Fire!: Building Relationship

That word you don’t want to yell in a crowded theatre! Danger aside, I think it’s our feeling that we can control fire that makes it so compelling to us humans. That, and how it warms us, and casts light into dark places, and is so colorful and active. I’m a closet pyromaniac, can you tell?

Oh yeah!

Fire is so mysterious and useful, but what about the relationship building aspect? I will tell you what I have learned. People will start talking about very interesting, personal things when sitting around a cozy fire. Maybe it’s because they know others won’t be looking at them when there’s a fire to look at. Staring at a fire also seems to hold space – talk gets interspersed with times of thought. It’s perfectly okay to just think for a while when sitting around a fire. If it’s night, it’s even safe to cry a bit if you need to and the fire will cover for you.

I just want to start something here, tonight!

I have sat around countless campfires with family and friends and it has become a special activity for me. I think the daughters would agree, as I see hints in their lives as adults. Prominent in Julia’s yard is the fire circle set up by her uncle for her wedding celebration (the one where it rained and made fire impossible). Prominent in Esther’s yard is her Solo stove that we sit around most every time I visit.

So inviting. Sit a spell.

And in my own practice of relationship building, I also have a Solo stove that serves as a gathering place. You’ve heard “where there’s smoke, there is fire” but the switch around is also true. “Where there is fire, there is smoke” and it’s so annoying when it keeps blowing in your face, following you around as the wind changes direction. My Solo stove is pretty helpful at keeping the smoke down. I love it, and sometimes sit outside in the evening, all alone, watching wood burn, and thinking. It’s that much better when I can get others to join me.

Build a fire, and they will come. Try it.

They did come, and it was a fine fire.

Eating Together: Relationship Building

Isn’t there a saying that the family that eats together stays together? Maybe not, but it has the ring of truth. A couple days ago I thought and wrote about cooking, but eating is much more than cooking. (And, in fact, some of my cooking doesn’t get eaten at all…). Social eating builds relationships, sharing food is a gesture of good will and caring. We meet at restaurants, we make our dining rooms welcoming, we serve meals at wedding and funerals, we can’t even watch a sports event without bringing out the game food. Food just seems to hang around wherever we gather.

First the candle…

Even my daughter who experiences misophonia, manages to value our times around the table, many of which take place in restaurants. We were being treated to a birthday brunch one year in a cute Mexican place in Seattle. I remember that meal because of the sauce that exploded all over Esther, after she blew out her celebratory birthday candle.

Then the memorable hot sauce splash. But we laughed as we cleaned up.

Other times our long walks would end up over coffee and cupcakes in a cute cafe. Over the years both daughters have also cemented their relationship with their Grandma over coffee and donuts, a tradition I don’t think will be changing anytime soon.

These two have bonded.

The challenge in this is making sure the relationship we are building is with people, not with the food we are eating. How do we do that?

In these days of toxic relationships with food like anorexia, bulemia, and fad diets, I’ve had to give my relationship with food some thought. I do use food to counter stress, to reward myself and to relieve boredom- yeah, it does all that quite well, but it’s not always the healthiest way to do those thing. Studying the psychology of eating this year through Noom (which I have blogged about numerous times) has been helpful to me. At least I am now aware of the difference between my relationship with food and my relationship with people through shared eating.

It can get complicated.

Yesterday I was tempted to take a picture of a beautiful, grilled chicken salad as it was set in front of me. I confess I have pictures, lots of them, of plates of food to illustrate a good keto meal, or a recipe that turned out great. But this time I thought, no. I’m going to enjoy sitting with my daughter, son-in-law and husband, in a gorgeous outdoor setting, while someone serves us good food as we talk, laugh and build relationship. Just sayin’…

You might even say that “waiting to eat” provides good opportunity for building relationships. I’ve done so much of that.