This one-word swap can help you feel better, even grateful

Founding Mother, Chard & Stripes

Chard Mail would be landing a day after Tax Day—an awful day for many Americans.

Wanting to ease the pain, I planned a story titled, “Did you get to pay taxes?”

My core point was this:

“Having” to and “getting” to feel very different.

Having to pay taxes feels bad to think about.

Getting to pay taxes feels better because it means that you made money and were giving toward the common good. Unless you’re Netflix, which paid $0 on $2.5 billion in income in 2018-19.

Or Nike, FedEx and other big businesses that dodged federal taxes AND got rebates for 2020.*

But anyway, …

“Getting” to do things feels better than “having” to.

I’ve had surgery twice and longed each time to get to clean my house. Besides the fact that getting to clean my house meant that I had one—a gift in itself—it would have meant that I’d recovered.

Perhaps you’re not convinced.

Perhaps you’re thinking that cleaning your house is less…taxing than paying taxes.

I can agree because my story idea backfired, at first:

In 2020, I made just over four thousand dollars and figured I wouldn’t owe taxes. But to the IRS, getting paid as my mother’s caregiver meant that I had a business. My income was pure profit and I got a bill.

I was furious: How would I be paying more than companies making billions?

But I also had to chuckle: Life had given me a chance to practice what I’d planned to preach.

When you get upset for “having” to do something, ask yourself how you might be lucky for “getting” to do the task or how it’s helping you do something else that you want.

In the end, I paid $160 bucks in federal taxes, which is $160 more than Nike did. But I had a choice: to be resentful and go sideways or make peace and get on with developing my work.

I’m assuming that you know what I chose. What you don’t know is what I thought to feel fine:

This year, I GET to pay toward my Social Security!

(It’s fine to laugh but I was serious: A family caregiver can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages and Social Security benefits. I quit as an analyst long before caregiving for my parents, but if you consider that I made close to $100,000 and have been caregiving for about four years, I’ve lost a lot of potential income. But this is also true: Anything I “lost” wasn’t worth my soul getting crushed.)

*For more about corporate tax avoidance, visit the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy at

Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Harmon is a scientist turned storyteller and Founding Mother of Chard & Stripes, a “school” of prosperity making and word-of-mouth marketing platform for businesses in food, fashion and more. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter here.