Taxes, Healthcare, Day-to-Day Tangled Messes – Complexity as a form of social control

Got ‘er done

I finished my taxes last night.

Hoo

Ray.

Now, I need to refile some other taxes which I messed up in years past. I figure, I’m still in tax-filing mode, so why not?

I messed up, years ago, thanks to a number of factors — not least of which was my TBI in 2004. I just wasn’t doing that great at handling complexity. Even with my tax prep software, just collecting everything together and organizing myself was a monumental task.

I managed to do it, but I did it wrong.

And that really messed with my head.

It messed with me so completely, that I missed the re-filing deadline last year, and I missed out on recouping thousands of dollars that I really needed. That’s on me – I should have reached out for help, but I didn’t. I guess my pride got the better of me on that one.

Anyway, now I’m busting my hump, trying to get myself into the frame of mind that will let me finally do these remaining taxes.  Git ‘er done, you know? And considering how challenging it is for me, I can only imagine how challenging it is for others who are in much worse shape than I am.

And it occurs to me that the powers that be probably profit handsomely from our confusion. We pay too much, because we don’t understand how to navigate the hidden complexities that could give us an advantage. We don’t get the refunds we deserve, because everything is far too complicated for us to grasp, and we don’t always know where to turn for help. When we do manage to reach out for help, we’re still screwed, because we may not know how to talk to the person(s) who are helping us. We might not be able to communicate our situation, and so we don’t get the assistance we need.

This can apply to taxes, healthcare, and just about every other complicated thing in life. Especially where older and/or cognitively impaired folks are involved. Seeing what my spouse went through after their car accident, where they totaled our van and had to talk to all sorts of insurance folks and navigate the healthcare system, made it all the more clear to me just how disadvantaged people can be… simply because everything is so hugely complicated.

If you don’t think the way the people in charge think, you’re so out of luck. You’re on your own, really — this is America, after all. And unless you learn how to fend for yourself, you’re pretty much out of luck. On the one hand, this is great incentive for people who have that kind of orientation and are able to adapt and learn — or at least take a beating and keep on going to fight another day. But for people who are genuinely impaired and who need assistance… well, shit. You’re just out of luck.

Now, this is not to excuse people who just can’t be bothered to get up off their asses and make something of themselves. We all know people like that — who use every excuse to get themselves off the hook and not live up to their potential.

This is about recognizing that not everyone has the same skill level or capacity to think things through and navigate tricky situations, as the people who design the convoluted systems of our lives. It’s about recognizing that the way things are structured, these days, has become so specialized and so professionalized, that everyday people are being cut out of their own world. If you’re not professionally trained or you don’t have access to assistance from someone who knows (or can figure out) the whole system, you’re pretty much screwed.

Of course, there are plenty of people who will help — for a fee. There are also people who will help for free.  But it’s not always easy to find them. And you may not know exactly what to ask or what you need help with, when find them.

All of which seems like a really cool way to “manage” society — split our culture into levels and classes, putting the people who organize things at the top, people who can figure things out in the middle, and people who can’t make sense of any of it, at the very bottom. I’ve been in all three classes, over the course of my life — as many of us are, in a variety of ways — and scraping the bottom of the barrel is no fun at all.

The thing I can’t help but keep coming back to, is the idea of how much money the federal government makes off us, how much power they hold, and how much they do, simply because they’ve created a system that’s far too complicated for any average, normal person to get their head around. If everyone understood how the tax code works and had the wherewithal to get every penny back that they are owed, how different would things be?

I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe it wouldn’t be that different from how things are now. Some people are naturally inclined to amass power and abuse their position. And those people tend to gravitate towards powerful positions. Even if we did get rid of the god-awful tax code and went to a flat tax for all (which I strongly support, by the way), there would still be people who would seek out positions of power and control in other ways. Maybe having a convoluted tax code serves as an outlet for people who absolutely crave the experience of screwing everyone over, and it keeps them from branching out into other areas, thus sparing us their sickness of mind and spirit in other more obnoxious ways.

In any case, the whole system is a screwed-up mess in more ways than any of us knows. For me, rather than tilting at the windmills of social injustice, I’m fending for myself. For many, many years when I was younger, I was bound and determined to change the overall system. That got me nowhere.

Now I’m focused on building up my own skills and becoming as self-sufficient and independent as humanly possible. The things that would give me an advantage in the world — namely, a college degree and social connections to people who can be of assistance to me — are pretty much out of reach. I doubt I’ll ever have the time or money to go back to school and put in two years of academic work required to get a degree. And fatigue and exhaustion are such major factors with me, that I am absolutely done by the end of each day. And I spend my weekends just getting back up to normal speed. So, I don’t have the energy for socializing and getting into the circles of people who can help me get ahead.

Even if I could do all that, I’m not sure I’d want to. I think those ships have sailed for me, and I’ve gotten so accustomed to making my own way, it suits me now. I don’t want to be in the midst of a corrupt and corrupting system. I need to be on the outside, making my own way IN my own way. It works for me. And from what I see of the people around me, it works better for me, than it does for them.

Anyway, I’ve got a full day ahead of me, so I’ll sign off now. With any luck, by the end of today, I’ll have a prior year’s taxes refiled and I’ll be able to check that off my list.

Onward.

KISS — Keep It Super Simple

I can complicate things pretty easily

I have friends in recovery who say that “KISS” stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”.  I get it. They don’t want to get too cocky, so they tell themselves they’re “stupid”. That’s fine, if it works for them, but I have had so many people telling me I’m an idiot, over the years, that adding myself to that list doesn’t help much.

I like the abbreviation KISS, but I need something that’s more than just name-calling.

So, how ’bout this — KEEP IT SUPER SIMPLE.

Yeah, that works – not just in the choice of words, but also in the spirit of things.

Keeping It Super Simple is more than a motto – it’s a way of life. I’m realizing, more and more, that I’ve been over-complicating my life, thinking I need to “re-engineer” my life. I get caught up in all sorts of grand meta-projects, which promise (in my mind) to wholly transform my existence.

But what I really need to do is simplify things and stick closer to home, honing the things that I already have, and not worrying so much about wholesale transformation. I need to start where I am and keep things super-simple, so that I don’t get too overwhelmed.

Overwhelm is a huge problem for me. I realize that more and more, as I branch out and become more pro-active in my life, rather than just reactive. I’ve been responding to crises for so long, it’s second nature to me, but taking action and being pro-active and deciding what direction I am going to go in, and how I’m going to get there… that’s new for me. Like anything new, it takes practice. And it’s not all that easy. Most new things aren’t, after all.

What I’ve noticed is that when I get my heart set on something, I can get very “romantically involved” with it — I love the idea of doing such-and-such — becoming the World’s Greatest Manager, for example. I become very enamored of the possibility and potential, and how it can transform the world around me. But in the process, I get caught up in all sorts of little details, I get side-tracked by different sorts of different information that seems intriguing and promising, and I eventually overwhelm myself with all the new information.

I get maxed out by all the excitement… and then the romance fades, the allure becomes tarnished, and I run out of energy. When I run out of energy, I feel like crap, and when I feel like crap, I start to get down on myself, and I’m just not a happy camper. And I forget — literally forget — about all the progress I’ve made, thinking that I’m just a loser who can’t keep their sh*t together.

I forget how much progress I’ve made. I forget what I’ve been doing, and why I’ve been doing. And I forget how much I love to do it, overwhelm or no.

This is what has happened with me a number of times, as I’ve tried to “re-tool” for my job change. I got into a lot of abstract theory and high-level consideration of the ephemera of what I’m studying – and I got so overwhelmed with all the information, that I lost sight of the ultimate goal — to get some solid experience doing things, to build up my portfolio, to demonstrate what I do, and to brush up on my skills at doing it.

I’ve just recently pulled myself out of yet another tailspin, refocusing myself on what I really need to be doing. I kind of went overboard with the abstract stuff and veered off course, only to find myself back in the same old cul-de-sac of unhappiness and discontent, which I was trying to get out of. It’s like I am driving around in a new neighborhood, and I’m so busy looking at my GPS that has old data, that I miss the turns right in front of me that are newer than the GPS data.

I need to quit looking at the GPS and just drive the car, you know?

Anyway, I’m feeling better this morning, because I’ve done just that – gone back to building my portfolio and working on my skills and refocusing on where I need to concentrate. I had a lot of grand plans in my head about what BIG THINGS I was going to do with myself, but what I really need to do is focus on the basics, the essentials… and make sure that the right people can see what I’m up to. I have spent way too much time in my life not telling others about what I’ve been up to – not showing them, not telling them, just keeping it to myself. And that hasn’t helped my career or my future very much. In the cases where I was working with people who knew me, I was fine. But showing up to deal with others who don’t… it’s a huge problem that is holding me back.

So, I’m getting past that. Being social on a much more professional scale. And getting on with things. Just getting on with them. Not holding back, but really showing what I can do. It’s not vanity, it’s not cocky pride, it’s just being honest about what I’ve got to offer, which is a lot.

Anyway, the day is waiting. Time to get a move on and see what else can happen for me. And not call myself “stupid”.