Trusting Where I Belong

I’ve always felt like I’ve never quite fit in. Besides being (slightly) socially awkward, that sense of belonging in cultural groups has often been fuzzy for me.

You see, my mom is black and from Portland, Oregon and my dad is Latino and from Panamá City, Panamá.

I can remember how confusing it was to fill in those bubbles on those state tests. First question – Spell your name. Second question – Put in the date. Third question – Choose your ethnicity (ONLY CHOOSE ONE) and the choices would be “Black, non-Hispanic” or “Hispanic or Latino”. *Slaps forehead* As a kid that was confusing. I always felt forced to choose where I belonged or just shoved into a category.

I didn’t get to choose my dad passing tho 😦

He passed when I was three. That left my mom to raise us on her own. So I guess you could say, I grew up “black.” We weren’t super close to my dad’s side of the family unfortunately (I can count on one hand how many times I spent quality time with them as a child). Like my grandpas funeral in Miami. I remember walking into a room and seeing a bunch of people who looked like me (our genes are SO strong!). I remember thinking that was so cool – long lost family easily identified me (so clearly I belonged there).

And the summer I spent a week in New York with mi abuela, mis tios and mis primos (Krystle, Kevin, Jackie, Melanie and Eric). Man. That trip meant so much to me, foreal. It’s probably a faded memory for everyone else, but I remember Jackie teaching me how to make sugar/cinnamon toast.  Sneaking around uncle Alfredo’s house with Krystle & Kevin lmao! Predicting my future with Melanie playing M.A.S.H (y’all remember that game!????) and Eric and I riding bikes around the neighborhood and him leaving me on some random Brooklyn street to find my way back to their house (Dude left me for like 15 minutes and it felt like a lifetime).

I know my oldest sister remembers that summer too tho – it was my first time seeing her since I was a toddler. I got to hold my oldest niece when she was just a wittle baby! ❤

At times, I felt like I was on an island. Kind of isolated from everyone (it didn’t help we lived so far away too – from both my mom & dad’s side). With that, I definitely developed a deep longing to know family and my cultures.

I felt this the most when we were living in Kentucky. That was a really uncomfortable place to live for awhile. When we first moved there I was in middle school and I had never been reminded so many times in my life that I was black. There weren’t a lot of black people in the area (unless we went to Cincinnati – we’d see WAY more). But the kids at school reminded me alot. I didn’t remember ever feeling that way living in Seattle. Everything seemed more diverse…the people, the viewpoints, the food, the things to do…just everything! I was told “you talk funny” (because I enunciate all of syllables in words). People would ask if I was mixed with white. I’d say “No. I’m black and latina” then they’d assume I was Black and Mexican…like people just didn’t get me. I remember being TOO excited to graduate because I didn’t really feel like I belonged there either.

Looking back, I don’t hate our move to Kentucky. I wouldn’t be who I am, married to the person I’m married to and doing what I do without that move.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ever wonder what life would be like if my dad was alive tho.

I’ve had so many questions for years and as an adult I’ve begun to branch out and reach out to family (slowly, but surely). But I feel like I’m in a constant state of “catch-up.” Like I have to make up for all the years of not knowing them and having a relationship with them. Because I grew up with what I’d call predominately “black” experiences, I sometimes feel like a “fake latina” too (especially since I don’t speak Spanish fluently).

However, if I’m trusting my truth, I must admit  that although I would have loved to grow up in a Black and Panamanian household; Knowing both sides of my family well; Having Latin experiences and Black experiences, that’s just not my story. My experience is my experience. If I continue to look at it as if all those things made me less than or I’m lacking in experience, then I’ll always have that feeling like I missed out on something. My story and background is unique to me, and It doesn’t make me any less Black nor any less Panameña. That’s my truth.

So I won’t condemn myself or let those little thoughts that I’m not _______ enough, control how I feel about myself and where I belong. My mother is who she is. My father was who he was. And I am who I am.

I am proudly Black.

Proudly Panameña.

Proudly Latina.

Proudly Black Latina.

Proudly Lauren.

Proudly Laurena.

Proudly Me.

 

-Lauren ❤

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Birthday 27. #TheseAreMyTruths

It’s so interesting to me that I felt so internally focused this birthday. I had no desire for a gathering with lots of people nor did I feel like I needed to get all dressed up. I didn’t feel sad nor did I finish 26 badly, it’s just my focus was not on celebrating outwardly this year. I love my friends and community and I am so appreciative of all the birthday messages, calls and thoughtful gifts from everyone (I needed that), but for #27, I needed some unadulterated time with me.

I admitted to a friend not too long ago that I felt myself avoiding alone time. It’s like I didn’t want to spend time with me because I was afraid to. I’ve been feeling some things churning over the last couple of months, but as usual, it’s easier to avoid than to spend that time with oneself. So I’ve been watching a lot more movies and shows, but I think I’m all tapped out on avoiding myself. In fact, right now my vision is clear like a freshly cleaned mirror and I can see my reflection perfectly. I can see that I need Lauren…and ALL of her.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years operating between 60-85% of myself. Now, there’s no exact science to how I came up with that number, but it’s my best guess considering I often quiet my voice and reduce my light in situations.

Can I tell y’all a secret?

I’ve always been a little afraid of my shine. At times, I fear it’ll make others feel uncomfortable. I’ve also been self conscious of my voice and influence and scared of what others will think. But, the crazy thing is I get this gnawing feeling in my gut whenever I’m not being fully myself. For instance, there may be something I’m good at that gets me quite a bit of attention. I’ll counter the attention with a meekness or act as if I don’t notice or say things like “I’m just o.k.” But if I know I’m the shit, it’s perfectly fine for me to know it and continue to deliver that excellence (no apologies necessary). Instead, I shrink myself and it hurts because it’s not my natural form. I can’t even walk in the greatness because I’m too busy being double-minded.

I diminish myself so often, that I’ve confused my truths. And honestly, I’m growing quite tired of that. Again, I need ALL of Lauren this year…not just pieces nor a percentage of her.

I’m embarking on a journey where I’m telling, being and showing my TRUTH no matter what (#TheseAreMyTruths). I’m a private person so I’m often going through things behind the scenes, but won’t share out-loud either because I’m shy, shrinking, feel it’s dumb or just hiding. So I wanna try something a little different. I’m going to share my truths publicly because I need for them to be out. Because it’s not right for me, not to be all of me. (I think I’ve operated as if its a crime to be all of me, for a long time.) What a pity, right? Have you ever felt this way too??

For the rest of January, My goal is to share my truths through various actions and posts using the hashtag #TheseAreMyTruths on both @LaurenRelinquished and @RelinquishWear because there’s some truths I’ve failed to share with you all on my business too (and for that, I’m sorry).

But, I don’t want to do this alone y’all. Join me – what truths do you need to share out loud? Please share using the hashtag on social medial #TheseAreMyTruths too! We’ve got some things to work through, and what better time than now??

Lauren Relinquished ❤

Who do I say I am?

As I finished my corporate workday, this question continued to be asked of me “…But Lauren, who do you say you are?”

I’d think on it for a second and then lose focus and continue on with my work. After the 4th time I figured I should probably take the question seriously. If God’s asking four times then He must need my attention (I’m so hard headed).

So I put everything down and simply answered the question…well tried to, but I found it a little difficult. Truth is, when I first got the question over a week ago, I couldn’t answer it then either and it’s easiest to just ignore/avoid. So that’s what I did…avoided. But here it is again…“Lauren, who do you say you are?”

I am Lauren…I’m dope; full of love and light; super caring. i’m a good problem solver. i’m a beautiful human being with lots to share with others. i’m confident; I have a presence that is often felt, but not overbearing; I am Lauren…I’m empathetic – my heart is big; I’m a good listener with deep-rooted wisdom. I am Lauren…I’m goofy and a little awkward at times.

That took me a little time to answer, honestly. I know I’m a dope person. It’s just not always a fluid thought – but why is that? I think at one point it used to be, but it faded some when I started second guessing myself in everything I did and thought. I started caring more of how I came off to others and even what they thought.

We are quick to ask what others think of us or even who we want to be to the world, but WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE? I hope that question stays with you until you can answer it and its fluid for you. I kind of want it haunt you (and me). Not in an eerie way…I just want us to ask ourselves and know the answer. Its your truth. Your truth is to be treasured far more than who and what everyone else says.

We gotta affirm that which is inside and not just what others see in us. Because when we know it’ll be shown in how we walk, talk, AND how we think.

So…who do you say you are?

making time for me.

I remember boldly declaring, “This Summer, I’m going to fall madly in love with myself.” That was summer 2015. I hate to say I’ve fallen out of love with myself, but I certainly haven’t done a great job of loving me; spending time with me; making time for me; having a relationship with me.

It seemed like such a great goal to achieve that summer (and it was so needed, especially at that time), but as y’all know, we learn, we evolve, we change and we have to continue to get to know the person we are becoming. Sometimes that requires us to learn how to love ourselves in new ways too.

Previously, I had an abundant amount of free time, that I pretty much dedicated to just me..I worked out, I read books, I wrote, I planned for the future, I slept, I communed with others from time to time. Now, I have a demanding job, a husband, bills, responsibilities, commitments, a miniature social life, etc. And in all that, it’s imperative that I still find time for Lauren.

Even as other things fight to take my attention, I can’t forget my priorities.

Put importance on your priorities.

I have workaholic tendencies, so my hubby, being the caring and observant person he is, asked me when’s the last time I did something exclusively for Lauren. Of course he already knew the answer to that question, so he politely broke it down to me like this:

“You have 24 hours in a day – approximately 1/3 of the day goes to sleep/rest, the other 1/3 goes to your job and that last 1/3 of the pie – should go to you.”

I don’t know about you, but this was new to me. It’s very logical and makes complete sense, but I quickly found all the faults in his simple theory: it’s not realistic; what about all my other responsibilities; My job requires me to do work after hours; how would this work if you have a family?

Again, he knows me well so he was quick to rebut with “…that’s why I challenge you to give yourself just one hour per day where you’re doing nothing, but something enjoyable to you.”

I agreed with him that, that sounded simple and easy enough to do. And then POW! 2 months go by and here I am asking myself why I’ve yet to do more than 3 “Hour for Lauren.” I’ve come to the conclusion, that I make a lot of EXCUSES for why I can’t do something, because at this point in my life, where things seem pretty busy, I haven’t made myself much of a priority.

I know in theory, that I have to love and love on Lauren, but I put forth little effort to actually make that happen. I mean well, but I don’t necessarily do well.

We can intend to do something, but intention and action are 2 different things.

Anyone else at that same place? Intending to do well, but not really doing it??

What’s an excuse you cannot make for yourself today?

Personally, I can no longer stand behind the excuse that I have to work.

I’ve broken this down for me like this – Sure, there’s work that needs to get done, but my life goal is not to work myself to death; Not everything has to be done right then and there, some things can wait until the next day;  I also can’t be the best me at my job if I’m not renewing myself on a consistent basis.

I believe there’s time that can be dedicated to just you, it’s just a matter of us finding it and whole-heartedly believing we are worthy and deserving of that time.

We gotta do a better of job of not just talking about loving ourselves, but actually relinquishing those distractions and excuses, and making it a habit and priority.

-Lauren Relinquished ❤

Peace is my choice.

Much of my weekday is a constant go-go-go.

Be here at this time; connect with this person; sell this account; handle this service issue; fill out paper work; call this person; etc. And because of the demand, I seldom take a break. However today is different. Over the last couple months, I’ve been really been mindful of my peace. Where it’s at? What’s standing in the way of it? What foundation its built on; etc.

My peace is so important to me. I think I’ve known that on a basic level, but never truly understood that until life got real, REAL (so to speak). Like, when I was in a depressed state, peace usually felt pretty unattainable. And then like now, having a sales job, there are a lot of stressors at play. And if not careful, they’ll run you. I can’t have that tho. My being CANNOT be dependent on every little thing around me affecting me. I have to be able to take things as they come (because life is always throwing stuff; and people are continually…um people lol), so I have to be able to manage what’s “real” and whats not; what I can change and what I cannot: What’s worth my attention and what is not; Etc.

So today, I decided to take a quick break….enjoy this bench in this breezeway and enjoy and regain my peace. Because I should and I can.

-Lauren Relinquished

Remember to Relinquish

I’d say I’m past the days of shooting for perfection, yet I still find myself clinging and holding tightly to the idea of it. That “if I just do ____________ , it’ll be just right” type attitude. But that type of perspective throws off aim and focus. Forgetting what I’m doing “it” for in the first place. And when I find myself in those lost places I used to be kind of devastated you know? Now, I take them more like forced pauses, but in a good way. It’s an opportunity to stop. Just stop. Look around and observe my surroundings and how I got there. To take one hand off the the bar I’m holding so tightly to, and let loose a little. And it’s in those moments that I find God and my peace again and stop fretting. I’m told to Relinquish and right there…that’s all I need.

Be still. Breathe in. Breathe out. Remember to Relinquish.

I was depressed.

I was depressed.

So part of relinquishing is sharing – sharing the good, bad and sad.

And  today, I cried and I needed it. I needed to remember where I came from and reflect on where I am today.

*I wrote this post 2 months ago and am just now finding the courage to share*

They started a series on depression at church today. I was a little surprised because I hadn’t realized the series I’d been attending for 5 weeks was over and to be honest it was so right on time, so I was sad we had to move on to another topic. But I felt a little something telling me to just tune in and listen even though I felt this new series on depression didn’t pertain to me. Afterall, it is a great topic to speak about (especially since depression affects the black community).

Anyways the whole time I was sitting there as if the sermon didn’t pertain to me really but as the pastor continued to tell his story I felt my heart growing closer and closer to his because I knew exactly the pain he felt; the loneliness he spoke of; the lost and trapped feeling he shared.

It’s been over 2 years and I’m just now coming to terms that I was battling depression during that time. The crazy thing is how seemingly great things seemed on the outside but how crumbly and broken and achy I was on the inside. I had no idea what I was going through, why I felt like I did.  I just knew I didn’t feel much like myself and I was sad most the time.

I did this thing called closet-crying. Literally I’d cry in my walk-in-closet at the apartment I shared with my boyfriend. Whether you cry near your clothes or in a bathroom or in your car or wherever you do it…if you’re crying/hurting in private, you too are closet-crying.

I’d talk a little to others, but speaking things out loud to people didn’t really come naturally for me. It’s not that I didn’t have people, I just didn’t know who to talk to or what to tell them because I was having a hard time understanding for my darn self what in the world was going on. So I usually just remained quiet and stayed busy with all my activities but my energy to do those things changed a bit. I was always tired (fatigued would probably be a better word). I’d set alarms to get up but would sleep so hard I’d miss them. Probably because I was wrestling so hard mentally that I wore myself out which resulted in me having less and less…less to give to the day, to others, to myself, to work…etc.

I think my relationships is where I felt it the most..especially my boyfriend. Poor thing. I’m embarrassed to think about how many times he came to me addressing issues and needing feedback and how unable I was to give him anything except some tears and an “I don’t know. I’ll work on it” (which I almost never did). There were also times I’d go to places where I knew almost everyone but I’d walk in and feel like everyone was a stranger and they weren’t my friends. I specifically remember a campus event where I walked past tables full of my Sorors, mentees, classmates, friends, advisors, etc and couldn’t even bring myself to say “hi” because I was convinced that no one was nor wanted to be my friend. I acted out of character ALOT and would have out of body experiences where I’d see myself and know it wasn’t me, but couldn’t stop myself from blocking others off or throwing a temper tantrum over something trivial.

I didn’t feel like much of a friend to anyone…including myself.

It was all very strange for me. I didn’t seek out professional help because I didn’t actually know I needed help. But there was this one day in class when I couldn’t focus on anything they were talking about (this was common) and under the table I managed to type in “Why are people jealous?” in google.

Jealousy was one of my symptoms that I felt was really different for me and worse than it had ever been. So this probably marked the start of my “searching” period where I was tired of being lost and was thinking it’d be better to be found.

Slowly but surely, reading some of those googled topics and the psychology articles I found helped me to ask questions of myself and realize I wanted to find the root of where all of my symptoms were coming from.

I still never thought to speak to a professional at this point and I’m not really sure why – probably because I was independent and didn’t elicit help often. Probably because I was ignorant and still didn’t think it was necessary. Shoot…I really didn’t know any better.

Long story short I continued to deal on my own. And after another night of finding myself sitting  on my closet floor crying and exhausted I asked for God to help me. He’s a good listener. And for about 3 months or so I felt I had this invisible  helper with me that’d whisper and nudge me toward certain things like driving in silence and just letting things be quiet and peaceful. I also got the nudge to start letting go.

The hardest was my boyfriend. We dated since freshman year in college and spoke about one day being married, but because of the state of our relationship and also my inability to participate in it full time, it left us at odds with one another. We loved each other because we were best friends but the whole situation was hurtful and hard on both of us. We were graduating in a couple months and deep down we both knew we weren’t going to make it carrying on how we were. Not to mention I had a job offer back home in Cincinnati and he didn’t want to move to Ohio for several reasons. So that left me with my job in Cincinnati and him doing his own thing elsewhere. So we parted ways after we graduated.

That time after graduation was really hard at first because I was kind of isolated. Although Louisville wasn’t far, it felt distant and in the past most the time. One of my childhood friends was back in Louisville and the other was in the Cincinnati area, but I still felt lonely at times. I had my momma too but I still wasn’t much of a talker. I tried to keep myself busy mostly to avoid alone time with myself, so I decided I wanted to move and go into an MBA program so I reached out to advisors and friends and researched schools and cities and I had this excel sheet compiled with preferences. I got as far as doing a campus tour and even having a school call me, but she asked the fateful question of “Why do you want to pursue an MBA?” Although a very typical and expected question I finally faced several things at that moment –

  1. I have no idea why I’m trying to pursue an MBA
  2. I want to have a reason to move and start fresh.

(3 is the one that got me)

  1. I was AVOIDING something.  

So when I got home I went to my computer and closed all the open tabs for schools and all of my started applications; I closed essays; I closed everything and said no more running. And that’s when I started taking things one day at a time and stopped trying to plan escapes and all of my future all at once.

I’m looking back now and realizing it’s been an eventful and interesting couple of years. I’m sitting in my car in the church parking lot now and still not clear on everything, but i know I’m supposed to be writing this out right now. I’m in a different space mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.  I’m so grateful for that, but I also know the journey continues.

I made it to church 45 minutes after it started and found myself sitting in that chair for a reason today. I needed to hear all of that message. I needed to remember and be reminded. And to be really honest, I tried to write down a couple thoughts and move on with the day, but a whisper told me to stay and write this out.  So I’m letting it out. I’m sharing…

Relinquishing.

-Lauren

Opening up to others.

Talking is really therapeutic.

(Trying not to laugh or scoff  at myself for stating the seemingly obvious, because obviously that wasn’t too obvious for me! And honestly, it may not truly be to you either.)

I like to stay true to what I preach, but I realize more often than not, I’m quick to listen and encourage others to speak up about what’s going on, but I’m not nearly as forthcoming. I’m a private person who has tons of conversations in my head so I feel like I’m addressing issues, and sometimes it is more appropriate to have those self reflection times. But in these last few days, I’ve had some people check on me and open their hearts and ears for me and I’ve said some things out loud and (OH MY GOODNESS) there have been some revelations on things I’ve been conversing with myself about in my head for weeks…months…years…

Just like that, saying some things out loud to other people has created a different type of atmosphere and freedom around me. Things have been revealed. Sound counsel has been delivered. Prayers have been answered. Doors have been opened and closed. Truths have been illuminated. 

I don’t know your “thing,” but for me, I think it’s almost always been the way that I share and let people in – I struggle with that. Since I can remember, I’ve been more of a private person…not exactly sure why that is, however my momma raised me to be independent, but i think in some ways I’d internalized that to mean I have to work out almost everything for myself…then in the last couple of years, I’ve relinquished a bit more and it became what God and I work out together and now I feel like more than ever I’m being forced to see the beauty and power in relationships with others. Because quite frankly, I don’t think this season can be faced without me acknowledging my need for others and then actually opening up to others.

With work, I gotta accept that I don’t know what I don’t know and lean on the wisdom and guidance of others to help me.

With my relationship with my man, I/we have to seek sound counsel that can help us walk our journey.

With my business plan, I have to allow others to share with me what they have so I can learn and even have a chance at success.

I could go on and on with the list, but at the end of the day none of this can happen if I just continue to have conversations in my head with myself. I have to branch out. I have to get outside my comfort zone. This season calls for new things…sometimes I wonder if I’m ready for them, but honestly, I don’t have to be ready or super knowledgeable, I just have to be willing to try…one day at a time.

So hold me accountable y’all! Future posts should show results of me reaching out and conversing openly with others…

-Lauren