What is Recovery? Recovery From What?

Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

I’ve heard from many people over the last month telling me they were recovering from bad colds and flu. The conversations contained a sense of relief and a small bit of disappointment when they were done with the illness and ready to begin their normal life routines again. When I was also “under the weather” with a cold I understood as well that though I felt miserable being sick, there was some amount of guilty pleasure in knowing I had to stay in bed and sleep, watch television or read, and some reluctance and excitement being well again.

The recovery from a cold or flu, a broken bone or a broken heart pales when it comes to recovery from addiction or a process addiction. ( i.e. overeating, gambling or compulsive spending). Even the dictionary’s traditional definition of recovery is a puzzlement when it comes to substance or process addictions.
“1) A return to a normal state of health, mind or strength. 2) The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.”

Keys Lost or Found?
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

These make sense if we think of a short term physical illness or lost keys. And yet, what I know about human beings who are in recovery from addiction is that they are not returning to a “normal state of health, mind or strength.” They never had normal in the first place. And the second definition; “regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost” is equally puzzling. What was lost? And anyone who has tried to change these kinds of conditions, knows “possession and control” are the last things that help to recover their original voice or their authentic self.

Even the definition from the National Counsel On Alcoholism and Drug Dependence seems vague” “Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.” Most of these characteristics are foreign to people who suffer from addictions and who struggle to understand what normal is. What was and is normal?

Shoe Tree
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

As a psychotherapist for over 20 years, I always had questions about the word “normal” mental health. I came to the conclusion that normal meant balanced, functional, and having the ability to feel joy. I believed normal was the individuals balance between what they valued and how they behaved. The closer those two things were, the more balanced and “normal” their life was. I used this as a criteria for good mental health. Generally though, normal is based on correcting a cluster of symptoms defined in a diagnostic manual. This may or may not be achievable without recognizing our learned physical and emotional makeup and the environment that influenced us as children and adults. This is especially true in the addictions field.

Before the mid 1950s being addicted to a substance meant you were a loser, weak willed, a bum and labeled as hopeless or even worse, a drug addict. Alcoholics Anonymous was created in 1935 by two men who believed it was a disease with a solution. Their experience was that the life and family destruction from substance abuse could be arrested by joining with similar people and begin a process of “recovery” using 12 steps and tools. Twenty-one years later, in 1956 the American Medical Association agreed and declared alcoholism an illness, not a sign of bad character. When the AMA declared it a medical condition or illness, more people began to believe you could recover from it.

In the 1980s the substance abuse treatment field began to gain prominence, and the concept of recovery began to be used for those who identified being addicted to drugs or alcohol. Up until then, recovery was only used by a small group of people in Alcoholics anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous who met to recover from the disease of addiction.
So what’s the significance of this stroll through the history of addiction? Let me go back to the original definition of recovery:

A return to a normal state of health, mind or strength. The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

Lost Child
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

When a human child is born on this earth, they emerge with all the physiological predispositions of their genetic programing. The environment and human nurture then begin to have its effects; both in the womb and for many, many years afterward. If a child is born into a family where trauma is inflicted and pervasive, is that normal? How the child adapts or survives the abuse or trauma shapes who they are. Is this a normal state? As they mature to adulthood, do they regain possession of something lost?
When I was a growing up I was taught that children were born with original sin and that unless they were baptized and saved they would go to hell. I have since learned to think differently about this. I believe that when a child is born, they are a holy spirit from the beginning, and this is the normal state. Abuse and trauma done to a child or experienced by the child in the family steals the knowledge of that “normal” state. With this in mind I think the original definition is accurate. Trauma steals our normal state of health, mind and strength and recovery is the action and process of regaining that which was lost. I know of no addict, whether from a substance or a process addiction that has not been affected by trauma as a child. I think research also bears that out.
I asked my life partner, Sam (who is also a certified Substance Abuse Counselor) what his experience was in this area and he said, “People in recovery may not be returning to a ‘normal’ they remember. The trauma may have erased all but a glimmer of it. For many, recovery is the experience of being introduced to normal for the first time. It’s like getting a new roommate you’ve never met, then trying to figure out how to have them be your best friend forever.” So, what is recovery?

For me recovery is all the things I need to do as a human being to remember who I am and be able to access my original connection with the spirit within and outside of myself, and see and follow that light which is in all of us.
Amazing Light
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost and now I’m found, was blind and now I see.” John Newton 1772

Following the Light of Music

Silent Night, Holy Night
December, the darkest time of the year, moving slowly toward the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the beginning of relief from the long nights. The busyness of the holidays; spending time, money and energy on others may be part of the way we try to distract ourselves from that dark night. The state of the world and the uncertainty of our future as a people is especially present this year as news never seems to be good and progress seems out of reach for peace on earth.

How do we humans stay through the darkness, remembering the light that always comes? We sometimes gather together in our clans and communities, the families we choose and the ones we began with. We decorate and celebrate with candles and festive lights and we listen to music. In this way we comfort ourselves. Music is more than just comfort to me in the dark night. Music is the gift of the mystery and wonderment that I cherish all the time. Music is always a powerful force. It’s amazing how certain sounds can transform, communicate, and inspire. Eric Jensen who wrote Music with the Brain in Mind says; “Music is a language that kindles the human spirit, sharpens the mind, fuels the body, and fills the heart.”

One of my current favorite singer and songwriters is Iris Dement. In a recent interview on Fresh Air she talked with Terry Gross about her early life growing up and the power that music had in her life. Like me, she grew up in a very religious environment, and she, like me, had a mother who sang beautifully and had had aspirations of success with singing music before marriage and children took its place. She said, “I saw my parents use music to survive. You know, they – they had to have that music. My mom had to sing. And my dad had to go to church. And he had to hear that music washing over him and through him… It was a, ‘I’m not going to make it if I don’t have that.’ And so I felt that that’s my job. That’s how I think of what I do. I have to give people that lifeline, you know, that I saw my parents reach out for and that I was taught to reach out for. And so that’s what I aim to do. And I guess I don’t feel like I can do that without that connection to the spirit.”

“The Light Gets In” Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen, writer, singer, songwriter

All my life I heard my mom sing in church and it was a place I sang as well, in community, in spirit. I heard her sing at home, doing housework, cooking and alone in the garden. It was as natural as breathing to hear her sing. Her life may not have been what she imagined it to be, but the beauty of her voice was a gift that was always around me. Although I didn’t aspire to singing as Iris Dement did, I did aspire to bring “joy to my mother” through my own successes and in some way make up for her lost ambitions.

Another of my hero’s, Oliver Sacks, in 2007 wrote an amazing book, Musicophilia : Tales of Music and the Brain on how music and the brain interact in some strange and wonderful ways and on the healing power of music. He says this:

“Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.” And simply put;

“It really is a very odd business that all of us, to varying degrees, have music in our heads.”
Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

Although music has always been important to me, it wasn’t my passion. When I was 23 photography became my passion. I had finally found a medium of expression that didn’t involve speaking or singing or drawing, all of which I was not adept at doing. The first time I took and developed a photograph, it opened a door that I have yet to close of excitement, creativity and connection.

“Which of the two powers is able to raise us to the highest sphere, love or music? I think we may say, that while love can give us no idea of music, music can realize the idea of love. But why separate one from the other? The soul soars on the wings of both.” French composer, Hector Berlioz,

When I married Sam, a proficient and committed musician, singer, and songwriter, music clearly became more present in my life. I once again was surrounded everyday by music and hearing a voice so powerful I am moved every time I hear him sing his or another’s songs. Our life together combined our passions of photography and music and eventually writing. As a gifted and experienced singer/songwriter Sam’s gifts have been mine to enjoy and cherish. Here is a link to his youtube channel singing a song he recently co-wrote with Michael Hateley and Rob Grad called All I Want, All I Need:

Many years ago we began holding singing circles in our home for fellow musicians and friends and suddenly, singing music in community became part of my life again. When we moved to Seattle, we were able to continue a music circle at our friends’ home and soon we will have a music circle in our home again. I wanted to play music as well as sing so I started to learn how to play the ukulele which now brings me joy when I play and sing, either alone or in a group.

Photograph by Sam, fingernails polished by Róisín

In many ways all my children have inherited some love of music in their lives as well, whether in appreciation, inplaying the bass guitar in a band, or including music in their writing, and my grandchildren already are showing an amazing interest and gifts in music.

“It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony.”
Benjamin Britten

I am blessed to have music in my life, whether listening, singing or playing. From Bach to Dement to Beasley; theses are all gifts that give my life meaning and purpose. Certainly in this season, as in the whole year, music is part of my spirit and one that I want to continue to incorporate in my life and art.
I would like to share a gift to all of you. I offer you a look and listen to a youtube video my niece Kim and I made of my photographs and a favorite piece of music of mine. The music is Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No.1 in G Major played by YoYo Ma. The photographs of the Seattle Sky and Space Needle are mine.
In Joy, Suzanne


What Is My Legacy?

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
Aldous Huxley

Maybe it’s the season. Fall turning into winter, the beautiful fall colors and warm autumn sun disappearing. Maybe it’s because now it is the season of my life when the years ahead of me are smaller than the years behind. Nostalgia and sadness catches me off guard as I manage my days and my mood. It takes a little more to remember my gratitudes and my blessings. It seems as I’ve gotten older I find myself reflecting on my past and my place in this life.  I often wonder what will be left of me when I’m gone—what is my legacy?

Fall Leaves Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

“I’m more and more coming to the idea that it’s the lineage and the connection to the past and the connection the future— that is the real connection.” Philip Glass

Philip Glass, in his memoir, Words Without Music wrote this about his death and his legacy; “ What have we brought to the world and what do we leave behind us and what does the future have for us? The future is our children. It’s our friends. It’s our work. It’s all around us.” He goes on, “It’s not the living and dying, it’s the continuity of the lives that’s important.” He describes it as continuity contributed. This phrase stuck with me. What is “continuity contributed”?

Continuity: a quality of something that does not stop or change as time passes. In our current age of keeping up with the fast and constant changes, what is continuous? Certainly our genetics if we reproduce. But if we don’t there is also our influence on the environment and culture, our “footprint”. Continuity may include how we are changed by external or environmental factors and what we pass on. Our cultural values, stewardship of our earth and the animals on it, our contribution to the arts and sciences are likely to have ongoing ripple effects.

A simple example of my continuum is illustrated below:

Before birth – Birth – My life span – Death – Beyond death

Before my birth? My known family genetics display threads of physical health, intelligence, creativity in the arts and music, exploration, anxiety, high cholesterol and heart disease and a propensity towards addiction and process addiction. These are things I’ve been predisposed to, or what has been “given to me” biologically. ( DNA testing found that our family genetics are predominately European (99.6%) with some Ashkenazi (German Jews). The rest is .4% East Asian and Native American with a smidgen of Japanese thrown in.)

At my birth I was given a propensity towards all of the above and was born into a particular family in a particular birth order at a particular moment in time. My life span began to include my experience of those things and my reaction to them. All of that influenced my thinking and behaviors in ways that either enhanced or suppressed those traits. Who I met, what cultural changes were happening, where I chose to travel and live also began to affect these traits. This is where the mystery happens. In my life, how the ingredients for this milk shake shook is my life legacy. The threads of my propensity towards heart disease were slowed when I chose to eat healthy, exercise and not smoke, drink or use drugs to excess. I learned and practiced not to do the behaviors that exacerbate the disease. The threads of my predispositions towards creativity in the art, music, anxiety and addictions were either enhanced, suspended or broken entirely.

My past cultural threads include racism, sexism, and “faith, hope and charity.” My family immigrated to the South and mid-western states from Europe and either adopted the racism that was inherent in those times and places or brought it with them. I am a daughter of a woman born in 1919, two years before women won the right to vote. That is only one generation away from the legal change for women to be equal citizens under the law instead of owned objects. (One generation to reconfigure the term Black Friday that commemorated the November 1910 brutal beating of the suffragettes to the commercialization of the term Black Friday to mean the biggest shopping day of the year.
I was born to and raised by a woman who, for the first two years of her life, was “owned”. I carried that into the Women’s Movement of the 1960s-70s where I and a whole generation began to look for more equality in the eyes of the dominant culture.

I have committed my adult life to the eradication of racism and sexism, child abuse and political injustice. I strive to save and sustain the health and beauty of the earth and its sustainability. That is my cultural legacy. I have devoted a large part of my life to reversing and managing my anxiety and the resultant addictions that may have seemed a solution to its effects and then to support others in their recovery.
My intention is to spend my time, money and energy on all of these changes. I believe in being of service and passing on my “faith, hope and charity” willingly to those who ask. Sam and I wrote our book on Wealth and Well-Being because we wanted to pass on knowledge that would positively change how people think about money. I, in part, photograph the beauty of the earth so that others will recognize that beauty and want to preserve it.

Desert Shadows
Desert Shadow Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

So, what of my art and the clear artistic genes that have been passed on to me? What of my creativity and love of music? Is the legacy that I leave behind the photographs that I create? They are, after all only paper and pixels. My good friend Fiona told me that when she looks at my photographs, she feels the emotional impact of the image and her life is enhanced and she is changed because of it. My legacy may not be so much the photographs or the products that I create with photographs in them, but the mere mysterious change that art creates within the individual who views them and thus is changed by them.

I don’t know when the time and place of my physical death will be. I do know my continuum extends through my death and beyond to generations of people after me—certainly to my children and grandchildren and their children. My contributions resonate in the lives of the people who know me and who I know and will continue to do so for as long as there is an earth and a people to live on it. That gives me peace.
Winter in North State 8
Peaceful Sunset Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz
My gratitude goes to my good friend Fiona Lehn, artist, musician, writer, truth seeker and courageous human being.
Thanks Fiona, always continue.

What Is The Purpose of Traveling?

“Not all those who wander are lost”
J. R. R. Tolkien

Full of Wonder, Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

I come from multiple generations of travelers and wanderers. It seems to be in my genetic make up to “see what’s on the other side of the hill”. What is confusing is that I equally love the security of home. My connections to my family, my community and my routines are very meaningful and a big part of what I value in life. Traveling takes time, money and a commitment to uncertainty, the unknown of strange places, landscapes and people. So, what’s the allure?

Beauty, Beauty, Beauty, Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

When traveling, life seems uncomplicated. Sam and I make a decision where and when to go, a plan to have the time, money and energy it takes. Then we go. I love the simplicity and joy of traveling to unknown places. I’m a curious person. Where does this road lead?

Glacial View, Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” Ansel Adams

I’m a photographer so I want to see things, really see them. When I look, I focus on what I’m seeing both emotionally, physically and spiritually. As a photographer, my seeing is enhanced by the process of mindfully recognizing beauty, stopping and giving that scene my full attention, then pressing the shutter (shudder!) of my camera. That click, that connection, resonates internally like the connection of a club hitting a golf ball, or a bat connecting  with a baseball. All my pleasure center neurons are firing, serotonin is releasing. Joy and reward. I also want to share the beauty with others so they will love and appreciate our beautiful earth and want to preserve its treasures.
Calgary, Canada Sunrise, Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Miles pass by in the changing colors of trees
Grief and sorrow forgotten in the warm autumn breeze
As the greens turn to yellow, orange and gold
My crosswinds quiet in nature’s hold.
Suzanne Lorenz

Changing Leaves, Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Traveling also involves grief. I arrive at a place, get to know it through all my senses, sight and sound, then I choose to leave it and grieve it knowing I will never be back in the same way again. Sometimes I take photographs to capture a memory and an emotion that will be lost.

All is Well, Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Here’s what some of my friends say traveling is to them:
“Traveling reduces my anxiety of feeling stuck. It offers a sense of freedom” Jean

“I traveled to  experience the world, to learn about the world and experience it through life . I have traveled the whole world starting when I was 14. I told my dad I’m not going to school but I was going to learn and educate myself through travel, and I did. I’ve been everywhere in the world, seen everything. I’m almost done now.” Zaidah
What is traveling for you?

Education? Art? Freedom? Beauty? Relationship? Spirituality? These seem very familiar values. What is the value and purpose of traveling? For me it’s all of the above values and the immense privilege to live out my days staying in balance with myself, my partner and the world to which I want to make contributions. In a small town cafe I read an article in a local newsmagazine and found this quote: “The top three most popular bucket list items are: 1. Offer support to a humanitarian cause, 2. Write a book, 3. Pursue a passion.” I do this by traveling and by staying home. Both have an equal purpose for this strange journey we’re on.

Leaves and Stone, Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

What is Enough?

What then is enough ?
Is it money time or love?
Purpose or desire?

Before my husband Sam and I retired we spent years planning our future years by trying to address if we would have enough; enough money to fund the rest of our lives, enough time to enjoy an unknown amount of time; enough love for each other and enough good health to enjoy it all. We also wanted enough energy and resources to give to ourselves, our children and grandchildren, our friends and our community as we moved through the final days we had on this earth as human beings. As with all things human, we had no way of knowing or planning on the unknown miracles, occurrences or changing circumstances, we only counted on knowing they would be there. 
Sam’s vision of enough has not changed: “Enough is enough time and money to do what we want, when we want, where we want, how we want for as long as we want and … enough money to make mistakes.”
Mine was to hope that I would have enough time, money and energy to “spend” on those people, places and things that I valued and loved. They were and are: Sam, my family, my service to others, health, art and travel. 
Here I am, retired (that strange word), in a new chapter of my life. Every day the question of enough comes up as a puzzlement for me. What is enough? Will there be enough?
Take money for example. In dollars it appears that, with education and support, we did a good job of planning to have enough for now and in the future. Since money is a medium of exchange, our plans have enabled us to exchange or “trade” our money for goods, services and experiences that provides us the safety and security that Maslow’s  Hierarchy of Needs illustrates below. 


But money is often more than mere dollars or “units of account”.  Money is symbolic, and is meant to be fluid movement or flowing as in the term currency. It certainly is not static and when it comes to assessing or judging if there is enough, it can often be a measure of an emotional fullness or emptiness as well. It can be a measure or store of our values. No matter what the amount, some days it seems there isn’t enough and some days the amount seems abundant. It seems to represent a symbol and opportunity for change.  
In 2009-2010 Sam and I wrote and published two books, Wealth and Well-Being and a Wealth and Well-Being Workbook to accompany it. We wrote Wealth and Well-Being because we wanted to understand and explore the role money had in our lives and then contribute this knowledge to the people in our professional lives. We specifically did not name the book Money and Well-Being because we both knew enough to know money was not the key to happiness, but the enrichment of knowledge of it was. We wanted a clear and precise plan for our lives and to discover and resolve the roadblocks that were stopping us from having the life and the retirement we wanted. We discovered our own path to high net worth, self care, and self worth were synonymous and could start anytime.

Water Flowing Over Rocks
Water Flowing over Rocks
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

What about time? Time is often an illusive experience for me. I let it structure my activities, my behavior and even my emotions. I often feel I can lose tract of “it” even if I don’t know what “it” is. Author and writing coach Leslie Keenan proposes that we have two experiences of time: natural time (as a baby experiences it) and linear time (as a unit of measure). She suggests that if we have a  conscious plan for our time that includes our own time rhythms we can “experience a new balance, harmony and peace.” I always intend this to be true, and yet now that I do not have a work schedule to dictate and organize my time, I don’t always know what my natural time rhythm is, nor how to organize it and my linear time. The plan that we created to finance a life of financial freedom in our retirement worked and is a blessing and a dream come true, but it evokes other questions: The freedom to do what? As I have the privilege to wake up in the morning and choose my day, week, month, year, what do I choose? Do I have enough time to be with my loved ones, commit to my spiritual growth, focus on my health needs, create art? Do I spend too much time on any of these to the neglect of the other?  The judgement of how I spend my time like my money has the ability to energize me or depress me. If I stay in the moment it seems I can expand that moment. If I stay conscious, the popular word now being “mindful” my life works more smoothly. I align with my Higher Self, my spiritual inner guide, and these decisions seem less fraught with worry and more peaceful.


Fire and Light
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

And love? If money and time are measurable units is this also true for  love? How do we measure if there is enough love? What does not enough love feel like? Can there ever be too much love?  It’s possible the answer is in the definitions one has for love. Here are three, from a dictionary and from the old and new testament of the Bible:

A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. Sexual passion or desire. A person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.

The Lord your God is gracious and compassionate, patient, abounding in lovingkindness. (Joel 2:13)
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. … Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13, NLT

This is how I experience love:  I have an immense love for Sam, my life partner,  which encompasses trust, intimacy, commitment, respect and some darn good chemistry. For my 2 sisters and brother, I have emotional intimacy and friendship and a connection as they are my life witnesses. I have deep and tender unconditional love for my children and grandchildren. I have the enriching and nurturing love for my friends with whom I share common interests and goals. I have love for those I give service to. I have love and compassion for those fellow human beings with whom I share this earth. Then there’s one of the hardest and most important loves for me, the love for myself.
What is enough? I believe it is a measure of appreciation. I measure my wealth by my appreciation of it, my time by how I choose to honor it and appreciate it moment by moment. Love? By the gratitude and appreciation of all those I love and who love me.  The more that I can appreciate those things, the more they expand. My money and wealth grows, my time has more meaning, my love for myself and others expands.  If I am registering a disconnect or discontent, there will never be enough. In honoring and appreciating my choices, there is always enough of everything. If I measure enough by the infinite then there is always enough.

There is enough.
There is enough.

Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Will I Ever Be At Peace With/In My Body?


Emerging Light

© Suzanne Lorenz 2012

I was born in a female human body. I was born with the DNA genetics that came from my European Irish/Germanic ancestors which included my eye, hair and skin color, my artistic and imaginative brain, and a healthy body.
I was raised within the constructs of a small conservative Lutheran community in the 1950s. What was I taught about this body? It belonged to my parents and God. My parents taught me to take a bath and wash my hair once a week and to eat everything on my plate and never to waste food. I was taught to obey adults. Since my parents and the parochial school I went to believed in corporal punishment, I was taught to experience and be afraid of physical violence. I was taught to keep my body still and quiet and not to make too much noise, be loud or rambunctious. On the other hand, my siblings and I had the freedom to roam around the neighborhood with almost no restrictions. As a teenager, the clear message was that I was to be a virgin upon marriage and modest with my body before that time.
My parents did the best they knew to give me food, clothing and shelter and a religious education. My religious orientation was to follow the 10 commandments and the golden rule, to pray and believe in a God who watched over me and would punish me if I sinned. My spiritual experience was learning to have a relationship with something within and outside of myself, and to understand how to be generous with others.

I learned later in life that I had certain things that I was predisposed to; heart disease, anxiety and addiction. Part of my genetics also includes that women in my family tend to put on weight during and after menopause.


For my grandmother, Vada, this was true and yet she was unapologetic about it. It was my mother and her generation who began to have shame attached to this genetic trait. My whole childhood was a witness to my mother’s attempts at keeping her body within a certain weight and to her esteem she linked to its size. I remember her trying every diet imaginable, exercising to Jack LaLane, using “the little white” diet pill and many, many more attempts at control. Since I had two older sisters, this was frequently the topic of conversation and bonding that we all had. I understand now that we had perfectly normal female bodies and that we were taught early that our bodies were flawed.


Being on a diet was the norm in our household for the females. The confusing contradiction was the message that we were to eat everything on our plates, yet have a restricted diet, to be passive as females, yet always exercise. The cultural messages were also influential. My mom’s generation was the first generation to receive radio, film and print advertising messages about the need to be thin. Those messages began to show a biased view of what the female body was suppose to look like, and how we were to act, always in relationship to getting and keeping a man or selling a product. My generation is the first to be exposed to those messages from birth.



What about this herstory? I certainly internalized the insanity of what I learned, yet I also have lived through the feminist movement of “our bodies ourselves” and rejecting the objectification of women’s bodies as products. I have been married to a man for almost 3 decades who respects and loves my body in all ways through the undulations of a 70 pound weight range. What I don’t know is will I ever be free of the wild spectrum of love and hate I have about my body. Will I ever have peace and serenity and acceptance of my body in the same way he does?

My experience in my yoga practice may be an example of what my intention for my body might be. I have had a commitment and a love for yoga for many years. I have sat in rooms with many people of all shapes and sizes and my judging mind can become extremely active when I see women with “wonderful” slim bodies. So I have developed a practice that when I first sit down on my mat in class, I quiet my mind and body and claim my space on my mat. I then claim my body space, and then my mind space. At the moment of that consciousness, I suddenly am free and open to the universal energy that begins to come through me and ready to begin my practice. I am in my body but it is not a body. I feel I am an embodiment of freedom . My body only becomes an issue when I don’t perceive my whole being and its place in the

Crescent Moon in Pink Clouds
Crescent Moon in Pink Clouds

© Suzanne Lorenz 2015

What is unknown is how can I have this awareness and peace when I’m not in my yoga class? Or when I’m not in nature or listening to music, playing with my grandchildren, getting a massage or making love which are all the other places I’m aware of that I find I am at peace with my body? How can I surrender the obsessive thoughts that trigger emotional eating? Will I let go of the process of comparing and judging my body and allow myself to feel the tranquility of my place in the universe that is a part of me? Will I choose to go towards the light of changing from the inside out?

What is Home?

Abandoned home
“Abandoned Farmhouse Mid West”
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Home is sometimes identifed by the land or place you live, a house, an area, state, or country, or even a feeling inside ourselves. Home for my ancestors began in what is now Europe. In the 1850’s my dad’s people emigrated to a small region in Missouri and stayed there. A hundred years later, in 1954, my dad migrated to California, the only member of his family to do so. My mother’s side of the family emigrated from what is now Ireland a hundred plus years earlier to Appalacia, then migrated throughout the south and the midwest until my mom settled in the west with my dad. Their early lives together were filled with moving from place to place due to my dads career in the Navy. By the time I was five I had moved five times to five different states before we settled in a small town in Northern California. I’ve often wondered, did my dad think of California as home or Missouri? I don’t know. My mom was always clear, her family was home to her.

Where is my home? I wanted to explore this question so I invited a number of family and friends to share what they thought home was. I also asked them how they wanted to be identified. Here are their answers.

“Home to me is a place between my ears, near the front of my forehead. It is the place where I become conscious of my needs. A place to breathe, a place to reflect, and a place of harmony. It is the space I use to set myself right, to know I am safe, and to create loving thoughts. When I open my eyes, I see a shadow.” Jean, retired, living in Ecuador.

“Home to me is my house. It’s my home base: the place that I leave to experience the rest of the world, but the place I always come back to. And when I get back, there’s no better feeling in the world.” Jessica, 29, Pacific Northwest

“I define home by the walls I construct around my body and the shape of the key I use to transgress them.”
Adrian Astur Alvarez, Home Page

“Home is being with my three children and six grandchildren —anywhere we are is home then and I am filled with joy even when things get bumpy.” June Gillam

“Home is feeling the power, love and spirituality from 56,000 people from all over the world at the AA Convention. People who overcame tragedy with spirituality. That is love. That is home.” Susan, Business Owner

“Margo, Ashland, home is where it’s safe to be me… home is where my dog is.”
Tori Davis

“Home is family. Home is a constant. Home is my safe place. It’s where I can have fun working on projects, playing music, or visiting with family and friends. There are many memories that I associate with our home, especially memories of raising our daughter. I always wanted her to enjoy the stability of being raised in the same house and also being able to come back home to the same place she grew up.” Dave Lorenz

“Home is like your house. My parents and my dogs and us kids. All the stuff in your home. There’s a chair and a bed and a basement, sometimes toys and lovies that I sleep with.”
Róisín, age 5 1/2

“I don’t have a lot of thoughts about home except to say that for me it would have to be a place within of peace and quiet joy.  A still chateau.”
Esther Saunders

Clouds Heaven as Home

“Clouds” Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

“I have two homes. My architectural home shelters my body and affords me physical comfort, privacy and protection. My body houses the metaphysical space within me, and provides me with the faculties to experience the life force that animates me.”            Terrell Lozada, artist

“I grew up in a military family and we moved around the country—and around the world—quite often. Sometimes we stayed put for three or four years, other times we moved again after six months. As a result, I felt at home nowhere…and felt at home everywhere. Family was my only home. Wherever my mother was, that was home. Today, my mother is 87, with advanced Alzheimer’s. Every day I drive accross town to feed her lunch and sit with her until she falls asleep for her nap. And every day I am with her, I am home.” BJ Gallagher, author of “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Other Women”, Los Angeles, California

“Home for me is a feeling, before it is a shelter, an address, or simply a place of origin. Home is a feeing of contentment, being at center, a feeling of familiarity. Examples of home as shelter, an address, or simply a place of origin: 1) I am finally settled in here, and it’s now more ‘home’ than ever. 2) I’ve moved around over the years, but my home address is _____. 3) Nice to meet you…where’s home?(as in ‘where are you from?’)” Phil from Seattle

“Home can be a place but for me it is a feeling.  I know it is not where I was raised, so ‘going home’ isn’t the place. I am ‘at home’ when I feel comfortable physically,emotionally and spiritually.” S. Irwin

“I will NOT say ‘home is where the heart is’- seriously. However that’s pretty close to what I feel. My lifestyle has led to my having numerous structural “homes” over my 70 years of life. While appreciated, the houses never had a place in the scheme of things that was that important to me. Four walls is just that- pleasing and comfortable and fun to decorate but nothing I gave my heart to. Also I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively in my life- which requires an immediate “re-nesting” each time I reach another destination. I immediately feel at home when I settle in for the night for however long my stay is.
However I would say that my primary home is a state of mind when I’m with my family- as individuals or when we are all together. That gives me the feeling of being “home” as no actual structure or geographical location ever has.”
You can call me Sandra, your sister!

(Sung to Home on the Range)
“Oh give me a car
And the time to go far
With the woman I love most of all.
Oh give me the road
I’ll lighten my load
And answer that old highway call
Home, home on the lam
And I’m happy as one happy clam
With my gal by my side
And the miles rolling by
And home’s any place where I am.”
Sam, musician, business owner, living in two states


“Another Road” Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

So, now, for me, what is home? Home is feeling balanced in mind, body and spirit. My physical home supports that by being visually and asthetically beautiful. Home is full of light, color and space and surrounded by trees and green. It is a place to put my personal icons. Home is where I feel safe and secure. Home is where I refresh and reengergize. Home is where the man I love lives. Home is where I share my space with my children, grandchildren and close friends. Home is where music is heard and played.

What about you? What is home to you?

What Is The Purpose Of Art And Creativity? Am I An Artist?


Aberdeen Chair Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Creativity, to create art, is a mysterious and illusive arena to me. I’m amazed how we humans can form thoughts or expressions from our imaginations to create something entirely new. Amazed that through our human experience we have always creatively shaped our visions, thoughts, and emotions into something concrete and real to be seen, heard or experienced by others. Is this the essence of art? Does it exist in all of us?
Is art reserved for the artistic “genius’ or are the visual arts, music, literature or dance an expression possible to all of us? Elizabeth Gilbert in her February 2009 TED talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius” shares the radical idea that, “instead of the rare person ‘being’ a genius, all of us ‘have’ a genius.” It’s an inspiring talk to remind us that genius is a gift to us, not in us.
What is art really? Possibly some clarity in language and agreement in definition would help. Google’s definition of art in part is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination… producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”… usually manifested in “the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, photography, music, literature, and dance.”


The Fremont People drawings near Jensen, Utah
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

It is unknown what the Utah native Fremont People, who lived between 500 and 1200, were trying to communicate when they carved these drawings into the rocks. Did they draw these images to be appreciated for its “beauty or emotional power” or for a purpose unknown to our time? What was the purpose of its creation?

So, where do original thoughts or ideas come from? These are the thoughts or ideas that come “out of the blue”. Some artists believe these ideas come from the collective unconscious, some believe they comes from spirit, the Divine, from God, or “a different place.” Whatever the belief, most people who are committed to creating experience inspiration as coming “through them” and feel a responsibility to see or listen and then develop, express or share it. That becomes their purpose. It is a kind of calling to collaborate with their personal genius source whatever their skill level. The agony is always the gap between what we hear and imagine and the expression of it.

Philip Glass, in his new memoir “Words Without Music.” when asked, “Where does music come from” said, “Music is a place. It’s as real as Chicago and New Delhi. And musicians, generally speaking, have … – one foot in that world and another foot in the world of everyday life. And any musician can tell you that that’s true. And it turns out that that does resonate with people. They say yes, place – it’s a place, they understand that.” He also states that the lineage of his music, his art is his lineage between the past and the future.

What is art’s purpose in my life?

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Ansel Adams 

Lone Tree
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

My journey with art began with silence and became clear through photographs. I was never verbally articulate. I remember being silent and quiet as a child unless I was called upon as the mascot to intervene in my family’s dynamics. As an adult I learned to translate my non-linear thoughts to words. But truly I think predominately in colors, images and metaphor. I always loved art, but I was never trained to draw, play music or write, and so did not think I was an artist. I was taught that if you weren’t born an artistic “genius”, there was no point. I was raised in a working class family and was taught to be a wife, which meant to please and care for others.

In my early 20’s I took a photography class in college and it opened a door that changed my life forever. I was transformed by the experience. Now I could express myself, and not use words. I could communicate my emotions, ideas and love for patterns, people, and eventually nature freely. It was a revolution that altered my life. My love for photography continues to this day. I also learned to love to express myself through writing, painting and music. I love feeling the creative flow when engaged in these things.

Yet, in our culture, it seems if you don’t sell your art, you are not successful. If I haven’t succeeded in the marketplace am I not an artist? It has taken me years to understand that this is not true. If I don’t sell my art, it may be that I’m not willing or good at marketing it. It may be my work is not “good enough.” I don’t know. I am beginning to have some peace in funding my art rather than having it fund me.

Recently I had an experience while on the road that encapsulates all I love about my art. While my husband and I were driving through Texas, I began to be enchanted by the rich red soil, the expansive clouds and the power of the openness of a distant road. I had to stop. I wanted to experience more. We stopped the car, got out and saw and felt the magnificence of that moment. I focused my camera on the scene before me, but the beauty was around and in me before I ever pressed the shutter. It was a viceral experience of awe heightened by my camera and lens.
Texas Red Road
Texas Red Road
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Am I an artist? I don’t know. But I accept the challenge of a collaboration between my personal genius and myself. I commit to allowing inspiration to flow into my life. I accept the responsiblity of enhancing my skills and in sharing my art and my love of the arts with those around me. I wish for knowing the continuity of uniting my past, present and future with the lineage of my art, in all its intended grace.

Are Human Beings in Danger of Extinction and Will the Earth Survive?


I love photographing the wonders of the natural world. I’m privileged to see many places of beauty and experience a feeling joy in photographing them. I’m also aware of the dangerous environmental and climate changes that are occurring. A thing I don’t know: Are human beings in danger of extinction and will the natural world survive? This unknowing brings up fear and anxiety.

My perception is that the collective consciousness of our time feel the human race and our natural world is in danger of disappearing. There is scientific as well anecdotal opinions to support this. An article called “Causes of Extinction” from Encyclopedia of Earth has a depressing list of causes http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/150962/. TV shows and movies are full of apocalyptic plots of plagues, and end of days scenarios. Some religious groups believe the end times are coming due to the prophecies of Revelations in the Bible. There are others who live unconsciously or consciously consuming or hoarding the very resources that are threatening our survival and who seem to have no fear or belief in responsibility in this extinction. Many, many people are doing what they can to save our planet, and yet it’s difficult to see the results.

In the Werner Herzog 2007 documentary, “Encounters At The End Of The World”, a team of research scientists travel to Antarctica where they are filmed in research and conversation. Werner Herzog, narrator of the film in one scene states, “many of them express grave doubts about our long range presence on this planet, believing nature will regulate us.” I don’t know.

In his Youtube interview Vietnamese Buddhist meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh says that if you allow despair to take over, you have no strength to do anything at all. He suggests we practice meditation to create peace becoming free of despair and anger, knowing that even if civilization is destroyed, we can then be free to accomplish something. I don’t know.

Is the answer spiritual or material? In prayer and meditation or in action? What will the result be? Where is the grace? Who is in charge? These are the things I don’t know. I want to live and be held in the grace of this unknowning and to choose the right actions as well as live in the faith of the unknown future.

Embracing Not Knowing

I currently find myself in a peculiar, though interesting dilema. For the first time in my conscious life, I have a profound sense of uncertainty about the things I don’t know, that I am powerless over. Questions about time and place, the existence of spirit, and the future of our planet seem to be occupying my thoughts more and more.image                                            Translucent 2015   ©Suzanne Lorenz

I live a very blessed life, full of love, art, purpose, meaning and service. I have lived 66 years and have learned and experienced many things. I share that knowledge when I can. And yet, I am mystified to be in this almost constant state of “not knowing”. A saying that I have heard and puzzled about says: “Embrace Not Knowing”. This presently is a contradiction to me. I would like to begin to know how to embrace the unknown with some peace and grace.

In the following months I will be posting a series of subjects about which I have the most questions. These are the things that give me the most pause and reflection. These are things that I don’t know: Are human beings in danger of extinction and will the earth survive? What is the purpose of art and creativity? Am I an artist? What is home? Will I ever be at peace with/in my body? What is enough?What is the purpose of travel? What is my legacy?What is following the light of music? What is recovery? Recovery from what? What in the world is love?  What is old and what will happen when?  What and who is God?


Light Emerging © Suzanne Lorenz