This time of year, most of us are thinking about family—whether we’re excited to be together for the holidays, dreading it…or maybe a little of both.
I spend a lot of time thinking—and writing—about family. It’s such a rich emotional mix of the deepest, most primal kind of love and attachment and the sort of five-star frustration and nerve-plucking that only those who’ve known us all our lives can really excel at.
Despite the title of my Breakup Doctor series, the stories are, at the heart, very much about family. Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden helps her brokenhearted clients through the end of their rocky, difficult relationships—but her own are far from perfect, as she’s struggled across four books in love, with friendships, and of course, with her mom.
Brook and her mother have always had a complicated, often prickly relationship, the way we often do with those who are most like us. In Out of Practice, the fourth and final title of the series that released this fall, her control-freak mom struggles with the recent loss of her husband, serious health issues of her own, and the loss of her much-cherished autonomy.
Brook, too, feels best with the reins held firmly in her hands—yet when a former frenemy in her small Florida hometown launches a media “exposé” targeting the Breakup Doctor, the rug is pulled out from under Brook’s wildly successful practice and she starts to lose control.
What was especially fun for me about writing this series was exploring the tensions and conflicts inherent in certain family relationships—I often say family is the universe’s way of teaching us tolerance, patience, and unconditional love, since we’re stuck with people we sometimes feel we might otherwise walk away from.
Both Brook and her mom wind up handling their challenges and moving onto a different path than what they may have expected—but in both cases, it’s a positive move filled with opportunity for them to grow. Sometimes it takes that kind of friction and difficulty for us to reach our most glorious potential, like the sand in an oyster that irritates a beautiful pearl into being.
And surprisingly often, it’s the people and situations we may think are the most difficult that can get us there. As a daughter or sister or wife or mom that may be maddening—but as a writer, it’s juicy material to work with.
So this season, if you’re among those who head home for the holidays with a mixture of joy and trepidation, remember that the people who may drive you crazy are the same ones who may be pushing you to grow to be everything you are capable of being. And if that isn’t enough to soothe the discomfort of getting there, remember the wise words of Nora Ephron: Everything is copy. Think of it as research for your next bestselling book.
Phoebe Fox is the author of the Breakup Doctor series and the upcoming Merry Widows series (both from Henery Press). You can find her website . You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.