Friday, November 2, 2007

One Plucky Chicken

Welcome to the inaugural post of my very first blog. My name is Christine and I am a divorced mother (Divorce Class of 2004) in Austin, Texas, raising an eight-year old daughter. And I have to say, things are going shockingly well. Finally.

It has been a hell of a ride.

I don’t like to reflect on the year right before my divorce, much less the year right afterwards. I have never felt or acted less like myself. I remember trying to explain to a girlfriend that I was being such a chicken, terrified of the very things I used to do without effort. Scared to write. To eat at a restaurant by myself. To go to PTA meetings. To speak to clients. To be alone for an entire weekend. And not just any chicken...I felt like a chicken being choked around the neck, while having my feathers plucked out one by one. Naked and exposed and certain that the stifling grip was ironically the only thing keeping me from sliding into a pot of boiling water.

I’m sure a trained therapist would say I was likely suffering from some social anxiety disorder and temporary paranoia brought on by the stress of my marriage ending. But I didn’t give my therapist enough couch time to hear all the gory details. And I stopped sharing with friends too. If you’ve been through a divorce you know how that goes. As wonderful and supportive as they are, our friends can literally only hear so much. And my friends did not like seeing me as the scared little chicken. Not one bit. It just didn’t compute. So each day I would either feign mental health or hide out in solitary confinement. I did most of my grocery shopping at 7-11 in those days.

At this time I actually had a kickass executive job at a consulting firm where former Texas Governor Ann Richards was a senior advisor. I had the good fortune to work on a few client projects with her which was a treasure in its own right. But one day, I got a gift I could have never expected.

Her assistant rang my office and said that Ann wanted to see me. Truthfully I was hoping to spend a meeting-free day behind closed doors doing some actual work. Ruffled by this unexpected call I madly grabbed the client folder I assumed she wanted to discuss and scurried down the hall to her office. Bluntly she said, “Rumor has it you’re going through a divorce.” Rattled, I barely maintained my executive polish a bit longer, politely confirming that ‘yes’, in fact, I was going through a divorce.

Well she stripped me of that lovely veneer as fast as she could talk. She’d been there and wanted to know exactly how I was doing. How many girlfriends did I have who had been through it. That wasn’t many. She gave me a reading list of novels and told me to come back and talk with her about them for fun. Asked if I’d like to go to a movie sometime. What restaurants did I like. Not to worry about any friends that would ditch me. Find better, more interesting friends. Stay busy. She finished as bluntly as she began, “Listen Christine, you are in the fight of your life. Just remember how brave you are. And for heavens sake, don’t hang out in your house alone. If you need something to do, call me.”

Well I was blown away! Besides being a little bit scared of her directness, I was really very touched. Governor Ann Richards took the time to check in on me. Me? ME?? I mean, just the day before I had been eating Cheetos in bed while on a client conference call. Her tough words were inspiration enough to rise to the challenge. That was it. I was going to be FINE. Enough of being a depressing ninny. I wanted to be the courageous woman Ann Richards thought I could be. I was going to wake up the next day and toss out the Hostess Cupcake wrappers on my nightstand, eat whole grains, fruits and vegetables, host interesting dinner parties and be an all around fabulous divorcée.

Well, of course that didn’t happen, at least not the next day. I wallowed for months to come. Quit my job. Got a little more lost before I was found. There were more Hostess Cupcakes. My countless trips around the Whataburger drive-through became like the scene in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ where the fantasy creatures race round and round an island in circles without a clear start or finish line.

And then a funny thing happened.

I was at my daughter’s elementary school last year and another mom was telling me about the divorce she was going through. As if channeling Ann Richards, I went into caretaker action mode. I asked if she had plans for Mothers Day, and with a air of upperclassman confidence and experience I outlined her Mothers Day plans and explained how critical it was for her to be prepared for such a tough day post divorce.

And that’s when it hit me. Life goes on. There is a whole a new freshman class of divorced moms coming up the ranks, and my pain is old news. Thank heavens. How liberating. And suddenly I realized I had long since graduated from being a scared little plucked chicken, into a bold, plucky chicken. Life is ok. My daughter cracks me up daily. I love being a homeroom mom. Dating life is no longer treacherous – now it’s just hysterical and fun. I am so busy with friends that I relish time alone. And lo and behold here I am writing again.

Governor Richards died last year so we never made it to the movies. They have renamed a bridge in downtown Austin in her honor, and I can’t think of a better metaphor for the role she served in my life. She was my bridge. Her advice helped me get to the other side of a really painful era, and I get farther from it each time I pass along her advice to someone else. So for me, the question isn’t “Why did the chicken cross the road?” but “Why did the chicken cross the bridge?”

My answer is simple: “Because Governor Ann Richards Kicked My Butt To Get Over It.”

Welcome to Chicken Fried Therapy. Be a brave chicken.

19 comments:

bhandler said...

Yes, Christine, you are "one plucky chicken" and one hell of a writer. I am thrilled to read you again and look forward to saying "I knew her when"... Thanks for the treat! Betsy

atrainer said...

Tine - Thanks for the great read! Betsy is right - you are one hell of a writer, and I can see this blog turning into a book one day. Looking forward to more, my friend. Anne

Mary said...

It has been one hell of a ride and I am so proud of you! Your wit and insight will surely help women going through divorce (and their friends).

Jennifer said...

Glad you are back Tine! We need another Vegas trip with the rediscovered you. Miss you tons. Keep on writing! love you lots

Jennifer

Mark S. said...

This is exactly what I needed to read today! Great work.

I could really use some oral chicken fried therapy....please call soon!!

Much love, Mark

Dan said...

Well, as a divorced daddy (class of 2006), it rings pretty familiar. Great writing Christine. Come back out of your shell and get out to see some music!

Donna Campbell said...

LOVE IT....felt as though I was reading the intro to a spicy new novel! I always say to call Christine when you need to be entertained and I'm thrilled to know you are just a click away!!! Love you, my friend ~ D.

marlene clark said...

Christine,

How fun to meet you this past weekend, try to remember everything we talked about post-post cocktail hour, and then read your blog. Your sense of humor came flooding back to me.......we have to talk! BTW: favorite part - the boiling water bit

Loved it,
Marlene

Rick said...

Spot on, Tine. Even talking about your pain you crack me up. Love that after all these years and growing up together we are now in the same town. We definitely need to kick it more.

ditto to what BH said...

Diana said...

Being newly divorced (a month) I can totally relate to this story! Your description is right on the money!

BusyDad said...

What a great story and post to kick off your blog with. I look forward to catching up with all your other posts and following you along your journey!
-- BusyDad (busydadblog.com)

BethGo said...

Wow. I can't wait to hear more.
You and Ann Richards are both an inspiration.

This is the line that sticks with me:
"Not to worry about any friends that would ditch me. Find better, more interesting friends."

I may have to quote you both on that one!

~JJ! said...

Welcome to blogland....Plain Jane Mom sent me...and now you must be added to my reader....

Country Mouse said...

This is a hell of a first post. (I've also read all of your other posts to date. They stand up to the expectations this one sets — well done!)

I love your Ann Richards story. What a wonderful thing to do for someone at an awful time in anyone's life.

—Lou of Whatever Works

canape said...

I found that the friends I lost during my divorce hurt worse than the husband that I lost. Probably because it was so unexpected.

But you are right, there are new, more interesting friends now.

Glad Plain Jane Mom linked you up!

Andria and Co. said...

I just read your blog from beginning to end, or rather, end to beginning. I too, live in Austin, and am potentially facing a divorce soon. What's great is... I just had a baby 5 weeks ago. So yeah, life is GREAT right now. I've noticed that the few friends that I have confided in, seem to twitter condolences, while acting as if I have the plague. Divorce isn't contagious... is it? All I know is, I am scared. Scared of potentially going at this alone. Finances, parenting, all that jazz.

I always knew Ann Richards was a kick-ass woman, this just solidified it! Great post!!!

josey said...

hey chica :) i've been making it a point to read a lot of the archives of ppl's blogs i'm into. it's awesome to see where you've come from and what your blog (and life!) are all about. you're an inspiration. and (DUH!) you're superdooper hilarious :D (two of my most important pre-requisites for a bloggin bud. LOL!)

hope your Christmas was so very special and that your new years is SAFE and FUN!!!

Rod said...

Good stuff!

Stephen said...

That's exactly what I needed to hear right now.
Thank You