Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Guest Writer--Amy Halloran--Troy, New York

This week guest blogger Amy Halloran from Troy, New York….expert on grains, breads, baking and making pancakes. In today's essay Amy shares what she's learning about relationships:

For a long time I thought that asking was the most important part of getting what I need. If I could identify and articulate what was wrong or what I lacked, then someone would fill in my blanks. If I told my husband that I needed more affection, or help keeping the kitchen clean, I assumed he would work toward fulfilling my request. 

This thinking extended to all my relationships. I need to see you more, I told my sister, and she didn't argue. She agreed. But neither of us made a dedicated plan to make that happen. So we still didn’t, and don't, see each other enough.

I stated my needs and thought my problems were solved. That’s not how things work. Well, maybe they would if I were a queen, and had a royal court to do my bidding. But here in the real world, relationships are dynamic, and require give and take, two parties discussing their ideas and feelings and trying to learn how to dance to a song that you’re writing together. This is awkward and none of us are skilled at the steps, or know the tune. Not even if we’re very familiar to each other. 

 My sister and I grew up in the same family, and my husband and I shared a vision for a life together that was so strong we pursued it like a mountain we had to climb. Given the circumstances, I should be able to communicate easily and well with these two people, and yet I am learning, always learning how to be and work together with them. As much as we share, we are very distinct. Crossing the gulf between two people, any two people, is tough. Why did I think it would be easy?

One reason perhaps is linked to shopping. Consumer culture leads us to believe that we can make a list, and the store of the world will have the goods in stock. But only so many of our problems can be answered with a dollar. 

Relationships are not transactional. While I thought I was problem solving, all I was doing was making a shopping list. 

I think it’s important to note how consumer culture shapes us, regardless of family values. I grew up in a family that was not materialistic. Forcefully so. Once, I wrote a letter to my parents stating a series of inequities I observed. They didn’t treat us four kids the same – I liked math and was good, too good at measuring things, especially love. 

My dad took me out for the day to show that I mattered big to him.  We drove around, and visited my grandfather; help him with some things around his house. Did some other errands. One of our stops was a flea market, and I thought my father would buy me the easy bake oven that I craved. But our expedition was about time together, not things.  

I was a heavy user of the real oven and had been for a long time, so my dad didn’t want to get me the pink plastic thing which would require a steady stream of silly boxes of cakes. He also was demonstrating that love was not stuff. The lesson didn’t quite take. But I understood what he was doing.

My parents’ examples couldn’t fight the impression I got from our environment, a realm that got even more of a consumer bent over the last 30 years. In America we can shop our way to better health, better spiritual lives, and of course better outfits.  All of this helped me function on a premise that I could make lists for my loved ones, as if I were shopping, and we needed more cinnamon or butter in the metaphoric house of our intersections. Then, I assumed they would give me the stuff that I wanted. This seemed reasonable, right? We were out of a supply, I noticed, so fetch it, please.

Yet was I ready to be the emotional store for the people I love as they ask for what they need? That's another series of thoughts to ponder!

There is more to connecting with others than making lists. We can’t just identify our bruised feelings and find gaps that we think people should fill with help. We need to work with other people to get what we need. Identification is just one step in the process. Have I learned this yet? No. But writing this essay is another attempt to teach myself a lesson. #

Amy Halloran is the author of:
The New Bread Basket--
How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf

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