The matters that matter
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.