Ann Bauer has an article on Salon today called “Sponsored”, in which she outlines where the funding and support for her writing career has come from. Bauer is a moderately successful writer, with three novels to her name, which appear to be generally favorably reviewed on Amazon.com. She’s the author of a number of articles on Salon.com, and I’ve a feeling I’ve seen her written work elsewhere. And she’s basically asking writers to come clean about their income.
So, first of all, I’m a teacher. That’s my main income. But it’s worth noting that for the first fifteen years of my teaching career I worked at a boarding school, where my living expenses of room and board, the two big ones, were covered by my employer. I worked at the school, but had essentially no debts or ongoing liabilities. I owned my car, which further reduced the drag on my income. That gave me the time and wherewithal to build up some resources; and my parents have added to those resources through gifts over the years. And it is from those gifts, and that income, that I’ve paid for my graduate education, and for the time and training to go take tai chi classes, and build the time into my schedule to do tai chi daily. For which I’m deeply grateful.
All four of my grandparents suffered during the Great Depression, and yet I am a grandson of the working class but a son of relative privilege. My parents ensured that I grew up understanding that I was born into a family and a social class with relatively few needs, and that it was easy to let my desires spin out of control if I wasn’t careful and deliberate about it. They took care to see to it that I knew that I would rarely be the poorest person in the room, but that — depending on my circumstances and my social circles — that I would rarely be the richest, either. A kind of Stoic moderation in all things was called for, especially since, growing up the son of a book designer and a businessman, there was a real chance of the family’s wealth evaporating on a month-to-month basis all through my childhood into early middle age: Avoid debt, give back what you can, prefer modest entertainment, live simply. It’s been good advice.
In general, I’ve done well by that advice. With another snow day today (and another possible snow day on Friday? Time will tell), I slept in until almost 7:30, but then tai chi called to me, and it was time to wake and do my daily task. Good breathwork, good form, and a reasonable use of force characterized today’s practice. I’m starting to develop the “dragon force” that characterizes good practice in conjunction with the deliberate effort to slow down.
But it’s not fair to say that my tai chi practice is simply the result of me getting up every day and doing it. It began with taking the right class with the right teacher; and it’s fair to say that it began with my grandparents instilling the right values in my parents, so that when they came into relative prosperity, they coached me into a pattern of responsible living which continues to serve me today. I wouldn’t be a good tai chi practitioner without the work that came before, on the part of my parents and grandparents — and today, I bow to them in thanks for the support that they’ve given me.
Update on the Weather: Outside on my front step, I can hear my landlady’s plow-guy running a snowblower to clear the front sidewalk. Except that I shoveled open an initial path there early this morning. And he’s plowing out the back-yard parking lot now with his truck, too, except that I shoveled out two and a half cars there yesterday by hand, and enough of the driveway with help that one guy could get out to work. And he’s helping clear off a fifth car back there, so that one of my neighbors can get out; but I helped another neighbor free her car from the snow drift at the front of our driveway left by his plowing effort the other day.
When I contrast my relative success in life, it’s fair for me to note the ways in which I’ve been genuinely helped by those who birthed and raised me, and by my teachers; but it’s also clear that I’ve derived great benefit from learning that it’s important to do things early and correctly, and to help others.