Taxing Memories

By Emma Pearson

July 16, 2024

Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

12 April 2020

Since becoming an independent consultant in 2012, my least-favourite task – that of preparing my income and expenses for my tax return – has been consistent. For some reason, I fail to compile my expenses and invoices on a monthly basis, despite my diary having a “reminder”. Presumably something more exciting is on offer each and every month. The time slot slides and never gets actioned.

I wait, each year, till my accountant sends me his third panicky note, and then I jump into action and get it all done in a few days flat. But it takes me so much longer than it need, as all I have done throughout the previous year is stuff receipts (anything from petrol to coffees to hotel bills and flights) into an A4 envelope (I have one per month, so it’s vaguely organised – thankfully).

In 2017, compiling expenses for 2016, and in 2018, compiling expenses for 2017, I struggled mightily as I came across receipts that had joined my business ones – trips with Mike to Annecy and Lyon hospitals – receipts for road tolls, road-side cafes, hospital cafeterias. With every receipt a thump to the heart and belly, bile rising, before scrunching each one up with a choked sigh.

And now, completing the same painful activity for 2019, I have even more receipts from schlepping up and down French motorways as I took Julia to and collected her from hospitals, psychiatric units and the like. The same kinds of receipts and masses of them – motorway tolls, getting snack food and her favourite drinks from the Starbucks in a motorway service area. Even the bona fide business trip receipts are full of memories and heartache because I know pretty accurately what was happening with Julia on a given day. Trips where I had left Julia in someone’s hands – my mum’s, or Nelly’s the pet sitters, when we determined, all together, that she would be okay for a few days. That I might get away and do some work, or attend a learning programme. May 2019 Gothenburg receipts were for days where I had just met Medjool and part of my brain was on him. And I was two flights away from Julia as she took handfuls of anti-depressants. Then told Nelly. Reprieve for another few weeks.

It’s reliving the violent details, the terror – not just the numbness – over and over.

Yesterday I got to the end of June 2019. Julia died on 30th June. I have receipts from the 28th when I collected her from the psychiatric unit. I was with Megan, her school friend Katie, and my pet sitter Leigh. We’d spent a few hours in Annecy, enjoying the summer sun and the beauty of that town, out on the lake, swimming in the water, having a gorgeous French lunch in the cool, cobblestoned heart of the town, before going to collect Julia. She’d been on good form. She was chatty, perky and pesky on the return trip. We stopped off – as always – to get petrol and posh iced Starbucks drinks. Julia didn’t fuss about where she sat (she usually clamoured for the front spot). She selected all the music and sang with us. She loved Katie and was pleased to overlap with her. She was super fond of Leigh too.

A normal weekend with Julia at home, on leave. Except she wandered out on the Sunday night and never came back.

Anything but a normal weekend. Or month. Or year.

Today I need to brace myself for doing July 2019. I will come across receipt after receipt of when I was in the mind- and heart-numbingly sick-shock zone. I will see receipts from the trip over to Megan’s (and Julia’s school) where Ben and I had to tell her the news. Receipts from Munich where we went to see Elton John on his final tour – a treat for all of us, but no Julia. Receipts from the morgue. From the celebrant who led the service. From the place where we had, yet another, drinkies and nibbles after one of my loved ones died. It’s not just a piece of paper, but a speeded-up version of the event itself that I get, over and over.

For myriad reasons, I should better manage my expenses and receipts. But mostly because I cannot risk this violent dose of triggers as I sort through tiny pieces of paper. It’s not really that I wish I were better at my admin. Even though clearly I could be.

It’s just that I just wish I had Julia.

And Mike.

Just to share all this weight and ugh with.

About Emma Pearson

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