A Form is Filled Out, Lovingly

arrangement of 2013 tax forms under crossed pen and pencil

A_Span thinks the representations of taxation are significant ...

Z_Span's father once counselled Z_Span on a particularly challenging tax form for a year in which she first bought a house. She had cashed in some mutual funds and the applicable Schedule Whatever-it-Was happened to have been greatly expanded that year to include lines with dubious instructions such as "Insert finger into open socket" and ominous ones such "Remove all tags." Z_Span, nowhere near being afraid of numbers, nor in the very least adverse to a fundamental democratic principle of paying taxes, was nevertheless hitherto accustomed to straightforward filings. Was this house ownership going to find yet another way to bite into her free time? Papa_Z_Span's counsel, consisting of encouragement and the knowledge that the form was very much within Z_Span's abilities, if not necessarily her inclinations, might be boiled down to "line by line, just take that Schedule WhosyWhatsIt line by line."

For A_Span, advice like that about any form sure sounds the same as: "fold, spindle, mutilate," with the form as the instrument of torture. Somehow, perhaps because it was neither required nor expected of me, I sat down on the floor with a pile of paperwork and that form, while Z_Span went swimming. After a chance to really study the pieces and parts line by freaking line A_Span started to feel like Encyclopedia Brown cracking the case. So that was the year A_Span became Z_Span's tax preparer, a tradition that has continued through many a change in statuses of this or that sort, although there hasn't been one in filing status.

Last year, the tradition veered very close to collapse. For some reason, those damn forms felt like the last thing A_Span wanted to deal with. Which seemed very, very weird. How could something so intrinsically enjoyable and satisfying become so onerous, so tedious, so impossible?

Ahem. Mood disorder aside, A_Span now knows that there really is something to the method of having someone nearby, not necessarily engaged in the same task, in order to slay a dragon or tackle a tax return. For various reasons, A_Span wasn't working with the same pattern that had just evolved over time, including tried-and-true steps such as "break down a large task into itty bitty constituent parts," which A_Span would never have knowingly copped to using. The whole thing was just a 5,000 piece puzzle, and not even A_Span has ever really believed a puzzle like that could be assembled picture perfectly in just one sitting. I just sorted receipts one weekend, filled out drafts another, and so on until gradually the forms were filled out for review with Z_Span before signing, sealing and delivering. A_Span simply did not know that by not tackling this line-by-line approach in the usual fashion of sitting across from Z_Span on a couple of successive weekend mornings, it would never happen when left to her own devices, irrespective of the mountain of good intentions and assumptions based on its prior "doability".

A_Span could faintly recognize she was avoiding the forms but perhaps wasn't operating with all faculties (a tax return with itemized deductions, rental income on a house that never sold -- the thought of blithely heading solo towards that task, it shudders...). Finally, another tried-and-true method, which generally doesn't work for A_Span, was relied upon. A thoroughly exhausted and shaking A_Span put the forms into Z_Span's extraordinarily patient hands on exactly April 15th. Meh.

For the record, for tax year 2013, A_Span's own forms are now filled out and awaiting mailing, Z_Span's are in process, and thinking about a line-by-line approach does not make A_Span's teeth hurt. Of course, a filled out form or two doesn't clear a path through A_Span's crapstuffjunk to the workbench in the basement, but to paraphrase the Papa_Z_Span's counsel -- Itty-bitty steps!

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