Death and taxes

Things have been humming along in my little world. Work, gym, more work, more gym. There is a lot of other stuff in between, but the bigger events seem to revolved around work, exercise and the better health quest.

M and I have been trying to declutter, although it is slow going. Where I am a slash-and-burn sort of toss first, contemplate later type decluttered, M is more a contemplate, ponder, let sit, contemplate more … and then decide to keep anyway sort of person. Not a lot of progress being made where it’s “our” stuff or “his” stuff. Our stuff, slightly more than his stuff, but still not enough stuff leaving the homestead to satisfy me.

I have become an expert at counting to 10 and reminding myself that I love this man and that compromise is part of life and happy marriages. I still wonder why it must be that way. Why can’t he’s just nod, smile, agree with me and pitch crap into the donation boxes and bags?

After nearly 4 years, I am finally dealing with the last of the stuff I kept from my mom’s house. Considered how much she had crammed into that little house, I actually retained very little. Most of it is sentimental, but really, what do I do with photo albums of people I don’t know and cannot identify? What do I do with 6 photo albums full of photographs from my sister’s wedding showers and wedding? The 26 total pictures from my first wedding and showers are tucked away somewhere in these boxes, but it is a painful reminder of the inequality of child rearing. Then again, it could be an oldest/youngest thing as well. There are definitely more pictures of my oldest as a baby than the younger 2, but I have never been much of a photographer and their dad and his family have far more photos than I do. I can live with that.

But the pics of my sister – I thought one of her boys might want them, but I cannot reach either of them at the moment. There are some other personal papers to be shredded, but I will keep their birth and death certificates for awhile to come. There are also a couple of pictures of my very young parents that I may have framed to hang in the house.

Funny, but I never saw my parents wedding album until after my mom died, and now I don’t know what to do with it. I might feel more inclined to keep it if I had memories of looking at it with my folks, or even my mom. Now, it’s an album of strangers.

It’s funny to me the things she kept, and the ways she kept them. Since I am not very sentimental, I cannot imagine keeping keepsakes boxed and neatly labeled and never opened after being packed up and put away. Yet there was all sorts of stuff like that in her home. I found lovely clothes still with tags attached that she’d bought 40 years ago that were “too nice” to wear everyday. There were so many things like that in the house – too nice to use for special occasions, and holidays were not quite special enough. I am absolutely sure that attitude fuels my feelings that nice things for special occasions are completely wasted on me. My kids, my closes friends – we have fond memories of special occasions with paper plates and Round Table Pizza. It’s the company that is memorable and important, not the place setting and fancy flatware. I appreciate those things, especially for people who enjoy and pride themselves on setting a fine table. For me, its not a priority.

I feel some sorrow tossing or giving away things she saved and that were somehow important to her yet are completely meaningless to me. Even my daughter’s dolls, when she died 21 years ago next month, hold little sentiment. I did ask C about it, if she’d like me to save for her, but even she said to let them go, because there are no memories of her sister playing with them.

Such a surreal thing that I’m the last one standing in my family of origin.

I have been trying to put our vast quantities of stuff into a fiscal form so that M can better understand my frustration with the stockpile of stuff he might want or need sometime in the future. There is a cost to storing and keep all this miscellaneous crap. Our 2 car garage has shelving on either side completely stuffed to the gills, we have a small storage building out back (fun fact: prior owners were pot growers) that has tools and equipment and stuff that is rarely used, but when he needs it, he needs it. My point: when he needs it we could rent it.

After dealing with my mom’s house and all her stuff, I know I don’t want to leave such a legacy for my own children. M and I are both in good health and do not anticipate expiring soon, but in addition to getting our end-of-life directives, wills, and trust documents prepared and now to be updated for the kids’ marriages last year, decluttering our crap seems in order.

The job is getting done, but not quite at the peppy pacing I would prefer.

Maybe nothing is certain but death and taxes, but ours are done for another year. I did taxes last week, and each year seems to be getting better, inching me closer and closer to breaking even at tax time and knowing I am doing an accurate job with estimated tax payments through the year. This year, we owe the state $287 and will receive $17 back from the IRS, for a net taxes due of $280. I can live with that.

Hopefully it’s a good long life. We have a lot of crap to go through.

 

Lawbreaker

On Wednesday, I lost my wallet. Of course, I did not discover the loss until after driving downtown to meet with a client, to the gym for a second practice, and then stopping at the bank to make a deposit, wherein I noted the distinct lack of wallet containing my ATM card and my drivers license.

By driving without a valid license in my possession, I was effectively breaking the law.

No, I did not call M from the bank parking lot asking him to come retrieve me and save me from outlaw status. I drove the half mile home idly wonder where I might have left my wallet, but even then I was not especially panicked or worried about it. It was either rumbling around on the floorboard behind me, having dislodged from my bag at some point, or it was on or in my desk at the office, most likely sitting right next to my computer and buried under a pile of papers I had been working with. Worst case scenario if it was lost? Getting a replacement drivers license and the phone calls to cancel credit cards (3) and ATM cards (2). Inconvenient but not the end of the world. And if someone must resort to theft they likely needed the less than $40 in cash contained therein far more than I do.

Thursday morning I continued my lawbreaking ways by driving to the gym for my training session with J. I did not report that I was potentially a fugitive; J might have dumped my ass for being a criminal. Or maybe I might have gained additional prestige for being such a rebel without a clue? Either way, the topic did not come up.

Then I drove home to clean up and get to the office, driving again, breaking the law with impunity. Where I found the wallet on my desk and buried under a 2 inch stack of expense reports. I remembered getting it out for my credit card to make an online donation – one of the associates has a brother doing a charity bike ride from San Diego to San Francisco. Because my wallet is fairly large and vividly red, I typically do not miss it when packing up for the day. Unless I have buried it.

While my spree of criminal activity lasted less than 24 hours, I find myself completely unremorseful. I remain, for the most part, a productive member of polite society. Besides, I live in California; one must be far more politically incorrect that I am to incur the wrath of authorities.

Communication follow-up and life imbalance

I had lunch today with my client who allowed his anger to overwhelm his common sense (posted here). Once the anger and frustration faded, he recognized the error of his ways and reached out to apologize. While I accepted it on the phone and in text, I did state we needed to have another conversation about it when he returned to town. Hence our lunch today.

Ours is typically a good and productive partnership, and I am actually quite fond of  him. However, he was both professionally insulting and personally rude and offensive. It is not something I can let go of easily, and without actually talking it out, I would likely have had to terminate the alliance completely.

I am no one’s whipping girl. If he had a problem with me or the work product I have produced, it was not the forum to express it and absolutely the wrong way to discuss it. While there is a childish side of me that wanted to have my own temper tantrum and lash out, I took the higher road and wrote it all down instead. It was my only hope of remaining calm and professional.

The conversation went well, the air is a bit chilly but clear and will warm back up with some time and settling of his current problem. At the end of our meal he presented me with a couple of restaurant gift cards, equivalent to about 5 hours of my time. He knows I probably lost more sleep over his behavior than that, and he is genuinely remorseful. Not exactly sure how I feel about it, but accepted the token at face value and with polite thanks. I will give one to G and K and the other to trainer J. While M loves sushi,  he is not eating it at the present time, and I eat there frequently enough for business that I regularly get plenty of teriyaki chicken. Better to give to those who will appreciate and enjoy it.

Anger is a challenging emotion for me, in that I do not know have to relearn every time how to express it in a healthy, non-destructive manner. If I try to suppress it for too long or allow it to build layer by layer, it leaks out in snark in unguarded moments and usually with my nearest and dearest. Poor M – some of our biggest fights have been because I’m an emotional time bomb from something completely unrelated. This time, I handled it pretty well for the most part. I was clear, direct, and did not try my level best use my words to beat him into a bloody pulp for offending me so fiercely. Lest you think too kindly toward me, I really wanted to use my words to beat him into a bloody pulp and then fire his ass. M has been coaching me about how not to do that every time I bled off some steam about it since it happened.

The silver lining in all this? It magnifies that there is some work to be done to help me cope better.

It’s February 12, and I made it almost 6 weeks longer than last year before reaching out to TM for our annual appointment. While we are in touch socially and talk books and about life in general, we have not had a Professional Consultation in more than 10 months.

I am perhaps overdue.

Last year, it was all about confidence. The better health quest had officially launched a few months earlier, close friends were dropping me like I had some unpleasant contagious disease that spread via social contact, and I was struggling to simultaneously manage negative girl and cling to the insecure, fear-based lifestyle that had been part of my life for most of my life. Growing up is hard, especially when it seems to really start at 54.

This year, it seems to be more about managing emotions and stress and expressing both in a healthier manner.

Everyone has problems, issues, negative baggage and shit in their life they wish would magically resolve itself and dissipate. Work, relationships, family, friends, lifestyle, or all of the above, I don’t know a single soul that is happy about the state of their lives all of the time. Or even much of the time.

A truly crippling side effect of keeping secrets much of my adult life has been managing my emotions. Being angry – I have LOTS of anger – but how to expel it from my system without using the nuclear option on every single bridge is an ongoing life lesson. In prior work TM has taught me a lot of ways to cope with negative emotions, but I know it has been impossible for me to absorb enough of those lessons to fit every possible scenario.

So back to his office I will go, to obtain the next chapter in adultier adulting. Hopefully it will be as productive as last year’s work.

Communication and misplaced anger

I strive to be professional in my employment pursuits. I am close to many of my colleagues and very fond of my private clients, which sometimes makes it harder on me to just do the somehow negative tasks in front of me and explain or deal with the occasionally strong emotions of the other players in that slice of the business world.

A self-employment business client is caught up in a shitstorm and has been needing a lot of extra time and support from me this month. It has caused some friction and stress, because my schedule is pretty full during the first quarter of every year anyway, but unless I literally cannot carve out enough time to do the work I am reluctant to say no. Since he is a great client, typically a pleasure to work with, I have rearranged my evening and weekend work schedules and pushed through to get what he needed completed within deadlines.

Unfortunately a good outcome is not forthcoming. And that makes it harder for me to muster genuine positive energy and enthusiasm to continue to push through and do my job. I am a professional, though; I actually push harder and expend more effort in hopes of finding a better solution to resolve the problem.

This morning I gave up my sacred exercise block for a conference call (client is presently buried in snow on the other coast) and in a moment of stress and frustration his temper flared and he snapped at me about the quality of my recent efforts for him. Professionally and intellectually, I understand he is frustrated, unhappy, and under stress with the issues he is facing. The comment was an emotional outburst and not meant to be taken personally. However, words matter. Personally and emotionally – someone says in very plainly that I am doing a “shit-worthless job for them” in the matter at hand, it is nearly impossible for me not to take it personally. I was very much taken aback by his vitriol, particularly as it was not a one-on-one interaction, and while he has since apologized in text (after we hung up I had to run through the shower and get ready for my day job so did not answer the telephone when he called me back), my reply was neutral. I know further discussion is warranted – he lost his cool and said things that felt far more like a personal attack than disappointment or distress with my work product. Unfortunately now is not the time; he has far too much on his plate and it is not a conversation I wish to have by phone.

Sometimes I wonder if I am tough enough to be self-employed and to take the flak that occasionally flies from an executive’s mouth. My emotional response made me glad we were not sitting in the same room, because it is far easier to maintain my composure and rein in my own temper being alone in my office. Once the call ended, though, I had the angry cry and the raging inside my head of how dare he treat me so poorly.

Cooler heads do prevail. I know he knows his show of temper was inappropriate and directed at the wrong person. I also know I will overcome it. But I have learned (the hard way) that to allow this sort of disrespect toward me even once sets a bad precedent for future interactions, so we need to have a calm, grown-up discussion about what he said, how I received it, and why it should not happen again, particularly when it is a meeting with other people. If that conversation does not proceed as I hope, then our professional association will have to end. I know it is a luxury to not having to tolerate being disrespected or abused by someone paying for my services, and I know I am fortunate to be able to cut ties and not be stressed about income and paying bills.

But I hate when my days start like that. Possibly why I would rather be at the gym, presently my happier space. Something to look forward to tonight, even if the tradeoff is being in the club at an unusual, potentially busier time of day. I will make it work. Plus M is cooking tonight, so one less thing to think about.

Civil discourse, or lack thereof, becomes personal

My life has indirectly been touched by the issues dividing our country. Trainer J is a Berkeley grad and close friends of his were physically assaulted in the February 1 melee on campus. Listening to an interview J’s friend’s gave on what happened to them, I am so saddened and so struck by the very personal nature of the story and upset by the continuing narrative.

I am not a terribly political person. I tried to write about it yesterday and failed. The anxiety and fear surrounding the divisiveness in our world right now makes me hesitant to even relate the story here in my own blog.

The choices we make dictates the life we lead. To thine own self be true.

In truth, I am truly appalled, disgusted, and angry about what has happened, yet not at all surprised. I live in California, within a reasonable driving distance of Berkeley and San Francisco, accurate hotbeds and depictions of the liberal and progressive thinking that has dominated the federal government the last 8 years and continues to dominate the governing authorities of California. My little townie suburb is the epitome of the flyover states; referring to it as a redneck hicksville is not far off the mark.

Like most others I know and speak to routinely, we are struck by how those whose lips move and present sincere-sounding platitudes of tolerance are so gravely intolerant. Living in this state my entire life, I understand how desensitized and business as usual such behavior seems to me. Except now it has indirectly hit home for me. Someone I care about has close personal friends, practically family, and they were assaulted, beaten, because they wanted to attend a lecture by a man whose views the UCB campus roundly and publicly condemn. It hits far too close to home and for my comfort. I want my home state to be better than that. I want people to be better than that.

But I’m a realist, and I understand that the extremes of both sides of any argument get the most attention, make the biggest splash, and strongest impressions. Unfortunately it also makes more acceptable and allows people to show little or no restraint when it comes to their emotions.

Except for those of us trying to maintain boundaries of restraint, common sense, and civility toward one another. I know what happened in Berkeley is simply par for the course in the day and age we are living in, but it’s still very hard to swallow.

Yesterday while I was driving to the gym, a truck ran a red light near my home and made a left turn into the intersection I was traveling through. I saw him in plenty of time and was able to drive around without incident. However, he followed and drew up alongside me as I was making a left turn, and then made an illegal left turn alongside of me, then proceeded to match speed with me as we traveled another couple of blocks. I slowed down, he slowed down. I speeded up, he sped up to match and stay right next to me. When I looked over, he was making faces and flipping me off. While driving, I grabbed my phone and began taking photos of him. While driving. As the flash goes off, the truck sped up and away from me.

It struck me at the time that in the civility war, common sense and restraint are losing. In the quest to be right, to WIN the arguments at any and all costs trumps all. Intimidation, violence, and falsehoods are the norm these days. An impartial press? Not for a very long time. Social media is a powerful influence; everyone has a voice. Even those of who blog about our quiet little lives have our space to share our thoughts and express our opinions.

Thing is, thoughts and news shared via blogs is not unbiased reporting of facts and events. Same is true of Facebook and other social media platforms. And equally unfortunate, great swathes of our population cannot tell the difference between the hysterical “sky is falling” screeching and the impartial dissemination of information and reporting of events.

I used to think, to have hope, that my children and future generations would go to college and learn to think more analytically, more rationally, be smarter and brighter and better than me. I had this hope for a cycle of continuous improvement, that they would be better, smarter, kinder than those I know and grew up with. The years pass and I lose a little of my shining hope that the world will be better place when I leave it.

What I see now from my window is how my peers have made mistakes and missteps, how overindulging and smoothing the pathway of growing up has resulted in this paralyzing fear of making mistakes and loss of entrepreneurial independence has been stifled. And that’s what I see – homogenization and attempts to reshape everyone so we all look alike, think alike, and act alike. Is there safety in numbers? Cries of diversity seem to contradict the slow, steady, march to be a somehow kinder and gentler people by government decree and enforced by government authority.

I am not a political person. I respect reasonable people and any differences in opinions. But violence and intimidation have crossed paths with me. And I don’t like it. I don’t appreciate having my right to drive to the gym impeded or people harmed for sport.

Even here on my own blog, I stepped back and away for month because of an unpublished troll who was unrelenting. Before today, what I talked about was routine reporting on my life and times. It’s not harsh or harmful to anyone else. Peace, balance, life is hard. It’s unfair. There is no regulating fairness. Or making people behave appropriately and try to be better, kinder, and gentler versions of themselves.

I’m back!

I had not intended to stay out of sight quite so long, but life happened and time the days slipped away from me. While I have been keeping up with my better health posts on the new blog, I have been trying to scrape off a few trolls and do some housekeeping over here. Still not 100% convinced all is well, but we shall see how it goes.

While I was away, our front yard landscaping was completed.

Our neighbors probably think we are tree haters, but in truth we do not enjoy plants and things that require a lot of maintenance. We do not spend a great deal of time out in the front yard, so we told our landscape designer we wanted something without any plants. As it was we ended up with far more big rocks than I imagined, and the flagstones were a last-minute decision as well, but we are delighted with the way it turned out. This does not mean we won’t change our minds in the future and remove the white dolomite in favor of the salt and pepper that makes up the riverbed.

We do have a large granite bolder near the front that has what appear to be places to set a potted plant or something else. I keep having visions of setting up a GI Joe doll in climbing gear as if freehand climbing up one of its faces. Or some realistic mountain goat or bear figures standing on top the rocks surveying their kingdoms.

Other than the yard, things are good. Very busy with work-work and trying to get things done around the house. If I could just ship M off for a month or 2 and erase his memory I could have this place ship-shape and our possessions dramatically reduced. But since we both live here and want to stay happily married, we negotiate. But me having more minimalist tendencies and he more “I might need this” type frame of reference, it’s hard. Probably a life long work-in-progress.

But the yard is done and looks nice to our eyes. That’s the important thing.

Hope you are all doing well out there!