always attempt to piece together where she stands by listening to the rest of The S.O.S. Band’s album.

After reading this super long post I leave you with these questions…

1) What are your expectations and standards about love, sex and intimacy, and relationships?

2) To what extent will you go to clearly articulate these things to others?

3) Do you honestly believe it’s possible to have casual relationships without complicating them with the attributes of a more formal, “traditional” relationship? Why?

Honest, open, and full communication is key. Plain and simple. That way you can have things just the way you like it!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman/Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.

Here’s another message that I reflect upon from the past. On April 5, 2016 I wrote this message as a reflection to a Facebook post written by a man who was reflecting over his marriage and the ups and downs that he experienced trying to juggle marriage, career, and family.

balance-work-family

I shared the message as I share it today, with hopes that it reaches those single individuals who dream of one day marrying, those married couples who are struggling and contemplating divorce, those married couples who haven’t yet hit any bumps, and to those who are divorced and aren’t quite sure if getting married again is the thing for them.

Please read this message, reflect on it, share your thoughts, and then be sure to forward this message to others. With more and more people waiting to marry, others divorcing in staggering rates, or an increasing number of people opting out and choosing to bypass marriage altogether—it’s refreshing to look through the lens of someone who struggled, recovered, and reclaimed the connection he was losing because his priorities were misaligned. It can be a message that can help others before they cross that bridge, as well as those who have crossed it and are sliding down a collapsing hillside. It can also help those who have reached the bottom of the hillside and wonder if it’s worth taking the journey again.

I look forward to your positive comments.

~Natasha

Original post: https://natashaforeman.com/2016/04/05/a-post-on-marriage-family-career-and-community/

Dear Traci,

I keep expecting for something different to happen—to snap out of this…for this to not be true. I’ve been sitting in my chair looking out my window for hours.

Selfishly I cry and my heart aches because of what you mean to me as a friend, big sister, mentor and role model. I assumed you’ve been busy traveling for leisure. I had no clue. I had no clue it returned with a vengeance and I’m saddened by that fact.

I ache that I didn’t listen to that voice within that said “call Traci“. I kept saying I would get around to it. I assumed you were doing well, just living it up with family, traveling across country and around the world. I convinced myself that you would tell me if you weren’t well. But in hindsight, knowing you, no you wouldn’t–not this time–and you didn’t. Maybe had I been consistent and persistent with seeing and speaking with you, but hindsight is 20-20, and let’s keep it real as we always have—I’ve been going through my own “mess” which you knew quite well, hence why I know you wouldn’t tell me what you were now faced with.

I ache when I recall the times over the past three weeks my mom mentioned you and Milton. I didn’t pick up the phone. I didn’t log into social media. I didn’t even send you a quick text or even one of my simple “😘” texts, just to let you know that you were on my mind.

I know there’s nothing that I could’ve done to stop this from happening. But I want you to know how much you and our friendship has meant to me. I’ve told you in small chunks over the years and during a long conversation in January and again in March, but never to this extent and it hurts that it is now that I make the time to fully share the depth of how you have positively impacted my life.

(more…)

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

I performed an Internet search for topics related to marriage and specifically the term “marriage” and the vast majority of the pictures were of weddings and all of the things we associate with weddings, like engagement and wedding rings, cake and cake toppers, wedding gowns, bouquets, bridal parties, etc. I decided to do a little digging through social media and blogs to see what people are saying about marriage and what they seem to be focused on when the topic is addressed. Interesting enough the focus is overly directed towards the engagement ring, wedding ring, ceremony and reception, bridal party, and then there’s a gloss over of the actual union of marriage. Even when I typed in “same-sex marriage”, nothing but pictures of weddings appeared. I really had to dig to find content that focused on couples and family, not on the pomp and ceremony that leads to marriage. 

Which means that wedding industry professionals have done an awesome job of marketing and selling the wedding to us, while the embarrassing divorce rates prove that our families and society as a whole have done a lousy job of embedding the principles, practices, and expectations of marriage—so that we don’t enter and exit it so casually. 

Ring the alarm! Weddings versus marriage. There is a huge difference folks!


Pictures 1 through 4 above represent weddings. While pictures 5 through 8 reflect the layers of marriage. 

Some of you are overly consumed by the wedding ceremony but aren’t ready for the long-term commitment of marriage. It’s not the ring, it’s the union. It’s not the cake, food, dj, choreographed dances, bachelor and bacherlorette parties, or the gifts. It’s about the union. It’s not the titles you will earn as a “husband” or “wife”, it’s the union. Some of you want the glitz and glamour but don’t plan for or want to put in the work required for marriage. You want romance novel cookie-cutter, special, dynamic, and/or unique, but think it’s going to be effortless. 

Disillusioned are we? 

Spend some quality time (several months) in premarital counseling (and checkups every few months after you’re married) and work out the kinks, connect the dots, explore the possibilities and unknowns, and dive deep into what you BOTH need and want in marriage. It’s important to discover how you both see and define marriage and your respective roles within it. 

Prepare yourselves for the biggest commitment of your life. Walking blindly into it is one reason why millions of us are now divorced. 

Don’t take the stance of “we’ll figure that out when we get to that bridge”. The problem with that is you may find yourselves not able to even cross the bridge when that time comes, or at least, not together. Put everything out on the table upfront, before you say “I do”. 

Want kids or not? If so, how many and when? What are the expected household and career roles you two will assume? What will your social life be like as a married couple? What are your views about relocating to another state/country? Do you expect your family to follow your religious beliefs? What’s the rules about in-laws? Who’s the best money manager between the two of you, and how will your money be managed? How will you deal with infidelity? 

Get it all out there so you can truly see if you’re compatible, equally yoked, and have what it takes (and are willing to invest what is needed) to thrive in your marriage. Don’t just rush for a bridal magazine or zoom over to your dream store to set up a bridal registry. Sit down and have a partners meeting with the person who you’re planning to be a life partner with, and plan for your future together, not just obsess over a 1-8 hour event that will put most of you in debt and fighting!

And if marriage isn’t a partnership in your opinion but it is to your significant other, the two of you need to seriously sit down and talk because that’s a recipe for a short and/or extremely painful marriage. If you don’t want children but they do, neither of you will win trying to convince (or manipulate) the other to change their mind. If your significant other refuses to show you how they are doing financially, show you their debt and assets, then something is wrong. That’s a red flag pointing you in directions that you surely don’t want to explore. If you’re big on monogamy but your significant other thinks that it’s not normal to be faithful in all ways to one person, Houston you have a problem. If you’re expecting to receive an engagement ring and/or wedding ring that costs and looks like the amount spent to purchase a luxury car or house, but your significant other thought it would be more symbolic and romantic to give you an heirloom ring their mother or grandmother wore, you may not see eye to eye about this and other financial matters. 

Address it now. 

I see people starting their marriages eyeballs high in debt from a wedding that both of them probably didn’t even eat at because they were too busy entertaining everyone else to really enjoy themselves. That’s ridiculous. Guess what? It’s usually one of the first huge fights you have as a married couple. That’s because from the very beginning you both weren’t on the same page, thinking and planning as partners, and preparing for a long future together. You got caught up in the wedding storm and lost your everlasting mind. 

Those magazines, wedding registries, wedding vendors, and your twenty-plus member bridal party will still be there after the two of you have had some serious grown folks conversations. Remember, the magazines, registries, vendors, and your bridal party members won’t be there to build your marriage—and they can’t do anything to save it when it takes a hit. It’s going to require the two of you to fight for your marriage, and that first starts with you defining what marriage means and will be for you as a couple. 

We need to learn to take marriage seriously, enter it with our eyes wide open and fully aware and fully informed, and committed to whatever terms that we agree to with our significant other. If we can’t or won’t do that, then what’s the point in getting married? If all you want is the image of marriage (the material and symbolic things) then play house (the adult version to our childhood game) but don’t get married. Let’s stop making a mockery of something so powerful and beautiful. 

~Natasha 

When my husband, John Hope Bryant, and I first started dating, we would play each other songs that expressed how we felt. One of our favorite artists was Alicia Keys. Her songs hit home with us. One being, “Un-thinkable” (“I’m Ready”).

For me, it was a song proclaiming a love, a readiness, and a desire for something more, deeper, and more committed. For me, it was a song declaring that no matter what outsiders thought, said, or did—I was ready to be by my now-husband’s side. I would fight for and protect our love. I would stand by his side and always have his back. I would smash anyone who dared to attack him or us.

Neither of us were looking for the other, but we found each other anyway. It’s amazing how God works, especially when you stay out of His way!

I’m a “ride or die” kinda woman, so hearing lyrics that expressed this sentiment, touched my heart. So much so that I had this same song played at our wedding reception. We danced together, looking into each other’s eyes, knowing exactly what this song meant to us and our relationship….

Us against all others.

Us against everything that would stand in our way.

Us making sure that we put God first and our union second.

Us—two people in love with each other, with life, with the possibilities, and most importantly–with our Creator.

So let me ask YOU some important questions as we near the end of 2016…

What are you ready for? What are you committed to doing right now? In the New Year? What are you willing to fight for against all odds? What goals have you not defined and pursued out of fear? What person are you not committing to out of fear? What cause are you not leading, out of fear?

Claim it and go get it! Watch this video. Listen to the lyrics. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way!

~Natasha