“Usually when we’re all caught up, we’re so engrossed in our storyline that we lose our perspective … we have a choice to strengthen old habitual patterns or to be free.” Pema Chödrön from Taking the Leap
I completed my income tax return (and filed it for a refund) last week. Finishing so early is unprecedented for me. For nearly 30 years, I have said I hate doing my income tax return! I like math but why does this have to be so complicated? Take x% of line y in table z and enter it in line a, blah, blah, blah! I hate it on principle.
I think of a storyline as some statement about myself that I’ve come to believe simply by saying it to others over and over again. I’ve finally bored myself listening to those same old scripts.
So I asked: does my tax storyline still hold true? I’ve used software for years to file my taxes and it does all the looking up of percentages, tables, and lines for me. It’s pretty darn easy, actually. No, I don’t hate doing my income tax return. I have historically procrastinated with submitting my taxes simply because I procrastinate, even with things that I actually like and want to do.
Here’s another: My timing has always sucked! I graduated with a BA in English at a time when you needed a Master’s degree just to get a job in a bookstore for minimum wage. I graduated with an IT diploma right before the dot-com bust.
But somehow along a bumpy road, I ended up in a spot that presented a surprising job offer that enabled big, significant, positive changes in my life. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have arrived here or had my simpler living epiphany any other way. I don’t know.
Maybe my timing’s been great in ways I usually wouldn’t notice: like that night three years ago when I’d narrowly avoided a nasty car crash at my exit because I’d taken an extra 10 minutes leaving downtown Seattle when I got a little lost (a common occurrence when I drive in Seattle). No, I didn’t buy AAPL or receive stock options to become a millionaire overnight. BUT my timing has put me in the right class, hike, or job to meet a network of generous, supportive, warm-hearted folk who call me their friend.
Last one: I didn’t start making $ until my mid-30’s and I have A LOT of catching up to do for retirement!
This is the big storyline I’m erasing with simpler living. I expected I’d have to work another 15 years as a sort of penance for not getting my shit together sooner. According to the retirement calculators, I would have to work at least that long to save $ to maintain my current standard of living in retirement. So I’m downsizing my needs and I’m changing my view that retirement means hard stop at a certain age. Yes, I have a lot of catching up to do for retirement: like slowing down soon, focusing on what is important in life now, developing a business plan for a simpler living semi-retirement, and dropping some very very old storylines. My timing is just right.
- Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chödrön
- BA = Bachelor of Arts degree
- IT = Information Technology
- AAPL = Apple Inc. stock symbol