Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Am I Losing My Mind? Am I Going Backwards in Time?

I had a tough day yesterday.  It all started when Brian died.  Let me explain...

I have been trying to get licensed to practice law in Texas.  The ultimate plan is for me to do some freelance legal work (writing appeal briefs -- something I relish and most lawyers loath) and continue doing real estate as a paying hobby, working with family, friends, and referrals.  I love real estate, but I'm not crazy about the prospecting aspect of it -- calling FSBOs (For Sale By Owners) to try to convince them to list with me, hosting open houses for other agents to try to scoop up unrepresented buyers, setting up booths at trade shows, managing email databases of prospects, etc.  Some agents do cold calls, door knocking, and even go to malls to approach strangers with business cards.  Not my cup of tea.  I love helping people find the right home, helping them negotiate a fair price, helping them through all the steps of the transaction, explaining all the contracts and documents, etc.  I don't love competing with other agents for listings, trying to convince people why I'm the best agent to use, soliciting business from strangers, etc.  It is hard to make a living as an agent without doing all those things, but it's not hard to be a great agent who is fully dedicated to a small number of clients and who makes a little bit of money doing something she loves.

My plan, then, is to be a "boutique agent" who focuses on quality, not quantity and target numbers for number of appointments I can set in a given week or month.  I can do this by also doing some freelance legal work.  The beauty is that I can do the legal work from home, as well as a good deal of the real estate work (the searching, setting up appointments, phone calls, document preparation).  Being able to work from home and being able to largely control which days and hours I work would be ideal for raising a family, something that is on the horizon for us (though not the immediate horizon -- no big announcements yet!).

Yesterday, I put together a couple more documents that the Texas Board of Law Examiners needed to process my application.  One was my 2010 tax return and one was an order from the Arizona Supreme Court accepting my resignation of membership in that state's bar (I am not planning to practice there, so there is no point in paying the dues required to maintain membership...but I needed to follow a certain process to have that treated as resignation and not suspension.  Now that has been taken care of in a satisfactory manner).  What I didn't have was my 2006 tax return.  When I was putting together my (rather large) package of materials for the Board, I realized this was missing.  I submitted the spare copy of my W-2 for that year, which I did have for some reason, and explained that I had filed taxes in 2006 but could not locate the return, and that the W-2 and my employment references would be able to verify my full-time employment as an attorney for that year.  After placing a follow-up call to the Board yesterday, I was told that I would have to request the tax return from the IRS.  The woman I spoke to couldn't tell me why the return itself was necessary (they have copies of all the other years from 2005-2010), given the other proof of income and employment I furnished, but did at least tell me that my application *might* be considered without the tax return if I submitted proof that I've requested it.  One hundred fourteen dollars and two IRS forms later, the return has been requested and I've sent proof of that to the Board.  The tax return might take 60 days to receive.  I was also told that the Board of Law Examiners has 150 days to consider my application before it has to make a decision.  That puts us in February before I expect to know anything.  I submitted my application (the first time) in September, after spending months completing the application, tracking down and collecting documents (which included my high school cheer coach mailing me the only copy of my old business card anyone seemed to have), and ensuring I had up-to-date phone numbers and addresses for all my dozens of references.

It has been a long, drawn-out process, and I expected to have some answers or resolution by now.  Instead, there will be more waiting.  And it's out of my hands.

I don't like the fact that this is out of my control.  I don't like that the IRS is involved -- I inherently distrust and dislike them, and even having to fill out forms requesting old returns and having to copy my 2010 return (the one with the word "DECEASED" in all-caps prominently next to Brian's name) made me cry, tears of frustration and sadness and rage at the process and the red tape.  Why does this all have to be so difficult?!  Why is it taking so long for all these things in my life to come together?  I have had this idea and plan of what I want for so long, and now I'm just waiting -- waiting for the IRS to send me copies of a tax return that's more than a half-centry old. waiting for the Texas Board of Law Examiners to decide my fate, waiting to know if I'll have to take another bar exam, waiting to get my professional life to where I want it, waiting to get married and have kids, waiting....

And then I started thinking about what I've done with the last year of my life.  Today, I see it more clearly and can appreciate some of the non-Christmas-card items I've done, like writing this blog and having heart-to-hearts with hurting, grieving people.  But yesterday, I broke down, upset that I've only sold a few houses and haven't put all the pieces together like I thought I would have by now.  I'm getting impatient.

Then, I started thinking about the "what if"s that I usually avoid....Where would I be if Brian hadn't died?  Would I be a partner at my old firm?  Would we have two kids?  Would they be redheads?  Would my social life be better, full of all my friends that are now 1,000 miles away?  Would we have upgraded to a four-bedroom house with granite countertops?  Would we be able to spend vacation days at tropical resorts instead of returning home to see family?

I know all of these things make it sound like I'm miserable and unhappy with my life now, but I'm not.  That's the thing.  I just had a lousy day and I let it get the best of me.  I just could not stem the tide of tears yesterday.  It wasn't because I am unhappy with my life -- it was because I was frustrated and upset with a few things, and then some other issues came spilling out.  I don't grieve too much for what "could have been" anymore, but it happens every now and then.  Yesterday was one of those days.  They are few and far between, and get to be fewer and farther between as time goes on, but they still happen.  The good thing is that I was able to share all of this with Sheldon and just having an ear to talk to and a shoulder to cry on, and arms to hold me tight, made me feel better.  It can be a tough walk, to acknowledge these feelings and be honest about them, but also to make sure I don't offend Sheldon by making him feel that I don't love him and our life together.  I explained that, and somehow he handles it all well and keeps it in perspective.  A bad day here and there is nothing compared to our usual routine of happiness, kisses, and counting our blessings.  He knows I am happy, even if I have those "widow days" now and again.  We also know we can and will get through them.

Yesterday was a bad today.  Today is better.  Life goes on.  I will go on, and I will do so with a smile on my face, appreciating the wonderful things and people I have in my life.  As for the IRS and red tape I have to deal with....well, I hope to learn a thing or two about patience and persistence from all this.  There are lessons to be learned from everything, and goodness can come out of anything.

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