By Unchaste Reader, Mo Daviau

One day, on Facebook, Mo posted a vague statement that some people's self care is something else entirely for her. I asked her to please write about that because so often, prescriptions for mental, emotional, and spiritual health are rigidly set by cultural norms, media, and etcetera. It's complicated, I'm sure, but we all do understand when we're living outside the lines. So, Unchaste Readers Series presents the words of one woman whose words regarding abuse and recovery from a particular type of abusive relationship have meant a great deal to a great many. 755 Words for you.

That Word is My God

By Mo Daviau

 

            In one of the abuse survivor groups I belong to

            (for now we’ll skip the longer story of why I’m in these groups)

            A stranger to me writes, “Can we please STOP diagnosing people with

PERSONALITY DISORDERS? Not all mentally ill people are ABUSERS.

It’s ABLEIST to say that.”

            And yes, I agree with that: not all mentally ill people are abusers.

            But I will never stop calling the man who abused me

a narcissist.

            That word, “narcissist,” is my God. It’s ugly, but it’s

            My savior angel.

            The answer to the question, the key to getting my mind back.

 

            Pry it out of my mouth and I’ll bite you so hard.

 

            Much of what comes through my email box

            My Facebook messages are from women who have found me,

            Found my writing,

            Found a word to put to this Thing That Happened

            This Person Who Harmed Them

            (and please note I use the word HARMED, not HURT.)

            This word

            This entry in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual

            This list of traits.

            And if you Google it deeply enough, you’ll find Other People’s Stories.

            You’ll find my story. Which is only part of the story.

            But before these women who write to me find me,

they find the word.

            And without the word,

            I guarantee you,

            They don’t find me

        

            People ask me what exactly happened and I say,

“Google my name, find my essay ‘The Cardigan.’

It’s easier if you read that than if I try to tell you.”

            ‘The Cardigan’ started out as a piece for Bedpost Confessions, the sex-positive storytelling show in Austin.

            It was a heavily coached piece.

I never write with training wheels, but at the time I wrote it, I was not in my right mind.

After my shifts at the bookstore where I worked,

I would slam my head on the steering wheel of my car because my brain wouldn’t function and I wanted to die.

At the time, no one who loved me would let me do anything by myself.

Even write.

 

            I wrote it and I showed it to my best friend.

            I rewrote it and showed it to my therapist.

            Mia, one of the Bedpost Confessions directors, edited it and coached my performance.

            I read it in front of three hundred people.

            My therapist came to the show,

there at the door of the green room to catch me when I fell into her arms in tears.       

            In November of 2014, I was someone who couldn’t do anything by herself.

            In November of 2014, I found the word.

 

            The word “narcissist” was given to me by my therapist.

            She was an old-school Texas lady. Portlanders probably wouldn’t like her style: Part of my PTSD treatment was to get my nails done once a week so I’d have something pretty to look at, to remind me that I had value, and was something to be taken care of.

            She was harsh with me.

            She told me that he had emotionally abused me, but I didn’t believe her.

            My inability to eat or sleep or muster a will to stay alive were because I was the crazy, worthless person he told me I was.

            She’d look at me over her glasses and say,

“This is what narcissists do. Narcissists keep me in business. The clients I lose most often. You think an old lady trying to talk sense into someone is a match for a charismatic man who’s saying everything a woman dreams of hearing? Someone whose peddling dreams? No, they disappear on me, and go back to the narcissist.”

            She insisted she wouldn’t lose me.

            She didn’t lose me.

            I’m still here.

           

            That word? That word is the foam circle floaty I can hand someone when they’re drowning.

            It’s a terrible word, misshapen and misused, but I have fashioned it into a bandage.

            That word tells me it wasn’t my fault. Even as much as the abuser insisted it was, it wasn’t my fault.

            That word is all about me. That word isn’t about you.

            That word tells me why someone said he loved me could hate me for merely acting like a real human being.

            That word tells me that there is no point to loving someone who can’t love you back

            That word is shorthand for incapable of empathy, which was the whole problem

            That word isn’t something I use lightly

            That word is the only gun I’ll ever use to protect myself

            I will protect myself.

           

MO DAVIAU is the author of the novel EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE, which was published last February by St. Martin's Press. Her nonfiction has been published in Nailed, The Toast, and The Offing. She is a graduate of Smith College and the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan where Every Anxious Wave won a Hopwood Award. A longtime resident of Austin, Texas, Mo now lives in Portland, Oregon.       

Unchaste Solstice, 2016

What a perfect Unchaste Solstice. Camille Rose, thank you for your voice - it was Solstice magic. Elizabeth Scott, thank you for the vision of a whole life in such succinct and elegant prose and for showing us our mothers and our mother selves who can also be our child selves - the heart break of that relationship and its impossibilities and severings. Kerry Cohen, thank you for something new, your words always so solid, so good, so smart, so Unchaste. Melanie Fey, thank you for the sky, for the words, for multiple languages, for your family, pain, emotion, love, for an animated home, for all things personified. Laura Rose Arias, such a voice! Musical prose. Thank you for the Blissful, gorgeous Noise/Sound. Jewels, thank you for the gift of your mothering, for surviving without question, for redefining/refining strength so it serves you and not vice versa. Thank you all for the emotional boost, the spiritual sustenance, the company, the Home. Love to the audience. Thank you for filling The Jar and the pockets of performers. Thank you for the generosity of everyone who was there. It's a generous thing to be together, to listen, to walk out into the fog and know you'll find a good place to go in from all the Cold. LOVE!

Lit Crawl, 2016: Unapologetically Unchaste

Prose   Celeste Gurevich a multi-medium artist who grew up on the Central Oregon Coast. She lives near Reed Canyon with her husband Andrew. Her work has been published in Perceptions: A Magazine for the Arts, the Manifest-Station and elsewhere. Celeste is also an Associate Producer of the podcast, On The Block Radio. If you need more of her words, you can find her on the usual social medias.   MaryBeth Bonfligio is a writer, mother, {spiritual} activist and creative midwife for much needed paradigm shifts. She throws a mean tarot card, finds her sanity in the forest, and she occasionally enjoys whiskey to soften her aversion to damp climates. She is writing her first book about blood and belonging and is currently unlearning everything she’s learned in her MFA program for creative writing. She reads her work out loud any chance she can get.   Poetry   A short herstory: Born up in NYC, grew up in ATL, woke up in PDX, and never grown. Trying to be a lady, always a woman and teaching her 3 teenage girls the same. Writing is her way to purge the daemonsand give voice to the ancestors.  This spring, you can find Jewels Pedersen on Tumblr in the coming weeks under jewels-from-coal.   Kaeli Casati is a reader, writer, builder and filmmaker in Portland, OR. She draws inspiration from social and physical landscapes, and can at times be found talking to plants and animals more than people. She's learning how to build a tougher soft skin.   Improv   MO DAVIAU is the author of the novel EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE, which was published last February by St. Martin's Press. Her nonfiction has been published in Nailed, The Toast, and The Offing. She is a graduate of Smith College and the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan where Every Anxious Wave won a Hopwood Award. A longtime resident of Austin, Texas, Mo now lives in Portland, Oregon.   Ritah Parrish has written everything from restaurant and book reviews to short stories as well as monologues and poetry for performance. She was ranked as one of the top 10 performance poets in the 1996 National Poetry Slam and performed her work on the slam circuit for years. Her work has appeared in Poetry Slam, The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry, Shortfuse, Northwest Edge: Fictions of Mass Destruction, Northwest Edge III: The End of Reality, The Stranger, The Oregonian and others. She has authored two fiction collections, Pink Menace and Girl Juice as well as the original shows, Bite Down Hard and I Think He’s A Sociopath But The Dance Is Saturday Night and Bottomless and Live Nude Fear! in collaboration with Lorraine Bahr.    

Prose

 

Celeste Gurevich a multi-medium artist who grew up on the Central Oregon Coast. She lives near Reed Canyon with her husband Andrew. Her work has been published in Perceptions: A Magazine for the Arts, the Manifest-Station and elsewhere. Celeste is also an Associate Producer of the podcast, On The Block Radio. If you need more of her words, you can find her on the usual social medias.

 

MaryBeth Bonfligio is a writer, mother, {spiritual} activist and creative midwife for much needed paradigm shifts. She throws a mean tarot card, finds her sanity in the forest, and she occasionally enjoys whiskey to soften her aversion to damp climates. She is writing her first book about blood and belonging and is currently unlearning everything she’s learned in her MFA program for creative writing. She reads her work out loud any chance she can get.

 

Poetry

 

A short herstory: Born up in NYC, grew up in ATL, woke up in PDX, and never grown. Trying to be a lady, always a woman and teaching her 3 teenage girls the same. Writing is her way to purge the daemonsand give voice to the ancestors.  This spring, you can find Jewels Pedersen on Tumblr in the coming weeks under jewels-from-coal.

 

Kaeli Casati is a reader, writer, builder and filmmaker in Portland, OR. She draws inspiration from social and physical landscapes, and can at times be found talking to plants and animals more than people. She's learning how to build a tougher soft skin.

 

Improv

 

MO DAVIAU is the author of the novel EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE, which was published last February by St. Martin's Press. Her nonfiction has been published in Nailed, The Toast, and The Offing. She is a graduate of Smith College and the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan where Every Anxious Wave won a Hopwood Award. A longtime resident of Austin, Texas, Mo now lives in Portland, Oregon.

 

Ritah Parrish has written everything from restaurant and book reviews to short stories as well as monologues and poetry for performance. She was ranked as one of the top 10 performance poets in the 1996 National Poetry Slam and performed her work on the slam circuit for years. Her work has appeared in Poetry Slam, The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry, Shortfuse, Northwest Edge: Fictions of Mass Destruction, Northwest Edge III: The End of Reality, The Stranger, The Oregonian and others. She has authored two fiction collections, Pink Menace and Girl Juice as well as the original shows, Bite Down Hard and I Think He’s A Sociopath But The Dance Is Saturday Night and Bottomless and Live Nude Fear! in collaboration with Lorraine Bahr.