There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. ~Sophia Loren
In the next town, there is a little Italian deli tucked into the entrance of an alley. It is a place no tourist would likely find, but the locals know it well. Inside that tiny shop, there is a magical army of women and men that make incredible sandwiches, piled high with fresh veggies, meats with hard-to-pronounce names, and strange and delighful toppings. If you squeeze into this shop during the lunch rush, you will get carried away by the scent of the deli counter and the sounds of people shouting orders and the tearing of butcher's parchment as it flies off the roll to wrap up a mile-high masterpiece cradled in the bosom of a fresh baked Kaiser bun.
I don't often get a chance to stop in at this deli, and there are times I've tried but couldn't find a parking spot or even get in the door during a rush. But yesterday I found myself inside with my nose pressed up against the glass filled with mysterious meats and cheeses, picking out lovely things to be delivered to my very own sandwich. When the efficient woman behind the counter asked if I wanted "the works" for my toppings, I simply smiled and nodded, even though I had no idea what I was in for. (I'm working on my control issues, you see. No more being picky and missing out on something good.)
I was practically levitating while eating my lunch. I had things falling on my shirt and dripping down my chin. I found crisp pickles and rich artichoke hearts and what I think might have been marinated sundried tomatoes tucked into layers of salami and proscuitto and havarti. I was grinning like an idiot when I returned to work.
I've been in a few situations recently that involved showing my ID or revealing my age. Each time, I've had someone say "I'd never have guessed you were that old," or "that's not possible." One person made a comment about how I must have good genes. I suppose I do. While my father's family line boasts longevity, my mother's line is filled with people who's age is hard to pinpoint. (There's something in that Ukrainian blood, I know it.) But genes only take you so far. So - I'll tell you my secret - my Fountain of Youth.
Find something to delight in. Every day.
And not just delight in. Revel in. Laugh far-too-loud at. Swoon over. It definitely helps if you find something that hits high on your joy-meter, but if you aren't almost peeing, or tearing up, or nearly having an orgasm; if you heart isn't growing three sizes like the Grinch, it still counts. No pressure.
I have rough days too. Sometimes the gods are unkind, or just like to see you fall, or Mercury is a bitch. Stuff happens. I'm not glossing over the crap - the stuff that knocks us off our feet. I'm just saying that if I can get through the day finding at least one reason to grin like an idiot - I feel good.
In the last month, I have found foolish levels of delight in a haunted amusement park, a cat chasing a piece of crumpled paper, my niece telling me a story, the way the light finds a way through the clouds to beam upon one spot on the hill like it's showing the way to Brigadoon, the crows leaving walnuts on the road for me to drive over so they can swoop down and get the prize inside the shell, a package wrapped in green paper, and a cup of Indian chai that rocked my world.
Every day there is something. And I expect there to be. I find something to laugh at. Something that makes me jump up and down like a Price Is Right contestant. Silly things. Things that other people pass by and don't notice. I notice. I'm the kid tugging on your coat saying "did you SEE that?"
I used to have a friend who told me I should act my age. I should cut my long hair short, because women of a certain age wore their hair short and classy. I should put away the blue jeans and leave behind the Keds and wear grown up clothes. I should settle down.
I don't want to act my age (whatever that means.) I want to spend the rest of my life caring more about what amazing things I can see, taste, touch and experience rather than thinking for one moment about my age. I have found the Fountain of Youth - it is decidedly in not giving a shit about your age. It is in finding joy. It is in a salami and havarti sandwich from a little Italian deli tucked into the entrance of an alley.
Where is your Fountain of Youth?
PS - that picture up there? Bethesda Fountain. Awesome right? From Wiki Commons - by Emma Stebbins.