Being the mom of two kiddos who rock an extra chromosome and who are 100% nonverbal has made me a quasi expert at reading people. In order to overcome what could quickly turn to mutiny, it became necessary for me to anticipate their thoughts before they could even think them. I never have been much of a people-watcher, but because of this acquired skill, I’m much more aware of non verbal queues and human behavior. When your daily survival requires mind reading (no exaggeration), you pay much closer attention to those things that make no sound at all.
Even though I interact constantly with Hope and Charlie, I still can’t imagine what it must be like to be non verbal and to have no real independence. They don’t know any different, of course, but I still believe if I didn’t have a voice, I’d be pretty frustrated a lot of the time. But you know what? They’re not. In fact, aside from those times when the occasional diva comes out of Hopey, they’re the happiest kiddos you’ll ever meet. They can’t tell me if they have a headache or tummy ache, what they did at school, what they want to watch on tv, what color they want their bedroom painted, what song they want to hear in the car, who they wish they could visit, or even what they dreamed the night before. So why are they so happy?
There are four attributes in Hope and Charlie’s lives that never waiver. I believe these are ingredients for happiness that not only pertain to them, but to all of us:
- Sleep. Hope and Charlie don’t go down easy, but when they finally give up the ghost, they sleep like rocks. Because of their disability, they have no guilty consciouses, no agendas for the next day, and no schedule to worry about. They don’t even have to think about what they’re going to wear to school the following day, because I do all the grunt work for them. No responsibilities means they don’t have a care in the world, so once they’re snoozing, a locomotive train coming through the house wouldn’t disturb them. While it would be difficult to clear our minds in the way Hope and Charlie do, sleep is vital to our mental and physical well-being. Sleep keeps your heart healthy, reduces stress and anxiety, makes you more alert, improves your memory, helps you lose weight, improves your mood, and helps your body heal itself.
- Exercise. Hope and Charlie are constantly moving. Much to my chagrin, when they’re awake, they’re literally moving nonstop. As with most kiddos, they are balls of energy. While our busy schedules and long lists of responsibilities don’t allow us, as adults, to be in constant movement, we can (and should) make time to get our hearts pumping. Exercise produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety, making you feel happier, helps with weight loss, builds muscle and strong bones, aids sleep, and reduces risk of chronic diseases.
- Choose to be happy. Hope and Charlie don’t ever ask for anything, because they don’t have voices. As a result, they’ve learned the art of being happy with what they have. Whatever I fix them to eat, they eat. Whatever clothes I buy them, they wear. Whatever toys they have, they make the most of. The absurdity of “the haves” and “the have nots” has not even occurred to them and never will. They live in the moment and honestly make the most of life. No worries. No wants. Just making a choice to be happy. It might sound simple and trite, but we can all choose to be satisfied with what we have and to be happy.
- Be a friend. Because Hope and Charlie are unable to speak, they are much more aware of what’s going on around them, and they are especially open to people. Somehow, for instance, they are able to discern when a person needs a hug. Hopey can be running wild, but when a person who is hurting comes into her presence, she immediately dials back her energy and gives a gentle hug. Charlie can be happily playing in his own little Charlie world, but when a person enters our home, he always puts down what he’s doing in order to give warm hugs. Both of them are friends, no matter what. You can be tall, short, rich, poor, successful, or a deadbeat … they never notice. They only see people. Studies have shown being a friend to others offers a myriad of benefits, such as increased feelings of belonging, purpose, increased levels of happiness, reduced levels of stress, and improved self-worth. Giving our hearts away to others in the form of unconditional friendship is a beautiful gift.
Try to make these four habits a part of your life and see what happens. Like Hope and Charlie, you might feel happier too.
Just my thoughts,