Last month, I got a fat envelope in the mail from the Internal Revenue Service. When I opened it up and saw that it was clearly not a check (I was trying to think positively), I stood in the driveway and started to cry.
I’d never gotten one before, but it had all of the looks and the heft of an audit notification.
And it was.
The audit was for what I call “the year that won’t go away.”
That year of my business was one of growth and adventures, but it was also a pretty wild ride that ended up being one of the most stressful times of my life.
I thought I’d put it to bed, financially speaking, when we filed our tax returns the following winter and got our refund.
Obviously, that was not meant to be.
The “year that won’t go away” showed up again this June in the form of a notification that the IRS wanted proof and an explanation of what was in “Schedule C” of the return — basically, EVERYTHING connected to the financial operations of Laura Wagner, LLC.
The upside, which I made my mind realize after I FaceTimed my husband and cried some more, was that I had the documentation they needed.
I could provide an explanation as to why I needed to deduct every single expense I documented for my accountant that was listed in that return.
I am a meticulous receipt keeper with files full of paper and categorized Gmail folders. It was just facing the mammoth task of pulling them all together and writing a narrative about what they were and how they were necessary for my business that weighed me down.
I am a solo entrepreneur — I have a traditional, brick-and-mortar private practice for face-to-face counseling and coaching.
I also have clients across the country and we have phone and video sessions.
I create courses for groups that I teach online.
I have subscription services for things like Vimeo, Zoom, Host Gator, Canva, Active Campaign and other things most people wouldn’t understand.
I can run many facets of my business from anywhere in the world with just my iPhone.
I do live workshops, including one that involves a lavish dinner with a personal development curriculum.
I hire professionals to do photo and video shoots to augment my marketing and my online storefront, which is my website.
It’s not a traditional business, and I had a big upswing in expenses that year, so I can see why it caught their attention.
I met with my accountant to review what I needed to do next, and in the past few weeks, I’ve been slogging through receipts, printing invoices and photocopying canceled checks.
There are bank account and American Express statements all over my office floor.
I was trying to get as much done as possible by this weekend so I could go on vacation with my family for the first time in two years and put the final pieces together when we got home.
While I have NO desire to get one of those fat envelopes again in the coming years, I decided that my complaining and foreboding wasn’t helping me as I sat down to put all of this together for hours at a time.
As a therapist and coach who works with people on the power of mindset and how that influences our lives, even in the face of shitty circumstances, I took my own advice and asked myself, “what is this here to teach me?”
After I came up with some sarcastic answers, I drilled down to something better.
I was putting together the story of a year of my business and my life with this audit.
Instead of rotely putting the pieces together, I decided to look at the patterns — my best decisions and my struggles.
I saw the wins and the losses.
I saw how I took the things I learned that year and decided to grow instead of quitting, and how I’ve done things differently since then.
As much of a pain in the ass this has been, it’s also been … I’m going to say it … therapeutic. It helped me coach myself.
People ask me all the time what the difference is between my work as a therapist and a life coach, or how I bridge the two.
The audit speaks to that.
I got to take a long, hard look at the past — the pain and the triumphs — and then I got to learn how this shaped me as a business owner and a woman.
Was I going to label myself and that time in my life as a “failure,” or was I going to take it and see how it shaped my current situation and what I can create in the future?
That’s what I do with my clients. I do want to look at where you’ve been and know the stories of what happened in your past; but instead of constantly massaging those stories, I want to help you see how it’s gotten you to where you are now.
Most importantly, I want you to decide how you’re going to take what you’ve experienced and shape your future.
It’s a form of auditing.
It’s something you may want to avoid, but if you want to come out clear, confident and wise on the other side of it, it’s worth the work.
Or you can stand in your driveway and keep crying.
I’m packing up a box of my life on paper with a confident and solid statement about my work and why I decided to do what I did that year to help my business grow and thrive.
When it gets to the IRS, it’s out of my hands.
They can send me a letter (the kind you want) that says “no change” and I don’t have to pay a penalty … or they can send an invoice for all of the deductions they are going to disallow and I have to write a check.
I might cry in the driveway again, but what I know for sure is that I’ll rally, do what needs to be done, and keep on growing.
Working with me is the best kind of auditing you can do with your life.
I don’t “disallow” any of your experiences and there’s never a penalty when you show up and are willing to be vulnerable and do the work.
I’m here to help you sort through any and all of that and grow into the woman you want to be.
We can work together to clarify what that means for you, and the goals and actions to take to realize that.
I’ve helped hundreds of women work through depression, anxiety, health and body image, career transitions and transformations, relationship issues, among other things.
If you’re at a crossroads in your life where you’re ready to have a champion, guide and accountability partner to help you move forward in your life, I’m here to help.
All of us have one thing in common:
We get just one precious life and we get to choose how we live it.
We all have our triumphs and challenges; it’s what we decide to do with those that create a life versus an existence.
It’s never too late, and nothing is too good to be true.