In midlife and over 50, Beverly Willett follows her maternal grandmother’s edict: ‘Never tell anyone your age.’ While the Kuel Life, Share Your Story, format includes a woman’s age, the Kuel Life mantra is ‘You do you’.
Beverly’s story is a compelling narrative of complete resurrection. Experiencing an unwanted divorce and uprooting her established New York City life, Beverly’s tale shows us that anything is possible…anything. For that, we are grateful.
She has most recently published her debut memoir “Disassembly Required: A Memoir of Midlife Resurrection,”. Beverly now is busy celebrating its publication, and trying to find time to finish her book of essays.
Week 16: ‘Share Your Story; the Women the WSJ Missed’ series – Beverly Willett.
KUELLIFE: What are you pursuing now, at this stage of your life, that surprises you or might appear to others as if it comes out of left field?
BEVERLY: At a time when many of my friends are looking ahead to retirement, I just published my first book. Nearly six years ago, I left New York City where I’d spent most of my adult life, moved to Savannah, Georgia, where I had no friends, job or plan, and started over again. I hope I never retire and am lucky enough to publish half the books I have folders of ideas for.
KUELLIFE: What’s a typical day like for you?
BEVERLY: I have no typical day and don’t keep to a rigid, daily schedule. On any given day, my day is a mix of writing, errands, exercise, a social engagement (from dinner with a friend to an art opening at our local museum), a walk on the beach, and/or preparing for or attending a meeting in connection with one of the non-profit boards I serve on as a volunteer. I do always write, which often includes lots of time brainstorming. I always begin my day with coffee and a Bible passage and spiritual reflection; I end it propped up in bed with a good book.
KUELLIFE: With what do you struggle?
BEVERLY: I struggle to juggle all that’s on my plate and to prioritize. I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I used to be, and I’m starting to think that’s a good thing because I need to pare down. People often write about their own divorce challenges and ask me for advice. I have no magic answers and, before my book was published, I sometimes struggled with what to tell them. No matter what midlife challenge a person might find themselves going through, I hope they’ll find something of help in my book. I faced a range of losses that I recount, from divorce and an empty nest to financial issues, emotional pain, and more. It’s easy to say “letting go” is the answer. I hope my book shows people actually how to do that and the one key thing standing in the way that’s crucial to making it happen.
KUELLIFE: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
BEVERLY: I’m never bored so I rarely have a problem staying motivated, unless I don’t get enough sleep. Of course if I’m facing a deadline, that’s always a source of great motivation! In all seriousness, I do think my spiritual life, which is a priority, helps keep me on track with whatever I have on my plate.
KUELLIFE: What advice would you give fellow women about aging?
BEVERLY: Try not to think about the number; it’ll drive you crazy and make you sad. I never listen to fashion trends that tell me what I should and shouldn’t be wearing for my age either and curate my own style, wearing what suits me and boosts my spirits. Although I’d still like to lose a few pounds for health reasons, I no longer crave being as thin as I used to be. When I was too thin, I looked older than I do now anyway. None of us knows how long we have on Planet Earth, but the older we get of course we face increasing odds. Meditating on death and remembering today is one less day than we had yesterday is a powerful motivation to make each day count. Finally, as we age, many of us will face similar challenges – divorce, empty nest, menopause, cleaning out the family home and moving, etc.— and starting over. I hope my book helps empower you to let go of your losses in order to embrace what’s waiting for you in the future!
KUELLIFE: What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?
BEVERLY: To me it means letting my defenses down, opening my heart, being unafraid to tear up in public if something touches me without fear of whether anyone thinks that makes me look weak. Talking about my life, my divorce, and other losses I encountered makes me vulnerable. I enjoy that – it makes me more honest and open with others and I hope better able to connect with them.
KUELLIFE: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
BEVERLY: 1) My marriage and trying to save it in divorce court; 2) the birth of my two daughters; and 3) selling my home and the majority of my possessions, leaving town, and moving to Savannah where I have built a new life.
KUELLIFE: Who influenced you the most in life and why?
BEVERLY: My children. They reordered my priorities the instant they were born. Our sense of self is the most powerful sense of attachment we have, but children challenge you to focus more on them and in turn others. I went through a rough divorce and despite the challenges of raising kids, they were always there to remind me life was worth living and of the strong and brave woman I was still inside when my world fell apart. They sometimes knew me better than I knew myself.
KUELLIFE: What is the best advice you’ve been given from another woman?
BEVERLY: In 2003, my husband of 20 years sued me for divorce, after leaving me for another woman. I wanted to save my marriage so I opposed the divorce. I also wanted to stand up against the injustice and his wrongful allegations against me. But it was hard to keep going as the divorce dragged on, and it was expensive. The week before the trial was to start I called my mother for her advice about whether to keep going. She told me her advice wasn’t important but to ask myself one question: If I quit, could I live with my decision? The answer became clear in an instant – no I couldn’t. I knew my conscience would forever haunt me. So I soldiered on and I don’t regret my decision, even though the outcome was not what I’d hoped for.
KUELLIFE: What woman inspires you and why?
BEVERLY: The list is too long to pick one. When I think of my deceased mother and her unflinching faith, she inspires me to renew my own. When I think of my paternal grandmother, her work ethic inspires me to keep working hard for what fulfills me. When I think of my maternal grandmother, she reminds me to always remain the lighthearted girl I am inside.
KUELLIFE: Are you grown-up?
BEVERLY: Yes and no. I hope I’ve learned a few things while “growing up” and want to keep growing in wisdom. On the other hand, I’ve always had a childlike, innocent aspect to my nature. I thought I’d lost that after divorce and being a single mother for so long. Thankfully I rediscovered that side of myself. If I were entirely a grown-up I’d probably have life all figured out and not much left to learn.
KUELLIFE: What do you do for self-care?
BEVERLY: Silent meditation retreats have become an important part of my life and I try to go on a short one every year. I also love a periodic massage and spending time laughing with friends.
KUELLIFE: And last but definitely NOT least: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
BEVERLY: I don’t really have a bucket list, but here goes. 1) The ability to spend more time in the city where my children live; 2) Visiting the Holy Land and famous Cathedrals of Europe; 3) Experiencing romance again.