Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed-door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us“.
I could not have imaged sixteen years ago this Sunday, June 15, 1998 what life had in store for me. The night before, I had arrived at my sister’s home in Provo, Utah after driving from what had been our home for the last six years in San Antonio, Texas. I came here to start a new life at 37 years old as a single mother to five minor age children. If reality had not already been clear to me, it was about to serve me a reality check. Bright and early on the morning of June 15th I was told that there was someone at the door that could only speak with me. I went to the door, and a gentleman asked if I was “Karen Liggett” when I said yes, he said please sign here. After I signed he handed me what was my final divorce decree ending my marriage of 18 year, 2 months, and 15 days. Even though I had known this day would come at some point after the three-year period I had been alone raising my children, I guess I did not think my old life would be officially ending, on the same day my new life was beginning in Utah. Later that same day I would go to the closing on the home I had bought for me and my children with some of the funds I had received the previous year in a personal injury settlement. My now former spouse was overseas with his military career, and the life I thought I had been building with him was now over. I felt on that day so many issues with self-doubt, and self-pity. I felt that my life was over, and I was the world’s biggest loser. Yet, I had five reasons to suffer my pains internally. I felt that I at least needed to externally appear to my five wonderful children to know that even though this is not how we would have liked things to have turned out, we knew that this too shall pass and we would rise from the ashes stronger and a better family for it; even though this was not how I was feeling inside at that time.
I would love to say that the recovery process, and the rebuilding of a new life for me and my five children came easy and without pain, but I was learning first hand that life is all about change, whether we want it or not. With change there comes some pain yet it also brings growth. Transformation happens when we allow ourselves to be flexible, and when we let the waters of imagination flow freely in our life. A process I was not ready for in 1998. I didn’t know where the next door would lead to, and this uncertainty made the future even more scary and frustrating knowing that the choices I would make would directly affect the quality of life my children would have. I had some tough choices before me and only myself to make them, it was a scary and difficult time in my life, which was only made more complicated because I was dealing with some of my own health issues.
My oldest daughter was going into her senior year of high school. She had been actively involved with her High School swim team in Texas, and I was hoping that her new Utah high school would have a swim team as equally competitive as her old school. She had already given up playing the cello in the orchestra so I did not want her to have to give up on her swim team enjoyment as well. I wondered if I should stay in Texas one more year and allow her to finish her high school where she was already adjusted, and enjoyed. Yet, I had several teenage children who were taking their parents’ divorce hard and was making some unwise rebellious choices that I knew would lead to more trouble than they realized at the time. Could I have taken a chance to stay another year for my oldest daughter sake and possibly have some bigger life-threatening issues with some of my other children. My youngest son was a shy ten-year old with ADHD and was going into the fourth grade. Everywhere I looked I had problems to solve, and no matter the choices I would make there was no one answer that would work best for my now family of six.
At that time with all my self-doubts and fears for my children’s future, I told myself to not focus on me but rather just on my children. I was not looking to have another relationship that could hurt me and my children. I closed myself off from the outside world except where I needed to interact with others for my children’s sake with things like their school. My first year living in Utah was a nightmare. Not because of the place or the people, but more because I was just going through the motions needed to live and take care of my children. To say that 1998 was probably one of my most difficult years in my life is an understatement. 1998 Started with me getting a total hysterectomy and two more hospital stays for other needed operations. The middle of the year I got to pack up and sell my home in San Antonio, and move to Utah, and get my children settled in to a new home and schools. My marriage has ended, and this not of my choice, than the year ended with the death of my beloved mother. All in all I can honestly say that in 1998 I felt I had been to hell and back and was amazed I managed to stay somewhat on this side of sanity.
I did not want to turn my heart back on or look around at the blessings and beauties life had to offer. I was missing out on many other opportunities because I was too afraid to take the chance of being hurt again. I forgot to focus my energy on the right door. My mind was too muddled to even find the open door, because I did not take the time to look at the present. There was a brightness and goodness in the people all around me the I could have enjoyed, but I could not see it because of my blindness caused by my hurt of what I had lost. If I could just have gotten the courage to seize the best of what was right there in front of me, I could have started into my new dream for a happier life sooner. Life has to be a journey we each travel at our own pace. I had to learn something’s in my life by making my share of mistakes, and slowly working myself back into being more than just going through the motions of life, but really living life to its fullest. It took me that first year to really come to terms with the one door that had closed, and to get the courage and strength to step through the open door of the unknown future.
One year to the day of my divorce being final and me starting a new life in Utah, I got a call from a strange man, Danny Loveless, who said a mutual friend had given him my phone number and told him I was in the market to buy a boat. Danny knew a lot about boats and could give me some technical advice that I needed and as we were talking on the phone he said he was going up to Burley Idaho to race his boat. I had to laugh, because my younger sister, Kathy had lived in that area since my parents retired and moved back to their hometown in Idaho in 1988. Kathy and her husband had been going to that race for a long time and she always told me that I should come and see how fun it was. I had not lived close enough to go to that race in the past, but since this was the first year I was living closer to Burley, I would go up that year to check out the boat race and see my family that lived in that area. So this began the strange and unusual friendship with a man who would open my eyes to a whole new kind of life, and my heart to a whole new wonderful kind of love.
As long as Danny and I were in the friendship mode, things felt safe enough for me. Danny was a firefighter and eight years older than me and “wow” talk about two people whose lives were totally opposite. He had lived in Provo, Utah all his life and he was an only child and to make matters worse his father had died when he was nine. He is as outgoing as I am shy and he loves to take risks and there is not much he is not willing to try to learn and then do, that’s why he made a prefect firefighter… Very calm under pressure… Quite the opposite of me. In contrast, by the time I moved to Utah, I had lived in California, Okinawa, Virginia, and even Utah for about six months right after high school, than England, Maryland, Italy, and finally Texas. I had not lived in any one place more than seven years and I was the fifth of six children. My mother had just passed away about 8 months before I met Danny, and luckily I was blessed that my dad is still alive, and still is. Before I met Danny I was a chicken and super afraid to tackle anything new. Danny also has five children, but only his youngest daughter who was 16 at that time was still living at home, and she lived with her mother but came to spend most of her weekends with her dad. Everyone I talked to told me what a good man Danny was, and before long I started to agree. But, I really thought Danny would get back with his old girlfriend as soon as she figured some things out in her life and realized what a wonderful man Danny was and what she had given up. So at that time we both were comfortable with the friendship mode and keeping our distance. Then about six months into our friendship things really started to shift from friendship to something more, and this scared me. Luckily for me Danny is a wise and patient man who would tell me all the time to let my intuition sparkle, and for me to listen and follow my heart. He helped me learn to trust in myself, and to cherish every opportunity that I had in life, and to seek out new ones. He helped me to be content with every step I took, and not to beat myself up for perceived mistakes from the past, and to stop looking for what was, and just look to what is and what could be. He would keep telling me that I was where I was supposed to be and all I needed to do was sit back, relax and go with the flow of life instead of going against it, and take a chance on him and let time heal all the wounds.
Sixteen years of joy and tears, ups and downs, and twist and turns. The growth and experiences of the last 16 years have helped me to develop into a mature lady who is a bit chubbier, grayer, an a grandmother, who is now happier than I ever imaged possible. We have a grand-daughter who will be getting married this coming March, so who knows how long it will be before I will get to add “Great-Grandma” on to my titles. These days I focus on the open doors, the ones that will lead to new ideas, thoughts and experiences. I am not perfect, my life is not perfect, after all in life there are no guarantees, but the truth is that life is too short to waste your time staring at a closed-door. For my family, friends and followers who read my blog, who also might find themselves going through some tough times, that will test your resolve, and that causes you to doubt your self-worth, I say, “Hold on and reach out to those that are willing to help you and be there for you”. While it’s not fun, this phase of your life, will pass, you will be stronger than before and you will be surprised at your inner strength. Don’t look at the closed doors, or past perceived mistakes any longer than is needed to learn something from them, then turn around and step through the open door in front of you into the great unknown. Trust me it is well worth it.