Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tax Deadline

During the weekend, I struggled to complete my tax return using Turbo Tax, working on Saturday and Sunday and finally completing by Sunday noon. I have been working on my taxes since last week after office until I decided that the effort needed a full weekend; to focus on assembling documents, preparing spreadsheets, making calculations on expenses and so on. The task is time consuming and requires a sustained effort of concentration, made difficult by the many diversions available: movies, books and music.  After I completed my tax return, thanking God for Turbo Tax, I wanted to play golf but I did not have time, I vacuumed the house and watched movies borrowed from the library. The source of stress is oneself, and I realize that I am driving myself crazy, the only way to cut down is to avoid going to the library, where the many books and magazine lie in wait, ready to entice me with numerous possibilities for distraction and mental strain. But working on my taxes and organizing my financial affairs, one realizes is THE important task; all others are frivolous distraction. But there are just too many good films to see or books to read that I remember St. Augustine praying that he be converted a little bit later so he can enjoy his philistine life a moment more.
I also realize that one’s mind is not as sharp as before, coupled by the effects of medication like statins that supposedly cause mental confusion, realizing that a sustained mental effort requires a force of will. One wonders if the challenge at work is really a suicide mission: the urge to fight back and conquer the work place is really stressing the mind. Age is what stops people from achieving their dreams at a late age, except for the late bloomers who seem to reach the pinnacle of their efforts at midlife. The need for mindfulness, the meditation technique pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is now practiced by more people in the workplace, confirming my instinct several years back when I discovered his work, but lapsed in the years since with the occasional Tai Chi and Yoga practice. One is glad of PBS with sponsored programs that feature Deepak Chopra, Daniel Amens and others who advise on how to keep the brain young and fight the ravages of time. It all came together in the weekend as I struggled to complete my returns and watched these shows that advised on the latest techniques. Strangely, I had a chance to read about Southern writers, a book by William Ferris with supplemental DVD and CD, with accounts from Eudora Welty, Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren and Arthur Haley, keeping the dream alive; as one struggles with age.

Recently I meet with insurance sales men, talking about life and term insurance, about annuities plus reading about retirement design. Financial planning is clear now, especially last weekend as one organized his financial assets, going in the right direction and following instincts. I think one made good decisions, cautious on spending and investment, making small mistakes, following Nassim Taleb latest book on probability, focusing on diversification, savings and value investing. This effort requires clear thinking and abstract reasoning but affected by age, stress, exercise, diet, sleep habits and alcohol.  It can all come undone if one is not careful. There is too much living in the future or in the past where one is not mindful of the present moment; a curse that one did not realize until one begins to have problems focusing, escaping into books or movies to distract the mind. Mindfulness is a Buddhist discipline, not only an effort of mental exercise but philosophical intent. One is attracted to the element of discipline but lost to the transformative experience if one does not accept the metaphysical implications; a contradiction of both thinking and unthinking; to focus on the moment.

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