Gero-Punk Practice: Reflection, Intention, Gratitude

Right after I dropped Isobel at school this morning and as I was driving back home to do a bit of work before heading to campus the song that came on the radio was Overkill by Men at Work. The year the song came out was 1983, and I was sixteen, a junior in high school, just as my daughter is sixteen and a junior in high school thirty years later, in 2013. 

In the 1980s, Men at Work was one of my favorite bands (along with the then nascent but much longer-lasting bands U2 and REM. Oh, wow, guess what song just came on as I am writing? Wire by U2!!!). I knew – still know — all the lyrics to Overkill:

I can’t get to sleep/I think about the implications /Of diving in too deep/
And possibly the complications/Especially at night/ I worry over situations/ I know will be alright/Perhaps it’s just imagination….ghosts appear and fade away.

As I drove and sang Overkill serenaded by the radio I was time-traveling – I was sixteen year-old Jenny (I think I was “Jen” then) and newly-turned forty-six year-old Jenny. I am a winter creature, and the timing of my birth has always seemed liminal to me: 12:23 a.m. on 12/23/1966. And this time of year in general for me almost always seems to be about taking-stock, thresholds, transitions…

Right before the winter holidays something unexpected and deeply shocking happened in my life and the experience really knocked the wind out of me.  Running some days, walking on others, contemplation and meditation, hot baths, listening to music (and watching cheesy old-school Christmas cartoons) and time with my closest-in creatures (human, canine, and avian) are the self-care practices that supported me over the past 26 days.

The one crucial practice that I’ve not been able to engage in over the past almost four weeks, not until today – and not until I heard Overkill on the radio–is writing.

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I haven’t been able to write any words to offer up to others in a public environment such as this blog, nor have I been able to concentrate my energy on formal projects such as the two book chapters soon coming due to publishers. It isn’t that I’ve been without words (though sometimes these past few weeks I have actually been unable to find words to describe how I feel) – I’ve captured some fragments of ideas in my journal, I added a new page to my birthday book, and you should see some of the epic texts I’ve composed!

Over the past week I’ve been trying to make my way back into a more robust writing practice.  I printed every essay I wrote and  published on this blog during 2012, as well as the essays offered by guest gero-punks (Jennifer, Lorie, Helen), as well as a couple of essays I and two guests (Erica and Susan) wrote for the Intentional Aging Collective blog, as well as two manuscript-length essays I either wrote or revised last year.  By last night I had re-read all 121 single spaced pages, highlighting bits of text that arrested my attention. The next step in this process as I have been conceptualizing it would be to take all of the highlighted bits and reassemble them, or, rather, let them reassemble themselves into a new kind of form. 

Do you get a sense of what I’ve had in mind, of what I had hoped to do? I wanted to assemble a sort of gero-punk project “collage” to mark the transition into this new year by creating a mash-up of fragments from all or most of the writing I and my guest gero-punks have produced in the past year.

As I observe how I feel as I describe this project, a project that I can so clearly describe but which remains only partially realized, I think that what dwells at the heart of my intentions for the project is the aspiration that through the process of creating the gero-punk collage I might enact (celebrate and re-commit myself to) the principles that I hold so dear and aspire to practice (and as often as not fail to practice) as I travel through the life course:  honesty; reflection; contemplation; intentionality; collaboration; compassion; and courage.

For now, the gero-punk collage will remain in the state that it is in–emergent,  partially realized, a sweet dream.

So, thank you for you for reading what I managed to write on this day. And thank you for reading what I had to write throughout the past year.  I look forward to our future gero-punk adventures together.



About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former 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 twenty (or more!) 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 inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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6 Responses to Gero-Punk Practice: Reflection, Intention, Gratitude

  1. Roger says:

    Thanks again for sharing these throughout the past year. That “ear fuse” from YOUR 1983 Men at Work memory bank clearly engaged your cognitive wheels. Then, as though intended, U2 confirmed that while your brain might have 46 calendar years on the odometer, your mind was indeed 16 again. Another confirmation of the “Magic of the Music”. Here’s to many more gero-punk adventures.

  2. Lorie Bailey says:

    I love that you experienced a “Men at Work” writing prompt! I’m sure I’ll have that song stuck in my head for awhile. I really like your idea of the Gero-Punk collage. Sometimes over the past term, I’ve found myself going back to my “Relationship with Others” binder to remind myself that I CAN write and that I do have things to write about. Reflection is key. Thanks for sharing your beautiful writing!

  3. Karen Shimada says:

    Thank you for yet another deep and powerful missive. I am enjoying. Thomas Moore’s: Dark Nights of the Soul for many of the reasons you cited for being called to reflect and integrate your life’s experiences, thoughts , feelings and writings. Happy New Year and belated birthday, dear one.

  4. Helen Fern says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. I’ve been stuck in a state of fear and despair – my life is not what I imagined it to be at this point and I have no idea what direction it’s going. Its scary not being in control – know what you need to do but not quite how to do it. This blog post has clearly shown me the path I need to follow – the path of, in your words, honesty; reflection; contemplation; intentionality; collaboration; compassion; and courage. So off I go to write those in my journal and thank you for bringing such clarity to a foggy time. You are amazing. Thank you.

  5. Thanks Jenny….Just what I needed to read this morning as I gather together the contents of an edition of the newsletter I compile. I have had four weeks away from that project and see (thanks to your writing) that music is very much needed for that extra push to get back into it…..not Men at Work though….and not the music that will transport me to 1971 to the age of sixteen for that would send me into a fun but unproductive afternoon! Will have to save that for another day 🙂

  6. Joan Winchester says:

    Jenny I’m so happy to read your post and to witness the return of your voice. Throughout this time of quiet, I have thought of your great integrity and commitment to the process of intentionality, You continue to inspire me and many others.

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