The Non-Negotiable No

In the 1970s & 80s, I would watch these Calgon commercials which would often come on during a showing of “WKRP in Cincinnati” or “Hill Street Blues” or “Taxi”. I’d daydream about the day I’d have an overwhelming job, one that sucks the life out of me, yet one I’d love. I’d run through the door, drop my purse in the hallway, my coat soon to follow, off with the clothes and into my steaming hot bathtub filled with Calgon bubbles.

What a life.

This week, when I returned home from an invigorating conference, a space I needed to re-examine creative writing and racial consciousness, I received a frantic phone call and then a frantic text from one of my students. I was thinking about the two visiting writers who had just arrived, how exhausted I was from the conference, yet how thrilled I was to be able to extend necessary conversations with two writers whose work I’ve loved for a long long time. The beeping phone, with a number I didn’t recognize, was the last thing I wanted to deal with. How easy would it have been to do so? To just ignore it?

When Mercury went into Retrograde at the top of the year, I began to review my relationship with technology. I deleted all email from my phone, deleted all social media; my laptop, in its quest to aid me, stopped allowing me to use the ‘a’ and ‘s’ keys (now it’s increased its support of anti-technology-Metta by refusing me the ‘w’ and ‘r’ and ‘e’ and ‘t’ keys! So kind of it). Computersmash1

I felt lifted. Newly alive. Until I remembered I had poems coming out & I needed to promote those & the journal. Until I remembered I had edited poems for a folio that was coming out & I needed to promote those poets & the journal. Until I remembered

How to say No?

Audre Lorde’s wonderful biomythography has that great near-end, where she’s giving in to the power of Yes. I love that section of the book & have embraced its message for a decade. The power of Yes. But Lorde is saying Yes to herself, her own desires, her own whims, her own curiosities, her own passions.


Is necessarily Selfish.

What were the frantic phone calls? It doesn’t matter. I made an agreement & forgot it. Today I opened my email & saw that I have two events on the same day at the same time in two separate towns. Not that being in the same town would matter.

This is what happens when you don’t say No. You say Yes to everything. You over-schedule. You over-book. You nurse guilt. It’s not pretty.  You get ill. You work through the illness. You make a commitment to yourself and it’s the last thing you’re faithful to. You have emails waiting for responses. They all say Urgent. You begin to ponder Urgency. Like

Why do people send Urgent emails? If you want someone to do something for you, why can’t you respect their time and energy and talents enough to give them an ample heads up? A month or two or three or four?

The power of No.

I read this article a few weeks ago & will buy the book. & will prepare myself for the backlash that comes with No (she’s difficult; she’s a diva; she think she all that). Whatever.


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