If you were asked to write about health and happiness, what parts of your life would you think about? What parts of yourself would you focus on?
How would you rate your own health and happiness?
The most sacred part of my wellness is my mind and how much I am able to challenge it.
I was indoctrinated into a cult-like religion from birth. I didn’t have access or control of my mind and its beliefs. The religion chose my life for me–where I went, who my friends could be, what I could or couldn’t do with my body.
At forty-six, when a young niece shared with Family Protective Services that “Grandpa touched me,” I became aware that I had been sexually abused as a child by my father.
I also became aware that my body and its emotions and feelings always lived in the truth. My body shook and my steadfastness to stand by my niece and believe her was unshakeable.
My body and its unexpressed emotions, and the way it never lied showed me the fragility of my mind and its false nature.
It became my priority to set my mind right. To bring it back to my body and reality. To use my mind and not let my mind use me.
The wellness of my mind and how it sits with reality is critical in my choice-making and ultimately how I live my life.
Without a mind set in reality, you cannot see life or who you are clearly.
I had lived with so many falsehoods and ill-conceived ideas both of myself and the outside world.
If on your stage of life, you don’t see the backdrop and the other characters in their true form, how will you know how to interact with them?
At forty-six years of age, I woke up in my life and realized I had seen the stage incorrectly and I was playing a part in a play in which I no longer wanted to participate.
The character of who I was fit into the play, but it had no place in reality and with the truth inside of me.
It is ironic to see the darkest parts of your life, to feel the vast emptiness of losing so much and at the same time feel empowered, strong, brave, and deep levels of love.
As I attempted to right my world and to re-adjust the stage, to find the character of me, I brought in new levels of happiness, joy, love, and peace.
I was embracing my history of abuse and acting in the present with new information, and making new choices that honored me.
This did not serve the requirements of my family of origin. It did not serve the silence abuse needed in order to thrive.
I became a new me with a voice and a choice.
The new me brought in new hurdles in many relationships. The open and free relationships welcomed the new me, and we experienced new levels of deep love and connection.
The relationships that were conditional died.
I see this time in my life as one of my greatest achievements—leaving the cycle of abuse. I changed how I interacted with abuse and that changed the trajectory of my lineage.
My breaking the silence and responding differently than my mother is the most difficult thing I have done, yet became one of the most healthy periods of my life.
I broke out of the family dynamic that supported abuse for generations.
The happiness that has slowly seeped back into my life is pure.
It has no hidden agenda or the false realities such an agenda was based on. Nor is it dependent upon the behaviors of others. My happiness is based on me—how I see myself and my worth, and how I love myself.
The levels of happiness I have found as I walked through decades of denial and recovered my innocence is life-changing.
What I know to be sure is that health and happiness live with truth. They grow and thrive in its presence.
My ability to be myself and to know myself and to love myself all stemmed from my ability to live with dark truths.
As Gloria Steinem once said, “The truth will set you free; but first it will piss you off.”
Even my anger and rage and overwhelming sorrow—after expressed—left me in peace. I made sense. The world made sense. The truth is so much easier to live with than trying to prop up a false relationship with both myself and others.
I loved me, the broken, twisted me that stumbled out of denial. I loved her courage and the bravery she showed to admit she didn’t know who she was.
I woke up at forty-six a stranger to myself.
The new me was a stranger in my relationships.
So began the second half of my life living life as Me.
Discovering and choosing what made me happy, what felt like love, where peace lived, and what I felt was true for me became my way of life.
I love this healthier me, one that is filled with so much happiness and knows deep love, even if she is completely estranged from her family.
I want others to know it is possible to live a good life after abuse.
To be happy.
To know joy.
To feel deep love of self.
What I know to be true is that we love as deeply as we love ourselves.
Abuse isn’t who you are. It is what was done to you. A healthy response is one that honors and respects you.
At sixty-three, I feel very grateful for my mental wellness and the sheer amounts of happiness I experience. Perhaps it’s because of all the years I lived codependent on others to make me happy that I am now so appreciative of my ability to find happiness alone.
Just being at peace with who I am and the choices I have made, and who that makes me as a person, brings me great happiness.
There are moments in our lives when we have the opportunity to become more ourselves or to find a deeper level of awareness. These are moments that will define your life either negatively or positively, with more growing or shrinking.
To me, health has always had an evolutionary spin to it—a feeling of growing and changing. Life is not static.
I feel happiness comes when you are free in the spaces you live and the relationships you have. The freer you become, the more happiness you gain.
Married thirty-five years, mother of four, grandmother of three, retired mail lady, and fiber artist Beth Jukuri‘s art has become her therapy, her therapy her art. She co-founded WIND (Women in New Directions) to explore oneself and grow more empowered through nature and art.
Excerpted from the Fall 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.