On the surface, Kristi Danielson has it all. She’s lifestyle coach to the rich and famous, has a bestselling book to her name and is described by her fans as “the veritable Queen of how to lead a fulfilling life”.
But the harsh truth is that Kristi has never practiced what she preaches. Her home life is a mess, her relationship with artist boyfriend, Tom, not much better – and now she has to redeem herself before all is lost.
At her wit’s end, Kristi is driven to seek out the help of Patrick Blakeslee, a tarot card reader and psychic medium, in an attempt to make sense of the mounting panic she’s feeling.
But Patrick’s visits have an unexpected effect on Kristi, leaving her with more questions than answers – and a life-changing decision to make…
Chapter 1: I Have a Plan
Have you ever felt truly desperate? That frightening moment when suddenly everything begins to close in on you and there’s a sense that time is running out? It’s overwhelming, sending you into panic mode. You realise that the decisions you are about to take will either make, or break you. My working life could literally fall apart in front of my eyes and I simply can’t let that happen. I’ve given it my all and sacrificed everything to build a career that has soared, but who knew it would end up creating this persona I simply can’t live up to?
That heart-stopping moment came like a lightning bolt, leaving me feeling anxious and afraid. With hindsight it was becoming increasingly obvious that fresh cracks were opening up in my life faster than I could disguise the existing ones. The truth is that I never meant to con anyone. As time passed I simply began to believe my own self-help mantra, that you can become whomsoever you choose to be. What I hadn’t grasped was that I turned into the exception that broke the rule. And in my line of work that’s the biggest sin of all.
I regard myself as a realist, well, perhaps I should qualify that and say I did, because I now realise how extraordinarily lucky my life has been. I, more than most, can appreciate that. I have succeeded in establishing a career that has not only been financially rewarding, but has allowed me to help an enormous amount of people. In doing so, I’ve become the darling of a whole host of celebrities. I have been acknowledged as one of the leading lifestyle coaches and my two self-help books have sold far and wide. So why do I find myself sitting here typing what will, I fear, be my last book?
It’s complicated, but then life always is, isn’t it? What I have to admit is that living with the constant fear of discovery has become a burden with which I can no longer cope. The biggest shame would be being outed by someone else. So I’m going to step out from the shadows, but not before I have put an incredible spin on it. Baring my soul and admitting that I don’t have the perfect life everyone perceives I have could be regarded as failure and alienate some of my loyal band of followers. It’s a huge risk but I’m going to tell my true story and it’s going to have a happy and successful outcome. Well, that’s the master plan.
Chapter 2: String and Blu-Tack
I’m the middle child, sandwiched between my eldest brother, Luke, and the baby of the family, Drew. My mother had three brothers and so, as the only two daughters in two generations, we were always in the minority. That rather tends to shape the way you look at things and there are only two ways it can go. Either you are the one whose voice is seldom heard above the sea of testosterone around you, or you make yours the loudest voice of them all. You become the organiser; the one who leads – in short, my brothers accepted that I was in charge. Maybe it was because I had inherited the bossy gene, if such a thing exists. But, from a tender age, what I lacked in practical knowledge, I made up for with sheer common sense and the dubious ability to be believable.
I say dubious, because I learnt that I had the power to organise and control what went on around me. I was a natural. What surprised me was the fact that people around me loved being told what to do. They sought my advice, opening up to me and looking for guidance at every step of the way. As a teenager I felt I had a heady power and it gave me a sense of confidence. At the time I didn’t understand that it was something to be treated with respect and a healthy dose of reality. People simply lapped-up what I told them and that, I suppose, was the blessing that has become a curse. When people are unsure about what to do next they look around for someone strong to advise them. In their desperation they are grateful and comforted and the person delivering the advice? Well, it’s addictive and each little success elevates you in their eyes, as well as in your own.
The truth is that I am supremely confident when it comes to organising other people’s lives. I’m extremely proud of the fact that I can inspire others and encourage them to develop their full potential. When it comes to my own life, it’s held together with the emotional equivalent of string and Blu-tack. Simply put, I’m a fraud.
Money and fame go hand-in-hand and there isn’t a chat show worth mentioning that hasn’t featured me at some point in the last few years. My name constantly crops up around the world and even in countries like the US, Japan, and Sweden, it’s instantly recognisable. Grab Life and Run With It is in its fourth season in the UK and I’ve just signed a contract for a further six episodes. My fan club is full of hopeful people, eager to share each of their milestones on Twitter, as they follow my celebrated Twelve Steps to Finding YOU plan.
To the world it appears I have all of the trappings of success. The harsh reality is that I spend my time trying to cover the tracks of a life that has no balance. All I have is my work – there is nothing else. The upside is that I look squeaky-clean. There is no gossip about me because I don’t maintain non-work relationships, either with my family, or the opposite sex. I have Tom, but then he’s known me since we were at school together and I became his confidante. Living literally fifty yards away from each other, the daily walk to and from school allowed our friendship to develop without pressure. Most of the other kids avoided Tom, never sure what sort of mood he would be in and unaware of his home situation. I felt sorry for him because as an only child he felt isolated when he was at home, often the source of rows between his parents. He had inherited his father’s volatile temperament alongside his artistic talent. As father and son clashed it was only natural his mother would rush to comfort her son. She had a husband who was impossible to please and a son she adored because he was the only source of happiness in her life.
Anyway, our arrangement works both ways. Tom is an artist and leads a life that most people would not understand but I know him almost better than he knows himself. Besides, I doubt there are many women who would put up with his moodiness when his creativity isn’t flowing, despite his broody good looks and that wayward, jet-black hair that has a will of its own. He bought a couple of acres of land in the Forest of Dean and convinced the local planning authority to let him build his own cabin, entirely out of wood. It’s eco-friendly and self-sufficient; it has to be, because he lives in the middle of nowhere. He calls in a few times a year when he reluctantly visits the city to reacquaint himself with society at large. Usually, though, it’s because he’s trying to sell a painting. In between times I visit him in the wilds whenever I can grab a spare moment, which isn’t often.
In fairness, Tom has everything he needs, including the internet, but even he admits that life without people can be very solitary at times. Albeit, when he does venture out he usually can’t wait to return to his peaceful and uncomplicated life.
‘Nature,’ he once told me, ‘doesn’t answer back. It simply is …’ I didn’t reply, but then he often leaves me speechless.
Another of his favourite sayings is, ‘I’m too sensitive for this world and that’s why I prefer to hide away.’
That quote actually saddens me, because I believe the root of his problem is a throwback to the unfortunate relationship he has with his father. Tom is the one person I can’t enthuse in my professional capacity because he knows the real me. He doesn’t subscribe to the ‘do as I say and not what I do’ idiom and I can’t blame him, because he can see through me. So we have this unspoken agreement not to get on each other’s case about the shortfalls in our respective lives. It’s an affair of mutual understanding and respect that goes a long way back, regardless of times when either of us has been seeing someone else. But that’s what makes it so special. Whatever happens we will always have each other to fall back on.
What I find exhausting is being at everyone’s beck and call, trying to be this person who is regarded as ‘the veritable Queen of how to lead a fulfilling life’ – a quote from a fan that I’ll never live down. People regard professional success as an indication of someone who is happy in every aspect of their life. In a sad touch of irony I’m respected for the fact that I’ve managed to keep my personal and family life under wraps. I’m heralded as a woman who has it all; a paragon of virtue and I’ve done nothing to dispel that. Why would I? It’s sold books and ensured I’m in demand.
So why do I think my secret is about to be discovered, threatening to destroy the sham that I have lived for so long? You may have heard of the term the quarter-life crisis, which is really another term for burnout and ranges from the teens to the early thirties. Dependent upon how intense your life has been, the timing can vary, but for child stars it can even happen in their early twenties. For me the effects began three months ago. I’d just celebrated my twenty-ninth birthday, alone, and found myself waking up from a dream that had reduced me to a nervous wreck. I was being interviewed on live TV and suddenly a member of the audience asked the question I’d been dreading.
‘And is your own life happy and fulfilled, Miss Danielson?’
I awoke with a start, wiping beads of cold sweat off my forehead. For some reason, although my head had formulated the perfect answer, to my utmost horror my mouth had uttered the words of doom, ‘No, it isn’t.’
The worst thing about it was that I actually felt a sense of relief the moment it was out there, but the reaction of the audience was a sharp intake of breath; so sharp, my body actually recoiled, even in sleep-mode. The interviewer looked like a frightened rabbit caught in the headlights of a runaway car and jumped in immediately.
‘Come back after the next commercial break for more questions with life coach and guru, Kristi Danielson.’
Waking up alone, feeling as if I’d just lived through one of the most vulnerable moments of my entire life, I felt bereft. Common sense told me that was a ridiculous reaction. How can you miss something you never really had in the first place? But that’s the problem with lying to yourself; after a while you start to believe the facade you’ve spent your life building around you is real.
But that fateful day the flood of questions kept coming fast and mercilessly. What was I doing with my life? Why was I afraid to put down roots of any sort? How much longer could I exist pretending that I was happy, when deep down I was too scared to be honest with myself?
I remember looking around my bedroom at the mountain of boxes that remained unpacked, even though I’ve lived in this luxurious house for more than two years. Why had I never invited anyone, other than Tom, inside? Why was I happier living out of a suitcase and hopping from hotel room to hotel room? The only other person whose feet ever stepped across the threshold belonged to my cleaning lady, Eve Preston.
At first Eve assumed that I was simply too busy to unpack and that when my workload calmed down I would eventually spend more time at the house. The decorators worked through it from top to bottom. The freshly painted walls were a blank canvas to show off the soft furnishings, lovingly picked items of furniture and decorator pieces that still hadn’t materialised. As the months went by she hid any concerns and simply did the job for which she was paid. Our paths rarely crossed as I was seldom here. On numerous occasions she offered her services to begin unpacking some of my belongings, but came to understand that I had no emotional attachment to this house. It was about more than an empty fridge that has never been switched on because I haven’t had time to shop. If she had come to see that my life was hollow, she kept that to herself.
As things begin to close in on me, each day the battle is more draining than the one before. Last week was the final straw. I suddenly found myself unable to cope. Halfway through a talk I froze. I’d reached the point where I was no longer able to swim along, but suddenly my body had become a lead weight and I was drowning. Well, in truth, it was more like a meltdown. That day the pressure just built and built and my assistant, Jamie McClaire, came to my rescue. I thought I’d gotten away with it, making a mental note to myself that I had to be more careful in future. Except that night, although I had successfully survived the problems of the day, the effects of the pressure and the terror hit me with full force. One moment I lay there in bed cringing as I replayed the whole thing in my head, the next I had company. I always assumed having a mental breakdown left you incapable of normal interaction and functions, but my breakdown wasn’t like that. Instead it triggered an epiphany and my new, rather elusive friend, came to the rescue.
Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking, that at the age of twenty-nine I’m a little old to have an imaginary friend, or a quarter-life crisis, come to that. But what if it isn’t my imagination, or my alter ego, what if it’s a guardian angel?
The Voice was quick to point out that I’ve been living this weird life where I can’t even invite people back to my inner sanctuary, because they’d walk through the door of my beautiful home and think I’d been burgled. It wasn’t normal. I’d laughed. Hearing voices isn’t exactly normal, either.
So this is where I get it all off my chest, it’s step one of The Voice’s master plan to turn my life around and make my next self-help book a real must-have read. We’ve talked it through and he has convinced me there’s no turning back now. Why is he a guy? I have no idea. He might be invisible, but he’s on my case 24-7. So far, as burnouts go, I’d say I’ve been rather lucky. We’ve agreed our objective and The Voice has told me he’s ‘sticking with me until I’m free’, whatever that means!
His solution was a little unexpected and I could see the tabloid heading now: ‘To whom does a life coach go when their back is up against the wall? Well, to a tarot card reader, of course.’
All I know for sure is that somehow I have to turn all this around and write a book that proves anyone can redeem themselves, or face a career that teeters on the edge of ruin…