A Past Distilled
By Guest Blogger Cynthia Kazandjian
We are born, so to speak, provisionally, it doesn’t matter where. It is only gradually that we compose within ourselves our true place of origin so that we may be born there retrospectively and each day more definitely.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
You could argue that I came by my family unit for all the wrong reasons and you’d be right. I used to be good at doing things for the wrong reasons. Once upon a time my Baroque inner life turned my outer life into a complicated opera, a never-ending one.
I may have been the protagonist of my inner world, but I certainly was not welcome as the protagonist of other people’s lives. I had to figure this out the hard way.
My deep-rooted insecurities brought out a deplorable level of egocentricity and self-obsession. The good news is I have worked through my dreadful ways. I am a much healthier version of me.
I was a smiling child with an upbeat demeanor, so you wouldn’t have picked up on the behind-the-scenes madness of my childhood. But I was always filled with anxiety and fear because my childhood was unwholesome. Not all of it, but most of it.
Ideally, childhood should be the honeymoon stage of life. Mine involved a steady flow of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse.
I never knew where or with whom I would be living from year to year. All too often, I relied on the kindness of strangers and distant relatives.
I endured other types of abuse that I won’t itemize because my goal is not to be thorough. But my psychic scars are from here to Mars and back.
Luckily, Kodak moments and glorious times of joy sneaked their way into my formative years. So did a tremendous amount of love. It is amazing how good memories are like the flames of small matches that light up pitch-black rooms.
I draw on the memories I cherish and mentally grow them into giants that overpower a terrifying army of painful ones. I have to or else I become consumed with anger and sadness.
As soon as I became a teenager I indulged in a myriad of unhealthy coping mechanisms. This went on for too many decades. Although I came by most of my toxic behaviors honestly, I regret treating myself poorly.
My cells became addicted to chaos. I was angry and hell-bent on keeping myself distracted from facing my inner wounds. The wounds grew as I muted the anger and pain with drugs.
I was adept at dodging conventional integration within society. I dropped out of university and never set my sights on a career. Nonetheless, I managed to support myself as a ticket broker.
Basically, I’d fallen between the cracks of society for lacking conventional ambitions or aspirations. I was incapable of delivering what was expected of me. Well meaning individuals saw the eschewing of my potentials as an easily cured infection. I knew it was more complicated.
Even by the time I reached my late twenties, I had no desire to get married or have a child. Basically, I lacked the yearning to establish a family of my own. This was not the case for most of my peers. But it felt normal for me to be this way. After all, the basic comforts of family life were not a part of my experiential repertoire.
At 27, I became pregnant by accident with a lovely man we’ll call Mr. X. Tragically, I lost the baby during the home stretch of the pregnancy. I wanted to replace this horrible loss with a vengeance but losses like this can never be replaced.
My pregnancy with Mr. X resulted in the baby having an extra chromosome. This revealed horrible abnormalities and the rest is too painful to describe. But I came to know a type of loss that is a breed of its own.
Mr. X was kind enough to try and impregnate me a couple of times afterwards. It didn’t take. I remember being maniacally emotional around him the last two times we ever saw each other. My hand was crazy-glued to a glass of vodka and the promise of endless refills. Or was it the promise of pregnancy?
I came around from this gruesome and heartbreaking experience with the support and love of family and friends. An Emily Dickinson poem, a Hole song, and Prozac helped too. Then I settled back into a life devoted to escaping my past.
I earned a decent living. I met interesting people. I dated. I partied. At one point, I was the proud mama of seven cats. In many ways my life was fun. A few good men came along that were interested in a committed relationship but I didn’t feel worthy and sabotaged everything.
Although I exposed myself to an encyclopedic range of characters, I always retreated back into the shadows to meet my favorite companion, solitude. But I did begin to consider other men to have a baby with. Mr. X. lived too far and had an intense work schedule that didn’t accommodate my cycle. So I propositioned other men to be my Baby Daddy. This madness went on for at least two years.
Shockingly, most of the men I propositioned said yes. Silly fools. But I never followed through, so I couldn’t have wanted it that badly. I think I was scared to be pregnant again. In many ways, Mr. X was my ideal man and difficult to replace. I also knew that the purity of how our pregnancy transpired was impossible to recreate.
On the edge of turning 30, I was overcome with a sense of loneliness that I had never experienced before. This signaled the onset of an existential crisis of vast proportions. Around this time I began dating someone from my past (we’ll call him Mr. C) and the relationship became committed and magical.
Mr. C had standards that both impressed and scared me. My chaotic ways overwhelmed him and he broke up with me twice. The second and final time I plunged into reckless mode.
My rebound from Mr. C was very dramatic. So much so, that I became pregnant by a man I did not know well. My plan was not to get pregnant with someone who did not want to have a baby with me. But it happened. I knew I had to keep the baby. Thank God I did.
The pregnancy triggered memories of my tragic loss three years prior. I was swept under an avalanche of dark memories. My inner narrative was disturbingly naïve. I told myself that this was my chance to replace my dead baby. I told myself that if I had this baby, my existential crisis would be resolved.
Critical losses can induce powerful delusions. And you never know when and how these delusions will be triggered.
It is too painful to delve into the dirty details of what transpired after I gave birth. I naively assumed many things which turned out not to be the case. What should have been the most joyful time of my life was instead very traumatic. My pregnancy was a sad one and September 11th, 2001 made it worse.
Although my mistake was sleeping with the biological father of my child, my child was no mistake. My son’s biological father is not a part of his life but provides for all his financial needs. I’ve looked no gift horses in the mouth and do not take this for granted, nor does my son. We choose to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. I respect this man’s choice because I have to, and the beat goes on.
My incredible son came to me through this craziness, so I try not to beat myself up for being reckless almost 15 years ago. But I feel tremendous guilt for bringing him into a situation that obliges him to face a complicated narrative.
Recently, my son asked that I no longer apologize to him for the situation surrounding his birth. He reminded me that he has a dad (my husband) that loves him and that he is fine. He told me that it is ludicrous to keep blaming myself at this point and made me promise to not apologize again. I knew he wanted to release me from undue guilt and I cried for weeks.
Every so often my son thanks me for being a devoted and attentive mom in spite of our rough beginnings. I know he craves as much stability as possible and I do my best to oblige, even when I am challenged by my own personal demons.
Family life doesn’t always come naturally to me. What does come naturally to me is a profound love for my son. He is worth all the effort it takes to be the best mother possible. I have learned that this involves self-forgiveness.
Our pasts always offer us the opportunity to, not only forgive others, but forgive ourselves. This makes each new day more useful when looking to the future.
Leonard Cohen’s words come to mind.
You’ll never untangle the circumstances that brought you to this moment. But you are a warrior. Arise now, like a warrior. You are caught up in circumstances that God determined for you. Stand up and do your duty.”
Cynthia Kazandjian, mother of two (her favorite lifetime projects) has decided to get off the fence and take her elaborate writing hobby to the next level and share her voice beyond the pages of her countless journals. Family life has been her vantage point for a little over a decade.
Feel free to leave Cynthia a message. She will be reading.
Have a beautiful Labor day weekend,