Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tax Season and America's Ability to Make the World a Crankier Place

Whew.  Have you noticed lately that everyone seems to be in a mood?  And I don’t just mean cranky.  I mean Oscar the Grouch coming off of Prozac and PMSing at the same time cranky. (If that’s even possible.  I know that he’s supposed to be a guy but you can’t tell me that guys don’t go through hormonal swings, too.  The main question is:  Can Muppets get PMS and if they do…what do they do with all of the excess water weight?)


My kids have been at each other constantly, we’re getting closer to summer vacation (which I simultaneously look forward to and dread.  No, wait.  I just looked at the cellulite on my legs.  I’m just dreading it), and Jessica Simpson is about to give birth.  And while I’m happy for her and her family, I’m a little concerned about how that will affect the world as we know it.

I could be wrong, but I think that the online community gets a little cantankerous around this time every year.  I don’t know if it’s because all of us Americans are dealing with filing our taxes and that bitterness seems to rub off on the entire world (which is easier now with online crankiness), but I think that the virtual bad mood started around mid-March and is just now letting up.

Everyone gets irritable around tax time and rightfully so.  All of us (and yes I put myself in this category) who prefer to put our heads in the sand 11 months out of the year are suddenly thinking, “I have to pay what?  And where exactly is that going?”  And without a satisfactory answer, we are forced to write a check for about 75% of what we labored for the previous year to people whose math skills we’re not all that confident in.

That would be enough to annoy anyone.

No one really thinks about it, but tax time is also really difficult emotionally.  There it is in black and white, what really happened to you the year before.  Your earnings (which, when you’re filling out your taxes you’re actually wishing were less than they are…how screwed up is that?), how generous you are as a person (or how much you needed to write off), and your relationship status: 

DIVORCED:  Thank God I got out of that.  Where do I sign?
WIDOWED:  Huh?  What happened?  What’s my name?
MARRIED:  Crap.  I sure hope I made the right move because this is really going to screw up my taxes.  And why is her signature so big and overlapping mine??  What does that mean?
SINGLE:  Yes, I know.  I know.  Get off my case, okay?

I’ll never forget the first time I had to deal with my taxes on my own.  It was a big year.  My husband (who had always done our incredibly simple taxes before) had died mid-year and there it was on paper:  From January to June – MARRIED.  From July to December – WIDOWED.

Thank you, US Government, for that little jolt out of my denial that sent me to an extra 2 months of therapy and inspired an out of control wine bill.  Can I write that off?

My taxes were so complicated that year and I was more than happy to hand my paperwork over to a very competent accountant so that I didn’t have to think about it anymore.  And then the next year rolled around and I assumed that I would have to do the same thing, that it would still be complicated.  But this time I was in for a surprise.

Because I technically didn’t work that year, I had nothing to file.  Zip.  Nada.  The US Government didn’t even want to hear from me.  Not even a note to say, “Hey!  I’m still here!  I promise I’ll get my shit together and send you some money next year!”

Oh, I know what you’re thinking.  You’d love to have that problem.  But at a time when I was starting to question who I was, what my place was in the world, and how I should go about saving all of my personal relationships…it was somewhat of a blow to know that I had been so completely screwed up that year that even the government didn’t want to hear from me.  I felt like writing them a letter saying, “You don’t think I worked?  You don’t think three children and full-time lunacy is work?  How dare you think I’m not worthy of taking money from!!!”

Talk about give me self-esteem issues.

So, if you’re overwhelmed, filling out your tax forms this year, remember that millions of people are feeling the same way.  If you feel helpless and alone, just remind yourself that you’re not.  And if, for some reason, you ever wonder about the influence America has over the entire world just remember this:

Our education system may be spiraling out of control, we can be somewhat confused about our military power, and, yes, Jessica Simpson’s pending childbirth may not say much about us.

But we have the ability to make the entire planet cranky in April.

So there.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of www.theWiddahood.com and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

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