Human Trafficking

 

 

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the induction by force, fraud, or coercion of a person to engage in the sex trade, or the harboring transportation or obtaining of a person for labor service (or organ removal).  However, for many of us our knowledge of human trafficking is limited to fictional accounts that start and end with Liam Neeson and his ‘‘particular set of skills’.

Though we may be captivated by the obstacles Liam would overcome to save his daughter, we expect a happy ending after Liam confronts the attackers and gets justice. However, the reality is this is a modern-day slave trade and the fight to end this global epidemic isn’t going to be won by the time the credits run. So how can we fight back?

Our first step is letting go of the myths and misconceptions we may have that blind us and prevent us from recognizing potential victims and influencing change. The first of which is the belief that human trafficking is a thing of the past when it is very much alive and growing into a multi-million-dollar industry.

Many Americans view human trafficking as an “over there” issue, originating and operating in other countries, a problem for another nation, unless it crosses our borders. The truth is, anyone can be a victim of trafficking, anywhere. In fact, the United States is one of the largest avenues for victims with an annual average of 20,000-50,000 people trafficked, many of which never leave the country.

We also make the incorrect assumption that those who fall victim to this exploitation are exclusively poor, uneducated, or living in areas of heightened crime (i.e., cities and urban areas).  This thinking can lead to a false sense of safety among the affluent or those living in suburban and rural areas.  Traffickers do not discriminate and will target any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers target their victims using a variety of tools focusing on populace groups like women, children, the undocumented and the indebted.  Each group offering its own set of vulnerabilities to groom their victims.  With the addition of social media and the Internet, there is no “safe” area from these individuals. Even those with a stable home life can be defrauded by those who make promises of love, marriage, or money to lull people into their traps and away from the friends/families.

Another misconception is that human trafficking is for the exclusive purpose of the sex trade.   Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is the prevalent form of traffic, but it’s only one.  Forced labor is nearly as widespread. People are “recruited” via methods of deception and promises for gainful employment, only to spend their days in servitude in labor intensive jobs without end. Theft, drugs, and counterfeiting are among the other illegal acts these victims are forced to take part. Some are even subject to impossible quotas and sever punishment should they fail to meet these ever-changing standards. This debt only furthers their time indebted and enslaved by those benefiting from their victimization.

Perhaps one of the worst myths is the belief that human trafficking does not involve you. As a global citizen you are affected. Those who are trafficked suffer many physical and emotional wounds. Left alone, the influx of unpaid and child labor affects the economy, criminal activity affects safety and property value, and sex workers (who do not receive treatment) affect the health of their surrounding communities.   The hard truth is no one is unaffected.

To learn more about human trafficking, visit The Blue Campaign. If you report suspected human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “help to BeFree (233733).

While I cannot provide you with details, Mirrored Images Boudoir has been asked to participate in the fight to end human trafficking.  We're honored to be part of this mission.


Bullies Aren't Just In Childhood

 

“Time for bed Hun” Bethany lightly coaxed her daughter from downstairs. She could see the bedroom light on, and it was already past her bedtime. “Taylor? Are you on your phone again? I told you…” her voice trailed as she entered the room. Over her daughter’s shoulder, she saw the comment section of a of the recent social media post. She knew her daughter had experienced bullying at school, but she thought the efforts she and the school administration had made were making a difference, so she was stunned. Comments stacked up “what is she wearing? She knows she is too big to wear that?” The viperous statements went on, but she stopped herself from reading worried she would invade her daughter’s privacy. “Taylor, are you ok? Do we need to talk about the bullies at your school again? Her daughter was slow to respond, but eventually turned her chair around with tears in her eyes she sobbed…” Mom.”  Taylor ran into her arms. “Does it ever stop?” Taylor muffled through tears, “The bullying MOM! Does it ever stop? First, it was me at school, and now you?” Bethany stepped back from her daughter’s embrace. Confused she turned back to the laptop and recognized her social feed as Taylor explained, “I went to your page today and I saw these comments. Aren’t these some of our neighbors? Mom, I’ve been talking to my guidance counselor at school, and she warned me bullies can get older, but they don’t have to grow up?”  

Bethany’s situation is all too true in our world today. We regulate bullying in the hallways of our schools, but it doesn’t end when the bell rings. While adults can more likely defend themselves from the physical bullying of yesteryear, there is no graduation from the emotional and psychological effects bullying can cause in every avenue of our lives.

With the emergence of social media, the world has gotten an invitation to participate in the good and bad of our daily lives and has limited our ability to succeed or fail in private. It has made us susceptible to the opinions of people both around the corner and across the globe. This makes social media a perfect platform for a Narcissistic bully. You know the type – those self-centered people who only feel good about themselves when making others feel bad. They do this without remorse or concern about consequences. They can say whatever without regard because they believe they will never see you in the real world. Their confidence exists in the b/w of text, and they realize the power and lingering effects words have.

As do Verbal bullies. Their comments are made face to face and normally by those you know personally or professionally. These types can come in the form of the oft-overlooked comments from the ‘perfect’ PTA mom who makes off-handed comments about your contribution to the last bake sale flanked by the Secondary bully, who stands by idly permitting the damage in hopes of preventing themselves from being the next target. These are real-life versions of The Heathers and Mean Girls. Or the bullying can be more insidious spreading rumors and gossip among your professional and social circles in hopes of tearing apart your reputation, career, and consequently your self-worth. The results of which can have a long-reaching effect on you and those you care for.

In the Workplace, bullying can range from the disruptive colleague who refuses to assist with projects and then demands credit for the work once completed to the overbearing supervisor who openly criticizes their team members and creates a hostile work environment.

At home, our family can succumb to the pressures of their own lives and become Impulsive bullies, lashing out at those closest to them. The danger with this type is this is often the bullying we easily overlook and quickly forgive because we aren’t the intended recipients of the anger we receive. The bully’s actions may not be premeditated, but they are no less hurtful. We all have things in our lives that trigger us but lashing out isn’t excusable.

“Adulting” can be difficult enough without the added pratfalls of others using their words, power, and influence to our detriment. When this happens, it can often feel like we do not have a way to make it stop or a method to fight. This isn’t true.

Find your voice. Speak up for yourself. Ignoring your bully can sometimes make it worse. While you do not need to engage them in the comments of your socials, you can report your attackers to the authorities (a work supervisor or HR or take legal action where possible).

Find your support system. Bullies thrive on making you feel you are alone, and no one cares. Use your friends and family to fill your time and energies with positive reinforcement.

Find a therapist (or other resources): Websites such as BetterHelp can connect with a licensed therapist that can help you navigate the resulting feelings of bullying and help build/re-build your self-confidence.


April

Part 3 of 4 short stories written by our writer, Marissa.  To see the last installment, click here.

April: the story of a 22 year old woman who is questioning her future as a married woman.

Here’s what I know. Trevor made me believe in the fairytale. High school sweethearts bound for the same college, but since we once we arrived on campus my mind and eyes were open to a host of possibilities for my future I never thought about previously. This wasn’t the same for him, he was Mr. Popular in high school, but when we started college, he never seemed to hit his stride, so it didn’t surprise me when he enlisted.  What did surprise me is when he decided he wanted me to come along for the ride and proposed.

I love him. It’s always been us even before we were US. Our families have known each other since we were kids. So naturally, I said yes...and then the floor fell out. For the past two months, my life has been on a tailspin. Who knew that a simple two-word response would mark a litany of to-dos and checklists.  All these choices for a single moment in time, a moment that will serve as a lifelong milestone.

Staring at myself in this mirror, propped up on a pedestal I reminisce about the music boxes my mother used to buy me, the type with the twirling ballerina dressed in white. Perfectly positioned going round and round.  Now here I stand at age of 22, under layers of silk and tulle, anything but perfect, but expected to make all the right decisions for my future.  If I am honest, I am only allowed to make ‘this or that’ decisions. All the major decisions have already been made for me; I am only asked to choose between two heavily curated options both of which have already met my mother’s approval.

“You look beautiful” I can hear my mother’s voice in the background, validating the 20th dress (of her choosing) I’ve tried on today. She means well, but she’s not helping. I turn away from her voice back to the mirror and let my mind wander. Is this the dress? Is this the dress I will wear when my life changes? When I trade my father’s name for his? Become ‘his’ wife and enter into ‘our’ life together? Is this dress the last dress I wear as a single woman? I wasn’t sure what dress that was, but I was sure this wasn’t it.

So, I strip. Right there in the middle of the bridal shop and I stand there in my bridal lingerie. I let the dress slip down my shoulders and around my waist. Looking at myself nearly naked and I think – “hey you, there you are”.  I stand there a moment allowing myself a few seconds of quiet amongst the insanity, relishing the few moments alone with myself. Until the phone rings.

I ignore the call as I step over the $4,000 pooled around my ankles and sit down. Here I am weeks away from my wedding and I find myself wondering if I am ready to give up on a life I have yet to start to build another with someone else.  What would my life look like if I opted to pursue my interests? Is this selfish of me to even consider this close to my wedding date? Or maybe my life will begin again when we are alone stationed miles away?

I sat staring at my ring.

My mother steps into my field of vision and asks, “Have you made a choice”? I open my lips slightly, half hoping she had somehow read my mind and was prompting me to say what was just out of reach. Yet, I knew she was talking about the dress. I nod. Quickly, as if afraid I’d change my mind, she turns and walks to the cashier to close the deal.

It’s not my style, it’s entirely overpriced, but it fits perfectly, and we don’t have time for alterations, so why not. Even with the tight timeline of Trevor’s deployment date, my mother demanded that we have a ‘proper wedding’.  I know this is my mother’s fairytale.  She had two daughters and I am her last chance. She didn’t get to give my sister the big wedding she always planned when my older sister opted to elope a few years ago.  Part of me feels I am the recipient of recycled choices made for her.

My big sister. She’s always been in control of her life. She seemed to know what she wanted from day one and has never let anyone tell her otherwise. I found myself envying her now. She’s six years older and in ways we sometimes we couldn’t be any more different, but still, I find myself wondering what would she say if I told her how I was feeling? Would she condemn me or comfort me?

I step into the dressing room and return the call I ignored just moments earlier. Two rings and my sister’s voice meet mine in unison as we both manically scream “I need to talk to you! “.


Spring Fit

As I age and my morning alarm is met with the sounds of aged bones meeting the floor- I often tell myself I need to take better self-care. Yet, what do you do if the work out of your 20s no longer works in your 30s or 40s. Or what if you are still blessed to be in your 20s with the physical aches and pains, but your brain is overtasked with what ifs and goals you have yet to accomplish. Whichever part of you may need a bit of care and toning, how do you find the right fit for you?

The Metaphysical

Have you ever been in the middle of traffic and find yourself distracted when the light changes?  Or in a middle of a fun or even intimate activity and a starting thinking of laundry or other chores that you need to be done? Me too and I often find it hard to get back on course once pushed off.

Not unlike the other muscles in our body, if we do not work the muscle, we won’t be able lift weight when it’s presented. Metaphysical exercises in the form of meditation helps build the tools and muscles you don’t see in the mirror (discipline, self-awareness, objectivity, and peace).

So, I recently downloaded the app Calm to start the journey. The app allows you to select from a library of sessions to aid with meditation, mindfulness and even sleep.

Find a quiet space in your home. For me, that means getting up a bit earlier when my house is still quiet, and the sky is still dark. Set the mood by lighting a candle or giving yourself a soft landing for you to relax. Take the time to reconnect with yourself and allow your mind to quiet just enough to hear your breath. It’s ok if your mind wonders, but the trick is not to allow the outside world to take these minutes from you. These few minutes a day are the rest your mind needs to help you steer clearly though the day. Make these moments mandatory as a daily shower or physical work out.

The Physical

During the past year public gyms weren’t an option and the need for at home fitness increased. If you weren’t buying a bike or some other equipment, you were searching for work outs you could do from your living room. This is how I found Fiton.

This all-in-one app offers something for everyone, and even has a few celebrity trainers for fun.

The FREE option offers mostly everything you could need if you are willing and able to take the ups and downs of HIIT or weight training or you if you need something less intense and prefer Yoga or Pilates. Whichever you choose, you can find your fit from your own comfort zone. If you want to try the Pro option (at an affordable annual cost) it allows you to change your music selections and attach your smart watch to track your progress.

And... with gyms open again. If you prefer to get out and try something new, there are some great options if you’re looking for a more tailored workout. The RowHouse offers low impact courses that give you a full body workout ever having to touch the floor. With locations through the US, it’s easy to stop in and try a complimentary class to see if this is the right plan for you.


For The Love of YOU

Valentine’s Day is here again and along with it the quest for the perfect gift, date, or experience to display your love to your partner. Even if you don’t give in to the pinks and reds surrounding you, you may feel a little pressured to participate, but what if you don’t have a partner this year? Or better yet, why does Valentine’s Day have to be entirely about displaying your love for another?  With society finally beginning to turn their attention to self-care in its many forms, why can’t we claim this Valentine’s Day…for the love of you?

Brighten Up Your Day:  All too often the receipt of flowers is dependent on another to see the worth of the gifting. Birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries and the occasional “I’m sorry” brings mixed bouquets to long stem roses that brighten your personal space for a few days and then are gone. Leaving that space empty until the next “reason” for flowers arises. This year, reclaim your space. Don’t wait until they are given and gift yourself! Brighten your spirits and stop by the neighborhood florist or the floral aisle of your local supermarket to select your favorites. If you are short on time, try BloomsyBox or another subscription service and you’ll get beautiful blooms delivered monthly (or weekly) to your front door.

Sex up your ‘under there’:  We’ve been told for years that lingerie is a “special” occasion attire, it even has its own drawer relegated to be opened on specific occasions. Apart from the bodysuit and the peek-a-boo bra, lingerie isn’t something we embrace daily. Lace and silk take second place to cotton and Lycra. Sexy defaults to comfortable, and while I totally understand the inclination to avoid the daily feeling of thong floss, there are so many comfortable cuts for daily wear that can allow you to feel sexy on all the layers from your outside inward. If your wardrobe needs a bit of a push (like mine), then try AdoreMe.com and sign up for a monthly subscription box. They will tailor your selections for lingerie, daily comforts, sleepwear and even swimwear.  Fast forward two weeks and you will have a box of options just for you. No one else has to see, but trust me, you will notice the change. Victoria isn’t the only one who can keep a secret.

Go on an adventure: Take yourself (or your partner) on The Adventure Challenge.  Offering several editions, each book includes a scratch off card that reveals the steps required for a memorable adventure for every relationship in your life be it Single, Dating, Friends, Family or Couples. The company makes things easy with their Adventure Box – a monthly subscription box that accompanies the book and includes everything you will need to complete the adventures. They even have their own (instant) camera you can purchase to catch the moments on film. If you are taking on a solo adventure, no worries, that’s why selfies were made. Snap a few pics and print them from your phone with an Instax printer to add the finishing touches to your book.

Treat Yourself: Most of the time we reserve luxury experiences or purchases for milestone occasions, yet as I get older, I am realizing that I don’t necessarily want to wait, and why should I? Saving is great, and yet it’s responsible, but I challenge you to remember that you also have a responsibility to yourself to indulge on occasion and remember that your life is short! See the shoes, BUY THEM! Tickets for a show you’d enjoy, GO! Have the lust to wander? Take a solo trip and see the world.  Set up a separate slosh fund to allow you to play money you won’t have to feel guilty. Tuck it away from your regular accounts, so you feel the need to use it for necessities, but fund it regularly, so you don’t have to wait on an occasion to treat yourself.

Do not stand around waiting for the perfect time, perfect moment, perfect person to bring life to you.  Go out and grab it. It’s your life, whether you choose to live it with someone or solo, don’t give your power or your autonomy away.


January

Marissa submitted part 2 of 4 of her short stories, if you don't recall her first "Autumn" you can revisit it here.

These short stories are meant to be thought provoking and relatable to a variety of audiences that we provide services to at Mirrored Images.

 

Two more miles... Push. Smile. Wave.

It's always the same thing, day in/out in this place.  "Senior living" they call it. I call it sitting around doing the same things every day. Each day is programmed. The same plan, the same people, the same food. I can't believe I am here. I'm 72 and have the energy of women half my age, but my family thinks "this is best" for me since my husband died. What they fail to see is, it's this place that is going to be the death of me. Even my daily run has become routine. The same neighbors on the same porches waiting on me to pass by. Smile. Wave.

These programmed days have become mind-numbing and have forced me to do some uncharacteristic things just to pass the time. With my granddaughter's help, I purchased a laptop online, and via the magic of the Internet a nice young man delivered it and set it up for me. The next thing I know I've found myself falling down the rabbit hole only to end up three lines deep into my user profile and searching for a recent photo of myself for a 50+ dating site.  I don't know much about these sites, but I hope it's free, because I am not trying to explain a monthly charge to Silver Seniors to my daughter the next time, she reviews my finances.

To be honest, I'm not sure I'm even ready to date. I can't believe anyone can ever come close to my Thomas. He just understood me. I realize I am alone, but I'm not lonely. I am not even sure I care enough to care enough about another person's thoughts or needs at this point in my life. Yet still, I've been sending late-night messages with a gentleman named Adam, and he's been pushing for a dinner date for a while.  He seems nice enough and I agreed, but now standing in front of the mirror getting ready, I'm searching my mind trying to find a kind way to get out of this and just go back to my couch.

Maybe I should call my daughter, I'm slightly hoping she'll talk some sense into me. She was a daddy's girl and I feel our relationship has been a little strained now that he is not here to buffer. Thomas just made things easier, without even trying. Now, without him, when she and I find time to speak, or on a rarer opportunity, we see each other, the air is different. He was the glue for us. Without him, I feel like we are two ends of a power cord, charged and not compatible. Still, she may be able to understand, she's older now and married. Maybe? [and yet I don't reach for my phone. Maybe another day.

Today I have this date. Date. What am I 20? It doesn't sound right even saying it in my head. I don't feel the butterflies I would've in my younger days getting ready, but perhaps I am not meant to. I am in a new season of my life and there is still life to live. No, he's not Thomas, but at the very least I will get to break up the daily monotony. A new face, a pleasant conversation, and a good meal may be the medicine I need right now to help me get over being SICK of this place.

Or this is what I tell myself as I close the front door behind me and head to the car. I sink into the seat and find myself looking in the rearview mirror making my final adjustments.  I'm moving too slow, and I know it.

I turn over the key and my engine revs loudly as if to encourage me.  Snapping the overhead visor closed, "ok Jan... here we go" and I drive off.


Are YOU on your list this year?

 

Every holiday season I struggle with holiday giving. The pressure to find the “perfect” gift can give even the best of us anxiety. Even with online shopping and overnight delivery there never seems to be enough time to complete shopping for everyone on the list, let alone think of yourself. Too often I’d get caught up in preparing/serving the meal, decorating, and wrapping gifts that I wouldn’t find the time to be present in those special moments I helped make. For years I’d be missing in family photos because I was in the kitchen or had yet to get dressed.

This year I vowed to change all that and I opted to gift myself with ‘peace of mind’. I challenged myself to remember to include ME on my list and I want you to do the same.

Gifting yourself doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Sometimes the best gift is regaining free time so you can be available for what matters. These companies can give that to you, and you’ll feel like Santa and his elves have finally included you on the Nice List.

Skip the lines at the supermarket or the drive to your local butcher for the best cuts. Butcher Box allows you to choose quality cuts of pork, beef, and poultry, pre-portioned and vacuum sealed. Think ahead and purchase all you’ll need for your appetizers or main proteins for family-sized portions. If meat is not on the menu, make a few selections from the array of choices with Wild Alaskan Company for your Feast of Fishes.

If you are keeping it simple and dining for two [or just you], it can still be festive. You don’t have to settle for fast food just because you’ve opted out of the group festivities. HomeChef is one of the few home delivery companies that offers you shortcuts, but they don’t do all the work for you. Unlike other companies that prepare and provide you with the equivalent of an oven ready tv dinner, HomeChef sends you all the ingredients (pre-portioned and measured) along with the recipe to prepare an enjoyable holiday meal for yourself.

To tie the meal together, allow Winc to make some suggestions for wine that will excite your palette. They offer vegan, low sugar and low sulfite options that will keep your party going without the guilt or hangover the next day. Order a few days in advance to ensure delivery on time for your event, or just order to restock your supplies after your friends and family have left.

… but what do I wear:

I love a little bit of sequins and holiday glamour like everyone else but purchasing an entire wardrobe for holiday parties seems a bit much. So why not rent your glitz and glam? This Thanksgiving I finally used my trial membership to Eloquii Unlimited and I received four pieces that gave me casual and fun options to wear for our family meal.

For this coming holiday season, Rent the Runway offers something for everyone and every occasion. With a mobile app and reoccurring discounts, you are ten minutes and a few clicks away from all you’ll need to get from your job’s holiday party through the New Year. Whether you choose cocktail chic or full out glam, RTR has it, including a wide selection of bags and accessories to complete the look. Return them for free when you’re done and they’ll even dry clean them for you!

Whichever you choose, these are just a few of the options available to lessen your load this holiday season and give back some of your time so you can enjoy your holiday with those you love. So this year remember that when you are making your list and checking it twice, it might be nice to include something for you on YOUR list.


New Turkey Day Traditions

When you get married you have these ideas about your family merging, large family gatherings and Hallmark quality photo ops and then reality happens.

My family and our culture didn't really celebrate Thanksgiving (don't look at me like that) but my husband comes from such a large family that one year my mother-in-law charged us all an admission fee. Seriously. But I understood. Year after year preparing this huge feast that amounts to more leftovers than the average fridge can store is a bit of an undertaking.

One year my husband and I volunteered to give his mom a break and make dinner from appetizer to desert. Little did we know that over the course of the year our mom's cancer would return and our family Thanksgiving plans would become her repass. Emotions aside the undertaking was made more difficult when the headcount tripled.

I'd never made a turkey before (see my prior comment lol) so I enlisted help for the foulest part of it and we made it through. But at the end of the night when everyone was enjoying the meal and I lay partially comatose on the staircase landing I found myself thinking...” I can't do this again”. I mean...is the turkey the key? Has Thanksgiving become more about the turkey and the trimmings or is it about the family/friends and feelings? If it's the latter, can't we try something different?

So, I polled a few lovely ladies, who like myself, have opted to break the mold in lieu of a less traditional holiday meals. If you want to step outside the kitchen and join us and your family on the couch, try out some of these alternatives:

 

Breakfast Thanksgiving:

Have friends and family that are already coming to visit bring a casserole, frittata, or other breakfast dish. Add in a bevy of quick breakfast proteins and start the day off as a family. You can burn off the carbs and calories playing a family game of touch football in the yard rather than checking the bird.

Seafood Thanksgiving

This is my family's tradition, and I may be biased, but it's awesome. Shell out a bit for some crustaceans and celebrate with a clam bake or seafood boil. Throw down some brown paper and keep it simple. Gift your friends and family fun bibs and the resulting photos will have you "cracking" up for years to come.

Tailgate Taco Bar

Take Thanksgiving outside. Put a projector up to view the game in the backyard or head out to the garage. Slow cook some chicken, brisket or pork and go crazy with the fixings! Put out a few chairs and have a blast.

TakeOut or TakeAway

Let's face it. These last 18+months may have many people yearning for the holiday festivities, but perhaps it's just a bit overwhelming to jump into all the hullabaloos. You can have your family and your takeout too! The beauty of cultural differences also means there are restaurants open on thanksgiving. If your grandpa, brother, and aunt can't agree on what to eat, use the power of DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats to get them their favorites and make a spread of it all. You can still have your holiday table set with takeout. Takeout not your style? If you want a sit down but don't want to cook plan ahead and contact your favorite restaurant. They can arrange a catered takeaway meal you can pickup. Hey, it's still homemade and you won't have the mess to clean up.

So why not give yourself and your kitchen a reprieve this Thanksgiving. The turkeys will thank you.

xoxo, Marissa


boudoir, boudoir photogaphy, mens jersey, knee high socks, empty nest, blog, short story, self love, north georgia, atlanta, gainesville, buford, cumming, alpharetta

Autumn

Marissa is working on a series of short stories that are completely relatable and hopefully thought provoking to our audience.  Her first entry... Autumn.

 

boudoir, boudoir photogaphy, mens jersey, knee high socks, empty nest, blog, short story, self love, north georgia, atlanta, gainesville, buford, cumming, alpharetta[BEEP, BEEP, BEEP].  Why does everything have to have an alarm nowadays, as though my attention deviating for one minute would somehow veer me off course. [BEEP, BEEP, BEEP]. I mean seriously, does the dishwasher, stove, microwave, and my phone all work together to remind me times up? I am 54 years old. I know what time it is.   I’ve waited 30+ years to finally not have to reply to a morning alarm and now days before my retirement party, my microwave is going to send me over the edge.

Microwave dinners have been the way of life since our youngest went off to college. It just doesn’t seem to make sense to make large family meals with no family around to eat them.  Sure, he’s around, somewhere in this too large house, doing God knows what with his time. Most of the time, I don’t see him, but his presence is marked by the occasional relocated item, or a toilet seat left open so I can fall in during the middle of the night. Otherwise, it’s like living with a ghost. Unexplained sounds echoing around the house, without a soul to speak to.

This was the dream, the big house, the land, the space. Now, it’s just a reminder that they are gone. I am proud of our success with both our girls, but when it comes to my marriage? That’s something else entirely.

I tried for a while. I mean, for years we’ve talked about what we would do when the kids were gone, and we had the house to ourselves. Yet, now, all those plans seem to have packed their bags and left along with our kids.  I’ve tried to make plans for date nights, trips, game nights with our friends – but he’s always doing his own thing.

For a while, I’ve been jealous of him. His ability to occupy his time without me. He doesn’t seem to need me to feel complete or to fill the seemingly endless hours in the day.  Maybe it’s because I made it my job, because it was my job, to manage our home and the kids. He has always been around but has never been present. I am not sure if he failed to step up enough or if I just took on too much myself.  Either way, now I feel like I’ve been laid off from one job and about to retire from another. What am I going to do with all this time?

My friends are all in a similar pattern of rediscovery. All our children are a phone call, rather than a room away and don’t need us in the same way. Now that I must return to my previous role, the “me” before I was mom, I worry I’ve forgotten my lines.  I struggle to find things to say to him daily and the silence is deafening.  Something has got to change. I am too young to be wasting away in this big house like it’s a mausoleum.

My mother couldn't be any more different than I am. She normally makes basic suggestions: get a hobby or cut my hair, but recently she suggested I step out of the box entirely and take some boudoir photos. "If that doesn't get his attention nothing will" she says. I can't believe I'm even considering it, but I need to find a way to remember who WE were before it’s lost entirely.  Yet every time I visit the website I chicken out.  Am I ready to immortalize my naked body? What if he doesn’t like it.

Closing the website (yet again) I wander out the backyard door and I find myself transfixed watching a team of strangers buzzing around my yard preparing for the weekend’s events. My mind drifts to a time not so long ago when he and I were just starting out and we all loved being under the same roof. Now I can’t seem to get my kids to even RSVP for my retirement party. It's amazing how some new beginnings start at the very point other roads may be coming to an end.

It’s the autumn of my life and the irony of my name is not lost on me.  For years I’ve placed other plans, dreams, and goals on hold while I made our house a home and now what? What dreams do I have left? Do my plans include the life I built? Is the road I chose to take over 20 years ago leading me in the right direction?  Standing in the now I do not have any of these answers, but I am going to do my best to find out.


You Are Enough

Too often we as woman feel like we must compete. The world shows us images that are over altered and filtered to perfection.  Social media displays lives more carefully curated than the MOMA, leaving us to question "what's wrong with this picture, why am I behind the others in this race". Without even knowing it we've become runners in this race called life.

The Fore Runner: You started off strong perusing the vision you had of your life. Ticking off all the boxes. You may have been ahead of others in your social circle. You felt you were on track but what happened?

The False Start(er): In this race of life the gun went off and you feel all the runners have left their mark but you. By your assumption you are lagging. You have goals unmet, finances unsaved, trips not taken, and you look around and it appears everyone else is jumping hurdles and running laps around you.

The Pace Keeper: While others set the pace you've just been keeping it. You're not falling behind, but you aren't pushing forward either. You're stuck mid heat and it's driving you crazy. You feel that you need to break free of the monotony of the daily to-dos. You find your mind drifting off daydreaming about the forks in the road you've reached and the "what ifs" of the road not taken.

The truth is that while you may be setting the pace or following behind, there is always room for self examination.

Before social media we only had to be concerned if our neighbor’s lawn was greener or the woman in front of us at spin class was faster. Now, we wake up to a world competing for our attention and making us feel inadequate from miles away. We give attention to our phones, our FB, Snapchat, TikTok before we greet our families laying nearby.

We choose our trips, meals and outfits based on their "Insta" worthiness and fill our "clouds" with 100 versions of that perfect selfie.

We determine the value of the decisions based on likes by people we wouldn't recognize if we passed them on the street. Via social media promotions, ads, and influencers, we’ve learned the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.

But why? Why do we feel the need to compete? Why do we care what others think? Why isn't our own voice and opinion enough?

Actual runners don't watch those in the lanes nearest them. They've learned that if you focus on the race of others is a guaranteed way to lose. They must keep their eyes on their own path. Run as no one else is there and win or lose the race based on their own merit. Their interior voice is their only monologue.

I think we can learn a lot about competition from those who live their lives between the actual lines of a track. Run for YOUR life. Make your own goals and set them according to your means and needs. Travel where you want and eat some of the best food (which is normally not the best looking lol).

Don't be afraid to stay in your lane. Cut out those things/people that are toxic or impeding your road to happiness. Turn your phone off and be in the moment. Leave it plugged in another room and get to it when you've started your day, rather than letting it set the tone of your day.

The world will always be there. Set about making your place at your own pace.

 

In a world full of followers, be a leader of your own life.