Squawking birds and a troubled teenager

May 16, 2018

"What can I do when my problems get to be too much?” a teenager asked me recently after a speaking engagement. He explained that he was having difficulty coping with family problems, being picked on in high school for being gay, and on top of all that, his boyfriend just broke up with him.

As he was describing his various troubles, I couldn’t help but picture a flock of squawking birds. (Oh, how they bicker and fight!) Despite the feathery scene in my head, this young man’s troubles were very normal. Everyone has difficult times to some degree—some worse than others. His question included three major challenges.

First, family difficulties. I wonder how many people honestly feel understood and appreciated by their families. Do you? I don’t. I am the only member of my family who has acknowledged a gay sexual orientation—and I came out to my family 25 years ago. To this day, they don’t talk about it or ask questions to try to understand me. So as a coping skill, I work on understanding myself and appreciating my uniqueness and virtues. As a result of validating myself, I don’t need so much acceptance from others.

It is only fair to look at the flip side and ask ourselves what we can do to further understand and appreciate the other members of our family. After all, validation is a two-way street. If we want acceptance and love (as everyone does), then we need to give acceptance and love. After we have silently validated our self-worth, we can more effectively focus on understanding the points of view of family members. They, too, need to be heard. (Again, I’m picturing squawking birds. I’m sorry; I can’t help it.)

Second, bullying. The response to this depends on the situation and whether or not the offender presents a physical threat. If you sense danger or fear for your safety, then you need to get to a safe environment.

On the other hand, if you’re being called names by an anonymous bully on the Internet, ignore those rude comments. They don’t know you, so don’t take it personally. Like squawking birds, they are just trolls with too much time on their hands because they can’t find a date.

Third, a break-up. It certainly sucks to get our hearts are broken. When these hurtful experiences come our way, we can try to remember that we are interconnected spiritually with everyone on the planet. There is no absolute separation—not really. Yes, our romantic partner may dump us and rejection hurts; however, we all are still connected to all of humanity. Even if we do not see our partner again, they are still part of the human race and we are never completely disconnected from them.

Something to meditate on today: Like those squawking birds, life challenges can feel out of control. However, there are ways to deal with difficult times. Face reality and don’t try to deny what is happening. You may feel uncomfortable with your emotions, but they are still real and need to be acknowledged. You might find it comforting to talk to a friend, relative, counselor, or teacher. When people try to run away from their feelings, they sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol to escape negative emotions.

Instead of evasion, allow yourself to experience your emotions honestly, and then let those feelings go—and they will go because emotions constantly change. You feel a certain way for a while, and then in the next day or so, you feel differently. That is the way emotions work. When you are feeling sad, you may think it is going to last forever, just like when you’re in love and think it will never end, but emotions are transient. Knowing your feelings will fade can help you get through difficult times.

If you have followed any of the suggestions in the Sir Rennity feature, I would love to hear your stories. Please email me at zenithcityweekly@yahoo.com. I will keep your letters private unless you request that they be published.

The Sir Rennity feature is intended to provide gentle guidance for your life. These articles hold no intrinsic meaning. You give meaning to them based on the value you place on them, so the words here are meaningless unless you put them into practice.

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