Can You Hear Me Now?

My parents are still trying to reach out to me. 😑 There was some church gathering in Calgary last weekend, and they tried to contact me through a third party they ran into when they were in town. They made a big show of it in public. Yes, that's pretty much what I'm doing, but I did it as a last resort after years of being ground into dust. Apparently they want me to stop writing about them.

Carrie is finally starting to open up and process the hurt she's experienced over the past 12 years. Like me, one of the few ways she knew how to cope with the pain was to shut down and suppress her true feelings. Even though she didn't grow up with the kind of treatment I got from my parents, she still suffered under them for a long time. Most recently, we were chatting sometime last year about Carrie's studies. My dad asked when she would be done and when she could start writing prescriptions. Carrie corrected him and said she would register to become a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. My dad then said "You can't write prescriptions? So what, you" Yes, Dad, you're a pastor, so you of all people should know the value of "just talking." Nobody is good enough for him if they're not an MD. It's interesting (just) talking things out with Carrie now because we're going through the same things.

Part of the futility in keeping contact with my family is that they don't listen to me. In my most recent session with my counsellor, she reflected a lot that I had an unmet need to be heard by my family of origin. I shared my post, My Dad, My Hero, with my family a week before publishing, giving them time to respond and to brace for the impact. I was honestly on the fence about publishing that post because I was worried I was keeping it too real. I had spent a lot of time writing it, mostly for my own benefit and with no intent of really sharing it online. The first draft was about as raw as it gets, and Carrie advised me to cut out some parts. I emailed it to my dad, and he didn't say anything to me, although I was told he was very angry; probably insulted. I shared it with my brothers, but they didn't really give me much either. I got a few lines from them, which is less than I've gotten from other readers. Sure, they've always known about my strained relationship with my dad, so maybe it wasn't such a shocker. Alas, they're upset now that I can't be part of their weddings. Eventually they'll be upset that they won't get to know my kids, and they'll be even more upset when I don't show up to some funerals. They underestimated me. I don't think they realized just how much they would miss out on by not making things right with me. So many incomplete family photos. Now nobody will think they're One Big Happy Family. To Matt's credit, he did sit down and chat with me for a few hours about my post the day before I published. To take back some of that credit, he wanted me to just hide my problems for the sake of his wedding. Maybe I could have or should have, but that's indicative of the whole situation. "Jon, keep putting every single one of your needs aside so that everyone else can be happy." Mm, ya, no. No. Not anymore. If they think it's so easy to put everything behind, then they can do it.

A thread my family of origin loves to pull is to justify their actions because "it's the last time" they'll have a chance to do it. Let's have another reunion, another trip, another photo because IT'S THE LAST TIME. They're makin' memories. In that sense, they may have wanted one last chance to apologize, one last chance to work things out instead of going public. Those of us who have gone through devastating breakups will know just how useless that is. They can look back on all those One Last Time photos. It's also representative of how far they are from living in reality, from living in the moment. They don't want to actually enjoy life, they just want to look back and think about enjoying life. Which of these people in the photo is actually enjoying the spectacle they're supposedly watching?

Old woman living in the moment

I've recently been able to answer whether things would change if I gave it one last chance, and no, it didn't help. In my family, one last time is never the last time. It's a manipulation tactic to guilt the other person into doing what you want. Looking backwards, I never held my family accountable for how many times they used the "last time" excuse. One last cigarette. My parents had multiple missed opportunities to reconcile with me. I gave them "one last chance" in December to hear me out and make things right, but it only resulted in my mom calling me, gaslighting me while trying to absolve my dad of all responsibility. I needed to understand his situation, I needed to be stronger, I needed to listen. "One last time" is a powerful trap, and it's sucked me and Carrie into too many costly trips to Edmonton and LA.

One of the weapons my family wields is their high public image. They're so popular and everyone likes them, so they must be perfect. That was one of the chains that kept me stuck to them. That's why I had to ruin the public's opinion of them. They're hurting a lot now, and I'm glad they are. That wasn't and isn't my main goal in writing, but it's nice to see that I can regain some power and control in this relationship. I'm primarily processing publicly so I can heal and offer some insight for others who are hurting. Yes, my family's image is getting hurt in the process, but it's necessary collateral damage for my own healing. Did they ruin their image by not acting right or did I by pointing it out?

Bob Loblaw: Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?

My manager taught me that once you're in middle management in a corporation, on top of doing your job, you don't do anyone any favours. Instead, you're offering others an opportunity for reciprocity, to create a mutually beneficial relationship. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. It's very Asian for parents to insist on the relationship with their kids happen entirely on their terms because of the power dynamics of the culture. Parents are above their kids, and some make damn sure they know it too. My parents didn't want to play nice. They didn't want mutual benefit or anything close to it.

All of these posts are hearsay. There's no proof that any of this actually happened. If they really wanted to even the odds, they could throw up just as much smoke as I have and complain about me publicly. They could point out all my flaws and mistakes, and then my blog would just seem like a large cry for attention. First off, I don't really care if they do. I'm doing this for my healing, not to gain allies or make enemies, though those are some consequences of my actions. Second, they would have to lie to say that things weren't one-sided. Either they would say that our relationship was 50/50 and that I'm being a crybaby, or they could say I was the one taking advantage of them. In both cases, they would then point to my inability to accept reality because I'm twisted and I don't see things clearly. Well, that would just be another example of them gaslighting me. In fact, that's the world I lived in since, well, I can't even remember how long. I've always thought I was the crazy one, that I was too sensitive, that they were actually a great family. I never had a leg to stand on. I was always wrong. It just so happens that they magically had no responsibility to take, no fault to fix. It just so happens that it's 100% on me to make changes. If they think our relationship was 50/50 and that I'm crazy for making up all these problems, then I'll stop hurting them by not talking to them anymore.

When I still maintained contact with them, I never felt heard, but now that we've ceased contact, I wonder if they can hear me now.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le