Book Excerpt: Disassembly Required: A Memoir of Midlife Resurrection

Book Excerpt: Disassembly Required: A Memoir of Midlife Resurrection

Disassembly RequiredBy Beverly Willett

Chapter 1: Les Escaliers

“You should give your house a name,” one of my girlfriends said when I told her about the Victorian brownstone my husband and I had bought. “Call it Les Escaliers,” French for “The Staircases.”

There were eight, a total of 120 steps. I finished tallying them sixteen years after we moved in, the day I moved out.

One by one, everyone in my family but me had already left. My daughter Ella had started college in the fall. Nicki, my eldest, had graduated the previous spring, then moved in with her boyfriend. That same summer our beloved family cat Thunder died. It was Jake, my ex-husband, who’d begun the exodus over a decade earlier, after meeting another woman and suing me for divorce.

That left me, alone in our four-story dream house in Brooklyn.

A few months before I left, my aunt and her six-year-old granddaughter came for a visit. That’s when I first began counting the stairs. But we had somewhere to go that day so we never finished our counting. I came across her notes the morning I left home for good and decided to finish.

I left the wooden spiral staircase descending from Ella’s room on the second floor straight down to the kitchen for last. I hadn’t meant to; it simply worked out that way.

As I descended it my final morning, I suddenly saw what Ella must have seen nearly eleven years to the day earlier, when she’d been only seven. Her mother, me, sitting at the kitchen table below, crying, broken. No wonder she’d been frightened. Hers was a picture of Mom she’d never witnessed before.

“Mommy, what are you doing up already?” Ella had asked, barefoot, standing at the top of the spiral staircase wearing her pink silky nightgown.

“I couldn’t sleep, honey,” I said.

“Is everything alright?” she asked, rubbing her eyes.

Someone once told me they could stare straight through Ella’s big brown eyes and see her soul. That day I felt she was looking directly through to mine.

By the time I moved out, I’d downsized three-quarters of our possessions, giving away expensive antiques and artwork. By then, despite the losses I’d endured, I understood what was important.

And so I kept every single one of the love notes and pictures Ella and Nicki made for me. Many had been taped to the wall above my desk for years, right up until the time I had to box them up to move. “The Wall of Mom,” Ella called it.

“I’m fine, honey,” I lied to my daughter that long-ago day at the kitchen table. “Get dressed and come down for breakfast.”

Everyone but me had moved on and started a new life. Now it was time for me to leave home too. To exit Brooklyn, pick up where I’d left off over thirty years before, and begin again.

First, though, I had to sell my house.

The night before I’d worried when Jake hadn’t come home until after midnight. I’d phoned the salon where he told me he was going for a massage after work, but they said he’d never shown up. When he got home, he refused to tell me where he’d been. Restless, I awoke early, the house quiet, my husband and children still slumbering. As I walked downstairs, my eyes were drawn to his brown suede jacket in the vestibule. Feeling like a thief, I reached inside the pockets, drew out Jake’s cell phone, and carried it into the kitchen, shaking.

I brewed a pot of coffee, conscious to place a moment between what I feared might be on that phone and whatever came next. And then I sat down at the kitchen table, picked up Jake’s cell phone, and perked up my ears to hear if my powering it on had woken anybody up.

My husband and I had had problems in our marriage from the start. But we’d worked through so many of them, or so I believed. I hadn’t dreamed he was having an affair.

He hadn’t created password protection so I scrolled to voicemail on my husband’s cell phone. Instantly I heard a woman’s voice I’d never heard before.

“I love you. Call me at home,” the voice said.

My hand trembled. I inhaled my tears and stuffed my wails inside so the children, one floor above, wouldn’t hear.

“Want to come over here tomorrow and have a little time to be private instead of meeting at the office?” the voice continued.

Fear exploded in my chest. I couldn’t swallow. I wanted to bolt the doors and keep my family in suspended animation, safe and rolled up in their covers until I could figure out what to do next.

But I pressed the send button to hear more, unable to stop inflicting my own pain.

That’s the moment Ella called to me from the top of her stairs, standing where I stood eleven years later, minutes before I left my house forever.

Twice before I’d left home, once for college and then again after law school when I moved to New York City. But this time was different. This time I would be leaving the nest I’d built—the nest that had become the symbol of the most important thing I had ever done and the people I loved more than anyone else and the place where it finally and officially crumbled. Everyone but me had moved on and started a new life. Now it was time for me to leave home too. To exit Brooklyn, pick up where I’d left off over thirty years before, and begin again.

First, though, I had to sell my house.

This is an edited excerpt from Beverly Willett’s memoir Disassembly Required: A Memoir of Midlife Resurrection (2019). Purchase it HERE.

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Spouse Is Suffering a Midlife Crisis

7 Signs Your Spouse Is Suffering a Midlife Crisis


Spouse Is Suffering a Midlife Crisis


Midlife crisis is an emotionally uncomfortable period that some men and women go through between the age of 35 and 65. For most, it is a time of question priorities and adjusting their lifestyle to fit better with their emotional needs.

For others, midlife can bring about a true “crisis,” one that causes them to stray outside the marriage for the affections and attention of a member of the opposite sex. They can question every choice they’ve made during the first half of their life. It is these folks who usually destroy their families and seem to completely change their character and belief system.

Signs Your Spouse Is Suffering a Midlife Crisis

Feeling a Need for Adventure and Change

He goes out and buys a new sports car or Harley. She becomes a bar-fly who comes in at 3:00 am every morning. It’s all about having fun and re-capturing their youth. If your spouse is neglecting things that were once important to him/her in favor of skydiving…something they have never expressed an interest in, they are probably experiencing a midlife crisis.

You have choices in such a situation. Skydiving and hanging out in biker bars is better than sitting home alone wondering what your spouse is up to. Participating a bit in their new found need for adventure can bring you closer together instead of creating the distance that can cause the midlife crisis spouse to start questioning whether or not to stay in the marriage.

Feelings of Depression

Some who go through a midlife crisis will experience depression that affects their mood and to the point that activities and relationships are negatively affected. Friends, family, and work may all be neglected. If you think your spouse is suffering from depression watch for the following symptoms:

  • Sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to focus or make decisions
  • Unusual sleep patterns
  • Unusual appetite, weight loss or gain

A Loss of Interest in Things That Used to be Important

I received a letter from Jason who was concerned about changes he was seeing in his wife. After 23 years in a career as a nurse, she quit her job. According to Jason, she wanted to go back to school full-time and major in philosophy. His wife had gone for a “straight-laced   Christian” to a woman who questioned whether or not there was a God.

Jason said he no longer knew the woman he had been married to for 18 years and was concerned she might be going through a midlife crisis. One thing is sure, she is questioning her values and beliefs and no one knows where these questions will lead her.

Anger and Blame of The Spouse

You are the problem! If it weren’t for you, life would be grand for the midlife crisis spouse. If he trips on a banana peel at work, you will get blamed. The spouse who is in a midlife crisis never looks internally and examines why he/she is feeling discontent.

They look outward and blame others and since you are the main relationship in their life it makes sense that you will bare most of the blame for their bad feelings. Expect your spouse to be short tempered and angry. Do not respond when your buttons are pushed. A response is what they want and you don’t want to play into their need for conflict.

Unable to Make Decisions About Their Future

Joan’s husband found a new woman and wanted a divorce. He refused to file for divorce, though. He left Joan telling her that he had never been in love with her, that marrying her had been a mistake. Joan was devastated!

Over a period of eighteen months, Joan’s husband changed his mind about his feelings for Joan on a regular basis. He would pack his bags and leave out the door spewing verbal abuse. A month later he would call in tears wanting to come home. Before long he was out the door again and moving back in with the other woman.

Joan eventually filed for a divorce and helped him make the decision he seemed unable to make. They are both now living with the painful consequences of his indecision.

Doubt Over The Choice to Marry

You may have just celebrated your 29th anniversary. You may have lived with a spouse who, from all outward appearances, seemed to have been happy in the marriage. It isn’t uncommon for a husband or wife who has never complained about being married to suddenly tell you that they have “lived in hell” from the very beginning.

The spouse in midlife crisis will question whether the marriage was ever legitimate. They will demonize you, accuse you of forcing them into marriage all in an attempt to make the marriage illegitimate. You will be painted as the evil spouse who never met their emotional or physical needs so the midlife crisis spouse can justify their feelings of discomfort with the marriage. If this is the case in your situation you should believe nothing you are told and very little of what you see.

A Desire For a New and More Passionate Intimate Relationship

The husband/wife who is going through a midlife crisis may become tired of the “same old, same old” in the bedroom. It isn’t uncommon for someone married to a spouse who is going through a midlife crisis to suffer the negative consequences of their infidelity.

If your spouse is spending more time in chat lines on the computer, working strange hours or on his/her cell phone more than usual you are seeing signs of a cheating spouse. These are only signs but coupled with the other symptoms of midlife crisis you should consider the possibility that your spouse has found someone to fulfill the need for a more passionate, intimate relationship.

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