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.
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 also 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. But it was not my life, or life in general, that changed. 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. Life will always throw you curve balls. No one alive can control how someone feels about another person; no one controls life and death; no one controls the weather, or the economy, and all other potential triumphs and tragedies. But there is a great deal you can control, and that is called self management, self awareness, and last, but definitely not least, self esteem.
I abandoned the newspaper, partly because it was not making money, but also 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 highly successful General Manager where I developed my recruiting, teambuilding 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, but 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. So I did some research about fears, anxiety and procrastination, and pulled together some terrific materials. I called my class, Writing with Cold Feet, which is the title of my book published 20 years later.
I developed a number of highly successful courses such as: Writing with Cold Feet, Putting Off Procrastination, Putting Fear in Reverse Gear and later wrote my first book, From Survival to Thrival.
I started my first company, ForWord Effect in 1999 working with organizations to better their skills in communication, writing, team building, and management. I enjoyed that so much that I completed a degree in Human Resources and became a fully Certified Human Resources Professional. I worked as a consultant in Human Resources helping many companies with performance managment, reward and recognition, leadership as well as training in Communication, Time Managment and many areas. But for me, life was still about storytelling, whether for the spoken word, or for the page in fiction or non-fiction writing.
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 frequently morphed into writing and presentation coaching. I knew that a person’s ability to tell a story, especially their own story, had great healing, confidence-building and motivating powers for both the teller and the listeners alike. Stories illustrate points and inspire others like no other technique I know of. We understand our world through stories. That is why I recommend that all my entrepreneurs, speakers and coaches use stories to sell themselves, their companies, or company projects.
When I completed my first non-fiction book From Survival to Thrival, 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. As proof, I am a respected professional, writing coach, author, and speaker who works with executives, entrepreneurs, coaches, writers and speakers to help them take their careers to the next level, and publish their first or second book.
I also lost my excess weight, enhanced my health, and have been in a stable life par
tnership that eventually lead to a growing and happy marriage. 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 and tango dancing with husband, Jim, 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 with others that want to dive into the journey of self fulfillment. Who knows what the future holds!