a year of getting back in touch.

act one: me
act two: you
act three: everything else

Monday, March 26, 2012

Death or...

It's income tax time again, Americans: time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta. 
-Dave Berry

Whenever March and April come around, it is an accepted fact that the process of filing taxes will undoubtedly baffle me yet again. This year was no exception. Coming from someone who just spent four years dealing with the worst kind of red tape and tedious paperwork in the world (thanks, France), that is saying something.

Usually I just have to deal with the 1040EZ, which I honestly find complicated enough to leave me a tax-hangover for a few days. Well, this was the first year Remy & I had to tackle filing "married filing jointly" (although technically last year we did, too, but considering we had NO income in 2010 it only took like 13 hours instead of the usual 27). To complicate matters, Remy did a project earlier in the year for MokaSocial for which he was paid "nonemployee compensation" and it took me six hours to try to figure out what the hell that means and how to file because of it.

I finally figured it out and went through my first official full long-version 1040 experience on my own. It was more than confusing, it was more than stressful, and multiple times I thought about making up a tax-return drinking game. It would go something like this:

13 Combine the amounts in the far right column for lines 7 through 18.3.
14 Multiply $1234 by the sum of the amounts on lines 5f and 21a.
15 If you aren't confused, take a drink.
16 If you are confused, take two drinks.
15 Subtract line 14 from line 13. If line 14 is more than line 13, drink the difference.
16 If line 13 is more than 14, go buy three bottles of red wine and drink them all before proceeding to the next line. If required, attach form 8888 and take a shot of whiskey.

Considering I'm not drinking these days, I figured playing with water would just mean me being up all night with a full bladder. Someone should definitely try it out, though. There is a serious game hidden there, and who knows, maybe it will make the process easier.

It boggles my mind how anyone with anything more than a standard bank account fills these things out, let alone what tax lawyers and tax specialists do the first four months of any given year (and the other eight months, too, for that matter). In my mind they are essentially magicians. 

I ended up figuring it all out (I hope). But every year when the envelope gets put in the mailbox and it's a done deal I always feel the same way I feel when leaving the mechanic - like I just got ripped off big time by giving all my money to something I have no comprehension of, which leaves me feeling ignorant, stupid and quite simply put: screwed.

Happy April, fellow Americans! May your tax journey be as awkward and unsettling as mine!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Act I Scene III: Connect with the Serious

 Nothing is worth doing unless the consequences may be serious.
-George Bernard Shaw

At least for me, serious tasks need to be divided into baby tasks in order to make accomplishing them more realistically possible. To that end I've divided everything I am to accomplish into categories and then baby steps.

Tasks I'm working on will be shown in bold.
Tasks I've accomplished will be shown in strikethrough

I will of course have a hard copy where I can physically check off my accomplishments, because who doesn't love the satisfaction of marking a big fat "X" in a box you've been neglecting?

Spring Cleaning
Room by room, box up and then clean thoroughly each room in our old house:
the bathroom
the living room
the dining room
the kitchen
the bedroom
the bedroom closet
the office
the office closet
tippen's room
the storage unit
the deck
deep clean/defrost the fridge/freezer
deep clean the oven
deep clean the tub/shower
Room by room, clean and then unpack in an organized fashion at the new house:
the kitchen/dining area
the living room
the guest bedroom
the office
the main bathroom
the master bedroom
the master closet
the master bathroom
the loft
the garage
the unfinished room
the laundry room
the unfinished bathroom
the patio
wash the car
turn the soil in the garden

go through files and organize/refile (purchasing new folders/boxes as necessary)
find a place for old letters
find a place for teaching-related materials
start France binder
start birthday notecard calendar
find a place for mail/keys

come up with a chore chart for daily/weekly/monthly chores
make a grocery list chalkboard
make a weekly meal chart
make a laminated daily task chart for myself

Taxes, Bills & Paperwork
go to the library and get tax forms
file taxes
close old utility accounts
open new electricity account
sign up for green up with seattle city light
open new gas account
sign up for carbon balance with pse
open new water/sewer/garbage account
open new internet account
change address officially at the post office
figure out what paperwork needs to be done to extend remy's greencard

set up truck rental for moving
change garbage can size to micro-can
schedule an appointment to get napoleon fixed
get napoleon fixed
deflea the cats
schedule an appointment to fix the car
fix the car
buy a new bed
set up chicken brooder
come up with final chicken coop plans
sign the new lease

honestly reflect and decide what I want for my future
come up with steps for how to accomplish my future
start plans for octopus! 2012
sign up and create account on ms website
personalize my webpage
contact possible teammates and encourage them to sign up
schedule a meeting to come up with fundraising ideas
start plans for France

transfer money for the deposit for the new house
pay taxes
pay first and deposit for the new house
pay off debts
pay parking ticket
apply for credit card
start recording purchases
put aside 10% of each paycheck into a separate savings account for emergencies
research 401k options at pcc
donate to npr
contact starbucks about stock
check back with old landlords about deposit

make an honest list of my fears, even the small ones or things that make me uncomfortable
find a way to challenge each fear realistically

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Serious Business

 To think of shadows is a serious thing.
-Victor Hugo

We all have things in life we dread doing, big or small. For me some of the worst are folding socks, calling people back when I know it's been waaaay too long, renewing the tabs for my car, and emptying the little filter thing in the drain that is always full of indescribable yuck.

There are daily tasks I avoid like the plague, as well. Namely flossing (slacking mucho since month one ended, by the way, but who knows but me?), shaving (let's be honest - I'm married, my husband is blind as a bat and here in Seattle short weather doesn't come around until late July at the earliest; I still have a few months where I can get by being hairy), and putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher. And some that somehow just slip by like watering plants (I'm sooo sorry, you poor dehydrated flora) and paying bills (once the letter gets opened & put in the pile, I lose all sense of urgency).

In an effort to get more organized and to persuade me to actually accomplish annoying tasks I decided to spend a month tackling the not-so-fun-but-necessary serious. This month has many facets, all of which I am dreading, but are key in alleviating stress and helping sort out priorities in my life.

It won't just be spring cleaning and paying taxes, although those will certainly have their place. I also plan to tackle goals for my future with a serious sit-down to figuring out what I want to do/be (from my original notes back in January: mommy? doctor? writer? cook? teacher? midwife? naturopath? photographer?) and figuring out what steps I need to take to get on my way to becoming/doing whatever it is I decide I want to try to be/do.

Another key element, possibly the most important and certainly the most dreaded, is a serious examination of my relationship with fear. I plan to take an honest look at my fears, from the tiniest most insignificant to the monumental, including things that might not be seen as fears but that make me uncomfortable. The next step is to find a way to challenge each and every one of them.

This month will probably not be the most fun month I've ever had, but I am in anxious in all senses of the word to get started. I am apprehensive, of course, but I am also excited to get over this hump because I know that overcoming these obstacles is huge in the grand scheme of things. What better way to connect with yourself than to challenge your biggest fears head on?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Act I Scene II Conclusion

Connecting with my mind seemed like a natural step after connecting with my body - the transition seemed natural and easy. The first few weeks I really felt like I was deepening my self-awareness, especially through meditation and reading the yogic texts.

The four cups exercise also brought my attention to the idea of intention. It changed my perspective on each and every action for the first few days. I really thought about how all of my decisions would affect each other, myself, those around me, and my state of mind.

This directly influenced my levels of stress and happiness. I could avoid virtually all stress by gauging how my reaction would alter my environment and my mental state. Conversely, approaching each day with the intent to make myself happy (or rather fulfilled, through filling my four cups, the achievement of which would result in elevated levels of happiness) directly influenced my actions as well. I went out of my way to find fulfilling activities, and this upped my happiness in a big way.

The reading of books and poems was mostly for pleasure, with my ultimate aim to open my mind intellectually, to inspire me with literature I wasn't yet acquainted with. Honestly, I didn't read all that I wanted to, and what I did read wasn't exactly what one might call intellectual. The journaling on paper was a total failure, although I did manage to post a few poems that touched me on this forum, and managed to post more often that I normally would.

All in all, the first half of the month was amazing. I could really feel my comprehension of myself deepening, and with it the knowledge that I barely know myself at all, and certainly don't know my limits (in all senses of the word). I would have like to have dug deeper still, had the chaos of life and family not derailed me for the last two weeks.

That being said, circumstances have led me to change the order of the next two months. We are moving at the end of March, meaning we will have to do deep cleaning (part of my intention for the Serious month) twice in the next month. We also need to complete our taxes before April 15, which was originally the start date of the Serious month, although I see it as falling into the serious category. That being said, I have decided to change the third month to Serious, and the fourth month will then come back to the self trilogy and conclude with Soul & Spirit.

On the eve of the start of the third month, I have mixed feelings. Cleaning and serious business are not my favorite things in the world, but there are certain tasks I have been putting off for months (or years even in some cases) that I will be very relieved to finally check off my list.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Fertile Muck

There are the brightest apples on those trees
but until I, fabulist, have spoken
they do not know their significance
or what other legends are hung like garlands
on their black boughs twisting
like a rumour. The wind's noise is empty.

Nor are the winged insects better off
though they wear my crafty eyes
wherever they alight. Stay here, my love;
you will see how delicately they deposit
me on the leaves of elms
or fold me in the orient dust of summer.

And if in August joiners and bricklayers
are as thick as flies around us
building expensive bungalows for those
who do not need them, unless they release
me roaring from their moth-proofed cupboards
their buyers will have no joy, no ease.

I could extend their rooms for them without cost
and give them crazy sundials
to tell the time with, but I have noticed
how my irregular footprint horrifies them
evenings and Sunday afternoons:
they spray for hours to erase its shadow.

How to dominate reality? Love is one way;
imagination another. Sit here
beside me, sweet; take my hard hand in yours.
We'll mark the butterflies disappearing over the hedge
with tiny wristwatches on their wings:
our fingers touching the earth, like two Buddhas.

Poem printed without permission by Irving Layton (Canadian, b. 1912). This weekend celebrates the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chanson des Escargots Qui Vont à l'Enterrement

A l'enterrement d'une feuille morte
Deux escargots s'en vont
Ils ont la coquille noire
Du crêpe autour des cornes
Ils s'en vont dans le noir
Un très beau soir d'automne
Hélas quand ils arrivent
C'est déjà le printemps
Les feuilles qui étaient mortes
Sont toutes ressuscitées
Et les deux escargots
Sont très désappointés
Mais voilà le soleil
Le soleil qui leur dit
Prenez prenez la peine
La peine de vous asseoir
Prenez un verre de bière
Si le coeur vous en dit
Prenez si ça vous plaît
L'autocar pour Paris
Il partira ce soir
Vous verrez du pays
Mais ne prenez pas le deuil
C'est moi qui vous le dis
Ça noircit le blanc de l'oeil
Et puis ça enlaidit
Les histoires de cercueils
C'est triste et pas joli
Reprenez vos couleurs
Les couleurs de la vie
Alors toutes les bêtes
Les arbres et les plantes
Se mettent à chanter
A chanter à tue-tête
La vraie chanson vivante
La chanson de l'été
Et tout le monde de boire
Tout le monde de trinquer
C'est un très joli soir
Un joli soir d'été
Et les deux escargots
S'en retournent chez eux
Ils s'en vont très émus
Ils s'en vont très heureux
Comme ils ont beaucoup bu
Ils titubent un petit peu
Mais là-haut dans le ciel
La lune veille sur eux.

Poem copied without permission from Jacques PRÉVERT, Paroles (1945).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chanson Dans le Sang

Il y a de grandes flaques de sang sur le monde
où s'en va-t-il tout ce sang répandu
Est-ce la terre qui le boit et qui se saoule
drôle de saoulographie alors
si sage... si monotone...
Non la terre ne se saoule pas
la terre ne tourne pas de travers
elle pousse régulièrement sa petite voiture ses quatre saisons
la pluie... la neige...
la grèle... le beau temps...
jamais elle n'est ivre
c'est à peine si elle se permet de temps en temps
un malheureux petit volcan
Elle tourne la terre
elle tourne avec ses arbres... ses jardins... ses maisons...
elle tourne avec ses grandes flaques de sang
et toutes les choses vivantes tournent avec elle et saignent...
Elle elle s'en fout
la terre
elle tourne et toutes les choses vivantes se mettent a hurler
elle s'en fout elle tourne
elle n’arrête pas de tourner
et le sang n’arrête pas de couler...
Où s'en va-t-il tout ce sang répandu
le sang des meurtres... le sang des guerres...
le sang de la misère...
et le sang des hommes torturés dans les prisons...
le sang des enfants torturés tranquillement par leur papa et leur maman...
et le sang des hommes qui saignent de la tête
dans les cabanons...
et le sang du couvreur
quand le couvreur glisse et tombe du toit
Et le sang qui arrive et qui coule à grand flôts
avec le nouveau-né... avec l'enfant-nouveau...
la mère qui crie... l'enfant pleure...
le sang coule... la terre tourne
la terre n’arrête pas de tourner
le sang n’arrête pas de couler
Où s'en va-t-il tout ce sang répandu
le sang des matraqués... des humiliés...
des suicidés... des fusillés... des condamnés...
et le sang de ceux qui meurent comme ça... par accident.
Dans la rue passe un vivant
avec tout son sang dedans
soudain le voilà mort
et tout son sang est dehors
et les autres vivants font disparaître le sang
ils emportent le corps
mais il est têtu le sang
et là où était le mort
beaucoup plus tard tout noir
un peu de sang s’étale encore...
sang coagulé
rouille de la vie rouille des corps
sang caillé comme le lait
comme le lait quand il tourne
quand il tourne comme la terre
comme la terre qui tourne
avec son lait... avec ses vaches...
avec ses vivants... avec ses morts...
la terre qui tourne avec ses arbres... ses vivants... ses maisons...
la terre qui tourne avec les mariages...
les enterrements
les coquillages...
les régiments...
la terre qui tourne et qui tourne et qui tourne
avec ses grands ruisseaux de sang.

Poem by Jacques Prévert, printed without permission. (Paroles, Librairie Gallimard.)