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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Taxing Time

I’m going to do my taxes today. Or at least I’ll start them. I’ve been meaning to all week. Usually I have them done by now, but there has been too much going on this year—Mom’s taxes, among other things.

One of the first questions I need to answer for my own taxes is whether or not to file as a business in 2005. I have taken deductions as a writer for at least a decade. But since the sale of my first book in 1998, most of my income has come from teaching and leading workshops. If you add up the cost of my printer ink and paper (not to mention all the other things you can deduct) my writing has been a money-losing proposition. According to the IRS, a business can lose money for only a certain number of years before you have to face the facts and admit that you don’t have a business; you have a “hobby.”

Did Emily Dickinson have a hobby? Did Vincent Van Gough? OK, so I’m taking this personally. Part of the problem is that I actually wracked up more than usual writing expenses last year. In addition to all the copies of my manuscript I made and mailed, I also bought a new lap top, being confident that I’d sell the book and be able to deduct the computer. But that was before my mom got sick and I took time off writing to care for her. Last year I was more of a caretaker than a business woman. On the other hand, it galls me to give up all those juicy tax deductions just when I really am ready to pursue the business end of my art. It brings up all the old issues about valuing my craft whether or not it makes money.

The other thing about tax time is that it coincides with Luke’s birthday, which is always a bit of a trial. It’s not just Luke’s impatient excitement and his endless speculation about what he’ll get. It’s not just the incessant prattling about who will come and what they’ll do and what kind of piñata we should make. There’s also the fear that runs below the excitement, Luke’s fear of getting older.

Every year since he was turning three, Luke has had a mini life crisis during the weeks before his birthday. The first time it was tied to the fact that he was still nursing once per day, and I had told him that his third birthday was the cut off. We made a big deal out of his first party in the hopes that it would assuage his despair. Instead he swung between excitement and dread, a pattern he’s repeated every year since.

This year, it started over spring break. Out of the blue, Luke started crying, saying he missed his friends Jacob and Jonathan from FGC, which was nine months ago. I was surprised that these feelings had come back so strongly, but I just held him until he calmed down. Over the next week he repeated the pattern, bursting into tears while I was cooking dinner or trying to get everyone to bed. Finally, I put it together with the timing and said, “You know Luke, I’m remembering that every year you seem to have a hard time for a few weeks before your birthday. Do you think that has anything to do with this?”

His lip trembled for a moment before he burst into tears again, nodding vigorously. “I don’t want to turn seven,” he wailed. “I miss being a baby.” This seems to be the crux of it, and there’s no convincing him that there are advantages to getting older. He is strangely unimpressed with the fact that he wasn’t allowed to watch Star Wars as a baby. The fact that he can now run and climb and read and do all kinds of things that he couldn’t do as a baby doesn’t matter. There’s something elemental in his crying. It seems to be about the fact that life changes, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

My mother used to always say that the two certainties in life are death and taxes. I’d add a third: change. All three have their challenges.


Blogger Lorcan said...

Oh my! What a beautiful post. My father and I, had a year, as he was in his final illness, to forgive and talk, and for me to take care of him, one of the things he said which stuck with me, about his terribly hard life, was that he always felt like the five year old he once was, playing at being an adult, on one level. He said, you never see the age you are, even looking in the mirror.

So, maybe Luke can be comforted that as he grows, the baby will always be part of him and help the adult he will be, see the world from that specially light.

Thine in the light
PS Just wonderful to find thy blog, and I am adding thee to my links.

9:34 AM  

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