I sort of believe in karma.
We can talk about that sometime, but for now it’s enough to know that there’s a space for it in my worldview. It’s just that normally when people talk about karma (at least, this is my impression), they’re talking about something like following the Golden Rule because if you don’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you (or at least avoid doing to others what you would not like them to do to you), the bad thing you did (or the good thing you didn’t do) is going to come back and put you in the receiving end of the situation.
I don’t think it usually means that when someone does something to you that you don’t like, you’ll eventually end up in a situation to do the same thing to someone else. Except, evidently you might. Or I might.
I think I mentioned that in some of my earlier incarnations as an on-line dater, I took my interactions with men from these websites very seriously. Unfortunately, most of the interactions were long-distance, and I would find myself unreasonably devastated when whatever guy I was talking to ended up meeting and “becoming exclusive with” some other woman who he could actually visit in person multiple times a month, say. Or a week.
Little by little I began to get more realistic about these scenarios, but it didn’t keep me from being startled and heartily disappointed by one more long-distance guy about five years ago. We had actually met a couple of years before that and nothing really “sparked,” but we stayed in touch on and off, and then all of a sudden we found ourselves emailing regularly, and then he started IM-ing me for extended periods almost every day on Skype. He had told me, at the beginning of our interactions, that there was a girl he had been out with a few times recently who lived, not only in his city, but in his, er, country–but he didn’t sound all that sure about her, and he kept talking to me, so I guess I sort of got my hopes up. Then he took himself off the dating website where we’d met in the first place, and I got my hopes up more, until they turned into suspicions. I don’t even remember how I found out things had gotten more serious with his local girl–I probably asked him.
Anyway, the upshot was that although I didn’t spend weeks moping and crying about it, I did find my feelings hurt and felt as if I had been invited into false expectations. The guy in question tried to assuage my feelings by appealing to my reason, but anyone who knows me very well at all knows that that’s usually an exercise in futility when it comes to these relationship things. When I accused him of leading me on, he told me that “Americans must take flirting more seriously than we do.” I thought that was a cop-out. But I’m over it now, and we’re still occasional cyber-friends, and he’s now married with at least one little daughter, and I’m genuinely delighted for him. Because of course, reasonably speaking, he was right.
Then this week I had a conversation with another, more recent but still fairly long-standing, cyber-friend. That conversation brought me right back to the above story, except that my role was reversed. New Cyberfriend and I have never met in person, and we didn’t meet on a dating website, but we have done our fair share of IM-flirting. Within the last month or so, however, we discussed how it was probably unrealistic and not very fair, given the currently divergent trajectories of our lives, to pursue or even pretend to pursue romance, putting each other on hold like that. He had been getting to know someone, and I was getting to know someone, and we agreed we were going just to be friends. Sure, he’d IM me on a fairly regular basis, but evidently this side of 35 I don’t interpret such gestures the way I used to, so I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t even think we were flirting anymore. It was just nice to chat to a friend.
On Monday I told him I thought the Local Guy I’ve been getting to know and I were going to soon be taking our friendship to a more exclusive level, and I was shocked at the evident reciprocal shock that news elicited in New Cyberfriend. He was understanding–as much as possible, I guess–but I got the sudden and surprised impression that he had been imbuing our conversations with a lot more meaning than I had. I thought we were just friends. He had said we were just friends. But maybe he didn’t feel that way.
I suddenly knew how Old Cyberfriend must have felt: startled, maybe a tiny bit guilty, but also baffled and frustrated. It’s not like we hadn’t talked about Local Guy before. New Cyberfriend knew he existed. Thing was, I also already knew how New Cyberfriend was feeling, at least kind of.
And it brought me back to the question of dating Christ-like-ly, and the realisation that I still don’t know that much about it. I think it’s better to take a little time to get to know people before fixating on them (at which point, hopefully exclusivity won’t get a chance even to become a fixation), but there are always dynamics, some obvious and some less so. And sometimes someone’s going to get hurt. I hate being the one getting hurt. But I’m starting to realise I hate doing the hurting even more. All the same, sometimes it’s unavoidable. And that’s when I trust that grace overrides karma, or at least will get me through it.