Mail Is Not a Gender

I stopped opening my mail. I let it pile up. From December until now. Three big piles.

Roy Rodgers and his mail. I think Bullet (his dog) is under there somewhere.

Roy Rogers and his mail. I think Bullet (his dog) is under there somewhere.

I have a secret streak of irresponsibility and procrastination. When it surfaces I know something is going on. Years ago, I procrastinated filing my taxes. One year, then two, then I stopped opening the letters until the IRS took the money out of my bank account. The weird thing was, if I’d filed on time, I would have gotten a small refund. Instead, I had to pay a penalty and hire a CPA to straighten the mess out.

All the forms I need to file my 2014 taxes are in those piles, and whichever ones aren’t, I’m going to have to track down on-line. I should make an appointment with my accountant. I have phone anxiety. If I don’t call now I could procrastinate for another five years, paralyzed by shame. Like a bad child on my way to the principal’s office, I can’t believe I’m here again.

Telling a procrastinator to just do it is about as effective as telling an overweight person to use willpower or a depressed person to cheer up. I muster up my adult self, pick up the phone, and place the call. I know I won’t blow off the appointment. I will come prepared because I don’t want to look like an idiot. I want to look like a responsible adult, even if I feel like a terrified child.

I’m afraid of backsliding and screwing up my finances again. Of starting a costly self-perpetuating cycle of anxiety, avoidance, and shame. This is a part of me that I hate. I’m also afraid of gaining back weight; the visible manifestation that I’m out of control and that something is wrong. I could lose my grip and be round again.

Or be eleven years old, chubby, wearing clothes I hate, stealing money from my parents to buy muffins from the bakery, and stuffing the muffins down to steady myself, bewildered but unable to stop.

Two things my mother harped on were my weight and that I was never going to be successful or be able to support myself (since I obviously wasn’t going to get married and no one would hire someone who looked like me). It is impossible to get those dead arguments out of my head, no matter how many times I prove her wrong.

It is no accident that this is happening just as I am starting to feel good about my body. The procrastination and bingeing are warnings. The eleven year old is banging at the cellar door trying to get out. I don’t know what to do with her.

I want to tell her that her mother is wrong. It is OK that you don’t want to grow up. There will come a time when you won’t have breasts, and you won’t have to wear anything that makes you look like a woman. You will have a nice chest and you will put on a T-shirt with nothing on underneath it. You won’t have to stuff your feelings down, you will be able to feel the pain and it will hurt but you will survive. It won’t be easy, but you will stop stuffing down bagels and you will pay your taxes on time. And you will feel better. I promise.

Bullet-the-wonder-dog-unties-RoyNotes: Roy Rogers is remembered for his horse Trigger, but he also had a trusty canine companion, Bullet. Bullet was known to rescue him from some pretty difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, Gracie can not help me open the mail or file my taxes. I can’t even take her off as a deduction.

This article from The New Yorker (although neither butch nor trans* related) is a good piece on procrastination. A lot of us complain about being paralyzed by procrastination, putting off all sorts of things until we get our act together. I’m trying to break the cycle.

26 thoughts on “Mail Is Not a Gender

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I think a lot of us have procrastinated ourself into distress at one time or another. I’m hoping that by writing about it and giving it some air I can short circuit the process and file my taxes and not get into the shame cycle again (and not go straight to the fridge as a diversion from dealing with my tax anxiety).

      Like

      Reply
  1. PlainT

    Who are these mythical people who never procrastinate on anything?!

    I often feel shame about the things I procrastinate on as well; but I’m willing to bet that you know at least a couple other people who were in a similar situation but never talk about it. Otherwise, why would there be so many jobs for CPAs?

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Lisa, my CPA, claims that the worst clients are self-employed consultants who don’t put aside any of their income and then owe a lot (a lot) of money that they don’t have. They expect her to magically fix their 1040’s so they don’t have to pay taxes.

      I don’t mind procrastinating some things (cleaning closets, returning things I’ve borrowed) but taxes are a problem. I do know a few people who have gotten into trouble with the IRS for not filing – but you have to be a knucklehead (as I was) to let them seize your assets when you should have gotten a refund. So yes, I’m ashamed, and I’m hoping talking about it will keep me from doing it again.

      Like

      Reply
  2. Lesboi

    There you go being that responsible adult we were just talking about again. Glad to know I’m in good company. This is the kind of stuff I’m talking about when I tell my therapist I’m not very good at adult stuff. Thankfully Candace is very good at paperwork and all this horrible adult crap because I suck at it. Oh and phone shy…yes, me too. I get laughed at by my better half for parking my car and going in to talk to a person face to face rather than place a phone call. She thinks that’s a pretty silly waste of time. I just don’t like talking on the phone.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Email is one of the greatest inventions of all time as it has saved me many phone calls. I can send emails. I can’t make phone calls without Herculean effort.
      My problem is that once I start avoiding something, the avoidance/shame thing just makes it so big that it becomes unmanageable (as in the tax fiasco of yore). I did a similar thing with my dentist and they agreed to harass me (and leave a message on Donna’s phone) if I try to go without a cleaning or duck their phone calls. Not so sure I want my accountant to do that, but it might help.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The first step feels like Moses walking into the Red Sea (not to be overdramatic but it is really hard for me). It is a strange momentum – if I have the appointment I won’t break it, if I have the appointment I’ll find a way to prepare for it, if I go there they will file it for me and I’ll be done for the year. It would be better for me if they made the appointment (I arranged for my dentist to do that because it is the other thing I can procrastinate and going too long between cleanings is really painful so they call me and harangue me until I make a appointment).

      Like

      Reply
  3. middleagebutch

    I thought I was the only person in the world with phone anxiety. I almost always prefer a face-to-face encounter. W doesn’t get it.

    Hang in there with your taxes. I am going through the same thing right now. Trying to get all of my finances organized and taken care of. Putting it off has cost me thousands of dollars.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yup. I cringe when I think about what I did and could easily fall into doing again. But talking/writing about it helps and demystifies it a bit. The other worst thing for me was that I was silent about it and hid it from Donna and from my therapist until the IRS seized my bank account.

      Like

      Reply
  4. RonaFraser

    I hear ya. I have trouble with avoidance and procrastination. Well actually I guess I have no trouble with them as I do them both quite well. And it makes me angry at myself because I feel I should have conquered these issues by now… It’s like I’m rebelling against someone, but the only person it could be is me, which is stupid.
    One of the things I do this with is cleaning my house (I live alone). When the counter is full of dishes and I am running out of clean clothes and the cat hair tumbleweeds get too bad and I STILL just want to watch tv or work, I put on a timer for 10 minutes to clean the kitchen, then 10 for the living room etc. I usually end up getting into it but even if I don’t, at least I’m maybe an hour cleaner than I was.
    When I’m in full avoidance, it is usually because I am stressed about something that maybe my subconscious mind hasn’t seen fit to reveal to my conscious mind yet, so I sit with pen and paper and ask myself WTF is wrong… I may start writing about one thing but usually end up with a realization, which helps take the blockage away.
    I’m sure there is one hell of a lot of emotions that come along with your operation, and maybe you need to sit with them and acknowledge them and feel them a bit. Or just say you will open 3 envelopes a day. Good luck!
    PS. That being said… my counters are covered with dishes & I am almost out of clean clothes, I know what the cause is this time… yet I’m not sure when the cleaning will begin. Well, I did put a load in the washer this morning, ready to be turned on when I get home tonight! Cross your fingers!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      If I lived by myself my place would look like a college dorm room – coffee cups, papers, and dirty clothes all over the place. Fortunately, living with Donna, I confine my procrastinated mess into one room which she rarely enters (the “spare” bedroom – where I keep my computer and write).
      I actually sorted the mail to pull out anything that might require either making a payment, have a check in it, or be tax related – and opened those up. So I might actually get the taxes together in time. The rest of the mail just has some guilt and shame attached to it.
      I think the tax procrastination/anxiety is a sort of defensive or diversion anxiety, and I need to think about what it is diverting me from – but in the meanwhile I’ve got to get ready to see my CPA and make sure I don’t miss the filing deadline.

      Like

      Reply
  5. The Little Butch That Could (TLBTC)

    Could you take Gracie off as a deduction if she was a ‘therapy dog?’ I’m sure she does wonders for your mental health in her own special way. I say she is a therapy dog! I’ll back up your claim. 🙂 Cheers.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      You can deduct genuine service dogs, but I am cautious about lying to the IRS because I am not a good liar and I don’t want them to go through the rest of my taxes with a fine tooth comb (I have an unfounded fear that by not filing previously I am on some kind of fraud watch list).
      The only times I have lied about Gracie is when I took her on commuter trains and Amtrak. She has a “Service Dog” vest, and it went OK – she is a bit high strung for a therapy dog – but they didn’t ask me what service she provides and she didn’t bark so it was fine.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. Kris

    I had a teenage part (female) who surfaced in therapy, but she had decided to go back to the past and does not accompany the other parts any more (Internal Family Systems therapy). It’s time to let go of the past, Jamie. We can’t keep dragging it along with us like a bag of potatoes. By now it is rotten. Are you still in therapy? If not, don’t you think you need some sessions?

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I am still in therapy…I am just beginning to have some empathy for my kid self (selves). I was a very dissociated kid, and always felt like I had two separate lives (in my head and what everyone else referred to as “real life” but which felt fake). It is the real life kid (girl) that I can’t tolerate.
      There is a procrastination theory of competing selves, and sometimes I feel like I’ve got a six year old, and eleven year old, and a seventeen year old in there fighting me for attention. Eventually I’ll accept them or integrate them back in.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  7. Pingback: Links of the Week – March 20, 2015 | A Long Run

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s