Can a lecture teach us about love?

I went to a Kabbalah lecture this week.

I don’t attend lectures. I don’t like to be lectured to. And I have a hard time sitting still.

But I’ve always been intrigued by it, and rather than guessing, or wondering what exactly Madonna was up to, I figured I’d educate myself. I also have an idea for my next novel, so what prompted me to actually go this time was plain old research.

It was held at the Kabbalah Center, a pretty and informal space in midtown, and the teacher was charismatic and funny. He shared a few stories where the universe offered up signs to his students that provided clarity. 

And then he asked: “How many people here have been in a relationship they regret?” 

Everyone raised their hands.

Except me.

Just because a relationship doesn’t work out, and even when it’s ended badly, I’ve never regretted it. I’ve learned not to regret it.  I work hard (and it is work) to find something new and meaningful in every relationship I’ve been in, including my 14 year relationship with my ex-husband. I was surprised that almost everyone in that room believed otherwise. Maybe the question was a pointed one; maybe the teacher was planning on explaining (if you signed up for the 10 week course) how to view experiences positively.

Then he said, “Turn to a stranger next to you and share your name, profession, and who the first person you fell in love with was and why.”

The girl next to me went first. She didn’t hesitate when she uttered the name of her first love.

But I did. I didn’t have an immediate answer. 

And then I realized, saying it aloud to a stranger, that the first person I fell in love with was my ex-husband.

A sign? Was I there to illuminate an emotion, to embrace something that I didn’t realize until that moment was true?

Maybe.

The next exercise: “Write down the name of the person in your life that pushes your buttons, and why, and share it with the person next to you.”

When the girl next to me showed me the name of the person she wrote down, my mouth dropped open.

I know him.

He is someone I met in the publishing world three years when I wrote my first book, and speak with sporadically.  

And there it was, his name staring me in the face, as I ponder what to do with my first book, and contemplate my second.

Another sign? Or just a coincidence?

It dawned on me that I don’t necessarily need a class to teach me how to see the signs, or little “tells” that life offers. Writers do that on their own. It is how we are built. We open ourselves up to the world and seek to connect seemingly disconnected dots – and ask ourselves what it means (even though it can drive us crazy). I do it in my weekly posts, as I look back on my week and identify the associations between disparate events.

As I am doing here (insert transition).

Later in the week, my parents came into the city to look for some new furniture so I met them at a nearby store as they were trying out a sofa that my Mom liked. My Dad didn’t like the sofa, but we got comfortable on it anyway, and started to chat.

Without getting into the specifics, my Dad wanted to share with me his thoughts on my dating patterns and my stage in life.

My initial reaction: “Oh boy. Here comes another lecture.”

But then I opened my mind, and my heart, and really listened. I learned more about life, self-improvement, and perspectives on relationships from those ten minutes with someone who knows me best, than I could ever get from a class with a room full of strangers.

My father wasn’t giving me a lecture, or trying to get me to sign up for an expensive ten-week course. He was just giving me one thing: Love.

And that makes all the difference.