For the first time my question on this “special birthday” is not about where I will be at the end of this coming decade, it is about IF I will be.
It is natural at this particular milestone to be reflective about life’s journey and what it all means. As I do so I realize that on July 18, 2015, seventy years into this journey, I am at a perfect moment in my time.
There are many facets of perfect as I do a three dimensional examination of my journey. I struggle with the words as I want to catch just how deeply perfect my soul feels at this one moment in time and how grateful I am for all that has happened in my life. I look forward to the next decade (or two) or how many or few years might be mine with the confidence that the process of “perfection” will continue. I am not afraid of what will happen when I won’t be here anymore. “I have come to understand that Life exists in each of us in a tangible form and that the essence of who we are beyond the physical body exists.” (All quotes from The Actual Dance). There is no doubt for me that the essence that is me will continue forever in some form in the universe and that it will be good.
My first inclination in taking the inventory has been to list perfection in a two-dimensional sense. My internal physical well-being and the external relational well-being with the external world. For a seventy-year old, I’m doing pretty darn well. Take a look, and everything inside right now is working just fine thank you! Suffice it to say that I have performed The Actual Dance about 82 times now, most recently July 16th, 2015, and I have never missed a performance because of illness. I stand on my feet and present the show for about 1 hour, and I love every second of it.
0ur son, Marcus, just turned 45, is happily married to a wonderful woman who we consider also our daughter and has two fabulous children, Zachery and Emily. Our daughter Rachel is 18 months younger than our son and has a husband whom we are pleased to consider our son. Their two girls are a delight, Joanna and Sydney. They are both also achieving all their own goals in their life –or so it appears to me.
We, Susan and I, each have siblings and we all talk to each other, we share our life-cycle events with them and share a family love that is unconditional. We have great, and even great-grand, nieces and nephews and cousins.
And Susan and I are comfortably situated to take care of ourselves financially through whatever remaining time we have.
What could be better? There is better.
There is the third dimension. The spiritual dimension. It too is perfect at this moment, and I look forward to the process of further “perfection.” In the course of the last few years as I have gone through a radical personal transformation, a gift of radical amazement, that has come to me through the process of writing and now performing The Actual Dance. This process has led me to understand what love really means in a way that every day and in every interaction I experience a new and different level of that perfect understanding. Perfect can get more perfect. Love cannot be bottled because it cannot be contained, there is no end or fullness that cannot become even more or fuller.
My gifts and transformations have come over a lifetime. No one piece or experience without every other piece or experience would have enough to get me to today. The Actual Dance would not have been possible but for the time with my mother at the moment she took her last breath. Nor would this moment have been possible without first having gotten ready to hold Susan as it appeared she might be taking her last breath. All discovered through The Actual Dance.
As I enter my 8th decade of existence, I am a different and transformed human being. The journey’s rough spots are not important – only that they too were necessary steps to today. What I would like to do is acknowledge a few people who have had (and some continue to have) an important role in my journey to this perfect moment. Of course everyone who “I have ever met, ever known, ever loved in my entire life” have had a role in bringing me to this place, so a thank you – you will know who you are if you read this.
Of special thanks and acknowledgement because perhaps of the most unexpected ways you have touched my soul:
Susan Meryl Kalmans (that’s her maiden name) – who has taught me what love really means. A soul mate that has endured all the different stages of the relationship with amazing devotion and continues to my life’s partner.
Frieda Alfman Simon: My mother who allowed me to experience her life-force exit her body at her last breath. It is with that experience I have garner the perfect belief that “life exists within each of us in a tangible form.”
Marion Simon Garmel, Evelyn Simon Fox, Sylvia Sue Simon Pickens Owens, my still living siblings. Each of whom have given me something special in our relationships and today share in daily study with each other of Torah.
Harriet Rae Simon, my sister who died at the age of 32, who taught me how to lose a sibling and still go on.
Ken and Ginny Goldberg. Ken and I grew up with each other from about the age of 13. He and Ginny got married a couple of years after Susan and me. I consider Ken my best friend. They both have taught me what being a friend really means. They also taught me the hardest lesson in life; how to be present in the midst of the worst tragedy in life. They let me hear a soul cry. And to experience the journey to a new wholeness thereafter.
Lynn Fielder. Lynn is a friend who has so deeply touched my inside that I don’t know how to acknowledge it fully. A most totally unexpected and “random” (only if you believe that anything can be random) relationship. We served on the board of directors of the World Institute on Disability together. Lynn taught me that there is a purpose to my life and that I could discover that purpose. She taught me that God does not make mistakes, and everything we are – in her instance including her Parkinson’s disease -- is part of our purpose. My real spiritual journey began with Lynn one day in 2001 at lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Oakland, California. Most importantly Lynn taught me to be “grateful for whatever I have, when I have it” because it may be gone tomorrow.
Rabbi Richard Sternberger. Rabbi Sternberger in life was the most not spiritual man you might ever meet. He was also among the most ethical and prophetic voices in America for four decades. He also gave me the ultimate gift of letting me know about 6 days after I sat in his hospital room as he took his last breath that “everything is going to be okay.”
Ralph Nader. His impact on my life since I first worked for him in 1970 has been profound. He has taught me what finding purpose looks like. Most often from afar, but from time to time as closely as knee-to-knee – what love of family and tradition can feel like.
Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits. If I had an older brother, it would have been Laszlo. So, Susan’s oldest sibling is 16 years older than she, Laszlo is about the same relative to me. He has allowed me to be a partner in his world in ways that have taught me deeply the ultimate value of every human life. We have traveled and experienced places where no human being should have ever been and in a way that few people who weren’t there at that time get to experience.
Marcus and Rachael Simon our children have blessed me (and Susan) with their gift of honoring us in the full ten commandment contextual meaning of that word “Honor.”
Nadja Fidelia, whose gift of conversation about existential wrestling with God have helped stretch open my own spiritual container. There are some conversations that we can imagine in our heads sometimes, and she has had those with me in the real world. She has help me validate what I sometimes begin to doubt about my own experiences.
Gary Austin¸ the legendary improv teacher and founder of the Groundlings in Los Angeles. An intimate relationship with Gary as teacher can be hard. I describe it sometime as if I stuck my hand down my throat and turned myself inside out exposing every cell in my body to the brilliant light of the outside. Wow it hurt so good! It was Gary who offered, “improvise a story, write it down and then perform it.” It was his encouragement that brought me to find The Actual Dance.
Carol Fox Prescott. Carol my first real acting teacher. I discovered her through the Improv retreats sponsored by Artistic New Directions has been such an important part of my transformation and The Actual Dance. Through “On the Breath” acting work I have learned how to find a place where “angels sing on rays of light and love pours fourth from the heart of the universe.” Through years of her classes I have come to understand so many things differently, like “generosity.” Not as money but as spirit and giving love to others.
Gabrielle Maisels, my dramaturg and acting coach was both a fellow student of Carol Fox Prescott and earned the blessing from Carol to lead “on the breath” classes. Gabrielle is a full partner in the development and pursuit of The Actual Dance. Gabrielle in some many complicated and straight forward ways has kept me going on an unlikely journey. She has guided me to the amazing and delightful place for me to be able to say and believe: “I am an actor and a playwright.”
There are many more people. Friends and colleagues particularly those discovered during this time of transition for me, such as Robert (Bob) Chase, at Intersections, Carol Hexner part of the Values Roundtable that I worked with and Fred Johnson the amazing Fred Johnson, whose voice and heart are models for me, and I know more are so essential to my being “here” now.
So as I turn 70 – I find that I am at a perfect moment in my time because of YOU. Everyone mentioned and unmentioned. Everything that has happened in my life I am convinced happened to bring me to this exact time and place and it is at this very instant Perfect.