Monday, December 10, 2012

Fountain of Youth

Dear Dr. Kate,
I would like to know where you found the fountain of youth!  Also:  Are you a vegetarian and do you stick to a specific diet?
Hi Donna,
What a timely question since I just turned 50.  I feel younger and more vibrant now than I did ten years ago.  In my humble opinion, this is because I’m happier
That said, I don’t look younger.  Well, maybe my body does, but my face doesn’t. I’m okay, though, with having a “complicated” face.  It’s a map of my life.  I’m not someone to fiddle with my face, but I’m not for or against face-fiddling.  I’m not into judging what others choose to do.  And I think this is part of my fountain of youth:  keeping out of others people’s business.  I don’t have any interest in convincing people of things, of pushing against stuff.  I’d rather go with my flow.  I’d rather be happy.  And happiness is the best face-lift. 
Just as there is no formula for happiness, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all fountain of youth.  There are as many fountains as there are people to skinny dip. 
Since you asked, here is my recipe for capturing the energy, joy, and creativity associated with youthfulness:

1.  Be your own soul mate.  I don’t look to anyone else’s behavior or thoughts to make me happy.  Not even (or perhaps, especially) my spouse!  As Oscar Wilde said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”  This frees me up to love (or ignore!) people as they are.  This frees me up to allow, rather than try to control others’ thoughts and actions.  This frees me up to love the freedom that is the birth right of us all.

2.  Try new stuff.  For a long time, I was stuck in my ways—convinced that I didn’t like X, Y & Z and had no interest in trying them.  It’s okay to have preferences—but my disposition went way beyond predilections.  I was spending precious living energy justifying my ways. It’s funny how we feel we must explain to our friends, our family, and strangers (and to ourselves) why we make the choices we do.   Once I stopped arguing for my limitations, I found myself less judgmental of myself and others.  And I began to open about trying new things.  Also, I suddenly had more energy because instead of using my power to justify, I was using it to live!  (I’ve also written about this here and here and here.)

3.  Move for fun.  Exercise as punishment isn’t my thing.  I like to move in a variety of fun ways rather than try to stick to some rigorous workout schedule that I’ll eventually come to resent.  Resentment is bad for any relationship!  I do like to run, but when I set out, I don’t force it.  I don’t say, “I must run X miles.”  Instead, I smell the salt air, watch the trees and people and pelicans go by, and use movement as a way to appreciate my body, my breath, and my world.  Some of the other ways I like to move include beach Frisbee, strolling to my favorite cafe, dancing in clubs and in my living room, yoga, random moments of stretching, skiing, hiking, snow-shoeing, swimming, sex, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  But if you like the elevator, take it and enjoy the ride, rather than thinking the whole time you “should” be on the stairs.  Being in the groove of whatever I’m doing rather than thinking I “should” be doing something else is the key the pleasurable movement.  The grass is greener where you stand.  Or hop, stretch or boogie.

4.  Eat what you love, with appreciation.  No, I’m not a vegetarian.  I used to be one.  In fact, I was a vegetarian for about twenty years.  I was the shittiest vegetarian because I filled up on huge portions of breads and pastas and beer and pie while secretly craving chicken and bacon and hamburgers.  I wasn’t eating what I really wanted, and so I compensated in unhealthy ways.  My energy was low.  I often felt lethargic.  Now I eat whatever I want.  How do I know what I reallywant?  I check in with myself (my clear, quiet, wise self—aka, my Inner Being) and say, “What sounds good?”  Almost always my wise IB wants something healthy and in medium portions.
Whenever I’m craving something, I also check in with my Inner Being.  I say, “Hey, IB, how ya feeling about those nachos?”  And I kid you not, when I pause and ask, sometimes the desire for those nachos just disappears.  Other times, my IB gives the nachos the thumbs-up.  And then I look closely at the melting cheese (so pretty how it glistens!) and olives (thank you olive tree, and the person who picked them!)—in other words, I appreciate whatever is in front of me.  Then, with thoughtful awareness, I eat, savoring every bite.  When I eat in that mode, I always eat less than if I dive in without centering myself first.  Sometimes even one bite of a dessert is all I “need.” And while I’m no Skinny Minnie, my body is happy.  There’s nothing like eating informed by my body’s wisdom.

5.  Focus on solutions not problems.  The problem, the complaint, is usually very clear.  Why linger there?  Why not turn toward all the possibility the problem has created?  Why not face the sun?  In this way we serve ourselves—and the world—better.  What does this have to do with your question?  I think anger, fear, worry, resentment, and pushing against the world make us old.  So what makes us young?   Living your purpose with joy, creativity, appreciation, and a rich connection to your true self and others.

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