“I woke up in a motel, alone, 700 miles from home.
The hibiscus covered comforter is a disheveled mess at my feet and I can feel a heaviness in the air… it feels too thick to inhale.
Why is it so hard to catch my breath? Focus on what is real. This turquoise blue shirt that feels intolerably suffocating has to go. I can hear the air conditioner rattle to life from the far side of the room. I can see waves crashing through the clouded window to my left as sunlight pours in through sheer white drapes that I never completely pulled closed. The door to the right feels safe enough even as I question why there are 3 locks in succession with an old rusted chain latch drooping valiantly at the top. I look back at the 4 inch gap, the crinkly opaque curtain nothing more than a beach vibe aesthetic; self awareness finally settling over me as I question if I should cover my exposed skin. Would a passerby notice the dragonfly resting on the windowsill that I can’t stop staring at. Would they stop to admire its existence or just see the topless woman through the 4 inch gap of aesthetically pleasing curtains?
I haven’t smoked a cigarette in more than a decade, but suddenly the thought crosses my mind that right now would be the perfect time to light a Newport and watch the smoke hang in the stagnant air as the menthol hits my lungs. But nostalgia is replaced by reality, and I realize that thought is just as toxic as the chemicals I eagerly inhaled for 3.98 a pack… a gulp of room temperature water will have to suffice.
I am happy.
I think sometimes anxiety overshadows our joy, and so we’ve been taught to believe negative and positive cannot coexist; that hasn’t been my experience. When you are wading through pieces of truth, try not to place them in labeled boxes, otherwise you might begin to believe that you must fit yourself inside with them. Human experience is so much more complex than that.
I woke up in a motel, alone, 700 miles from my husband and our 2 daughters because I have a daughter graduating high school and she wanted me to be here for it… I’m a birth mother.
It is all just the politically correct title for someone who places a child for adoption, which is what I did nearly 18 years ago and today I’m going to watch this beautiful young lady graduate.
This is my crossroad, and I have a choice to make. I can sit in this room and reflect on every moment I’ve missed, I can drown in every thought of inadequacy and choke on despair. I can allow the ‘what ifs’ to eat me alive from the inside out. This road seems like the best route because it feels natural… It feels comforting to allow the darkness to consume me but I’ve taken this road more times than I care to admit and it’s deception is deadly. It kills happiness and hope, it murders aspirations and annihilates any desire to thrive. Yes, falling into that darkness feels like a welcomed rest for a weary soul but joy cannot live there. The other road is more difficult. It extends into the horizon and is lined with heart work, hard work, healing and hope. It’s painfully optimistic and incredibly therapeutic even if on some days it feels impossible.
My back arches as my arms stretch towards the aged dropped ceiling and a satisfied groan escapes my lips. It’s 8:00 a.m… I was hoping to sleep later than that but my mind is already fixated on a million different things. I throw my legs off the side of the bed and as soon as my feet hit the sandy wooden floor I know what my morning will look like. I gather the essentials; the book I promised myself and my 11 year old I’d read, 100 Days Of Sun Light by Abbie Emmons, a notebook, a Pilot V5 pen and my water bottle. After staring at my nakedness in the full length mirror for far too long, I sigh and pull the black one piece up over my scarred, stretched, worn-by-life body, grab my Kavu and head out the back door.
I never even touched the notebook and pen. I allowed my mind to escape into the pages of that novel for hours. It painted a picture of optimism and hope when faced with unbearable circumstances… I dig it. The waves crashed, the sun beat down and I lay there, completely uninterrupted, lost in a world that wasn’t my own. Every 20 minutes my watch beeped a reminder to roll over; I’d later discover that my little trick wasn’t enough to keep my skin from burning in the new summer sun but I still don’t regret it. Several hours later, my phone chimed signaling it was time to go in and get ready. I stuffed my new favorite book back in my bag, shook the sand off my towel and headed inside to shower.
In moments like this my air of confidence wanes… why do I feel inadequate when it matters most. I’m here, I was invited, my presence requested… wanted… so is it safe to assume I am enough just as I am? Maybe I should stop by 17th Street and try on a few dresses just in case; perhaps a nicer dress will make me feel like I belong in this moment more than I do right now. Focus on what is real. The hot sun on my skin, the hard bass hitting my speaker, the wind whipping in through open windows.
Three changing rooms and 25 dresses later I am in the car wearing the same black dress that I packed. It will have to be enough. I will have to be enough.
The tension in my neck eases up when the man directing traffic asks if I’d be graduating. ‘Me?! No! Haha, my daughter is.’ A genuine laugh erupts from my belly and fills the air around us. I haven’t been accused of being younger than I am for a few years now. ‘Oh wow! That’s a compliment ma’am but since you’re here to watch you’ll need to turn to the right and park by the white SUV.’ My phone rings, ‘Will you sit with my boyfriend so he’s not alone?’
I’m here, I was invited, my presence requested… wanted.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raquel McCloud, of North Carolina. Follow her family journey on Instagram here, Facebook here, and her website here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Raquel here:
‘Age doesn’t matter, you consented.’ It wasn’t a stranger or a creepy cousin. It wasn’t forceful, or a textbook case of victim and prey.’: Child abuse survivor cautions others during quarantine, ‘Home isn’t always safe’
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