Becoming 34.

Today is my 34th birthday. I was born at 2:25 pm. My mom was watching a basketball game just before pushing me into the world. That was a long time ago.

33. This was my Jesus year and while I'm not sure what to make of that, I want to share with you things I might have kept close to my chest this year. Most of this didn't show up in my work or on social media but it happened. All of it. I release it all here. You are my witness. 

Just before my birthday last year, the Donald became a daily reminder of all the terrible things in America, a horror show just beginning. I remember sitting at my friend Christen's loft in sheer horror on election night. I stayed there longer than I intended to, my spirit was stuck. Nothing felt safe anymore. It seemed like we had returned to a time I had only read and hear about.  

My semi-serious relationship had recently ended but we still talked most days. We weren't ready to be done but both knew it would end.  That relationship in many ways did not bring out the best in me. I don't recommend dating anyone who begins to make you feel uncomfortable in your skin or is subtly controlling. 

I spent most of November and some of December in New York. I slept in my friend Venessa's bed for a month. She was gracious as I overstayed my expected departure. I rarely went outside, I was furiously attempting to launch a fundraising campaign and Venessa lives in a 5th-floor walk up and it was cold AF outside. I'd find out on that trip that my sister's marriage was ending and my good friend's boyfriend had betrayed her. When I arrived home in mid-December I was in full-on fundraising mode for Sister Support, the non-profit I am President of. I had a new board of amazing women to guide and a year of programming to plan. I was excited and overwhelmed, full of pride and scared AF that I couldn't pull everything I was working on off. I worked tirelessly. There was so much going on. Over the next few months at the Warehouse on Prime (HQ of Sister Support and my home), we hosted so many events. Trybe for an 80 person Shabbat dinner, Traci fest- where over 250 people showed up to celebrate poet, Traci Akemi Kato-Kiriyama's clean bill of health after fighting cancer. We did an event around body love called "In My Skin" and celebrated ourselves, these bodies, in a community. We partnered with Culture Honey and screened "13th" and hosted a dynamic panel discussion.  In March, I met Elias Matar, an international volunteer, and filmmaker, who shared his experiences and the stories of those stuck in the Syrian War. My heart cracked open. I spent countless hours strategizing on how to aid him in his mission to return to Lebanon to sustain a village of 800 people. I spent so many days thinking about that for $30 a family of six can be fed for a month. I found myself frustrated that my community here seemed to be glazing over from all the crazy going on in the world. There has been so much to mourn but we are still living. 

I met Shana Tucker. This brilliantly kind soul who feels like home. Shana plays cello and sings something wonderful.  We became fast friends and collaborated to put on a concert benefiting Syrian refugees. She gathered a group of amazing musicians and the show was everything I hoped it would be.  

Summer: I declared summer17 my "summer of fun." I made a calendar and invited folks to fill it up. This was prompted by the realization that I'm a fun person but I rarely do fun activities. My whole life is my art and while it is moving at times... fun it not really a way most people would describe the things I create. So I went to sky zone and hung out with boys I would typically ignore. I went to nearly everything I was invited to. I let life get less structured and there was something lovely about simply going with the flow. 

I started producing a web-based series, Key Dialogues. Kidogo, Devonna and I dedicated hours to mold educational conversations about race and gender. I decided to no longer wait for someone else's money to fund a project but to make the shit I want in the world. 

My car couldn't pass smog because, well... a 16-year-old Volvo that I rarely maintained needed some love that I didn't give it.  It couldn't be registered. Suddenly, I needed a new car. I wanted something affordable, great on gas and not old. My mom and I searched, we found nothing acceptable. I finally decided I wanted a Prius but couldn't find one. Frustration was beginning to set in when my mom calls and says "I have good news, I found your car and I'm buying it for you." LIKE WHAT? We went that day and I drove off the lot in Attitude Black. A few days later, I joined my favorite gym, Everybody. I got an offer to join Street Poets, as their lead Teaching Artist. I was in a groove, I was feeling my inner power bitch blossoming. Everything had come together and then the following Friday I was coming back from the gym and there was a note on the door of The Warehouse saying we had 30 days to move. The Warehouse was my home, my creative space, a community hub, a space I had manifested and built and suddenly it was all being displaced with no explanation and no communication. 

I lived every single second of the following weeks. I barely slept. I was furiously trying to gather information and strategize an uncertain future. Every plan had to be pushed to a future I could not promise. The Sister Support Board jumped in, we all worked together to pack everything up and move our belongings to storage. We moved out 16 days early, there was no point in staying some place the owner wasn't even decent enough to have a conversation after 3 years of our loyalty. I felt so betrayed, the space was no longer a place I felt safe but like a  place I needed to race beyond. 

I found us a new home, a beautiful community space but it would not be ready for a month and a half. It was not a live/work space so I needed to find a new place to live. I found a place around the corner from our new office but it would not be available until mid-December... so home to my family I went. 

For the last month in a half, I have shared my childhood home with my mom, sister, four-year-old nephew and two-year-old niece. Every aspect of my life is new or in transition. My room is small and overfilled with all the wonderful things that have made my life comfortable. It is rarely quiet. My creativity has no space to form. My desk is too small for all my ideas so I've put them in boxes, hoping soon I'll get to come back to them. 

Today is my birthday. I have come to accept that my life is unconventional. I don't have medical insurance, I have no desire to have kids nor does marriage interest me. I like working in the middle of the night and going to sleep at 7 am. I crave freedom and creativity. I love long drives with the windows down and the music loud. I don't know if I'll ever fall in love again but my 20's gave me so much. Everything is in transition right now. I have no idea where most of my possessions are. My mother tells me she thinks I'm brilliant, my niece yells my name with her arms above her head like I'm her favorite person, I haven't written a poem I'm proud of in months but I'm alive, you know. I hope at 34 I get to kiss someone that makes my skin come alive. I hope I reconnect with friends that I love but have become too busy to maintain a relationship with. I hope my career becomes breathtaking. I want to work on things that truly matter. I want to use my voice, these gifts, my time to make the universe proud. I want a lover I want to call, a lover who looks at me like I'm incredible, a lover I proudly hold hands with in public and share truths with in private. I want real, good times, with real good people. I want to be invited places by people I respect and admire. I want to amaze myself. Next year at this time, I want to say "damn, girl you did all that and more." 

Thank you for being on this wild ride with me. Thank you for your positive thoughts and messages. Thank you for sharing my work. Thank you for buying my poetry and supporting my work. I'm so grateful for all the ways I am loved. I hope to grow beyond my wildest dreams and yours for me. 

Mine and yours, 

Natalie J. Patterson

November 13, 2017 - Los Angeles.

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My Big Story with Christopher Swan

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I got an email from my friend Shandy asking if she could put me in touch with her friend Christopher who has a podcast. I said yes. Christopher sent me the most delightful email, we chatted on the phone and a few weeks later, he came to LA to interview me.  During our time together I learned just how incredibly detailed, thoughtful and organized Christopher is. He is adorable and kind, smart and always asks the right question. We had a blast recording for his podcast. Enjoy the nuggets of goodness below.  

More about the show: Christopher Swan speaks with amazing people that are living a life of intention, creating a life they love, and helping us learn from their big stories. Through these interviews and stories, he uncovers their passions, purpose, advice and so much more. These are intimate, friendly, and thought-provoking conversations. The stories shared are as diverse as the guests, including Hollywood entertainers to social good advocates to small business owners to artists to corporate and nonprofits leaders, to anyone with a big, intentional story.

SHOW NOTES

This week, I have such a smart and interesting conversation with poet and teaching artist, Natalie Patterson. Natalie is also the president of the nonprofit, Sister Support, an organization committed to the advancement of women through community, connection, and sisterhood.

Natalie is well known for her poetry, sharing it publicly since 2002 with many adventures including slam poetry, working with Da Poetry Lounge, starring in a very popular SoulPancake series, and being hired by companies like Sephora.

She speaks about important ideas and issues, like bias, including gender and ethnicity, culture, body image, empowerment — and she’s eager to help us grow, to see past our blind spots.

Something unique to Natalie, she translates her ideas and poetry into tangible action by leading the nonprofit Sister Support, with programs to empower women and change narratives, and recently an opportunity to help Syrian Refugees.

This interview is definitely more of a conversation. Not only do we understand more about Natalie’s story, we learn a lot of what guides her and informs how she shows up, in her work and as a person. I kind of think of our conversation as gaining new perspectives, and why change, advocates, and poetry are needed.

 

Key Takeaways

[2:26] Poetry can offer a chance to slow down and sink into a moment.
[8:03] Natalie’s poetry has taught her about herself and also helps her to connect with humanity.
[9:47] How Natalie uncovers the mystery behind the every day and turned it into an art.
[11:13] What are some of the more important topics for Natalie?
[14:54] Why Natalie would like to partner with more people who are willing to put money behind the deeper, hidden issues.
[17:47] What made Natalie realize she had ideas that she should share out loud, and how she grew into self-acceptance and learned to share her voice.
[24:30] How to curate an experience rather than being the star of the moment.
[26:02] What it means to come full circle and learn from the experience.
[32:35] Natalie talks about how she got started with Sister Support.
[36:49] How running a nonprofit is Natalie’s poetry manifested in physical form.
[38:56] Not compromising and trusting your instinct.
[42:44] What holds Natalie back?
[49:26] What inspires Natalie to look for the silver lining?
[52:57] What’s next for Natalie?
[59:36] How to follow along with Natalie.
[1:01:35] What did you think? Any new ideas or questions? Call us at 1-707-347-9312 to share ideas, stories, and feedback. Also, we have even more content, stories, and ideas at accidentalinformation.com. Here’s how to connect and find out more.

Mentioned in This Episode

@mechristopher on Instagram
@mechristopher on Twitter
@accidentalinformation on Instagram
Accidental Information on Facebook
@accidentalinfo on Twitter
accidentalinformation.com
awesomefinds.info
natalieispoetry.com
sistersupport.com
@natalieispoetry on Instagram
@natalieispoetry on Twitter

 

Tweetables

“We all start from somewhere.”

“It’s not that I want to be amazing. I want what I’m doing to be amazing for the people that are participating…”

“It’s about being aware; being in the moment of ourselves.”

“I think the thing that we are the best at, that we would do for free, is the thing we should do for a living.” -@natalieispoetry

“When it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.” -@natalieispoetry

“If I start saying, ‘I get to do this…’ everything seems like a gift.“ -@natalieispoetry

 

30 Poems in 30 Days!

April is National Poetry Month. In honor of it, I and many other poets write a poem a day for 30 days.  Some post their poems daily on facebook or on their personal blogs but I have never been fond of the idea of posting poems immediately.  I like to get to know the poem before it is out in the world. But this year I have decided to release each poem for 24 hours, so you will get to experience a new poem every day.   

  • Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.  
  • Please do not copy or save the poems. Sharing the link to access this poem is fine but when the day is done, let the poem go! 

DAILY POEM

 

Eastern Washington live show recording w/ Q & A

I have to tell you, I have done many many shows in the last 13 years. Most shows are good, nothing remarkable but good. Last night at Eastern Washington University, perhaps because I haven't been doing hour sets in many months, there was magic. I was liberated by my own words. 

Below you can listen in. Get free and excuse the quality. It's just real and raw. Enjoy.

Women's March LA- a reflection

This article was written for and published by: CultureHoney.com

Originally had no plan to attend the Women’s March LA. I have found the feminist community to be very white women focused and disloyal to women of color. However, as a person who runs a women-focused non-profit, Sister Support, when there was interest from our membership, I put my personal feelings aside and got to organizing.

I made shirts, I attended many weeks of events and dinners, I planned a meeting spot for the day-of and sent many emails to inform and unite those interested in participating. I think that those of us interested in progress have to be willing to go beyond our comfort and perspective to invest in the highest good. The night before the march, I made my signs: a list directed at the newcomers to the movement, things to think about.

The morning of, a board member of Sister Support and I parked near the Chinatown metro station and attempted to get on the train. What we soon realized was that EVERYONE and their mama was going to this march. If you have ever been to Japan or have seen the videos of people trying to get on the train there, that is what it was like. People pressed against the glass, completely cramped and no one moving. We decided to just walk the mile and a half. As we got closer, the crowds got thicker. As we approached Pershing Square, we became gridlocked on the sidewalks in every direction. We realized meeting up with our larger group would be impossible until the march started. We stood for a long time. The crowds were generally more friendly than Los Angeles is on a typical day. There were a few people who got really frustrated with not being able to move through the crowd and needed help to calm down by other march supporters, but those issues quickly de-escalated. Being ground level in a crowd of what we now know was about 750k made it hard to enjoy. We could not see the number of people with us. It was generally very quiet given the large crowd. Then the motorcycles came to start the march. After another 15 minutes, we finally began to move. In a block or so, the crowd thinned and walking became more comfortable. I kept looking around, wanting to feel connected, but I didn’t. The march seemed like a performance, like a bunch of extras waiting for the camera to pan.

We reached Grand Central Market, an L.A. landmark formerly known as a place to get a taste of different cultures from family-owned shops. It has now become a gentrified space known for shops like Egg Slut and overpriced juice. I decided to head to the roof of the parking structure to better understand the gravity of the moment. I thought if I could see the people, maybe I could get connected to the emotion I currently didn’t feel. Perspective can shift everything. I was too short to see over the concrete walls on the roof, but in the staircase in the space between the concrete and the fence I could see thousands of people. People for as far as my eyes could see. I planted myself on the 2nd floor balcony. It was from there that I could see and be seen without being in the massive crowd. I flipped my signs over the edge of the balcony and drank the crowd in. There were so many signs, so many people. I was looking for all the folks who might have been on the fence about coming but came anyway. I was looking for black girls, queers folks, white men, black men, trans folks, immigrants, indigenous folks, disabled folks, Muslim folks. They were all represented. It was beautiful. I loved seeing the excitement in the faces of people who thought they were alone when they realized someone else saw the world the way they did.

What was disheartening was how many people didn’t see why intersectionality has to be at the heart of this work. It is not enough to fight for our own rights, we must fight for the rights of the person most in danger.
Fighting for women’s rights while ignoring women of color, queer, trans, immigrants and Muslims does not work. While I saw many people having a wonderful time, I couldn’t shake the question “What is this all for?” I couldn’t help but wonder where all these people have been and what they would be doing in the coming weeks, months, years. I am hopeful that with so many people attempting to be active, it will spark more actionable, measurable movement in the fight for equal rights and fair treatment of those who identify as female.

After rejoining the crowd, meeting up with my larger group and finally making it to City Hall, a friend and I walked to Chinatown to head back home. For the rest of the day, I watched as the numbers poured in from around the world. I looked at all the pictures on social media, I noticed how quiet Trump was on the event, I posted a few pictures and engaged some women of color who decided not to go to the march. There are so many feelings involved with this work, and I have decided to participate, to do the very best I can to move us forward. I will continue my work as a poet, speaking about my experience as a black, queer, female artist and also a person in leadership at a non-profit. I encourage you to find the space you occupy in this movement and get to work. Let’s thrive boldly, together.

A Woman in Full Bloom, First Lady Michelle Obama

This article was originally written for and posted by: CultureHoney.com

It was 2007. I was too young to realize I was political, and there was a senator two of my friends could not stop talking about. They were excited in a way I had not previously witnessed them. They convinced me to drive to Nevada to volunteer for this senator who was running in hopes of becoming the next President of the United States. We would get a chance to hear him speak while we volunteered for the Nevada caucus. We went to the volunteer training, and I was very impressed by the amount of integrity the Obama campaign had and expected from their volunteers.

There was another meeting to attend, but we skipped it to head to the high school where Senator Obama was going to speak. I walked in that high school skeptical that one speech would resonate deeply enough to make me a believer. Then the doors opened. Michelle Obama was announced and she began speaking, not about a job or role, but about the kind of person she fell in love with, the kind of person she married and had children with. The kind of person she trusted her future with and would continue to support wherever that took them. I found myself opening to the idea that maybe these people were deserving of the highest form of leadership in our country. I was most impressed by Mrs. Obama’s candid conversation. I recall her talking at one point about her husband still being her husband at the end of every day, which meant he’d swing by the store for milk and take out the trash before morning. She even talked at one point about her distaste for his cigarette habit, saying into the crowd, “If you see him smoking one, let me know.” She introduced her husband and again the doors flung open. The energy shifted in the room, and he proceeded to give a speech that won me over. It was a single sentence that did it for me: “I will wake up every morning thinking about ways to make your life better.” I had never heard anyone in politics sound so human, so good and decent.

After the speech, we made our way to the rope line and I went straight for Mrs. Obama. She was gracious and signed my “Hope” poster. I left Nevada a believer in the Obamas, and for the first time in my life felt a sense of patriotism. As a black woman, patriotism isn’t something I experience. It is something I grew up hearing about, but knew it was reserved for others, like “whites only” drinking fountains.

A month or so later, I hear that Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Caroline Kennedy would gather thousands of women to talk about our participation in the upcoming election. I waited in line on the UCLA campus for nearly 10 hours. I was one of the first people in line and therefore was one of the first let in. I stood dead center, ten feet from the podium.

I cannot tell you what any one of those incredible women said that day. What I do know is I cried the entire time. I could feel in my being how monumental this moment was. I was there, and for the rest of my life I would get to say that.

What happened at the end of that rally I hope to never forget. All the ladies came down and walked the rope line, greeting people and signing autographs. As each walked by, they acknowledged that not only was I witnessing something powerful, so were they. As Oprah walked past she asked if I was okay. I don’t know if I responded, but she walked back to me and wiped my tears from my cheeks. As Michelle approached, she looked me in the face and said, “Hey, weren’t you in Nevada?” I don’t recall if I responded to her either, but I know I was shocked that someone traveling the country, meeting countless people would remember not only my face, but also where she met me. There was a magic to that day that has carried me. A type of energy that makes you grow. In many ways, I see that day as a rite of passage, as a becoming.

Over the last eight years, I have been deeply moved by First Lady Michelle Obama, not because of her title, but because of what she has done with it. I love her strength and her brilliance, a brilliance she will not dim or hide for anyone, her dedication to family, but also to others. She is relatable and the kind of woman you want to know. She has been honest in a way many criticized, but I respect deeply. In 2016, Time magazine named Sasha and Malia Obama “most influential teens.” Michelle responded, “Yeah, I don’t know why. They’re not influential, they just live here (referring to the White House). They have done nothing to gain any influence.”

From a historical context, Michelle Obama is the first African-American First Lady, but to me she is a woman in full bloom, an example of black excellence that I am not unfamiliar with. Michelle Obama represents a demographic of black womanhood America has not been interested in witnessing, but has always been present in my community. Black women like Michelle Obama exist. Often they do not get to be on the cover of magazines, and it is even more rare for people to listen to their opinions. I am inspired by her grace because regardless of how little America liked her, she was still Michelle Robinson from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White House. Through it all, she remained beautiful, brilliant and black. I have never been more proud to be an American because for the very first time I was represented.

 

 

Farewell President Obama (a letter of love)

Dear President Obama,

You will always be my favorite president. You inspired me 8+ years ago and still do today. I remember standing skeptically in a crowded high school hallway in Nevada, listening to you speak in 2007. I remember how your words won me over. How your energy changed the room, that your wife spoke of you, not like a title but like her husband she believed in.  I will never forget that you said "I will wake up every day thinking about ways to make your live better" and I believed you. So I voted for you, I stood by you. 

You are the dream and prayer of so many no longer with us. You are the leader I do not always agree with but respect. The father who reminds us that children and the future matter. The husband that reminds us that teamwork, makes the dream work. That sometimes men marry their equal and oh, what a joy it is to watch that love grow. Thank you for your service and dedication. Forever believing, because YES, WE DID! 

Natalie Patterson

Desires.

I want to trust you fully 

Want you to be worthy of that trust 

Want to hold onto you, not out of fear 

Out of desire to be near 

Want my full body to rest 

Relax

Be held, by you 

Weightless

Want your hands in my hair

Want to be unburdened 

Want a love that wears me light but runs deep 

Want to worry less and love more 

Want to sleep in with you 

Wake slow 

No rush 

No alarm clocks 

Nothing but you and me

Us

Curled into sheets.

I wrote this while sipping sparkling lemonade.

When we broke up I was devastated.  Devastated because I had started to imagine our lives together. I was invested and then BOOM... it was over. Until the next day, when we talked. We were still broken up but we were talking and that felt good.  There were no hard or bad feelings between us, in fact we both still liked each other very much. The gray area kept us talking. Talking so often that it was almost like we didn't breakup, except we did, cuz I remember crying for a full day. We talked every. single. day. Interesting, right? 

It has been a few weeks since the beginning of the end, we had one night of blissful breakup sex and then I decided, it was time to get back out there and TRY AGAIN.  I went on a few dates, talked to a few guys on the phone. Nothing remarkable but I was trying. I was finding my Natalie is back on her own vibe and then I got food poisoning... I thought I was dying (as you do) I mean it was 3 days of hell.  I text my ex on the first day of hell (because we were still talking every day) and in a series of texts I got why we wouldn't work.  I share and he protects. And those things don't sound at odds but I promise you, the way we express them, they are.  We are a lovely match on the surface. He is beautiful and kind. He is so many wonderful things. And being afraid and running toward the danger anyway, is what I am about. Life is about how one repairs and rebuilds. I am messy and loud, dangerous and wild. I am a beautiful girl with a plan she knows nothing about. Somedays, I forget I can talk to God, so I sit lonely, in this big ass dream of a warehouse that was handed to me. Somedays, I do nothing and wonder where my passion went.  Other days, no one can keep up with me, left in the cloud of dust trailing behind me. I am not easy to be with but I am easy to love. I like to talk things through out loud but punishment shouldn't follow what I uncover. I am a woman trying to maintain an artists heart. Trying to wake up and answer the hardest questions in life. There are no shortcuts in love. You want the glory of a beautiful story, you gotta earn it! You said we wouldn't work because you didn't want to be hurt, when the truth is, we didn't work because you don't know how to heal. 

Disclaimer: And now that I got all of that out, the real truth is.. It didn't work. Why it didn't work, is for the two of us to look at individually and sort through our own lessons. I wish him love, peace and joy! 

 

Breaking through the break up.

I took a shower today, put on makeup and attempted to work.  This may seem uneventful but when your heart is broken, these things become accomplishments.  I made it through the whole day without crying. It is 1:07am on day 3 of the breakup and I am tempted to park outside of his house just to feel close to him. I miss things about him that were normal a few days ago. His hair, the way it smells. I miss his kiss when I am still in his bed, but he is rushing off to work. I would beckon him back to me and he would slow for a second. Just long enough to kiss me real and i'd lift full body off the bed for a split second. That kiss recalibrated me. He is always moving so watching him slow for me was breathtaking.  I think about how I didn't hug him often enough or snuggle up into him. He loves sitting on the same side in a booth and I think it is corny, but now I wonder if resisting was worth it.  I am tormented by everything we won't do together and how tragic that seems to me.

He sent me a picture of himself and two of his daughters tonight. I couldn't help but wish I was smiling next to them. You grow attached to the people your person loves, so while I have no actual connection to them-- I miss them too.  

I've never had a breakup like this. Perhaps I've never liked anyone this much and not been with them. We broke up suddenly. Neither one of us actually thought we would breakup. I am still in denial. I still hope my absence forces him to see how much he loves me. I know I see things differently. I know I see everything differently without the comfort of his love and protection. Did I think we would last forever? I don't even know what forever is, but I sure was attached to the idea of him in my life for as far ahead as I could see. I never could get him to believe that part. The part about me staying and loving him. 

I made plans in the future. Imagined him kissing me on my birthday, me kissing him on his. I imagined sneaking presents into his life. I imagined sleeping in the sunlight. Opening my eyes to him getting ready for the day. I imagined family dinners and movie dates. Really, I imagined us living life, finding our rhythm. 

I don't know what will happen. I don't know if he can really feel my love. Don't know if he will receive it but I hope so. I really, really hope so. 

Where we are LOVE IS.

Love cannot thrive where fear lives.  It does us no good to attempt to love and then when it arrives, rush it out the door.  Make room for it.  

I would not consider myself a religious person. I am a person of faith and love in God/spirit/universe. They are all different names for the same energy that daily moves us through this life.  I was struggling about how to respond to a conflict. A love conflict with a person I deeply care about.  I am experiencing their love as fear based love, which does not produce a love I respond well to.  For the past few days, I have been struggling with what the best response would be and then I tuned into the live stream of my spiritual center (Agape) and was reminded: MEET EVERYTHING WITH LOVE.  So this is what I will do.  In the face of fear, I will remind us that where we are God is, Love is. There is much to be learned from this thought.  I share this with you in case you too are fearful or being met with fear when all you are trying to do it love.  OPEN UP and LOVE!!! This is what we are here for.  

Find more ways to love, 

Natalie. 

Lessons in love

I learn best by watching, then doing. All my life, I have watched people do a multitude of things. I learned that bangs aren't for everyone from my sister in the 90's. I learned that being extra drunk in a tight dress at 3 am looks terrible on everyone. I learned that heartbreak can kill you. I've learned the importance of saying sorry. That trusting your instinct is usually the difference between having a life you love and one that is just decent.  I've watched people, strangers to my own family be in relationships, mostly shitty, self-compromising ones. What I've witnessed over and over, were men unwilling or unprepared to show-up for a partnership, that they had already, partially stepped into and women who threatened or manipulated the men, in their lives, to get what they thought they wanted. Only to later be disappointed by the lack of consistency, willingness or negative reaction to the pressure. (I can unpack this more, if need be but stick with me) This exchange was normal to me. I even dated people with the understanding that relationships "are just hard." More often than not, I have had complex, murky relationships that were without definition. This type of dynamic has left so much to clean up and resolve at the end of things. 

I remember many years ago being what I thought was madly in love. I got very ill one night and went to the hospital. After a few tests they told me that what I was experiencing was a miscarriage. I had no awareness that I was pregnant, so it all was very shocking and disorienting. When I told the guy I was dating, he responded with the most puzzling words: " we can move in together, get married, whatever you want."  The short presence of a child was enough to get this man to want to commit in a way that, for the previous two years, he had little interest in. I told him if he wanted to do any of that, to ask me on a Tuesday, not as a reaction to anything. He never asked again. In more recent years, I was involved with a man who "couldn't imagine what our lives would be like together", when we had spent the previous nine years involved.

I was raised to think these type of moments were merely the hard parts of relationships and girls who become wives stick it out, fight harder, dig deeper, when, in fact those moments when your spirit struggles to know if this is right, are perhaps signs that this is a lesson not a destination.

I will admit, I am always drawn to deeply memorizing characters, they are typically the underdog, but really lovely, brilliant and complex humans. I always bet on them and THAT has been my mistake; wanting to be the thing they won. Wanting to be a prize, thinking I am a reward. I am a woman unto myself, not related to the life trajectory of another. I must always bet on myself and be with someone who will do the same. This creates a personal value system that does not shift, based on who is in my life, but allows me to maintain a level of self-love and care that is important for a healthy relationship. So often I hear Maya Angelou's voice in my head saying "love liberates." It has been the measuring stick for many things in my life recently. So, this morning was profound. I had a realization.

I am dating a person who welcomes me. Holds space for all the ways and things I am. A non-judgmental, open-hearted, kind and generous person. A person who thinks communication is king and THAT is fucking awesome. All the lovers I have ever admired, hold a quality of liberation for one another. That is love to me. Who ever knows what will come of a current dating situation and truly the outcome is secondary to all I will learn, but I am so grateful to be reminded that this kind of relationship exists, that I can have it and that I am worth opening up for.

Now, I don't know if any of this will move or shift you but it has made a world of difference for me. I welcome your thoughts.  I will always share what I have come to know as truth. I hope you try it on for size! Live in Love.

Mine and Yours, 

Natalie! 

Dear Allies or possible allies.

 A woman in a private group that I'm in posted the following and I thought it was perfect so I wanted to posted it on my blog as an offering. (read my personal remarks at the bottom)

Here are some things you should read and know: 

 "A woman who is a friend of a friend of mine posted the following resources. If any white people are feeling like they don't understand what's going on, or like they need to ask questions, this is really not the time to ask Black folks to help you understand. They have enough to do right now just to keep breathing and taking care of themselves and their families and friends. It isn't Black folks' job to educate us about racism. So here is stop #1 on that train:"

RACISM FAQ:

1. "Why do black people think everyone is out to get them?" 
http://www.theatlantic.com/.../the-case-for.../361631/

2. "Why do people keep calling me privileged?" 
http://www.cirtl.net/.../PartI_CreatingAwareness...

3. "Why do people keep calling me racist?" 
http://jezebel.com/590.../a-complete-guide-to-hipster-racism

4. "Isn't racism a thing of the past?" 
http://www.theatlantic.com/.../This-Town-Needs-A.../361443/

5. "What's wrong with me saying 'on fleek'"? 
http://www.thefader.com/.../on-fleek-peaches-monroee...

6. "Why do black people insist on talking about race when it's not an issue?" 
https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

7. "Am I just supposed to sit around feeling guilty about something that's not my fault?" 
http://www.alternet.org/.../11-things-white-people-can-do...
 

I don't know if you have heard or not but black people are being murdered by the police at an exceptional rate. Police officers are generally murdering civilians at an alarming rate but on the heels of two men being murdered in such a blatant and horrific way, as a black woman I am hurting. Deeply, deeply hurting.  And at 32, I realize that my pain as a black woman looks like anger to you, allow me to translate: I'm hurt and afraid. If you need more evidence as to why or are somehow out of the loop, scroll down my facebook page, there are enough posts to get you up to speed. 

The new collection, "Arrival: a return"

I'm so excited to have just finished my 6th collection of poetry "Arrival: a return." It features 16 new poems. Thematically, I explore the many aspects of what living in america right now feels like. This collection is a journey back to myself after a few years of building momentum only to realize I was still hitting walls.  I created all of these poems over the last six months so it is all very, very current.  

The way I approach the releasing of a new collection is I always want to be current and classic. I love Chapbooks, because they are of the artist. Chapbooks are classic in that that was the way artists had the most creative control of their work (read more about the history of Chapbooks HERE) but there is nothing like listening to poetry. So this collection will be released as a chapbook and come with a digital audio file to download and play. It's like having a personal read-a-long! 

The collection will be in your hot little hands in the next few weeks, but to insure that you have it first, please pre-order.  I can't wait until you have it! 

As always, thanks for your support. 

N.

After Pulse

There are too many funerals

Too many bodies

Always innocent

Always someones baby

 

I do not know what to do with all the mourning

Where else can I house this pain?

This body is filled with names and faces of people

Faces of murdered people

People murdered by other people

And how many mothers can we cry for?

How many fathers and lovers and sisters?

How many brother will we bury this week?

 

The death toll is rising

And we are just watching

Just posting

Just feeling sorry

Feeling sad, feeling feelings

 

My mother has a gun

In the top drawer of her dresser

It was her fathers

I suppose one day I too might inherit it

It will collect dust

It will sit

And die

A slow death before I will ever put a finger on its trigger.

 

I will not cradle it like a child

Will not worry about its safety

Will not value it over people

I will cradle people

Will love people

Protect people- who look and feel different than me

Because their existence does not threaten mine

Their love does not bother me

Their love inspires me

 

So anywhere I am, you are welcome

You are safe. You are loved

I am with you. I am with you. I am you.