Elizabeth Verwey is taking risks.
I met Elizabeth at her home in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood. It’s a warm and cozy apartment filled with lots of books and photos of family and friends.
With a head of brilliant curly grey hair and a splash of purple on the front fringe, she greeted me with a warm hug instead of a handshake.
Elizabeth’s life has been filled with a mixture of happiness and tragedy, which included: murder, suicide, rape, the end of her 36-year marriage, and the loss of her beloved brother when he was only 50.
During our talk, she told me about a book that helped her called, The Aladdin Factor.
“It tells you to make a list of the 100 things you want to do before you die.” Taking this as a cue to make significant changes to herself and her life she said, “I realized that I had a lot of fears holding me back.”
So when she turned 55 years old she made a list of the fears that no longer served her.
One was of living alone. Elizabeth met her husband when she was 17 years old and got married at 19.
She only knew domestic life with her ‘wusband’, as she comically refers to her ex-husband. But proving that she could move forward, she found an apartment as well as a new life within it.
Another fear Elizabeth had was of heights. To conquer this she flew to South Africa and went tandem paragliding.
And the last she told me of was sharks. To prove that she got over it, she played a video for me from that same trip to South Africa where she went shark cage diving and came face-to-face with the predators.
“By conquering my fears it felt that I was breaking free of my constraints,” said Elizabeth. “I was freeing myself.”
She is now 62 years old and lives life fully.
She even drove by herself from Toronto to Canada’s east coast. “Being at the wheel on my own, and making my own decisions on where to go, was amazing!”
By delving into her own challenges and triumphs, as well as being a natural people connector, Elizabeth created the speaker series, Spoken Lives. Each Spoken Lives event brings four women in front of other women to share their inspiring stories of challenges, adventure and triumph. The goal is for the audience to see themselves in the stories.
I ask her what she has learned from her own personal story and triumphs.
“I’ve learned that I’m more capable than I ever imagined.”