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This weekend, I set some time aside to complete my tax return. I have a patchy relationship with paperwork, especially paperwork mediated by online systems. And badly designed online systems the Government tells me I have to use by a certain date? Well I don’t like being told what to do either, so mandatory paperwork is on my list of Least Favourite Things Ever.

Anyway, I was moderately well behaved this year. I set aside time to do the tax return, and I sat down to do it. Sure, it took me an hour or so to log in because I had to hunt down my user ID. But once I’m logged in, my return is actually relatively simple to complete.

Except for: The Missing Document.

I work part-time for an employer, so I need to include information from my P60 on the tax return. But after much searching, I had to admit defeat: I’d lost it, and would have to request a replacement on Monday. Not the worst case scenario, but frustrating in that “if only I had done x” way unique to theoretically avoidable self-created obstacles.

That night, I had an immensely disgusting dream about shit. I took a massive shit that blocked the toilet. But my defecatory needs were so great that I had to finish shitting in a bucket. Then, having unblocked the toilet, I proceeded to empty the bucket of shit into the toilet. With a dessert spoon.

To be honest, just typing that out is making my gag reflex a bit twitchy. Ugh, much disgust.

Move to Sunday, and I’m starting to feel quite shitty. My son is down for an early afternoon nap, as is my wife. I’m wandering around with this shitty sensation, and I start to think about my dream. I mean, this one’s quite obvious, right? I need to clear up my shit. Except the shit in the dream is a metaphor for stuff I experience as shit in waking life.

In this case, that’s paperwork. After twenty months of being a dad, I can safely say I prefer changing shitty nappies to dealing with paperwork. By several orders of magnitude. (In fact, newborn babies’ shit smells like freshly baked biscuits for the first few weeks, so those nappy changing experiences were out and out enjoyable in their own right). Consequently, three things happen:

First, I need to dump a particularly large paperwork job (my tax return is the equivalent of taking one of those massive shits that isn’t even particularly enjoyable from a satisfaction point of view, just really messy and horrible).

Second, I block the toilet (paperwork is an ongoing process requiring background actions of filing useful stuff, and throwing out non-useful & expired stuff; suddenly needing to complete a bigger than usual piece of paperwork aggravates any incomplete background actions, blocking completion of the task in hand).

Third, I need to shit in buckets to complete my bowel voiding (to complete the tax return, I need to rely on ad hoc processes to find the information I need because I’ve blocked the easy route).

All of this adds up to a nice lesson to myself from myself on the importance of creating and maintaining a fit-for-purpose public sanitation system in the form of good paperwork practices. So I’m feeling shitty because I need to clear my shit. I sigh with resignation, and set about sorting out my accumulated paperwork blockage (a pile of metaphorical shit on my desk).

And no more than sixty seconds later, I’m holding the P60 I couldn’t find.

Dreams eh?

~ ~ ~

My name is Simon Stafford-Townsend. I am a gestalt psychotherapist in private practice in Bristol. My private practice website is Silver Cat Psychotherapy.

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