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No Before Yes

I spent most of yesterday ruminating on why the word "no" is so freakin' challenging for me to say. Then, a subtle and surprising insight surfaced. Maybe, you're not anxious but angry. I was still digesting those words when a deep, sweep of an exhale affirmed that truth. I began to wonder how much pain and suffering could have been avoided if I had just learned to trust and voice my knowing no. So, now this will become my practice - distilling anger from anxiety - and sensing if the right response is really a "no" rather than a habitual, hesitant "yes."

No Before Yes

by Lauren Taub Cohen

I wish I could flip back

and find that moment

when I began to dress my anger

in the acceptable fashion

of anxiety.

I'd tell my younger self to stop

to toss the garb of anxiety aside

and allow the anger to remain

unabashedly bare.

"Let's learn to be angry together," I'd jest

with a friendly smile

and an outstretched hand.

She leads.

I follow.

Anger takes hold of us and we

take shape of it.

We move wildly

like animals unleashed

from the constraints of appeasements

sullen, obsequious nods

that would rather shake no


Tumbling down in exhaustion

we slide into laughter

which softens into a nap.

Upon waking

I suggest we practice

saying no.



Slowly and haltingly

progress is made.



Her eyes press together

in search of approval

with the strange taste of no

still tingling on her lips.

Like any new skill

this, too, will require practice.

I open my arms

and she scoots beside me

knee to knee

her flush face resting

heavy upon my shoulder.

My right arm brings her in

even closer

and I feel the soft flutter

of her blameless breath.

As my left hand combs

through her thin, wispy hair,

I place a kiss upon her tilted head

before whispering the words

I wish she could have learned.

"It's only when you feel safe

saying no

that you'll ever feel sure

saying yes."

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