Who is this Woman?
When I was eight, I would go over to my best friend’s house and when we got bored I would make up stories. Then I would cast the other kids in parts, and we would raid her mother’s closet and make-up drawer. Rehearsals started immediately, and we would inform her family that “opening night” was imminent. I always had multiple roles as writer, director and actor for multiple characters. We would have a howl showing off to whoever we could drag into the livingroom. That kind of creativity was embraced and encouraged at my BF’s home, but my own home had, let’s just say, a colder atmosphere. My family barely knew I had this desire to tell stories – it was a secret. It remained a secret passion through many years of unrewarding jobs and destructive relationships in which I was always seeking happiness in the usual ways, but in reality, was just surviving.
After a brush with death on an icy freeway in my very flippable ’78 Honda Civic, in which I learned how junkmail could actually be useful in a crisis (another story), I decided that life could be too short. Though I was petrified and had no courage, I took the big leap to follow my dream by taking film and theatre in University. I would be the first child in my family to go to University.
Although I developed a passion for non-fiction by writing for the campus paper and other external publications, it was being in Theatre that reignited my storytelling days as a child. I remember one of my teachers saying that the theatre is the place damaged children end up. I didn’t think of myself as one of those children, since I did not come from an abusive home. However, later I would see that most of us incur damages in our young lives that do not stem from strictly abusive environments. If we are honest, many, if not all of us, have wounded spirits that leave us with chronic self doubts and even self-hate.
But in Theatre, I was becoming known as a hot, new, emerging playwright. I collaborated with award-winning playwrights like Marc Diamond and Guillermo Verdecchia and even formed a writing partnership with the late, great comedy writer, Irwin Barker, who would go on to write for Rick Mercer (did I mention I tried stand-up for awhile too).
I even met Rick Mercer in his early theatre days when he was on the road performing his one-man show with the incredibly lengthy title: Show Me the Button, I’ll Push It, or Charles Lynch Must Die. I even started winning some awards and prizes myself (Betty Lambert Memorial Prize for Playwriting, 24-hour Playwriting Contest, Seedlings Award, PTC Award, SFU Theatre, etc.). On a dare, I started a community newspaper in the happening cultural neighborhood of The Drive, in Vancouver.
More significant for me was that a number of my fellow theatre students flattered me by always coming to me for help with their writing, and saying how I was a better teacher than the teachers who were getting paid. One day, I was listening to an audiobook by my mentor from afar, Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones), and heard her say, “Don’t wait until you are a published writer to start teaching writing.” I had to rewind the tape and listen again to make sure I’d heard that right. It was as if she was personally speaking to me and giving me permission. I found a couple of night schools, pointed to my awards, and was hired. I created other places to gather “would-be” writers (what I now call “will-be” writers), and started to teach in the evenings. And I loved it. It was so rewarding to see people grow, create and surprise themselves. I couldn’t imagine anything better.
So was I living the dream? Was I on the road to success, love, stardom and prosperity? Ahh no. Unfortunately, drama was not just in my writing, it was in my life as well. My name was Kathrin-in-Denial Lake. An example of this denial was how I would throw parking tickets into my magic glove compartment knowing that they would automatically disappear from my universe. This was great, until I lost my car. I took low paying jobs, not because I couldn’t get better, but because I aimed low. I was crippled with student loan debt and debt collectors were stalking me, and one day I found I could not even scrape up enough cash to launder my clothes at the Laundromat; I had to wash them in the bath tub.
But if debt was crippling, I was also crippled in a more serious way. I had to battle back from a serious spinal injury that narrowly missed leaving me paralyzed. This was made more difficult with my bad eating habits that had kept me overweight for most of my life. I was trying to fill the hole inside – my LSE (low self esteem) – with food. LSE also had me desperately and perpetually choosing the wrong love-interest and going through agonizing heartbreak, which was more painful than any of the physical pain I was dealing with. In short, I was not handling my life very well at all. I was still in survival, not thrival.
Something had to change, and a number of things did. As I started to learn, grow, and ask for help, I had my own epiphany in which it was clear that life doesn’t change, people do.
I abandoned the newspaper because it was not yet where my entrepreneurial heart lay. Instead I took jobs in administration for dance and theatre organizations and worked my way up to a General Manager where I developed my recruiting, team building and many other management skills. I was also introduced to Toastmasters and found out that I enjoyed public speaking more than acting, but it also scared me silly. When you are acting, you are hiding behind a character, but when I became a speaker, I felt completely naked and vulnerable; it was all me! I started working with counselors, and also with a life coach, long before people knew what a life coach was.
At this time, the most rewarding part of my life was still teaching adults writing at night school. I researched and developed many original techniques to get the best from writers, trounce their trepidation, share the art of making language simple but impactful, and help them understand the intricacies and secrets of The Story.
After teaching for a number of years, the school came to me and asked if I could teach a class called Fear of Writing. I called my class, Writing with Cold Feet (which would become the title of my book published 20 years later).
I started my first company, ForWord Effect in 1999, editing, writing and training. I was working with organizations to better their skills in communication, writing, team building, and management. I completed a degree in Human Resources and training to become a life coach. I even got on the cover of a magazine for HR and was expanding my coaching practice.
I decided if I was going to do coaching I would like to write a book about that to compliment my business. So I did. My first non-fiction book was From Survival to Thrival, because I truly felt that I had done the full cycle, moving from survival to what I call thrival. In the book, I reveal the secrets of how you can build and maintain self esteem, and gracefully move your life to a place of abundance, health and happiness.
Yet, for me, life was still about storytelling, whether for the spoken word, for the page in fiction or non-fiction writing. I was still writing for publications and for myself as well as teaching writing at night. Also, as a coach, I found something unusual was happening. The people who wanted to work with me as their life coach also had a secret wish to be writers, or speakers, or both. My life coaching sessions started to morph into writing coaching. I knew that a person’s ability to tell a story, especially their own story, had great healing powers for both the teller and the listeners alike.
I am now a real estate investor, and am not only out of debt but have great abundance in my life. For fun, I practice swing dancing with husband, and continue to write stories, especially about our adventures in Mexico where we own property and reside for part of every Canadian winter. I now hold writing retreats in Mexico and it is great fun to share my quirky, magical Mexican town. Look for the first book in my series of The Happy Hammock coming soon.
Who knows what the future holds!