The Happiness Factor

Maybe because it’s been a Greta Thunberg-fuelled week – but a lot of recent worry has gone down on Quest. Worry for the planet’s future, worry for Greta, worry for our low-lying, seaside home in Borth, based on the IPCC’s sea-level-rising report this week. And here’s the other thing that’s been going down on Quest a bit this week – Asperger’s. Yep. That was Greta-fuelled too.

It’s not exactly politically correct. Still, I have to wonder – are we the only family to accuse the other family members living in the same space of Asperger’s-style behaviour? I’m sorry if this is offensive to anyone. It’s just something we do… usually in private.

It started a couple of years ago. Jack and Lu and Delph, when she was in the mood, accused me of having Asperger’s Syndrome. In response, I admit I can get kind of rigid. I like to call it stubborn. Well, I would – it sounds better. What happens is that I get fixed on things – particularly finishing and holding on to them.

I wouldn’t say I have a lack of emotional awareness when it comes to others though. I’m pretty good (I think) of understanding how other people feel. Sometimes I get too sensitive about it, but I’ve always been ok reading and reacting to other people’s moods.

Let’s go back a bit. What is Asperger’s Syndrome? If you look at the overview of the syndrome, ‘Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s, is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.’

Greta Thunberg has called her diagnosis ‘a superpower.’ For her, definitely so. Look at what she’s achieved by staying so single-minded about the threats of climate-change. Maybe there was some luck involved, or even strategic-planning by her team – but I agree something has to be done climate-wise. And the fact is, people don’t care about science unless it gets personal. By personal, I mean emotional. A 16-year-old refusing to go to school and suffering for the sake of all of us: that’s emotional. Now people are feeling the emotions of science. It’s amazing really. I just hope Greta Thunberg can come out of this experience as unscathed as possible.

I never had that Asperger’s diagnosis by the way. Eventually my family forgot about it and stopped teasing me. But something did change. We’re all on the lookout for symptoms in each other. We might even get a bit over-enthusiastic. For example, we’ve identified that Lulu hates change, and hates being touched by most people. Delph – well she’s got cerebral palsy and a significant form of dyslexia, so we tend to leave her alone. Lucky kid.

Here’s a new one: I’ve been noticing how Jack says he wants Lulu to be happy, but when she is, he doesn’t always encourage it. He can respond by reminding her of when she wasn’t happy. Maybe it was a few minutes before, since she is impressively mood-swinging at the moment. This often counteracts Lulu’s happy mood. Bye-bye happy mood. Then, because Lulu gets upset with him using her sword-sharp tongue, Jack accuses her of being rude. If I jump in to mediate, he tells me to stay out of it. If I don’t mediate though, it rarely ends well.  

To be honest, these are really frustrating moments. I keep thinking; it’s almost like he’s sabotaging Lulu’s happiness. Or he can’t see it for what it is. Yesterday for example, Lulu was laughing in the supermarket and Jack kept telling her to shush. Eventually, she got annoyed with him for it. And I agreed with her. It wasn’t fair. She wasn’t hurting anyone, just laughing.

What to do? I guess write. It’s been really, really useful. It’s helped me see, for example, that since Lulu’s gone to mainstream school, she’s bloomed and become cheerier overall. Why on Earth would we want that cheeriness to end? Now, she’s being understandably up and down with leaving home. I’ll take whatever happiness I can get.

To sail and to be together in a small space, it seems our voyage on Quest depends on happiness. Un-sabotaged and recognised and rewarded. This is because, as well as nature, happiness also blossoms and grows. Cross your fingers please. And water it well. Happiness is a super power too.

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