By Celeste Gurevich.
Let me share with you what it feels like to be loved back to yourself. To your True Self.
To live each day with a partner who loves and values every piece of you–even the ugly ones. Not in spite of them, but through them. One who has the integrity to point out when my inner child, still playing with fire, tries to self-sabotage the woman I strive to be. Or the ways I play out the story of myself projected onto me by others. Toxic overlays. I shred them piece by piece, his mirror reflecting the iridescent shimmer of my soul beneath layers of soot.
I learned to survive by quilting myself with breathe, blood, bones, and stories.
Panel by panel, saturated remnants of all of the Celestes I have ever been. The stitches laden with the scent of early Spring daphnes, garden-fresh basil a licorice-y labor of loving hands. The eternal tang of salty Pacific Ocean air. In the warp and weft of fiber, the scars, each with its own tale to tell.
Listen carefully and you will hear the music that moves me. You will feel the boiling momentum gathering in my root chakra, moving through my limbs with the notes, up through my arms and legs. The release, exquisite, of muscles moved to dance. Of vocal cords thrown open in song.
Mine is an embodied body. A body that was abused, and is still in recovery, rediscovery.
A body that brought life into the world without a pharmaceutical fog to separate me from my Pain. A body that has walked barefoot, childtoes in love with mud- thick, warm Mother Earth juices.
Mine is a body in flux, at the mercy of the dialogue between estrogen and progesterone, the interplay of ovaries and uterus. A bodymachine heaving herself in fits and starts toward cronehood. And I.
Arms wide open to this New Self, it is time to embrace my failings, see them anew. To honor them as blessed teachers. To reclaim.
From this day forward, I transmute into power being told that I should NOT read in class my very first day of school. Shamed by the adult in charge for teaching myself to read. The embarrassment, guilt for being smart at six years old.
I’ll take being sexually abused as a young child, in a family drowning in generations of Othering, neglect, and addiction. Growing up dirt poor, getting teased for wearing the same clothes two days in a row: bell-bottomed denim jeans with rainbows embroidered on the back pockets, hand-me-downs from my cousin, a few years older, but petite, as my mother’s family tends to be, so they were only slightly too large. Lime green t-shirt, the 3rd place prize in a Mother’s Day essay contest held by the local newspaper. I still have the clipping tucked away in my mom’s leather briefcase.
As of today, I recognize my value in my relationships. Off with the blinders of self-doubt. I see now that I was a woman desperately in need of affection, for someone to have my back, to hold me and say it would be okay. Settling for abuse or safe mediocrity because I couldn’t yet see that I could thrive, and not merely survive.
I reclaim my own experience of being a poor, struggling single mother in a generation of women who watched as socially guaranteed safety nets were yanked out from under our feet. Denying those of us who ached to elevate. Those of us who were willing to sacrifice, those of us who kicked and screamed against the System.
All we wanted was the opportunity to succeed.
I’ll take every shitty job, every small-minded, small-dicked tyrant boss.
Decades of working my body to chronic pain and injury for someone else’s profit.
I call to power my library and barstool education. I rose beyond the poor-ass school district I spent hard time in. Held my creativity close. Set my own curriculum. Pushed through being denied funding and support to continue my education. The thing I wanted most desperately.
I proclaim my diploma from The Global University of the Self-Educated and the Academy for the Ideal of Unlimited Potentiality.
I’ll even accept losing my mother, my twin self, my primary parent, in a car accident when I was 21 years old. She was 40 and ½ when she died (she always marked the ½’s, from her height to birthdays). I was suddenly a motherless child, with a baby of my own. My mother’s best friend fell asleep while driving 60 mph. Mom napping in the passenger’s seat, dreaming of waking to the majestic Grand Canyon. Her soul left her body in the Arizona mountains. Land of the First People. As she would have wanted.
I claim it all. Every piece invaluable. After all, until you fall enough, how can you lose your fear of falling?
It made me who I am today.
Healer, mother, writer, artist, empath, musician, wife, gourmet chef.
Holding the line of my ancestors. Holding the line.
Heart wide open. Mind on fire.
There is wisdom, empathy and strength through suffering and pain. If you chose to look that motherfucker in the eye and not blink. To jump free-fall down into your stories is a courageous act, and they are the most crucial gift we have to give one another.
To say FUCK YOU to fear is the only way to creating new trajectories for ourselves. Away from abuse. Away from neglect. Towards loving ourselves as we are.
Knowledge, consciousness, and righteous outrage are my weapons.
Stretching, my mind and spirit are being pulled outward in every direction. Ocean size. To the nebulas. Far enough to hold the magnitude of abundance that is my life now. That is my love. Now.
Mind wide open. Heart on fire. Expanding, out and out and up and beyond, wide enough to hold all of the intensity and passion and pain and humanity and laughter and sex and joy and stories and stories and love and art.
Celeste Gurevich grew up on the Central Oregon Coast and currently lives with her husband, Andrew, in Portland. After experiencing a trauma-induced decade-long writer’s block, she started taking writing and film classes at Mt. Hood Community College and experienced a literary rebirth. A Social Artist in training, her goal is to teach others about the transformative nature of sharing our stories with one another, and the collective healing that comes from revealing our deepest inner selves in community. Her work has appeared in: Perceptions: A Magazine for the Arts, The Manifest-Station Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak, and The International Journal of Gender, Nature, and Transformation. She is currently a member of the Dangerous Writers workshop with Tom Spanbauer, and is working on her first book. Her website, celestegurevich.com went live just in time for Christmas. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She met Jen Pastiloff at a writing workshop in Portland called The Writer’s Voice with Lidia Yuknavitch and Suzy Vitello.