Love Lessons from Tax Season
It’s one of those seasonal romances, the kind in which you’ve totally forgotten that your partner is there, waiting for you, and then you realize all the time you’ve wasted. You rededicate yourself, knowing that if you’d been more attentive all along, the effort now would be less strenuous, and you resolve to never let it happen again. It’s spring, and suddenly you see the optimism of possibility. You spend late hours together, over lunches and dinners, tea, coffee, or sometimes a glass of red wine or a shot glass full of Bailey’s as you drift past midnight and worry that your brain is buzzing too much with stimuli to sleep. Occasionally glancing at the window, you know it’s late enough at night that some people consider it early morning, and you might just see day beginning to break over the trees in the yard.
Sadly, the situation above is not one of romance, but one of tax frustration. The long hours come before and after a long day at one or more jobs, and the exhaustion level is considerable. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my receipts, categorizing and adding them together, trying to figure out how they all fit into the financial picture that is my state and Federal income taxes. This year, I’m consulting an accountant, and hope this will make the process easier at some point – if not during the birth pangs of this startup reorganization of my finances, then hopefully by next spring.
And it occurred to me that perhaps there is a lesson here for some of us, especially those who tend to read into things a lot.
There are things we do because we want to do them so much that they become a life requirement; these things are intrinsic to our self-identity – if we ceased to do them, we would cease to be the selves we have constructed ourselves to be. Other things we do because we have to do them, but if someone – a parent, the government, society – was not forcing us to do so, under penalty of fees, imprisonment or being grounded – we would not do them. The looming threat of jail or going to bed without supper or being shunned by society is what motivates us to do these things. This is why we do an annual tax review or pay our bills even if we think the cable bill or the rent is too damn high.
But then there’s everything in the middle. We might enjoy doing some of those things, but we don’t make them a priority. If we happen upon them – if we see someone post a funny video on Facebook, or if we note that someone is on GChat and has changed his or her message, we might check it out, but if we didn’t, we wouldn’t feel a void because we wouldn’t know what we were missing. If we really see something in that middle zone that catches our attention, we might change its status – realizing it was something important, either because of obligation to a person or relationship, or because it was something that we realized we wanted to do a lot more of.
During the busy day-to-day of any given year, we can forget about the things that we have to do, and only see what we want to see, and do what we want to do. Around tax time, it becomes all about the obligation – to count the literal level of our own worth and submit a report to our supervisors so we can make sure we are pulling our own weight in this crazy world. But there’s a middle ground full of possibilities, some of which can move and inspire us in the months ahead to achieve a more steady, committed pace – we can send some of those minor attachments up to the majors, making them priorities instead of past-times, and maybe break it to some of the devoted, but limited, pursuits that they’re better suited to minor league play.
Perhaps a bit of attention to the middle, on a more consistent level year round, can help strip the literal or figurative Tax Days of their power to terrify; without a threat looming and forcing us into drastic action, we can identify the ideas and pursuits with staying power and invest our energies and resources accordingly, and hope that our investments enrich our lifestyle in inspiring and energizing ways.