After more than 40 years in show business, award-winning actress, producer, mother and wife Rita Wilson is a household name, known worldwide for her electric smile, big energy and incredible talent on the big and small screens. But after the loss of her mother and a breast cancer diagnosis, Rita was faced with more fear and grief than she’d ever imagined. Here, she shares how faith, family and her love for music carried her through the storm to bright new joy!
Rita Wilson is living proof that it’s never too late to make a dream come true. Already a successful actress, producer, mom and beloved wife to actor Tom Hanks, the 62-year-old Hollywood native has recently expanded her résumé to include the role of singer and songwriter. “People say, ‘It’s so great that you are doing music now!’”
Rita shares with Woman’s World. “They always follow it up with a dream that they have, and I always say, ‘It’s never too late—go for it!’” For Rita, singing was a lifelong dream, though she admits that stepping out of her comfort zone was terrifying. Nevertheless, in 2012, she began writing her own songs. “It’s an intensely personal way to connect,” she says. “In a way, I’m a storyteller.” One of the most intimate stories she tells on her newest album, Halfway to Home, is in the song “Throw Me a Party,” inspired by her 2015 battle with breast cancer. “It was terrifying,” Rita shares. “I told my husband, ‘If I should go before you, I want you to have a big party, with sparklers, food, my friends. I wanted everyone to sing, dance, tell stories and laugh.”
While Rita underwent a bilateral mastectomy, her faith, family and the song in her heart helped her through. “I’m a big believer in prayer,” she says. “One of my favorite passages is Matthew 6:27: ‘Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’ That has given me a lot of peace.”
Today, Rita is cancer-free, enjoys life with loved ones and is overjoyed to be singing her songs to thousands of fans on tour. “I’m so thankful,” she beams. “Every day is a gift!”
Here, Rita’s tips for finding peace, joy and following your lifelong dream.
Take Refuge in Faith
“I have a little app that I read every day called Jesus Calling that brings me so much inspiration,” Rita says. “Faith Hill gave me the book, and it’s a great source of peace. I just get that prayer in the morning, get those quotes of Scripture and that little meditation the writer Sarah Young made, and it gets me thinking. More important, keeps me thinking. Sometimes I go back to the passage three or four times, and every time I do, it gives me the reset I need to face whatever the day throws at me.”
Find Your Truth Through Reading
“Nora Ephron’s books, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing are two of my favorite books,” Rita shares. “Her writing is so honest that it made me realize that you can be funny and still have depth. In fact, sometimes if things are lighter, they allow you to be more open. That fact has influenced my own storytelling, and for that, I am so grateful.”
Get Outside with Your Girlfriends
“I love walking, hiking and swimming with my girlfriends,” Rita shares. “I have a bunch who love to swim, and it’s fantastic. You would not believe how long you can swim when you’re talking to your friends! It’s really fun, and since I’m a sporty girl, I can find something to enjoy in every season. I love being outdoors and with my friends; it’s just a whole new level of fun!”
Remember Pain Always Passes
“I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s not long before I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Rita shares. “It was such a tough time. But because of that experience, when things are really great now, I appreciate them more deeply. I wake up every morning and say a prayer of gratitude. Pain doesn’t last: It’s temporary. Recognizing that when you’re in the thick of things is challenging, but remember, it’s not forever, and it will pass.”
Cherish the Small Moments Together
“I think one of the secrets to my marriage is that we always have open communication, even when things are tough to talk about,” Rita explains. “Being married for a long time, not every day is flowers and Champagne! I also think it’s important that you share a bathroom. I love washing my face, brushing my teeth and talking to Tom. We download our day together, laugh and share stories. I cherish that time with him!”
Melt Stress with a Daily Pause
“After being diagnosed with cancer, I started doing a guided mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and anxiety,” Rita says. “I use an app called Insight Timer. There are so many meditations on it, so if I have time, I’ll do half an hour. If I have little time, I do 10 minutes or less. Any amount of time is so helpful—it helps me de-stress and brings so much peace.”
Don’t miss Rita’s new album!
The second in a series of three, Rita’s latest album, Halfway to Home ($20.99, Amazon), is a collection of original songs that celebrate the elements of each of us that are unfinished… but beautiful just the same. “We’re all a work in progress,” Rita says with a smile. “But when we take our imperfections and turn them into fuel to do what we love, we find joy, which is what I hope to bring others with this album!”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.