Journey to the White House

If you would have told me twelve to thirteen years ago that I would one day be sitting in the White House talking openly to a room full of people about my lived experience, while being live streamed to an even greater audience across the globe, I would have suggested that you get a PET scan as soon as possible.

This truly was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.  Thank you American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for trusting me with this incredible opportunity and thank you to all of the courageous souls who continue to speak up despite the stigmas that still surround mental health and suicide.  It is time we start treating our mental health just as importantly as we do our physical health.

If you or someone you know needs help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at:

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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Under those Lights

Did you think I would remember?

Or hope I would forget?

I remember the rough edges of those fins

As your laugher echoed across the water

It felt so foreign

Like a fish out of water… Literally

Yet I wanted to make you proud

So I tried to wrangle that slippery little perch

Did you think I would remember?

The sound of lug nuts hitting the floor

As tires fell and wrenches clanged

Blue collars and grease still remind me of you

Such strong hands full of love and safety

I sure felt it

Did you think I would remember?

You carrying me across the wet ground

Shielding me from the rain

Because I think of you every time

I fumble with my umbrella in the midst of a storm

Did you think I would remember?

Wiping sleepy eyes and nudging you for answers

As the sun extended its rays through that window

Beckoning the rooster to greet the world

Because I see your face when I hear them now

What I wouldn’t give to embrace you in that moment

Just one more moment

I would have told you how much I adored you

How much this world would need you

Did you think I would remember?

The way you looked at my mother

With the respect and adoration she deserved

Because we are fighting through

A thicket of confusion wishing we could find it again

She misses you too

Did you think I would remember?

The cold breeze from the bleachers

As you cheered on the team you once played for

I think of you every time I drive by that concrete stadium

Wishing I could have witnessed you playing under those lights

I wonder what stories you would share

With your grandson when I catch him holding your class ring

He is so curious about you

Did you think I would remember?

I am so thankful I do

Because now he can remember you too

Landmine

I am not sure what I was expecting

Perhaps another field decorated with landmines

Tiptoeing around waiting for the inevitable explosion

Undeserving of something this beautiful

But my flesh is free of shrapnel and

These lungs are learning how to breathe deeply again

I was certain this stomach had turned to steel

Making it impossible to penetrate

Deaf to the laughter that so desperately

Longed to reach it

Yet I find myself erupting with a childlike

Merriment that runs so deep that

I’m certain the universe can feel it too

I’ve struggled to defeat many demons

Demons that haunt me and hold me down

And leave me screaming through silent tears

Tears that you know too well

Yet here you are

Revealing your own scars

Remnants of a past that tried to break you

They had no idea who you were

They didn’t know that you would rise

That your eyes would shine brighter

That your heart would beat stronger

They didn’t know that we’d come face to face

That through your scars I would find strength too

They didn’t know that our hearts would connect

And find themselves beating side by side

That our bodies would intertwine under the stars

That we would cast our hopes, fears, and dreams into the night

And hold each other tightly

With an embrace every soul should experience

My feet no longer fall lightly

Nor do I worry as much about what lies beneath

I just know that I want to keep walking

Near you, towards you, beside you

Always

 

~ Jessica Caudle

Route 66

I’m not sure what it is about the open road but it has always called out to me.  I’ve been trying to wrap my mind and heart around it over the past several days as Jace and I make our way to the west coast, something I’ve always wanted to do with him.  I imagine the feeling must be similar to that of a bird as it stands on the edge of a depth unknown and finds the courage to leap trusting that its wings will catch the breeze and carry it safely anywhere it wants to go.

I’ve driven this route and countless others across the United States many times before, mostly alone, and always running from something.  But this time is different, this time life has come around full circle.  The past and the present are colliding… and the present is winning.

The last time I made this trip was a little over twelve years ago after finding out I was expecting.  I made the decision to pack what little belongings I had and move back home, from Los Angeles to Broken Bow, OK.  I was in no way prepared to be a mother and certainly wasn’t in the best place emotionally or physically to measure up to the task ahead of me, but I knew that my prayers had been answered.

I had prayed for a reason to live, for a reason to beat addiction, for a ray of hope, for forgiveness, for belonging and for help that I was too ashamed and prideful to ask for.  Nothing at that time made sense to me but I knew one thing with absolute clarity.  God had heard me.

As the familiarity and memories come flooding back with each mile traveled, city passed, state line crossed, ever changing landscape, the endless sky filled with the most breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and stars that I am certain could be touched if I reached far enough; the past and the present are colliding… and the present is winning.

The present reels me back in with the sweet sound of my son’s laughter, his curious questions, his own awe and wonder at his surroundings and his hilarious and entertaining dance moves in the car.  I am humbled that God trusted me enough to bless me with this little life.

Twelve years later the very reason I chose to leave Los Angeles is the same reason I am returning.  I know he doesn’t understand it yet and maybe he never will.  But, I at least hope he will take away something special from this trip and file it away in his beautiful mind.  I hope he will remember it as his own life comes full circle someday.

I want his heart to be full of curiosity and adventure as he finds his own way in this world, I want him to have the courage to leap and trust that his wings will catch the breeze and carry him safely wherever he wants to go.  But, even more so, I want him to know that he will never be alone.

Embrace this life and all it has to offer… and may the present always win.

Jessica Caudle

07-25-16

Yearning

My soul yearns for adventure
and places unseen
I know they are out there
waiting for me
Perhaps a star filled night
painting streaks of light
Inviting me to join them
’til they fall out of sight
Canyons colored like the foliage
of a crisp October morn
Spanning the length of the horizon
where true freedom is born
Prairies whispering sweet music
as they dance in the wind
I’ll throw them my burdens
I’ll stand tall again
Maybe I’ll make my way
to the northern lights
Soak it all in
until I can shine that bright
Or shiver in the fresh snow
atop a mountains peak
Closer to God
finding the answers I seek
Maybe I will laugh until I cry
as I find new love
Wrap her hand in mine
and give thanks above
My soul yearns for adventure
and places unseen
I know they are out there
waiting for me

~

Jessica Caudle

06/20/16

Growing Things

I’ve seen it before in the midst of unfathomable loss and pain.  When the sky above Manhattan filled with smoke and the streets were left weeping covered in ash, something incredible happened.  That unnecessary and senseless tragedy left a deep scar in our hearts and in the earth where loved ones once stood.  Those of us who are old enough to remember that day can tell you exactly where we were, what we were wearing, who we were with (if anyone) and what we did in the immediate aftermath of that tragic day.

I left home the year prior to 9/11 and was living with my friend Jarrod.  I was still asleep when the first plane struck.  Jarrod woke me up knocking loudly on the bedroom door.  I jumped out of bed panicked as he entered the room.  He had tears in his eyes and said “our nation is under attack!”  I did not understand, “what was he talking about?”  We spent the next few hours glued to the television set gasping and wiping tears.

Later that afternoon I went to see my mom.  I hadn’t been by to see her much since leaving home because I was angry for reasons I won’t get into.  At a time in my life when I wanted to put as much distance between myself and the past as I could, I couldn’t think of any other place I wanted to be.  I needed to see my mom and hug her tight and tell her that I loved her.  The things that happened prior to that moment didn’t seem to matter anymore.

I am sure many of the individuals who went to work that morning or just happened to get caught in the crossfire woke up with similar worries or stress prior to that moment, baggage that no longer carried the same weight after the sirens rang out.  Firefighters grabbed their gear and charged courageously and selflessly into those burning buildings as others tried to escape.  Those men and women knowingly   sacrificed their own lives while trying to trying to save someone else’s.  They are the reason someone else’s mom, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter… made it home.

Police officers suited up on their days off and headed to ground zero.  Strangers embraced one another in the streets and desperately tried to reconnect with safety and lost loved ones.  Men and women across the nation loaded volunteer service dogs, water, blankets, food, medical supplies, tents, machinery etc. into their vehicles and headed to Manhattan to extend a helping hand.  Why?  Because love is far greater than hate.  Even in the depths of the charred and broken ground, growth happened.

While my problems pale in comparison to the tragic events of that day I do know what it feels like to be blindsided.  You feel like you will never be able to breathe again, or feel joy, happiness, love, wholeness or belonging.  You stay up at night replaying every single moment prior to that event wondering what you missed, what you could have done differently.  What if I had turned left/right, drank less, had more strength, payed closer attention and questioned more… maybe it wouldn’t have happened.

This weekend I traveled to San Francisco to participate in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk.  I had the honor of walking all night with a tribe of souls who get it.  Souls who have found themselves standing at ground zero forever changed by devastation, yet there they were like the fresh new life emerging out of the charred soil in the redwood forest.  Giant trees towered nearby scarred and mangled into blackened ash, but even there… growth happened.

We walked approximately eighteen miles through the hilly streets of San Francisco Saturday night.  One gentlemen even wore high heels.  Of course we would give anything to have our loved ones back but through our heartache we found new friendships and opportunities to hopefully save others, we were able to listen to someone else’s story and share our own well into the night, offer and receive hugs and laugh (yes laugh) until we cried.  We walked together, not alone, through the darkness and we kept going until we found the light.  Growth happened.

As I continue to walk through my own struggles and life altering blows I try to hang on to those examples.  I am grateful for the moments when I can see it, feel it and believe it.  I felt it a few days ago when I received an unexpected invitation to the botanical gardens from a friend.  All I really wanted to do was stay in bed and forget my new reality but I didn’t.  “Remember, fingers in the dirt is a good thing!”  How true that statement was.  The day was filled with laughter, wisdom, earthworms, koi fish, curious turtles and memorable landmarks.  I could clearly see life and growth happening all around me.  Before we left we stumbled upon a plaque that read “growing things”.  (Smiles)  Coincidence, I think not.

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