Learning to Listen
After ignoring a devastating flash of insight about her boyfriend, Suzanne Guillette committed to following her intuition—wherever it took her.
It was late summer 2009: I was walking on a Long Island beach with my boyfriend, Mark*, and some friends. When I saw Mark sit down next to his friend Dana on a craggy rock, a sudden electric shock traveled straight up the center of my body. It was so visceral it made me stumble. And then my mind flashed to a recent dream I'd had of Dana sitting on Mark's lap as he rode a bike.
"Don't be crazy", I chided myself, turning to watch the surfers in the water. "They're just friends."
But one night nine months later, after we'd turned off our bedroom lights, Mark confessed that he and Dana had had an affair. I was furious at him for lying to me, but as I remembered the flash I'd had at the beach, I realized I was a liar, too. I'd been deceiving myself all along.
Two weeks later, I moved out—and promised myself to pay much closer attention to my gut, even if all it was saying was "Turn left!" And with this intention, everything has changed.
One afternoon I overheard a woman saying she wasn't sure when her friend's birthday was, and to my surprise, an answer landed in my head: today. I don't know if I was right or wrong, but I felt a quiet humming in my chest, and thought, "This must be what it feels like to trust your gut."
During an e-mail exchange with Mark in the weeks after we broke up, I had a nagging suspicion that he wasn't keeping the exchange confidential. "Can you assure me you won't show these e-mails to anyone?" I wrote. Although he said, "Yes," I later scrolled down the chain and saw a note he'd forgotten to delete—from his friend Sonya.
Each time I had a flash, I realized that listening to it—or not—had consequences. Once, I got into a cab and suddenly remembered the dream I'd had the night before, about a taxi accident. As I tried to convince myself I was safe, the real-life cab rear-ended the car in front of us.
And while hunting for a new place to live, I had an overwhelmingly positive feeling about a Craigslist message from a woman named Grazia Vita ("Thank You Life") who was subletting a room in her apartment. It turned out that her building was one I'd happened to pass—and fall in love with—just the night before.
My adventures in intuition even led me back to romance. After I decided on a whim to stop at a café I rarely went to, an attractive man struck up a conversation. Three hours later, he asked, "Can I take you to dinner?"
My brain wanted to say, "You hardly know him." "This could be a disaster." But by then, I knew better than to ignore the pleasant buzzing in my body. So I said yes. And I haven't had a single regret.
From the August 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.