Natalie Patterson is a Los Angeles-based writer and poet known for her spoken-word performances. Over the years, she has gained a great deal of praise in the poetry community as both a speaker and a teacher. In 2010, she became the first female producer and host at Da Poetry Lounge, the nation’s largest weekly poetry venue, and the place where her career began.
We asked Natalie some questions about heartbreak and she opened up about finding strength through patience and self-love.
If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?
“I started dating when I was 15. I think dating and loving people both are so important in terms of development and understanding how you relate to others and your measure of your own self worth. My first boyfriend was the most loving and kind man. We are still friends to this day. I think having that great starting point made heartbreak less painful as I got older because I knew if I dated great people, even when the relationship ended there would still be love between us and more love in my future. The best advice I could give myself and others is to SLOW down. Every relationship is not meant to end in marriage and when you put that type of pressure and expectation, you slowly suffocate each other. Just enjoy the love as long as you have it. Relax and know that love exists, even when relationships change form.”
What has heartbreak taught you about yourself?
“Heartbreak has taught me that I am resilient, that I am a badass, that I get to live and love on my own terms. I think relationships take a lot from women. I’m not a man so I don’t want to speak about what it takes or doesn’t take from them, but being in a relationship and holding space for someone else (which is what happens when you love another) while trying to balance self love can be exhausting. I find the greatest sense of renewal and commitment to self just after I get over being sad and start rebuilding.”
What are your rituals during a breakup? What things/practices/people helped you mend?
“I recently went through a breakup and it was so different than any other I’d ever had because we didn’t breakup because we were mad or hurt, simply because we want different things right now. Depending on the reason for the breakup depends on my response, but I try to keep it healthy. I write a bunch, I do mantras, I write affirmations, I set new goals, I talk long walks. I try and treat myself kindly and do things I really love. I definitely go through the stages of grief, but I never get too invested in the upset. I think it is easy to get stuck in the sadness and addicted to unhealthy behaviors that sometimes comes with breakups, like obsessing about previous conversations or Instagram stalking.”
Thinking back to breakups you’ve had, did you have any breakup vices (checking your ex’s Insta, etc) and how do you conquer them?
“I used to always have another person in my back pocket for when a relationship ended. I could quickly move into getting attention from someone else. I don’t do that anymore. I give myself time and space to process each relationship and then decide what I want next.”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?
“I’ve learned sooooooo many things. A big one was to only do what you want with no expectation of getting anything back. If you are going to be mad if someone doesn’t reciprocate– don’t do it. Love should liberate, not hostage anyone. The other big thing I learned was to listen to my intuition. My intuition is never wrong, I can feel things in my gut and every time I didn’t listen, I paid the price.”
Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?
“I’m friends with all my exess except one. I try to only date people who I deeply care about and respect as people so that I always maintain the friendship even when the kissing is done. I love that I still talk on the phone to my first boyfriend. He knows me so well, he has watched me become myself. I was in another relationship for 5 years and he and I are best friends now. We are almost closer now than we were when we dated. His father calls and sings me “Happy Birthday” every year and every time he is in town we all go for ice cream or dinner. These people are my family now. Love requires an ability to get past the petty stuff. I often think about the loss of a relationship when my friends are going through a breakup and how loving a person bigger than a title allows for a level of fluidity that otherwise ends when the relationship does. Directly after a breakup, I usually mute them on Facebook until things settle a little. My most recent breakup I didn’t need to even do that.”
What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?
“No matter what happens in life, I have decided that I will be a lover and learner. I will always seek and reach for happiness and the ending of something is the beginning of something else.”
What is your favorite song about heartbreak?
What is your favorite movie about heartbreak?
“I love a film called Elegy. It is about aging and love and fear and endings.”