I couldn’t quit staring out the window. I just sat there and kept blankly looking. But I was smiling. For sure on the outside and absolutely on the inside.
It’s the window in my home office, that faces out front. Right now, the porch is all lit up in Christmas lights, but there’s no snow on this North Dakota ground. I silently recalled Christmas of 2018, when our neighbors lit up our 50-foot, white-covered, pine tree just within my view. They all worked together for the sick woman who was mostly confined to her home, as she sat in her chair and stared out that window, wondering what life would look like after AE.
Looking out that window has taken me a lot of places. I sit there a lot to read, write, reflect, and think. I’ve been doing it since June, 2018. But yesterday, I didn’t look quietly out the window to wonder. I looked out the window and knew.
I knew that November 29, 2021, would be a day that would change my life, and for the good. I sat and just enjoyed the moment.
When I become anxious, I need two things: movement and music. When I’m excited, I usually turn to those same two things. I knew I needed a song to capture the moment. As I raced to my phone, it landed on the Letter E – and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road showed up. Perfect. I turned it up, and I sat with my head in my hands. And then I looked up and outside at the world. Everything just seemed to stop. I sat and looked, and I was happy.
For so long I’ve asked: What does this all mean? What’s normal? What does life look like in the future? Who am I now? Does full recovery mean lawyer-Jackie or can it be a different Jackie?
As I walked into my office just before getting the news, I asked myself: When will I have purpose again? God, please, just give me something. (I immediately reminded myself of everything good that’s been given to me. It was fleeting, but the thought was there, even if only for a moment. I still have those moments.)
I felt my mind whisper: When do I get to be a player in the game again?
I sighed, sat down, opened my laptop, and saw that mass JM Stebbins email waiting to be sent. The one that reaches all over the US and tiny dots across the world. I reminded myself: You’re doing good work here, Jackie. You are a player in the game. Just keep doing your thing. It’ll come together someday.
And then I checked my Gmail.
Earlier that morning I had sent Sue, my editor and friend, a whimsical email saying that maybe Humanities North Dakota could try to arrange for me to interview Susannah Cahalan, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire, and the Michael Jordan of the AE world. Farfetched I knew, but Sue had asked me whom I’d like to interview for a Humanities program, so …
Sue delivered. Only hours after my yeah-right message, I found out that Susannah Cahalan not only replied, but she said Y-E-S. She even said she can’t wait to meet me.
I hollered for Sean! I shrieked! I ran to the basement to give him the news. I swore I’d cry, but I didn’t.
And then I looked out that window.
Maybe I saw that sick, hobbling lady, scared of the world, slowly walking alone by that pretty Christmas tree.
Maybe I answered some of those old lingering questions.
Maybe I said, I did it.
Maybe I felt life change.
Or maybe I meant it when I sang along. “Oh I finally decided my future lies, beyond the Yellow Brick Roooooaadddddddddd …”
Thanks God, thanks for sending me a BIG sign to remind me that you gave me a challenge and a new purpose, and it’s finally starting to get fun.
"When are you gonna come down? When are you going to land? I should have stayed on the farm I should have listened to my old man
"You know you can’t hold me forever I didn’t sign up with you I’m not a present for your friends to open This boy’s too young to be singing The blues, ahhh, ahhhh, hhaa
"So goodbye yellow brick road Where the dogs of society howl You can’t plant me in your penthouse I'm going back to my plough
"Back to the howling old owl in the woods Hunting the horny back toad Oh, I’ve finally decided my future lies Beyond the yellow brick road Ahhh, ahhhh, hhaa" ~ Goodbye Yellowbrick Road by The man himself, Sir Elton John
Humanities North Dakota - Interview with Susannah Cahalan: If you haven't yet registered for the free event, CLICK HERE.
Photo cred: My collection. This was taken July, 2019, when I went to the second movie during my recovery (the first was with my kids to the Grinch and it almost killed me), Rocketman. I'm wearing the shirt, necklace, and glasses that my friend Catherine sent me from NYC after I gave her my tickets to see Elton at Madison Square Garden on November 9, 2018 (the day I can point to as the single worst day of my recovery, I cried myself to sleep).