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A Goodbye Kiss

Julia Fordham

Don't tell me to stop crying please just hold me while I do
Soothe me with your silence and just cradle me to you
Don't push me for my reasons or expect me to explain
How can I in five minutes shift a lifetime's hidden pain?

Don't tell your girlfriend about me 'cos your girlfriend
won't like girls like me
Don't tell your girlfriend about me
If you just hold me, hold me, hold me....

I went to see a psychic and I paid for good advice
He said "Forget a romance 'til you've sorted out your life.
Be your own mother and your father and your sister and brother,
And even try to crack the art of being your own lover."

Don't tell your girlfriend about me 'cos your girlfriend
won't like girls like me
Don't tell your girlfriend about me
If you just hold me, hold me, hold me....

In my darkest hour you'd be mine, these wildest dreams
are no crime, or are they? Girlfriend
Coming from a place of need, not one of abundance,
You see he told me. Girlfriend

Don't tell me to stop crying, please just hold me while I do
Soothe me with your silence and just cradle me to you
Don't push me for my reasons or expect me to explain
How come I say I'm happy to be on my own again...?

Don't tell your girlfriend about me 'cos your girlfriend
won't like girls like me
Don't tell your girlfriend about me 'cos your girlfriend
won't like girls like me
You don't have to tell your girlfriend about me
If you just hold me, hold me, hold me....


What happens when the object of your affection is already the object of someone else's affection?

Can I still say and mean it that I really love him? Is his being-already-loved-by-someone-else and his, perhaps above all, loving-someone-else, does this disqualify my love? Am I then forbidden to love him who is already called Beloved by someone else?

Initially and for the most part, we think finding a lover is like finding a smooth pebble on the beach or discovering a hidden treasure: it happens to lie there free for the taking and by all means, because of its simplicity or beauty, its preciousness no one else has noticed or its possible value in the future, I then take it and make it "mine." The ways we refer to possible lovers confirm this everyday: one is either already "taken" or still "available"--the first already possessed, the other up for grabs. To say that lovers then can be framed as commodities, property or goods is already to state the obvious. A look at the history of cultures (wives bought and exchanged, prearranged marriages, etc.) redoubles this.

I am therefore prohibited to love another's beloved by a host of valid reasons; and to become the mistress, the "other" woman, to be in an affair is "evil" because it means to wreck a marriage and to ruin a love.

Yet what if in my heart of hearts I know with certainty that he is the one I truly love?--he who is already loved and who already loves another. Do I walk away from my one true shot at happiness? Or do I fight for it as a conqueror fights for what he believes is his? Do I let the ethical and the moral rule over my heart and my dreams of love? I have not heard of a brokenhearted woman stop crying after reading Kantian ethics. How do I understand my situation then and what really happens to me who loves someone who loves another? Can I still love? And if so--what kind of love can this ever be?

Let us see.

Let us rule out the obvious quickly. I do not love him who already loves somebody else as I would love a friend, a brother, a stranger, or as any man. Altruism, that benevolent love of others as they are and without any regard for myself--to what I can advance or gain or heighten--sounds fine, indeed; yet when I am talking about him whom I truly love, I by no mistake love him and not as this or that: my beloved is always singled out and individualized by my love. No general label can therefore be applied to him: he cannot all of a sudden turn into "just a friend" in a moment or an "acquaintance" much later on. How can I in five minutes shift a lifetime's hidden pain?

For if I am in fact able to "switch off" my love for him at any time he tells me that he cannot love me back (anymore or at the first) because he is already in a "commitment"--if I can pretend to be wise and say "I understand" or "It wasn't meant to be," or miss the point and say "We'll still be friends, anyway"--then, I must admit it, I really do not or did not love him. I was just wasting my time with him (he could have been anyone) as he was wasting his time with me (I could have been anyone). And if the supposed beloved can easily be substituted for another possible love, I then do not love him particularly but only somebody (replaceable, contingent, unnecessary). But what I call my one love can never be just anyone or no one. I therefore insist to stay, as lover and not as friend, because if anything true is always worth fighting for--what more if love?

Unable to see how we can simply be friends from now on, and knowing with certainty that I shall not retreat, how do I, however, fight for my love when, again, he has already surrendered his life to an other who happens to be not me? Will I not be staging a losing battle, holding an absurd war where no one wins and everyone loses? I also have to be realistic--and above all, true to my love: for if I wreak havoc on their love, do I not ultimately end up hurting him whom I say I love? To be sure, I shall only be inverting my now forbidden love by storming their gates armed with a love in the form of wrath, anger and hate: I shall then destroy a relationship I cannot have.

Yet I still know that however much I love him and dream that he be mine, I cannot hurt him and what he loves because love, when real and directed to the beloved, can never destroy; like the Good, love can only build, strengthen--and let be. But love him by letting him be? Why on earth should I do that--when letting him be entails giving up my happiness and losing him forever to the one he loves? Can there not be any other way?

There is and can be no other way than letting him be if other ways remain within the horizon of my taking action and willing my self and my own happiness. For if I "break up" their relationship by pressing myself, or undermine it by continuing the "affair" as a love shrouded in secret and shadow, I am only finally willing not our supposed love for each other, but only my (self-) love: I only want him to love me and only me because I love my self being loved.

If I can only resort to willing my love, I then only treat the beloved as an object to be claimed, an object of my will; and his innocent beloved (for what has she done but love and be loved?) will consequently only be my opponent, my adversary, the final aim of my will to power. What I love in him, again, or what I really want from him is only his singular devotion and attention, that is, what he precisely cannot give to me because he has already given and promised it to the other. Initially and for the most part we will to have what we do not and cannot or should not have. And if I only love him because I do not experience him loving me and me alone, alas, I have said it already, I would only love being loved singularly--and I would therefore miss the wholeness of him that I love and only love what he does not have (to give me).

If to love is to love the wholeness of the other, and not just an aspect or a part that he has or invertedly lacks; if to love is to love the other as what he is right now and not for his past and never for what he can be for me; if to love is never to require anything from him as love comes not from a place of need but one of abundance--then how can I say even in my darkest hour or in my wildest dreams that I love him and at the same time ask him to give up what he loves so that he may give it to me? How can I say that I will be happy when he finally leaves her, what he dearly loves, for me? How can I still dare say that I love him if I can only love him that way?

If I nonetheless say and mean that I still love him, then I must admit with tears and trembling that there is only one thing left to do: I must leave him.

It seems to most that when we leave something, we abandon it, steal away or escape from it, evade it--making it look like that what is left has no importance or of little value to me. But on the contrary, leaving something can be a higher manifestation of how much one values it: I leave it because it has to be on its own way, has to be alone again, has to be what it truly is--has to be let be (Gelassenheit).

We usually take for ourselves things that are not ours; and that is the very definition of a thing: an object is that which stands before me. And what can stand before me can only be something that is not me and thus never mine to begin with and to the end.

The comedy and tragedy begin when we desire to possess what is not or can never be ours; that things are there for the taking is an optical illusion which can only bring about a life of melancholy--and tragic loss. The great Stoics already warned about this: they told us that it is through apatheia or a kind of detachment from things external to us that we can arrive at what they also called ataraxia or a tranquility of the mind. Or simpler: it is by learning how to leave things as they are to themselves that we can have peace. It is only in letting things be that we can finally be happy.

In the same manner, and perhaps more importantly: in leaving things to become as they are, we give unto them, much like a parting gift or a goodbye kiss, the freedom they deserve and the possibility of finding their own happiness.

for my anonymous friend


  1. Anonymous10/26/2009

    Dear friend,

    You hit the nail in the head. Exactly, exactly! No one could have said it better, I think. I would really like to know what you think: "[W]hat if in my heart of hearts I know with certainty that he is the one I truly love?--he who is already loved and who already loves another. Do I walk away from my one true shot at happiness? Or do I fight for it as a conqueror fights for what he believes is his?"

    As always, I look forward to the rest of your entry with utmost anticipation. You never fail to enlighten. :)

    I like to think that when the object of my affection is already the object of someone else's affection, I still love. I still love because I wait, and I think there is no other human action more loving than waiting. No action exhibits devotion more, I think. How to wait correctly, though, I do not know. :P

    P.S.: This is simply hilarious, I just had to laugh out loud! "I have not heard of a brokenhearted woman stop crying after reading Kantian ethics." Oh the picture you created in my head! :P

  2. Dear friend,

    You said: "How to wait correctly, though, I do not know."

    Now that is the question of questions. How do I wait without expecting and hoping? How do I love by letting him be? How do I set him--and myself--free?

    Especially without just "getting over him" eventually--much like what the persona in the song above is experiencing. She cannot deny that she still loves him; but she has to stop and let him be. But how does one do that? What do you think?

    I'm kind of stuck with the problem of letting-be. As I've been for a long, long time already.

    Thank you, my friend. As always.

  3. Anonymous10/29/2009

    "How do I love by letting him be?" What a tough question, indeed!

    I like the movie My Best Friend's Wedding. I could watch it over and over again, but always, the ending leaves me baffled. So the movie ends with Julia Roberts' character letting go of the love of her life. She lets him be with the woman he loves. Always, I wonder: so what happens next? As a lover who has let her beloved be, what is she to do now? Is she to stop loving him? Or is she simply to love as surreptitiously as possible so as not to cause harm to her beloved's marriage? I have no idea.

    Sorry for alluding to a movie. The desperate tries to search for truth even in the most "pop" of media. :P

    Thank you for replying to my comment! :)

  4. No apologies needed, my friend. I myself get ideas--or more importantly, as you did--or questions from movies (rather than books as I am a painfully slow reader). But I'm already talking about myself. . .

    But do you remember the saddest moment there? When they pass under the bridge on a boat, the sun (reality) was blocked out for a few seconds, but they fail to profess one's love as the light came back. I believe that was one of the most poignant moments I've seen in a movie. .

    And what one actually does in letting someone be, especially a beloved, is a question (perhaps my sole question in philosophy) I've been trying to "answer" for a very, very long time already. That is why I don't know where to go next in this essay.

    But there are paths that really end abruptly because they cannot be walked upon just yet.

    "Paths of thought, past and gone, yet in having been still in advent, await a time for thinkers to ply them." (Heidegger)

    Thank you, as always, for your insight.

  5. Anonymous10/30/2009

    Hello, again. :)

    I think I understand what you mean a little bit. I actually stumbled upon your blog while researching on gelassenheit. I am hoping to truly understand what it means, and how one actually does it. I tend to obsess over everything, wanting to control everything, that life has become quite tiresome. How I wish I could just let be, whatever that means. But I'm already talking about myself... :P

    And yes, I remember that scene! It is why I watch the movie. I think it is very beautiful because it is very sad. :)

    Thank you. :)

  6. I enjoyed reading the insights as well the exchange of thoughts between two intellectuals a.k.a. philosophers(?)- Yvaughn(=

  7. Anonymous10/31/2009

    Hello again, my dear friend. :)

    I have been thinking about it, and I think my predicament is this: I am having trouble seeing the difference between letting a beloved (who is already someone else's beloved) go, and self-preservation. And I believe that the fact that one thinks this way only proves, all the more, that she has no idea as to "letting-be," for surely it is an act most selfless and loving. Haha :)

    Happy All Saints' Day! :)

  8. Hello, my friend.

    What Gelassenheit means and how one actually practices or, more importantly, lives it are what I believe to be the most profound questions possible. Now that's a bold claim. But I have a suspicion that all other philosophical and real questions are grounded on it: freedom, ethics, love and ultimately God. For is it not God himself who by his love had and continues to let us be?

    (But I am wary and very insecure with God-talk. I believe we cannot start with him: either we become very superficial or very wrong. Eckhart, the original thinker of gelazenheit said we cannot say anything about the Godhead. So it's just me--so I may also be very wrong--but I believe theology is impossible for the young; but philosophy, yes, we can at least try. But I'm talking about myself again. . . .)


    What you ask is a very important question because there is a very thin line between letting be for the other or for the self. Objectively, they are the same (same act); but subjectively, very different (intention). With true letting be, it is for the other (love for the "benefit" of the other); with self-preservation for the self (a retreat, resentment, or recovery). But again, that is very difficult to conceptualize. Yet we already know it and see it in reality. So how is it possible? is the question.

    And I forgot all about the day of the saints. Happy all saints' day as well to you, dear friend.

  9. Hello, dear Yvaughn. It's been a while.

    I'm sure you know what I'm going to say already: that I above all am not an intellectual more so a philosopher. Perhaps, as Nietzsche would say, an "attempter"; for Husserl, a beginner; or at the most, a questioner.

    But as I have said, a dialogue or a conversation is always more fruitful than thinking alone. Socrates, the purest thinker of the West (Heidegger), knew this; hence the dialogues of Plato. And really, thinking with others is just more fun.

    So what are your thoughts about the recent questions?

  10. Anonymous11/01/2009

    This is very beautiful: :)

    "For is it not God himself who by his love had and continues to let us be?"

    But now, I'm starting to think. Maybe, as with authentic love, letting-be is an ability only of the gods. Something we can only aspire for and try to emulate but never fully achieve. But this only the theory of the hopeless. :p

    And I agree with Yvaughn. You are a great thinker; your stubborn humility only making you all the more great. :)

    Thank you! :)

  11. Anonymous11/04/2009

    Thank you for this. Thank you, thank you. :)

    I do not know what to say. This breaks the heart. But I guess it is true, that there is no greater love than to let be. You put everything so clearly and beautifully. It makes perfect sense.

    I just cannot help but remember the movie Serendipity and how wonderful it would be if real life were as romantic as that. When the hero fights for his love against all odds. When doing that gets him the girl in the end. When them being together is just how things should be. Ah movies.

    This breaks the heart. But true, it is time to let go. Thank you for the rude awakening. You are helping me more than you know. I hope to be able to help you someday, as well, in my own little way. Just let me know. :)

  12. My dear friend,

    A small disclaimer, perhaps.

    That what is written or thought out or conceptualized is clear and seems true can also only be an illusion. While it may be true that we think in order to understand reality, what we think we understand will still always fall short of it: reality will always be richer, more profound, more meaningful and true.

    What I'm trying to say is that what is written above (and everything in this clearing room) does not intend to be followed because it does not pretend to be true; it may make sense sometimes, at best, or be "helpful" once in a blue moon. But who ever did love out of reason or philosophy never did love.

    Wait if you wish, love if you still can and go where your heart shall be happy.

    And yes, I saw "Serendipity" and had even written a short piece on that. Perhaps that could be an example of "Gelassenheit": do everything you can, set the sail, and let the winds take you where you should be.

    We all help each other without one and the other knowing. So thank you as always, my dear friend, for sparking the imagination and quickening the lighting of the clearing. Good luck to you.

  13. Anonymous11/10/2009

    Oh friend, for sure I understand that you have never claimed that what you write is true. Truth be told, I have never known anyone more open and more passionate in his search for knowledge. For this, I deeply admire you. :)

    Thank you and I look forward to your future entries. Have a great week! :)


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