Taxing the Brain

The Taxman Cometh

Today, the state taxes went into the mail; yesterday the federal. My brain is taking a day off.I’ve hand washed some clothes; went for a walk; worked out and stretched. Watched the sky to see if I needed to somehow go out and protect my newly blooming roses from possible hail. So far I haven’t. So far, the worst storms are to the west. But none of that takes much brain power.

I began working on the taxes more than a week ago. Printing the spreadsheets was first. Second was pulling up the electronic copy of our last year’s taxes to see what all I needed. Downloading forms.

The thing that happened between last year’s taxes and this years, and a huge loss for another family, was that our accountant died. She was fun to visit in her upstairs airy office with a big wall-sized window and two dogs, miniature shepherds, I believe although I’m not so good with dog breeds. They’d greet us, lie on the floor and watch. Nap. Dogs like naps.

But there never came a time when I could bring myself to hunt down and interview another tax preparer. We’d found our previous one through friends who were artists. It’s helpful, when one is an artist of whatever ilk, to have an accountant who understands the complexities of people whose earnings aren’t exactly normal. She understood.

I used to do my taxes. Before. Before marriage and a house and investments, however slim they are, and I understood how to do artists’ deductions. Professional actors, for example, and which I’ve been for many years, can deduct things like hair care and photos and going to movies for research. It’s a strange business. And writers, which I am too, can deduct books. So there you are. Complexities.

So I pulled up forms and pieces of information and instructions to each of the many forms needed and put them in a file on the desktop. And began. One day at a time. One piece at a time until needing to stop for whichever reason, including going to class and teaching, or becoming head-weary.

But I also remembered something. I like doing this. There’s something clean and simple about numbers and moving them from here to there and adding columns and balancing figures and totaling. And the forms all have prompts: “after completing this worksheet, put the total on Form 1040A on line 23a.” Or words to that effect. Okay. I’d have several files open at the same time and move between them.

Numbers exercise a part of my brain that doesn’t get used in the same way when I’m writing or preaching or teaching. The nice thing was when that part of my brain, the part that’s intuitive or spiritual or right brain or whatever it’s called, would work on the taxes while the rest of me was off doing something else, like driving or listening to students in class, and suddenly, I’d realize what I had to do or change or add together. Or go back and redo.

Now the part of my brain that added and changed and played with numbers and forms, the left brain, is empty. It doesn’t quite know what to do with white noise and shapelessness.

Perhaps we’ll go together and just finish the hand washing.