… Well, maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, Helen’s changed her own life more than a few times. Her recently published book “Long Journey Home” details those dramatic events and shifts in her own life story, from a small girl escaping Communist Czechoslovakia in 1948, to her return during the heady days leading up to the Prague Spring, to her forced exodus a second time during the darker days that followed, leaving behind the love of her young life. Finally, after the Czech Republic once again opened its doors, Helen was able to return freely to her homeland. It’s a story of high drama, romance, and heartbreak. The stuff novels are made of, except this story is real.
Helen’s presentation and readings from her book at the Vaclav Havel Library had the audience bursting into applause and choking back tears. Yes, it’s that kind of story. And to cap it off, during the question and answer session, one of the moderators surprised the audience – and Helen – by announcing that the son and granddaughter of Helen’s youthful lover was in attendance.
Of course, the copies of the book were selling like hotcakes, and a swarm of admirers clutched their new purchases waiting for the author’s signature.
… But back to me.
It was 2004. IWAP President at the time Patty Stack asked me to write an article about a woman she had met, and who was expanding her life coaching business to encompass Prague. Now, this might sound a bit far-fetched, but back in 2004, I had no idea what “life coaching” was, and Patty’s explanation wasn’t improving the situation. But you didn’t say “no” to Patty…. So, I suggested that it might be helpful for me to take one of these “life coaching” sessions myself, so that I could do a better job on my article. When I called Helen, she basically poo-pooed that idea. No, in order to understand the concept, I would need to take a series of six sessions. This was my first indication that Helen was no slacker.
She expected a similar level of commitment from her client. In session one, I was asked to dig deep and to do homework. What did I want from life? What were my goals? What were my priorities? And who was I?
My time with Helen coincided with the need to return to the United States. I had ailing parents, and a daughter who desperately wanted (as an American) to attend an American school in America. I had a job I loved in Prague, and a dauting year ahead. What did I want to achieve for myself? Now it was time to say it out loud.
I wanted to create an international life for myself, with an international career that would span Europe and the US. But I couldn’t imagine how to get there. Helen could.
She had been a psychologist back in Canada, but had grown weary of the traditional method of getting her patients to open up about their problems without being able to take a more active role in guiding their paths. That was when she turned to the still relatively new field of life coaching. I’m living proof that she knew what she was doing.
The process started with creating a resume. A CV. A bio. Call it what you will, this is where you put down what you’ve done with your life. While I was busy apologizing for my perceived short-comings. Helen took one solid look at my piece of paper and declared that I was a leader. — no, no, no, came the protests. I’m too disorganized. — Well, you can always work on your organizational skills, but this piece of paper says that you’re a leader, Helen retorted.
And that’s the sentence that changed my life.
Because, we are what we are, but sometimes modesty or fear or lack of self-awareness keeps us from realizing what that actually is.
I didn’t get to finish my final session with Helen. A phone call had me returning sooner than expected to the States. But over the course of five sessions, I was armed with enough resources to step into the next phase of my life without fear of the unknown. It wasn’t a necessarily easy transition, but when an opportunity to undertake the creation of a festival in the U.S. popped up, my hand popped up also. After all, I was a LEADER. When the opportunity to take on the job of editor of an international daily publication in Europe came my way, I made my way back to Prague. It was a new challenge, but I figured I could do it, because after all, I was a LEADER. Helen gave me permission to say that. She gave me permission to see these opportunities and say yes to them. And because she gave me the tools to reach my goal, I can now say I have a truly international career and in international life.
Cathy enjoys sharing special moments with family, friends and IWAP. Cathy is an active IWAP member who writes many articles about Art & Culture events. You can find Cathy enjoying various movie, theater and music events throughout Prague. Cathy’s high energy and love for life is reflected in all that she touches.