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Gustav Klimt(1862-1918) / Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, oil on canvas, Neue Galerie, NYC
"I intend to bequeath no inheritance, …"

My parents were raised through The Great Depression. They instilled in their children all the phobias common to anyone raised with unresolvable want. They'd caught on early that the system was rigged against achieving prosperity, though they labored hard to achieve a modest level of financial security. My mom sewed her kids' clothes and taught her daughters to sew for themselves. My dad taught his sons to put their heads down and toil without complaint. Sloth stood as the sole unforgivable sin. We learned to get by in spite of whatever game the rest of the world seemed obsessed with. Prosperity meant not complaining about stuff that couldn't possibly matter. We had each other, and a fine home filled with make-do eccentricities. The windows might have frosted over on the inside on the coldest winter nights, but one could wear a coat to bed or throw on another hand-me-down quilt, the coal fire would be warm in the morning.

My parents never once owned a new car, and never really wanted to.
The night my son was born, a hospital aid shook my hand to congratulate me, saying, "Now you'll never be rich!" I took his comment as more a blessing than a curse. Inflation was running fifteen percent then while my salary grew at something like three. Our house was losing value every year while insisting upon repainting, reroofing, and replastering every year. I hired a financial advisor to share the secret to prosperity. He taught me the secret to his prosperity, which was to charge people a few hundred buck they didn't have to tell them that they needed to save ten percent of their income every year. I was clearly not cut out for that kind of prosperity.

The bankruptcy helped me frame my world into genuine possibilities. I'd never make enough to save, so I dedicated myself to focusing upon what I could control without going overboard. I could dig dirt without spending a dime. I could write songs on my own time. The municipal library charged nothing for all the books I cared to read. I could cook my own suppers on the cheap. An alternative prosperity visited me, one indifferent to accumulation. Two new shirts each year, scrounged from the budget sale rack or the outlet mall, and a couple of the same model jeans, and I could dress myself better than a minor king could in the Middle Ages. I was entering middle age, anyway.

I found myself lousy with words, though I pretty much abandoned the idea of selling those words after I learned how much my best-seller earned me. I write daily, without the expectation that I might gain more than the appreciation of those who follow my writing, a very small audience without broader influence in the world, and I feel satisfied, even prosperous with that. I pursue million dollar ideas, not because they're likely to make me a millionaire but because I likely forgo the million bucks I could have made doing something I was much less suited to while doing that. I lost the rat race long ago and have conceded that I never was anybody's rat. The Muse manages the money while I manage my alone time. I am more skilled at denying myself than rewarding myself. I want little beyond what my life presents to me. In that respect, I feel inordinately free.

I try not to worry about my future, choosing to inhabit a series of presents instead. My prosperity might shrink on me, but I've learned that money's no antidote to that sort of outcome. There never was enough money and I gratefully caught on that there never would be. I have always had plenty of nothing terribly taxable, and that seems plenty for a fellow like me. I intend to bequeath no inheritance, only a small legacy of words snatched from ether and stories awkwardly stuck onto the sides of stars.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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