A Novel about True Friendship

It was our last lunch together. My friend Kimberly had an aggressive form of cancer and knew her time was short. I hadn’t accepted the fact yet, because she was only in her early forties and had a loving husband and three children to finish raising. But she couldn’t fight anymore. Preparing for my friend of almost two decades to visit that fated day six years ago, you would have thought royalty was coming. I brewed a teapot of piping hot flavored tea, and set the dining room table with the good china, candles, and prepared a lunch feast, even though there would only be the two of us. Usually, lunch together meant going to a restaurant, but Kim had wanted to come to my home. It was our custom to bless food wherever we ate. Truthfully, I can’t remember who said grace, but I vividly recall her tell-tale prayer at the end, “And God, please give Christina a friend.”

Now, wait just one minute, Kimberly. I don’t need a friend, I have you. This thought raced through my mind denying the reality, she had already accepted. A few weeks later, she was gone.

Those of you who have also lost a close friend, empathize with how painful this loss can be. It’s a rare gift to find a faithful friend, although many folks have an ardent desire to experience intimate friendship.

But is friendship becoming extinct? One of the reason’s I wrote my new Inspirational genre book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is because I’m worried about friendship. I’m concerned it might soon be as outdated as last year’s technology, and I’m pretty sure technology is the culprit deserving most of the blame.

To explain, recently a school bus filled with adolescents passed me when I was driving, and I noticed a lot of their young heads were in a downward position. Many were probably listening to music, texting, or checking their social media accounts on their smartphones. This, instead of taking the opportunity to be social with the kid in the seat next to them.

Having a social media connection isn’t like having a faithful friend. A recent article on www.healthline.com, “Social Media is Killing your Relationships” reports, “What if every like, heart, and reply we give to someone on the internet is actually taking away from our energy for offline friendships?” The article’s writer Jennifer Chesak appears to believe we might be, “…unknowingly draining our social energy for in-person interactions.”

“Research shows that good friendships are vital to your health,” according to the Heathline article. “More specifically, having close friendships correlates to functioning better, especially as we get older.”

That’s why my recently released novel is about the friendship between an early 40s pastor’s wife and a sixty-something widowed coffee shop owner. I chose to make the main character a fictional minister’s mate, because there’s often an unrealistic social stereotype for this supporting ministry role, even within Christian circles. I empathize with the difficulty these precious women can have when trying to find a confidential friend to share their current issues or even past heartbreak. We often place ministerial families under a microscopic lens of scrutiny, and have the unrealistic expectation their lives should be perfect. Quite frequently, the needs and even existence of a pastor’s wife can also be overlooked, especially if her husband is an in-demand dynamic leader.

Plus, during my years working in broadcasting, I was asked to host a TV special, where pastors’ wives shared about their lives. One ministerial spouse was concerned about me interviewing her, apprehensive over my understanding of her situation, so only minutes before the show was to be broadcast, she anxiously asked what my husband did.

“He’s a public school administrator,” I answered nervously, unsure of how she would view this revelation.

My best friend hubby and me – photo courtesy Sharon E. Lange
www.sharonelainephotography.com

But instantly, she visibly relaxed, smiled a wide smile, and teasingly joked, “Oh, that’s the same thing.” This wise lady understood whenever you are married to a man in any kind of leadership role, it can be isolating and most challenging to find a trustworthy confidant, fearing you could jeopardize your mate’s position simply by being a flawed human being.

If we’re truthful, all of us are flawed, and burying our pain and problems forces us to wear a societal mask. And masks can become a type of prison that morph into a lifestyle of pretending everything’s perfect when everything’s a hot mess. The bottom line: “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is about the desire most women carry deep within to experience intimate friendship. The kind of friendship allowing us to take our mask off, sit down with a steaming cup of coffee or hot tea, and pour our worries out to someone who won’t judge us, and to be a listening ear in return.

Of course, if we’re married, our spouse should be our best friend, but as women we need other females who will walk this crazy journey of daily living with us. We don’t require hundreds of friends, not like on Facebook where friendship is created by clicking “confirm.” Instead we need someone with skin on to put their arm around us when we are hurting, to love us enough to tell us when we’re wrong, and to be present in our time of crisis or heartbreak, and we should be there in return.

 

A friend like Kimberly was to me or like Katie in my novel. The widowed coffee shop owner is a trustworthy confidant for Cassie, the pastor’s wife. I hope the book is an entertaining read. Yet at the end of the day, my desire is for this novel to provide comfort and encouragement for everyone who needs emotional or spiritual healing or support, the kind of support true friendship provides. 

 

Mike Ullery photo

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a national Amy and Ohio APME award-wining freelance journalist, Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, and Inspirational speaker. Her latest book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” was released fall 2018. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  The novel is available at all major online outlets including Amazon.com, or visit her website for more details. 

 

 

 

 

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Dangerous Business: Social Media Posting and Electronic Multitasking

Hand on KeyboardSocial media can be a lot like a family gathering gone wrong when a meltdown in communication occurs. Yet, like many people, I enjoy the ability to connect and share information, especially on Facebook. But then I am a Baby Boomer.

Teens don’t seem to be that impressed by Facebook, and are never signing up or leaving the site “at an estimated rate of up to a million a year.” This according to a recent article in The Washington Post by Nico Lang, “…for new [social media] friends like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.” Lang says that Facebook boasts one billion users, but that it is “highly popular” among Gen Xers, those born from the early 1960s to 1980s, and Baby Boomers (1946-1964). So, we can’t blame adolescents for all the drama that Facebook can elicit.

The site’s purpose can also seem rather ambiguous, since the lines of personal, professional, and even political communication sometimes intersect. I’ve noticed that occasionally connections misinterpret a comment’s intent, or express their opinion without reading it in its entirety too. There are also those acquaintances who are at work, who often comment or “like” a post. How can a person get their job done and still have time to keep updated on Facebook? Of course, you can legitimately justify professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

Still, multitasking might be a potential professional landmine according to an article by Travis Bradberry in Forbes last fall, “Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career, New Studies Suggest.” Bradberry wrote, “Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive…people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.”

This research debunks the myth that some people excel at multitasking. “The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another,” noted Bradberry. Another study conducted at the University of London cited in the Forbes feature says that “multitasking lowers your IQ” as well.

The Best YesNew York Times best-selling author, Lysa Terkeurst agrees. In her 2014 book, “The Best Yes,” Terkeurst writes, “Checking your email in the middle of creative work momentarily knocks your IQ down 10 points, according to the British Institute of Psychiatry.” Personally, I doubt if checking Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are going to be much different. In an ethical sense, isn’t this also a form of employee time theft?

As for expressing an online viewpoint, some individuals appear to believe they are skilled writers, despite being oblivious to grammar, punctuation, or correct spelling even with spell check. More importantly, these fast-fingered folks don’t contemplate how their careless words could possibly affect the lives of others like a seasoned journalist would.

After all, it’s easy to hastily pound out an opinion on a keypad and instantly share on social media. Even if you are on your personal time, please think before you post, because it could cost you your job, or negatively impact the life of someone else.

6353664 - CopyChristina Ryan Claypool is an AP/Amy Award winning freelance journalist and former interpersonal communications instructor for Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

 

 

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