Gero-Punk Funk: Camp Outlook

I knew I had to do something to save myself but I wasn’t sure what to do. So I decided to take myself on a little adventure to the Oregon coast, on an overnight camping trip at Cape Lookout. In the days leading up to the trip, I heard myself more than once refer to Cape Lookout as “Camp Outlook.”

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My daughter Isobel was on a graduation trip to Washington D.C. with a friend. I felt elated that she’d had this opportunity and we’d been able to make it happen. My plans to go away with my significant person to the coast that week had fallen through at the last minute. I felt disappointed and angry. Spring term had just ended and there was less than one week during which to grade papers and wrap things up from a stressful school year before commencing summer term teaching and projects, as well as getting Isobel prepared for and off to college far away on the East coast. (Yikes.) I felt relieved and exhausted and anxious and disoriented.

I was aware in an abstract way that it might be important to give myself some time and space to properly acknowledge significant transitions in my life, especially that after almost 18 years of living mostly on my own with Isobel things were going to be changing dramatically. I was aware in an embodied but not entirely conceptual way that it might be important for me to contemplate some long overdue, big decisions about my next self and life.

But I felt really stuck and incapable. I felt that my capacity for bouncing back from change, challenge and stress was close to completely depleted. My thoughts had little nuance. My sense of humor had gone on sabbatical without me. I was shocked and dismayed by my mid-life body. Everything pretty much sucked.

I knew I needed the time and space – even if only two days and one night at the coast — for starting the process of getting unstuck, for instigating and practicing the causes and conditions for renewal. I realized that what I yearned most desperately for was a fundamental and major change in perspective.

This might explain why I kept referring to Cape Lookout and “Camp Outlook.”

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Having packed the car with the camping supplies the night before, I got a very early start on the first day of my adventure.  I decided to drive down the coast, starting in Astoria (which means I drove north and then west from Portland, the opposite direction of my ultimate destination). As I drove,  I drank tea and listened to NPR, hoping to catch President Obama’s speech about the chaos in Iraq, but his speech was delayed so at some point I turned off the radio and put on some music: Arcade Fire. It was a shimmering, not-too-hot almost summer day. I saw many creatures on my drive: deer; cows; horses; bald eagles; hawks; various water fowl, humans. When I arrived in Astoria, I worked for a couple of hours at my favorite café, the Blue Scorcher – fantastic cardamom honey latte! — followed by a visit to a bookstore where I bought myself a new journal. Then I headed yet farther south to Seaside, where I procured some crab and shrimps for my camping supper (seafood salad, fireside!). By now it was well past lunch, so I made my way to Bill’s Tavern in Canon Beach, where I graded a couple of papers and indulged myself by imbibing fish and chips. I washed them down with a red ale. Next stop, Camp Outlook!

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 Red-tailed hawk

riding the salty sky.

Tell me there isn’t pleasure in that!

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 Little raindrops are threatening.

I don’t want to leave the campfire for the tent.

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Self-indulgence is subsisting on mimosas and crappy cup o’noodles for an entire day.

Self-care isn’t.

The (ill) logic of self-indulgence is: I already feel awful. What else can I do to feel even worse?

The (well) logic of self-care is: I feel awful. But I may know what to do to feel better. It might take some time, but I’m going to give it a try because I want to be my best self.

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A day or two after I returned from my beach adventure, I had the following nap-dream:

I heard a commotion in my living room and went in to see what the matter was. Isobel was on the couch doing something, not paying attention to me or the commotion. I discovered two black dogs on the floor: one of them was our real-life dog Happy, the other was a neighborhood black dog. I was confused about why this other dog was in our house. Happy kept half-heartedly nipping at it, trying to get it to go away but it was sweet and submissive. I told Happy to stop, that the other black dog was not a threat. I opened the front door and as I was about to gently lead the other black dog outside, there on the pathway to my house was a woman and behind her were six more black dogs of various sorts, but all mid-sized. I told the woman that I had found her dog in my house and didn’t know how she got in. She said maybe the black dog came into my house because I wear glasses. Then I looked at all the other black dogs and remarked that it was odd to have so many black dogs outside my house. They were all standing there smiling and waiting. Isobel seemed nonplussed as did the woman, but I thought it was remarkable and an omen of some sort to have six black dogs outside smiling at me and one happy black dog who had actually found her way in to me.

 

About Jenny Sasser

I am currently Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past fifteen years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (8th edition). I live in Portland, Oregon my dog Happy. My daughter Isobel is a Freshman at Bard College in New York state. I have been on the planet 47 years.
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5 Responses to Gero-Punk Funk: Camp Outlook

  1. Erica Wells says:

    I think self indulgence (for a day, no less!) can be essential self care. Prolonged self-indulgence = delusion, and that’s when we stop seeking out the happy. Dogs and other creatures, too. xo erica

    • Jenny Sasser says:

      Wonderful and inspiring! Thank you!

      • Libby HInze says:

        Faithful, inner loyalty to a fault, unconditional love, fast friend, able to smell out trouble, guardian of the underworld, protector of the Goddess, serving humanity as a “conscript”. A study of the breed and its purpose will help to define the energy it represents. Also, there is a legend of a benevolent black dog, who appears to guide travelers to a safe haven.

        All is well in Sasserville

      • Jenny Sasser says:

        Thank you, Ms. Libby.

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