Saturday, March 14, 2009

Economic Anxiety, Puppets, and Resilience

Frame and ivy from Christina Renee Designs.

"Puppets are deeply mysterious creatures, both more and less human than their handlers. They can give you a great slant." -From Mark Stevens of the New York Times

While in New York, working with students from SVA and NYU, I couldn't help but notice that anxiety about the economy was foremost on everyone's mind, or more specifically, jobs and repaying student loans was on everyone's mind. With that thought in the background I asked the students to find stories of resilience from their families, cultures of origin, or even from their favorite childhood fairy tales. We looked at slides and discussed work done with folks who had survived Katrina, all with resilience in mind. Then the students created their own puppets and, energy ran high, with much play, giggling, laughter, and fun. At NYU the students had time to form small groups, soothing environments for their puppets, and narratives that were shared with the rest of the class. During the process many of the following resience strategies came into play:
  • The students used art to create a strong sense of community.
  • They took charge of things, acting as heroines of their own stories.
  • They found and created many "good things" while working together.
  • They could voice wishes and dreams through the puppets.
  • They could believe in themselves and each other.
  • There was definitely time for insight.
  • There was also plenty of time for creativity.
  • There was a lot of humor and laughter.
  • Some of the narrative delt with issues of how to make decisions, what to use as a moral compass.
  • Effort was made to take care of the characters they'd created, creating beautiful, soothing environments for them.

After stepping back and observing, it became clear that the creative process is extremely therapeutic and necessary, especially when times are difficult and anxieties are running high. To answer some specific questions having to do with economic anxiety, we can't know what the future holds, of course, but what ever it does hold, resilience will be key to thriving.

For job hunting, Martha Haeseler, friend and fellow art therapist, recommends checking the VA for openings in their recreation therapy programs. The VA jobs can be found on She found postings of jobs in NY, San Francisco, and Oregon.

I checked student loans and the Peace Corps and here's what I found for 2008:

Volunteers may defer repayment on student loans under several federal programs, i.e., Stafford (formerly known as guaranteed student loans), Perkins, direct, and consolidation loans. Volunteers with Perkins loans are eligible for a 15 percent cancellation of their outstanding balance for each year of Peace Corps service. Because the rules that authorize deferment are complicated and subject to change, it is best to talk to your lender directly about how this benefit applies to your situation.

More on this topic can be found on wisebread all about "living large on a small budget".

1 comment:

Christina Renee said...

Oh mann Lani, you are SO very inspiring my friend. I can tell I'll be looking at your blog TOO MUCH, lol.