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The matters that matter

February 18, 2013

You commenters give awfully good advice. Yesterday I emailed my son’s piano teacher–she and her violinist husband are both self-employed–and she promptly handed over the name of an accountant who will come to my house and, for a reasonable fee, take matters in hand.

Is this a cop-out? I don’t think so. For one thing, I’m more afraid of hiring an accountant than I am of not hiring one, though the sum total of anxiety promises to be less in the long run (I will not spend the entire year terrified of an audit.) If experience has taught me anything, it’s that confronting the things you’re terrified of is the only way to get past irrational terror. You have to be smarter than your subconscious, however, because sometimes your subconscious tries to trick you. Sometimes you kid yourself into thinking the cop-out is the noble way to go. (I’ll do my own taxes! Because I’m so self sufficient!) The dodge that manifests as bravery is a very sneaky beast.

But I’m pretty sure that hiring an accountant is more daring and more sane than not. I could be wrong. But I doubt it. ¬†Unlike many of the things I’ve attempted on my own since the divorce, doing my taxes has not made me feel more competent, more on top of things, or braver. If there were a lesson to be learned from tax wrangling, wouldn’t I have learned it by now? Wouldn’t I feel, as they say, empowered?¬†

So I’m betting that turning my finances over to a professional will help. Professionals always do.

I remember driving to each one of my meetings with the collaborative lawyer I hired to see me through the divorce. I was absolutely petrified before every single appointment. I remember hoping the freeway would collapse, or that a truck would jump the median and smash me to oblivion, or that there would be a nuclear war, a terrorist attack, anything to make it so I didn’t have to go sit in a lovely office and discuss the end of my marriage with a well intentioned, kind, gentle, clever woman I was paying to give me much-needed guidance and help. It seems ridiculous, but I really was that scared. Given the choice, I’d have written some absurd homemade divorce settlement (and regretted it for the rest of my life, probably) rather than get a trained professional’s help.

But because I had no choice, I kept going to the lawyer and (lo and behold) it got easier. I hired an accountant (she doesn’t do taxes; I asked) to help me figure out my post-marital finances. I saw a shrink for the very first time. All of these things made me feel much, much better about not only my situation, but my soul. Seriously. Airing those particular stupid hangups vanquished them.

It’s shameful how many things I used to be afraid of. During my marriage, I was phobic about the family finances. I used to fret about getting lost if I ever had to drive anywhere new. I’ve never liked making phone calls, and I used to go to great lengths to ensure that my ex-husband ended up being the one to fill the car with gas. I can’t believe I’m admitting all of this. And yet even at my most pathetic I thought I was smart and tough and independent, which doesn’t exactly square with being too chicken to call for pizza (you think I am exaggerating? My ex-husband and I once had a huge argument about this very thing. He said it was my turn to call. I maintained each of us should play to our strengths. We fought and fought–I remember throwing the phone–and ended up grumpily eating leftovers at separate ends of the house.)

I’m practically a lion-tamer now, by comparison. I should be proud. But instead I’m humbled, and I need to pay for help.

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2013 5:59 pm

    I think it’s great you called an accountant. Nobody is good at everything. You wouldn’t feel silly for calling a plumber or a mechanic, and this is really no different. I see a lot of terrible attempts at home repair on violins that people really shouldn’t have tried. Better to stick with your strengths! If I were in your position I would do the exact same thing.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 18, 2013 11:01 pm

      All normal people have accountants, it seems. I spoke to mine (he’s now “mine”) today. Lovely gentleman. Very reassuring. Told me not to worry. Definitely gave the impression he had seen it all.

  2. Christa. permalink
    February 18, 2013 7:19 pm

    The accountant is a very good idea.
    And. I hear you regards making phone calls. It’s my biggest phobia. I recently had to procure proof from a previous health provider that I am allergic to a certain vaccination. The vaccine makes me very ill indeed (the last time I had it, I ended up hospitalized due to my allergic reaction). I was seriously contemplating having the vaccination again in preference to making the call that would exempt me from it.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 18, 2013 11:00 pm

      I feel prouder of vanquishing (most of) my phone phobia than I do of my children.

      • jaruuds permalink
        February 19, 2013 12:45 am

        My phone phobia relates to my kids. I have accepted it in myself but I don’t want to handicap my kids with it. But how can I teach them it’s not scary if I don’t believe this and thusly avoid them like the plague? When forced to, I certainly don’t do it in front of anybody, even the kiddos.

  3. Anne permalink
    February 18, 2013 11:01 pm

    Thumbs up for the accountant! I used to do my own taxes when I was single and making a pittance, but now that I am married with a dual-income, two-child (in daycare) family, things have gotten much, much more complicated. I gladly pay ours the $200 for the privilege of sorting through the morass for us.

  4. February 19, 2013 9:25 am

    I used to feel the exact same way you felt about your lawyer when I first started seeing a therapist. Like, total, unreasonable dread and fear, starting about two days in advance. I tried to rationalize to myself that therapy was supposed to be making me feel better, and if it wasn’t, I should quit, right? Right?! But somehow I kept going and it got better, and sometimes I still want to quit, but now I tell myself that if it’s something I’m resisting that much it probably means I really need to do it. Or something. But I feel better for having faced my fears.

  5. February 19, 2013 10:10 am

    I despise talking on the phone. We would never order pizza if we couldn’t place the order on-line. It’s why we rarely get Chinese takeout.

  6. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    February 19, 2013 10:15 am

    I actually have a new phobia to replace the phone one–I hate listening to voicemail more than I can say. Dread it. The sooner that technology becomes completely obsolete the happier I’ll be.

    • February 19, 2013 10:41 am

      Oooh, the second best thing about having a smart phone? I have a feature called ‘visual voicemail,’ where I can screen who the message is from, skip around the message like a youtube video, and even have them transcribed. The best feature, of course, is texting. I much prefer to have a written record of the conversation, and to have it at my own pace.

  7. Was Living Down Under permalink
    February 19, 2013 2:45 pm

    How to overcome Phone Phobia: I never realised that that was the name for it :) I HATE talking on the phone (these days, I also hate voicemail – people talk and talk and you just want it to BE OVER ALREADY! :) )

    Anyway, back to my original point How to overcome Phone Phobia:

    1. Write down everything you want to say. In the beginning you might write down the entire script (“Hi, my name is Jane. I am calling in regards to ordering chinese food. May I please speak to soandso?”) Write down what you want to get out of the conversation and any responses to any questions you think the other person might have as well as questions you have. It’s overkill for those who don’t mind talking on the phone but for the rest of us, it’s helpful. Keep a pen handy for the conversation.

    2: Dial the number and Read from your script when someone answers the phone. Don’t worry they won’t be able to tell you’re reading this off your notes.
    3. If you get a question you’re not sure the answer of, write it down. Don’t worry about saying “I’m not sure about that, can I get back to you with that information?”
    4. Don’t be afraid to say things like: “This is a new process for me, can you walk me through it please?”

    For contentious issues, make sure you state your problem and how you’d like it to be resolved. The negotiation part is a whole different set of skills which I think comes later (I’m still working on them!).

    If you’re afraid of committing to something on the spot, don’t be afraid of saying that you need some time to think about it and you’ll call them back. Or that you’ll call back if you have any further questions.

    For me writing it all out really helps. Over time, point form works just as well :)

    Hope I haven’t been to presumptuous writing it out for you. I’m glad you got yourself a tax guy. I was anxious just reading your last post. How is it that we are intelligent, educated women who have trouble doing simple things like picking up a phone to get what we need?

    And by the way, Happy Belated birthday. I totally related to that post – sometimes I want to be that girl again, dancing her worries away.

    • February 19, 2013 11:36 pm

      @Was Living Down Under Lol, My phone avoidance issues are more about avoiding picking up the phone, god help me, even when friends are calling. No more than five years ago I didn’t have this problem. Is this an age thing? I’m on the fast track for dying alone, sigh.

      @irretrievablybroken Congrats on the accountant. A wise lady I know says “Do what you do well and pay others to do what they do well.” Life is too short, etc.

      • irretrievablybroken permalink*
        February 20, 2013 7:45 am

        I never used to fear voicemail, so maybe it’s age, no? We pick up new phobias as we go along? Great.

        • midlife permalink
          February 23, 2013 9:45 pm

          I think it might be a law of conservation: you can leave behind your phone call phobia but some kind of phobia will turn up somewhere else. And once in a while when the balance is off, maybe people aren’t leaving you much voicemail to avoid, it might creep back over to paralyze a simple phone call again. In my experience.

  8. February 20, 2013 4:39 am

    That’s great to hear. From now on your life will consist only of happy dancing on a field of daisies:-)

  9. February 20, 2013 5:31 pm

    I am sure there must be a study somewhere that correlates the literacy degree of a person’s blog and the more panicked that person gets about making phone calls (why yes, I DO have a very literate blog, if I do say so myself). Cough. Completely separate from this correlation, I once did editing for a woman getting her master’s degree who practically broke her own leg so that she could complete her thesis defense over the phone (!) rather than in person. I was a wee pup of 20 at the time and even then this sounded crazy (you’d rather do it over the WHAT? really?) But I’m guessing for her generation, the phone was the distancing tool of comfort, and that’s what she preferred to use.

  10. February 20, 2013 11:02 pm

    Damn you, now I want a pizza.

  11. February 21, 2013 3:09 pm

    Glad to hear that you have received the help that you need. It is humbling yet empowering to get the help you need to take yourself to the next level.

  12. February 22, 2013 11:36 pm

    My boyfriend read this post (he’s been a dedicated reader for longer than I) and asked me when I was going to reveal to him that I was actually Irretrievably Broken! It just one thing after another. The pizza calling is is so funny…my ex and I had the exact same argument. I never ordered pizza once in 14 years (Love that I can now order it online). I went through my first car wash at 44 , and have always thought I’m the most independent and capable person I know. Ha. Accountant is next on my list. Good for you.

  13. February 23, 2013 7:45 am

    What is it about making phone calls? I wouldn’t consider self to have a phobia about it, but God do I put it off for hours and hours and hours – until eventually it’s too late to make the call and I relax, knowing I can stop procrastinating for a few hours before the process starts again. Even important stuff – like calling my son’s doctor to find out what kind of anaesthetic he’s going to have for his op on Monday. It got to 6pm and I decided I could just find out on Monday – you know, when he’s GETTING IT. I agree that it’s something that gets worse with age. I too refuse to listen to voicemails. Absolutely refuse. FUCKOFFANDSTOPANNOYINGME, I yell at the phone. Makes me wonder, in fact, why I even bother to have one.
    As for the accountant – lord god above, why on earth would you do something so hideous when you could pay someone to do it for you? Much more importantly – you are creating employment. Obama is proud of you. (He would call you to say so, but he knows better.)

    • February 26, 2013 6:20 am

      Update: I JUST CALLED THE DENTIST. The phone! The dentist! I feel ridiculously proud of self. (Goes without saying that am ignoring the small matter of root canal treatment…)

  14. March 1, 2013 4:37 pm

    i can’t believe there are so many other people who share this phobia of the phone—i always thought i was some sort of freak! i will call to order the pizza, but only because that hurdle has been crossed and all my information is already in their system, the number is in my phone, etc etc. familiarity has a lot to do with it–if i’ve done something before, i’ll do it again. i have a plumber, and a handyman, so when there’s a household emergency that one of them can tackle, it’s ok. but the years, YEARS of pain, sorrow, and procrastination that went into acquiring those particular professionals?? totally absurd. and DO NOT ASK ME to order chinese food. that was my husband’s job, and if he stays gone, i will just have to resign myself to a life of eating in chinese restaurants bc i won’t pick up the phone. you would think that 25 years in AA would have broken me of my aversion to speaking to strangers on the phone, but it has not, nor do i ever, ever want anyone present while i’m actually on the phone. i will lock myself i a closet rather than talk on the phone with an audience.

    but i’m thinking now i might need to find myself an accountant. maybe i could get my daughter to call him.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      March 4, 2013 1:46 pm

      It really was amazing. Highly recommended. Do it! Do it! The thing that helped me stop being afraid of the phone (and my job requires me to call strangers and ask them questions ALL THE TIME) was realizing that other people don’t feel the way I do about the phone–other people, when you call them, are perfectly happy to talk to you. Somehow that got me over the hurdle. The accountant will be thrilled to hear from you, in other words. It’s a job! Now dial and don’t look back.

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