I was at the San Diego airport, waiting to board my plane home after having produced Hay House’s first “I Can Do It At Sea” cruise. It was April 12, 2008—one of those dates in my life that I’ll never forget, the kind that lives in infamy forever.
I looked at my phone and noticed a voicemail that came in while I was going through security. As I listened, the tone of my husband’s voice literally made my knees buckle. The next thing I knew, I was collapsed on the carpet at the gate while everyone else began boarding the plane around me. My body was both burning and frozen as I listened to this man I had been married to for nearly eighteen years. The tone of his voice was crushing, and the words were pure threat.
“I read your journals. You’d better get your ass home—there’s hell to pay.”
All I could think was that I had more than seventy journals. Which parts had he read?
To this day, I have no recollection of getting on the plane or flying or even listening to the multiple voicemails he left for me while I was in the air. I didn’t answer his calls while I was in the car on my way home from the airport.
I felt like I was in an earthquake. Only instead of the ground, it was the life I had built that was crumbling beneath my feet.
After the plane landed in Denver, I drove straight to Boulder, where I live. But I didn’t go home. Instead, I went to the St. Julien Hotel, got a room, and left my bags there. Then I walked the two blocks to my apartment— and my husband. I was in a daze, but I can still vividly remember what it was like to stand at the base of the stairs, my heart pounding out of my chest, wondering how I was going to make it up the three flights to my front door.
He’d heard me coming and was waiting just inside the door. He held up four of my journals and announced that he was going to make copies of certain pages and send them to my parents, my sister, my friends, and my coworkers. He looked forward to seeing what they thought of me, once they knew the real me.
“Never let anyone see you sweat” had been my motto for as long as I could remember. I was so afraid of his threat to expose me, of letting anyone see my imperfections. No one knows how to push your buttons harder than someone you’ve been married to for eighteen years.
When I first met my husband, it as was if he introduced himself to me by saying, “Hi, I am broken.” And I replied “Great. I am Super Woman. I will fix you.”
Our core wounds were a match made in heaven. He was charming and tall and gorgeous and sweet and swept me off my feet with his sense of adventure. I made sure everyone thought we were the perfect couple with everything going for us. But as the marriage progressed and the patterns of enmeshment became more ingrained, I found myself sublimating all my own desires for his— and somewhere along the way I forgot to live my own life.
I was very busy managing the perceptions of others and projecting an image of perfection to the world. It was far more important to me that everyone thought my life was perfect and that I was happy, than that I actually be happy.
In fact, for a long time I believed that happiness and fun were just for other people.
So, there I was, looking at my husband of eighteen years threatening me with my most sacred writing.
The sting in my mouth was the bitter taste of a marriage crashing.
The truth is that our relationship had been slowly falling apart for quite some time. I’d chosen to stay in denial so deeply that it had taken something this monumental to wake me up. Suddenly, I was faced with what to do when the life I’m living no longer fits on the foundation where it’s settled? And, how do I find the courage to make a dramatic change? Because my foundation wasn’t just rocked—it was obliterated.
I had a choice: I could stay numb and go back to sleep, or I could face my fears and embrace change. I could stand still, or I could get ready for the greatest jump of my life.
* * *
hourglass: a last love poem
written on the morning I finally filed for divorce
i loved you
as much as i could
as long as i could
hard as i could
hard as it was
steadily holding on
to the small piece of maybe
that was finally destroyed
i have done all i can
we came together
in our respective corners
at the bottom of an hourglass
with our own strengths
our own wounds
marriage is to be found
in the voyage
through the tiny neck
of this timepiece
crossing up and over
to the opposite quadrants
those qualities of the other
missing in ourselves
are to be absorbed
for each to become whole
hard as we tried
we simply did not make it
through the passage
the wounds too deep
the rage too loud
the voice too silent
and though i love you
i cannot be
married to you
i lost myself
in the giving of everything
i now know
heartbreak in one
is a pain
unable to be healed
by the other
we can only
i have been nowhere
wheeling my home behind me
into the havens of others
now i need to land safely
inside the space of my own
i was starving to death
before hunger finally saved my life
waking me to desire
and now you are free
from the wanting more
than i could give
and i will love you
beyond the wound
* * *
Marriage was a long time to be away from myself…and so the journey began.
It was a little over two years from the fateful day my husband read my journals to the day I filed for divorce. Leaving my marriage was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was as if I was jumping off a cliff in hopes of saving my life, without really knowing what—if anything—would catch me.
But somehow, the ground appeared beneath my feet as I landed. And what’s more, the most miraculous things began to occur. Doors opened. Unforeseen opportunities presented themselves. I not only survived, I thrived.
It wasn’t always pretty, and it wasn’t always easy. But it was so deeply worth it.
That two-year period prior to the jump was filled with pain, fear, and wonderful growth—learning that gave birth to the transformative process I offer in my book Jump … And Your Life Will Appear.
As the Event Director for Hay House from November 2002 to August 2014—leaving my “day job” is another massive jump I’ve just taken!—I was lucky enough to travel around the world, and become quite close to, some of the greatest minds of our time in the fields of self-help, inspiration, motivation and wellness. I’d had a front row seat and a backstage pass for over a decade, and while I’d absorbed their teachings by osmosis, they wouldn’t be able to really resonate with me until I was in a crisis of my own and able to open myself up fully, really willing to reveal myself and ask for help from the people who I had always been there to serve. When my marriage came crashing down, I relied on their teachings to make it through. A couple of them even used me as a spiritual guinea pig, trying out self-empowerment experiments on me.
It was a terrifying experience for me to peel back the layers and expose my vulnerability, because I had so much invested in this identity, in my perfectionism, in being the one getting the gold star – so much invested in believing I would find internal value from external reward. When I was finally willing to go to those people to ask for help, I would discover that they were there for me fiercely, just waiting to rally around me. And with their support I eventually gained the courage to find and use my own voice.
All their attention, love, and wisdom eventually led me to undertake my own journey toward helping others. I immersed myself in my dear friend and mentor Debbie Ford’s shadow work and eventually became a Certified Integrative Coach after a yearlong rigorous and transformational training through her Institute. I wrote my first book, Writing for My Life—a compilation of poetry, a kind of poetic memoir—as I was leaving my marriage and finding my own voice.
Since I started speaking at Hay House’s I Can Do It! conferences and Writer’s Workshops over the past few years—in addition to producing them—more and more opportunities emerged. And my coaching practice is thriving.
But all of those changes are simply outward signs of a transformation that happened inside of me. Since my divorce, I have become—thankfully—more myself than I ever thought I could be. I have learned who I am by living life for me, in alignment with my own truth and desire, instead of in response to someone or something else. I’ve become familiar with the stranger I had been living with for forty-five years: The real Nancy Levin—the woman I’d always been, underneath the masks I had been wearing for so long.
And you know what? I really, really like her.
My story is the culmination of my experience, the chronicle of what I learned along the way, the process I took to let go and leap in order to live my own life. Please overlay your own marriage, or relationship, or career, or home, or anyone or anything that you’ve held on to so tightly in your life that it’s as if you made a “til death do us part” vow. While I lived it, I felt my way through, but later, specific steps that I had taken began to surface in my consciousness. It became clear through working with my clients in my coaching practice, that I had a powerful roadmap others could follow if they adapted my route to their own circumstances.
In my case, of course, the jump involved a divorce, but for my clients it has worked with any kind of change—whether you want to switch jobs or careers, move to a different part of the world, set boundaries with someone in your life (no matter who it is), do something new that you’ve hesitated to try, increase your capacity for self-love, or simply move out of fear into profound courage and love. Whatever you want to change, wherever you want to jump, this process is here to support you.
Are you hiding in your life? Have you been called to make changes that you’ve been too afraid to make? Here’s an “inch-by-inch” guide to give you the courage and faith you need to feel supported as you jump into your new and better life.
It’s time to clear the path ahead and move toward letting go and leaping with these 10 steps:
- Step 1: Admit to yourself what you already know.
- Step 2: Tell the truth to someone safe.
- Step 3: Imagine yourself free.
- Step 4: Make one different choice.
- Step 5: Set your new boundaries.
- Step 6: Ask for help.
- Step 7: Honor your resistance.
- Step 8: Jump!
- Step 9: The Graceful Exit.
- Step 10: Say Yes … and then say it again … and again.
The irony is that all of the people who I was so busy trying to please (and most afraid of being vulnerable with, being myself with, and asking for help from) were the very people who were there to support me in rebuilding my self-esteem, self-love and forgiveness, once I finally let down my guard.
I realize now that if I was able to leave my marriage – and not only survive, but truly thrive on the other side of my greatest fear – then I can do anything. Living through what I couldn’t possibly imagine ever getting past, I realized that I have what it takes to traverse any fear.
Once I discovered internally what I had been seeking externally, I learned that my needs come first. Period. And that the only way to have true deep loving connection is to stand fully revealed. All love begins with self-love and we live in the sweet spot when my vulnerability meets yours.
Almost daily, I give gratitude that he did read those journals and that I did finally leave because I can’t even imagine still hiding in my old life of constantly abandoning myself for the sake of another.
So at some point it started to occur to me that, while I thought I was just getting divorced, I was in fact rebuilding my relationship with myself. I was learning how to have a voice, instead of checking in with him or checking out. Every choice we make is either in service of the future we most desire, or sabotaging it. So most of all, I was finally most committed to honoring and claiming my own desire.
And now the next leap of faith – leaving my “day job,” wouldn’t even have been a glimmer in my eye, let alone a reality, had I not taken that first all-important step, allowing it to catapult me into the unknown. The woman I am today has everything to do with saying yes to uncertainty, and fully accepting my hand in orchestrating all the relationships, events and circumstances in my life in order to extract the wisdom I specifically came into this lifetime to learn. Leaving my marriage was a conscious decision to no longer live in reaction to anyone or anything else, to take the plunge into living on my own terms, finally honoring my own desires. A massive lesson I am eternally grateful for.
Leaving my position at Hay House bears a different gift. Trust me, the journey to quitting my dream job hasn’t been easy. This decision has also been two years in the making!
The idea was just a scary little spark back in August 2012 when, on a walk in Melbourne, Australia, my close friend – and President/CEO of Hay House – Reid Tracy said to me, “It’s not about your indispensability at work. It’s about your irreplaceability as a human.” Woah. He was right. It’s about who I am, not what I do. I had been living in a long-running story that everyone loved me because of what I did for them.
Immersing myself in the truth that people love me simply because I am me – that each of us are loved because of our own singular exquisite brilliance – was a complete game-changer.
I finally clearly saw the way I had been running myself ragged using all my people-pleasing and perfectionism as the currency with which I was buying love and attention. And then I stopped. And I was still loved. Actually, I was loved even more than before, because I had surrendered to the genuine flow, instead of my old pattern of chasing. It was a revelation.
Having spent the last few years in deep inquiry, excavating my interior landscape, I’ve discovered that honoring my authenticity and vulnerability by saying yes to what I most desire, while welcoming all the unforeseen gifts, opportunities and surprises as well, is a profound act of self-love.
All of this gives me the courage to answer the call and say yes to fully immersing myself in coaching, writing, speaking, teaching – serving from front-and-center now, instead of backstage.
I am profoundly grateful to the magnificent souls I have drawn into my life who always hold me at my highest and reflect my bright shining light back to me, especially when I need to be reminded of it the most.
I know I am not alone. I am supported and blessed as I now step out to take my place and claim my space in the world. As me. And I now know that’s enough and all I need to be.
The last words that my dear friend and mentor, the late Debbie Ford, ever said to me were: “Go live your life. Don’t work yourself to death. I love you, babydoll.”
I echo her words: Live your life—the one you were meant to live. Take a deep breath and dive into the future you most desire.
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