Photography by Claudia Goetzelmann
We are very interested in the idea of each of us creating a world around us that allows us to be the best version of ourselves. Age gives us the opportunity to be the people we were meant to be. This is an option — it is not a requirement. In our experience, it often involves some very courageous looking in the mirror, understanding who we are and what we need. Some people choose to do that, some people would prefer not to.
Ursula is someone who had a hard look in the mirror — in fact, several of them — and made choices that resulted in a very special world that works for her. Giving up a rockstar corporate career to bake cookies for her kids, going through an excruciatingly painful divorce of a 25-year marriage, moving forward and understanding that she may not be able to control the world around her, but she can control how she sees it.
Listening to her story, the word magic comes to mind. It is what Elizabeth Gilbert talks about: when an idea enters our minds we can either act on it, or the idea will move on to another more receptive person. Ursula grabs the idea, energizes it and then fully acts upon it. The result is a fearless self-actualizing life that is constantly evolving in a marvelously effortless, generous way. I learned a lot from this story, and I hope it touches all of you the way it touched me.
Your life seems so effortless. How do you do this?
Fear is paralyzing and many people live in fear. They try to plan and control everything; they live in the past and in the future instead of the present. I have gained, through my complex spiritual inner work, an innate trust that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, that the universe has a plan for me and that within me lay all the tools I need to overcome challenges. I focus on the positive and my joy of living overwrites all fear. I wake up most every day excited to see what this new day might bring, being receptive to what happens around me so not to miss an opportunity for connection. We have ONE life, let’s live it to the fullest.
Success is Freedom
What does success look like to you?
A person is successful when they have become fulfilled adults comfortable in their skin, with dreams, goals, values and inner freedom to live the life they aspire to live regardless of what others think. Success is to have learned to be open-minded, to stay positive in the face of challenges, to overcome adversity through a positive attitude and to stay on your path against all odds. A successful person manages all aspects of life in balanced ways. Success has nothing to do with your possessions, your financial wealth, although a balanced person might find financial success because of it.
For me personally, it means I live every day with joy, grace, dignity, compassion, integrity, openness, curiosity, authenticity, courage, vulnerability, and the guts to express myself because I have nothing to lose by being my most honest self. I live with no regrets, very little fear, and consider myself a work in progress, always looking for the lessons, the teachings in the challenges I face. There is tremendous freedom in getting to that place.
How would you like to make a difference?
I believe I already have. I raised two boys into decent, loving, open-minded young men of great integrity and class in a very difficult and competitive environment: Los Angeles. I stuck to my guns, didn’t let other mothers influence me into controlling the destiny of my sons for my own benefit, and allowed my kids to be kids and make mistakes. I held them accountable and loved them very much amidst clear rules and guidelines. My younger son at age 17 wrote me a letter saying he was searching for a hero all his (young) life and finally realized he was living under the same roof with his hero. That was a truly meaningful validation.
I also often hear strangers and friends say that they feel inspired, motivated, joyful and hopeful whenever in my presence, and that means to me making an important difference if I can touch people like that. I appreciate that I have time to be present for even a stranger I might meet, to pause and listen to and life coach through an issue. If I had chosen to run a company, I could not do that. I think our world needs people that are free to stop, listen, love and hug someone in need for connection. Today, that is my biggest gift to humanity. I absolutely adore meeting new people, and human connection is one of my greatest passions, as well as connecting people with each other for the highest good of all concerned. I love to hug people and am devoted to spreading joy and positiveness in the world.
Tell us about your reinvention.
I have walked far on this path and arrived at a very happy place. The journey to get here was fascinating. I had lived a predictable life within the bubble of a loving, harmonious marriage. I was extremely devoted to my then-husband, sons and community. It unsettled me dramatically when that bubble broke open after 25 years. I had built friendships that supported my process which helped ease the pain. I understood this challenging life change was a tremendous opportunity for growth, and that I obviously needed to grow. I allowed myself the gift of grieving and healing.
Sabbatical in Bali
I was clear that resentment and anger toward my life partner were neither helpful nor appropriate and that compassion and kindness were a healthier way to deal with it. I needed to go inwards and heal and explore who I had become at age 52 after rearing a family for 25 years. My kids, at this point, were in college and I was free. I moved to Bali for a 6-month sabbatical, leaving all comforts behind. Meditation, yoga, writing and living a very simple life was the beginning of my renaissance. I decided in that moment I was going to explore myself, stretch into discomforts, learn and be of service to others by being a role model of how to live with dignity, integrity, compassion, kindness and a very open, curious mind.
Letting Opportunities In
My journey has exceeded my wildest dreams because of the incredible adventure it has been and continues to be. Today, I have become a photographer with exhibitions and work for sale, have learned to sculpt and gone to university to study spiritual psychology. I have become a model for print and tv commercials, have had speaking engagements (although I was terrified of public speaking) and my kitchen is a well-frequented restaurant. Helping people redesign their homes, wardrobes and lifestyle gives me joy and I am studying to learn my 4th language, Italian. I travel the world hugging people, and although I have always led a life in the sun, today I am healthier, happier and more fulfilled in my heart than I have ever been. All of those activities happen rather spontaneously, rarely planned far ahead. There are many more new things I want to explore, places I want to travel to, and maybe founding a brand or an organization is somewhere on the horizon. I don’t need to know. For me to BE in the moment and to let opportunities find me rather than me chasing them is the way I want to live.
Wow, but you sometimes still feel intimidated by others’ accomplishments?
A struggle I had for years as a stay-at-home mother who gave up a good career. I would meet women with big titles, highly accomplished, and ask myself: What have I done that’s great? I can still drop into that thinking for a minute, but then I remember my wonderful sons and the many people I have met over the years who have told or written to say they were touched by our encounter. There is no title or paycheck for that, but that’s ok with me.
From Porsche to Stay-At-Home Motherhood
What is your business background?
I studied French culture and language at the Sorbonne in Paris with an emphasis on French literature, then did a business degree in Stuttgart. I wanted to work for Porsche AG Germany, then a men’s world, and was one of the first women being hired into an executive career at Porsche Stuttgart. A very exciting first career move that brought me to the States where I met my former husband. I got married and moved to Los Angeles where I had a fast-rising career running a department store until my first son was born. Through serendipitous circumstances, I fell into interior design and opened URS BEATT DESIGN, but my family was unhappy about the changes in our home life and asked that I stop working. I heard that message with an open heart, aware the time with my sons at home was limited and I could go back to work after they left the nest.
Enjoying Each Moment
Why are you choosing not to run a company?
I have so many passions and interests and I love the freedom to live, be spontaneous, and travel when great opportunities fall into my lap, decorate a home when the right person needs my help, receive houseguests in my home with time to fully devote myself to those moments. I like to harvest each moment and enjoy it to the fullest. If I ran a company, I could not live that way.
A Life Well Lived
What does achievement mean to you?
It’s very personal, means different things to different people. A life well-lived is the achievement I aim for. I want to touch people, meet people for my own inspiration. I want to look back and see a life full of color. I continue to want to learn new things, explore — will never stop. I have grown so much in the last 7 years, that too is an achievement. To be amicably divorced from the love of my life and to be best friends is an achievement. So are my sons, the way they turned out, the way they show up, both in the world and in my life. My many incredible friends of all ages, cultures and social backgrounds and the kind of deep and supportive friendships we have is an achievement and the result of much time and devotion to those friendships.
Parenting the “European Way”
What was it like for you to be a parent?
By my nature, whatever I do, I do with all my heart, energy and devotion. When you juggle career, marriage, and kids, something has to give. I wanted to be fully present to the experience of raising children. Marriage and parenting was a full-time career to me. The time with my boys at home was limited; I did not want to miss a second to make it the best experience parenting, as well as childhood (for them), could be.
To love and nurture is my program in this life, and nothing gives me more joy. I loved the metaphor of my three ‘men’ being warriors leaving the home in the morning for work and study and needing a nurturing environment to come home to at night to recharge their batteries. I wanted to create that environment, and seeing everyone thrive in it was deeply fulfilling to me. I was very active in the community, my neighborhood, charitable volunteering. As I mentioned, when I briefly worked as an interior designer that nurturing home life could not happen the same way — cookies baked for after school snacks and home-cooked family dinners by candlelight…at least, I personally would not have been able to juggle both.
I enjoyed raising my boys the European way, less pressure for academic and athletic accomplishments, more focus on playtime, being kids, and being allowed to become who they are meant to be. Also, we are today a divorced family, you would never know because we continue to love and support each other.
Connecting With Italy
What are you doing in Italy?
Italy is a place of utter beauty, art, design, history, food. Its people are warm and love life and my soul sings whenever I am in Italy. The language is beautiful; I dreamt for 30 years of learning it. After divorce, I visited Italy again; I had not been in 30 years. Since I did not speak a word of Italian, I could not connect with its people and felt isolated. It is then I decided to move to Florence to study Italian (in 2016). It has been such a beautiful experience that I hope to move to Florence next year for the 6 months of summer.
To Be Ursified
Please tell us about your interiors work.
Friends created the expression ’to be Ursified.’ It means I have come into your life and helped you improve it. It often starts with the home but can be personal styling, health coaching and uncluttering. I LOVE helping people create an environment around them that is clutter-free, beautiful and warm, in whatever style they love. When they come home, they don’t want to leave, and when they leave the next morning, they are rejuvenated and rested. A home should be a sanctuary, and it is never a matter of money to create that. I welcome low-budget projects; they are a great creative challenge to me. This spring I decorated a 3100 square foot home for a French family of five moving to LA, in 48 hours from empty to them sleeping there!! 48 hours to functional and livable, then a visit to the flea market for art and accessories and to personalize it. Low budget, super fun. The clients are very happy.
What are your creative ambitions?
I am living them!! My iPhone photography, lots of writing. I would love to do a coffee table book of my best photographs from my life after divorce, with the kind of little write-ups I so enjoy doing in my Instagram account (ursefied007). Also a cooking memoir: memories of stories around my food and the recipes I create, spiced with my food photography. Decorating homes, styling people. I would enjoy styling men and women after divorce as well as Ursifying their new living spaces and life coaching them on life after divorce and dating. Getting back into sculpture and abstract painting. I would like to continue to beautify and touch the lives of others in meaningful ways.
Would like to do public speaking on the importance of a healthy divorce process, its benefits for the couples’ physical and mental health and the tremendous importance of not dragging kids through an ego-driven divorce war. That’s a top priority creative ambition.
From Stuttgart to LA
Where are you from?
I grew up outside of Stuttgart, Germany, with a strong desire to go out into the world, learn foreign languages, live within other cultures. I never felt at home in Germany; its people and culture, lifestyle do not resonate with me at all. Destiny brought me to Los Angeles through my career with Porsche AG. My dream life is living in Europe/Italy in summer, and in Los Angeles in winter. I am already living this dream. I am 59, but that’s a big number in my passport that looks scary! In reality, I truly feel I am physically in my thirties and age is just a silly number, completely irrelevant to me.
How do you stay connected and relevant?
Through extensively traveling the globe. Through friendships with people of different cultures. Going to art shows, museums, concerts both in Los Angeles and during my travels. Reading.
Holistic Approach to Health
How do you stay in shape?
I have never been athletically ambitious, but I do love yoga and Pilates and running at the beach and when in Europe I walk so much. My iPhone tells me I walked 18,569 steps yesterday! The food in my home is all organic and I frequent only restaurants that cook with great ingredients, often farm to table. I believe in eating what’s in season, buy local and avoid chemicals in my body products and food. I live a holistic lifestyle, practice preventative medicine, and eat and live with gratitude and joy. I am a truly happy person. Chocolates, alcohol and french fries are part of my eating habits when I feel like that. I never feel guilty or deprive myself of any such pleasures. It is the mindset of guilt that makes those things unhealthy. My doctor of Integrative Medicine keeps my body balanced through a handful of customized vitamins and remedies so my metabolism is strong. I aim for the mind-body balance and support my physical body with acupuncture, homeopathy, and supplements. Ghee, turmeric and Kangen water are a daily must. The rest comes from being happy in my skin and in my heart.
“I lovingly call my silver hair my lamp shade”
Your hair is a great signifier, like a beacon across a room the way it glows.
I lovingly call my silver hair my ‘lampshade’ because it seems to shine wherever I go and I get stopped about 5 times a day about it. The answer is simple: I don’t like anything fake. I have never altered my hair, face or body. While I don’t judge others who do, I like things natural and organic. (My iPhone photographs are not Photoshopped either.) I embrace the wrinkles around my eyes because they are the stories of my life, how much I laughed or squinted my eyes into the sun. I had a grey streak at 38, became salt and pepper around 43 and turned completely silver while in Bali 7 years ago, at age 52. Life made me silver early, so I decided to embrace it. In addition, I reject chemicals and oh, the money to dye hair, people could buy a car with it!! Now it has become sort of my trademark, accentuated by the haircut which is to frame my face in playful but organized ways. I have enjoyed this cut for over 20 years. After 7 years of being a silver-haired girl I am still surprised at the attention my hair gets: men lean across vegetable aisles, women chase me down trains, people stop me in the street, all to say the same thing: “I LOVE YOUR HAIR!”
“How you see the issue IS the issue”
When you look back at this extraordinary life that is still evolving, what do you see?
In retrospective, it has become clear that I needed to self-actualize and could not have done it within the confinement of my marriage. I was too focused on the well-being of my family to understand that I needed to come into my own. Although my divorce was the saddest, most unsettling phase of my life and it was not initiated by me, it opened the space for my growth and self-actualization. This shows the magical doings of the universe, the bigger picture, the beauty of allowing life to flow.
My philosophy is: how you see the issue IS the issue. I always have a choice of how I look at a situation and reframing negative thoughts into positive is a powerful solution.