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Being at Cause (Lesson 39)

You’re about to read Chapter 39. Want to start this story from the beginning? Go here.

I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you, I am willing to see this differently.

I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you, I am willing to see this differently. 

Last night I blinked back tears as I strode down the sidewalks of the chilly Upper West Side, and I muttered this impromptu mantra over and over, so fast I could not think of anything else.

I was feeling hurt because of Paul, but I understand what it means to be at cause, and so I was taking responsibility for my pain.

To be at cause is to claim ownership of all that I experience

The gist of Lesson 39 is that blaming is no bueno.

“We like to think of good, solid relationships as being a 50-50 proposition,” Katherine says. “However, the best relationships are really 100-100.”

In other words, we are totally responsible for ourselves, and thus not at the effect (or mercy) of what the other person does or not do.

“The extent to which I am in full ownership of all that is occurring in my relationships is the extent that I am empowered to make improvements in those relationships,” Katherine proclaims.

This means choosing to resist “victim thoughts” that put the onus on or fault with another person.

“Although at times, standing in being 100 percent for whatever is happening in any given moment may not seem ‘fair,’” says Katherine,  “doing so is a way of living your life that assumes that you are powerful, persuasive, and creative beyond measure.”

It’s a tall order, to be honest. And indeed, taking full responsibility does not always feel fair.

But the promise of feeling powerful, persuasive, and creative sure is an appealing one.

Responsibility is not wrong, and uncertainty is okay

Katherine posits that many of us have a hard time claiming responsibility for being the cause of what is happening to us because we conflate “being responsible” with “being wrong.”

And surely, if we were shamed as children when we admitted fault (aka took responsibility), it makes sense that as adults we would be reluctant to claim ownership of anything unpleasant.

Yet “all relationships are handicapped to the extent that we are unable to be responsible for what we, ourselves, are creating in the relationship.”

(That dictum applies to friends and family just as much as it does to intimate partners, by the way.)

So instead of creating a false binary where someone else is wrong so that we don’t have to be, Katherine brings in an idea from Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart:

“Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we’re not entirely certain about who’s right and who’s wrong?”

Finally, I feel like someone has put into words my aim of the last three months (and counting):

I am just trying to keep my mind and heart open enough to survive in a space of uncertainty, where neither Paul nor I need to be at fault, and hopefully both of us can be at peace.

Expanded relationship, here I come

“There is a great sense of relief in being able to freely admit our faults without the fear of being judged,” says Katherine. “Just as there is a great sense of relief in being able to grant another person the right to also be flawed without using their flaws against them.”

Such a dynamic of open exploration and accountability is the hallmark of an expanded relationship, an atmosphere where “hearts blossom and love thrives.”

When Paul and I were together, I truly felt we were able to communicate honestly about anything.

Since we’ve been apart, the disconnect has caused confusion, and it’d be easy to forget that what we had was real.

But I won’t forget. And I look forward to co-creating something even better.

I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you, I am willing to see this differently. 

I don’t know if I made the right choice when I decided to reach out to Paul on his birthday and another significant occasion about a month ago.

His responses were kind enough (even if one of them hurt to receive), but I wonder if I should have just stayed silent.

Yesterday, Paul stayed silent.

I wasn’t totally expecting him to reach out, but it was a milestone day for me and he knew it, and I guess deep down I did sort of think he would acknowledge the occasion.

But by the time evening set in I realized he wouldn’t, and I did not want to feel sad.

However, I did feel sad, and I know better than to stuff my emotions. So instead I transformed them.

Paul had not done anything bad. I have no idea if he was right or wrong to withhold contact, just as I don’t know if I was right or wrong to initiate it.

As apart as we obviously are, we’re in this space of uncertainty together.

So I put together two of my favorite phrases—a piece of the forgiveness practice of h’oponopono, and the atonement statement from A Course In Miracles.

I forgive you = I forgive myself, and I forgive Paul, and I forgive anyone else who needs it—the object/person is not nearly as important as the intent.

I am willing to see this differently = I am not attached to my perspective; I am open to seeing where I am wrong.

It took a few minutes, but my attitude absolutely started to shift. And by the time I reached my destination, the sadness had completely lifted.

Lesson 39 in practice

The journaling prompts for Lesson 39 jived perfectly with my experience earlier in the evening, so it was actually sort of nice to have a verbal reprise.

“Who am I making wrong and for what?” “What can I be responsible for in this situation?” “What can I accept about this situation that would help me give up blaming and shaming?” “What can I appreciate about this situation?”

Two of the top takeaways:

-I know better, but my feelings are really hurt that Paul didn’t reach out today. It feels like he doesn’t care about me at all, so I want to judge his (in)action, but I’m also very aware that I don’t understand the full context and I can also see how I created this situation—I haven’t exactly been welcoming.

-Neither of us is wrong; we love each other and are doing our best and in the context of the situation we have co-created, there are not currently clear protocols.

There were some other prompts too, questions about the strengths and weaknesses we bring to relationships, which as this point just felt like helpful review.

Yeah, yeah, I’m super loyal and attentive and communicative and fun, and I also tend to pull for security/assurance, defer to my partner’s needs, and be too willing to sacrifice.

(Should I post all that in a dating profile somewhere?)

But even though not all the revelations from this lesson were new, I am grateful to see evidence of growth.

And although it does feel scary sometimes, taking full responsibility for every aspect of my experience is also pretty damn awesome.

Love > fear,


Want to know what happens next? Proceed to Chapter 40.

Missed what happened before? Go back to Chapter 38, or start from the beginning.

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Love > fear