Jeanne Recommends: “I’m Alive” by Jackson Browne

Ten years ago, I was engaged to be married… for five weeks. My intended was someone I’d known for over a decade and we’d dated off and on in the late 1990s. We reconnected in early 2010, and as soon as he found out I was in the process of ending a marriage, he started pursuing me.

I was thrilled. When we were younger, I had been the one chasing him and he (being a typical 21-year-old dude) hadn’t wanted anything serious. Now the roles were reversed and he was wooing me with everything he had. It felt positively Shakespearean — the delirium of this rediscovered connection had me walking on air.

He put a ring on my finger at Alcatraz (insert “rock on The Rock” joke here) and I couldn’t believe my luck. But soon after, darkness rolled in — he was paranoid, jealous, and controlling. He accused me of infidelity and deliberately trying to harm or humiliate him. While he twisted minor misunderstandings into grave offenses, I held on, naively convinced that our love could withstand anything. Then the email came:

“I can not [sic] do this. Good luck and Goodbye.”

The depth of my grief was shocking. I didn’t think I’d survive it. I was the pebble in a giant emotional slingshot, ricocheting between intractable anguish and a rage so intense I terrified the people closest to me. I don’t actually remember very much between Memorial Day and Independence Day of 2010, so immersive was my despair. The only thing I do remember is not caring whether I lived or died.

Then another email came, this time from my brother:

“Sometimes these things come into our lives to teach us some things, though in the moment it is very hard to know what those lessons are. It is truly my hope that you’ll live into the future open to whatever it holds for you. I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through all of this Jeanne — and I was quite concerned for you to be honest. You have a lot to give someone and whoever that someone is will recognize that and not take it for granted one day, too.”

My brother’s email ended with a link to a Jackson Browne song, and that song became one of the things I turned to for comfort — it doused the fire of my anguish and showed me my true north. It’s no exaggeration to say that “I’m Alive” (along with my older brother’s compassion and sense of timing) is one of the things that led me back to myself.

Hey look at the way I believed in you
And loved you all these years
Now you can fill a swimming pool with all my salty tears
You could have told me what was in your heart
But baby you lied
And I thought that it would kill me
But I’m alive…

(Song recommendation by Jeanne Sharp)