People ask me why I like writing about love and family dynamics in all of my work. It’s simple: I find the conflux of how we want to be loved and how we are loved to be at the center of every conflict.
No one knows how love feels to another person. Love is not quantifiable, and it changes shape. We have wants and needs, they hopefully shift and grow in our lifetime, but nothing hurts more than not being loved the way you need to be loved.
I had a friend over recently. We were enjoying chilled chardonnay with cheese and crackers on my porch, and we were getting to know one another better, having a real conversation. I learned she is one of five siblings in a military family. She learned I’m the adult child of an alcoholic. I told her about a recent incident with my father and his live-in girlfriend that happened at Christmas.
While we visited my dad, a verbal assault was unleashed on me in front of my ten-year-old. When I set the boundary of protecting my child, my dad asked me to, “Please, just forget it.”
I will not allow this pathology to be passed down to my daughter.
I spent my life forgetting the horrible things he’s said and done because of his addiction. I forgave him leaving my wedding when he felt he didn’t get enough attention. I forgave the times he viciously verbally attacked me in public because he never remembered the next day. I forgave when he didn’t remember calling me while drunk, when he called me my mother’s name, and when he yelled at me for the things that happened in his past.
I told my friend, “I know he loves me. He’s just broken.”
“Is that love?”
“It’s his love,” I said.
“I don’t think that’s love,” she said.
She’s a social worker. She’s seen lots of broken relationships. She said this to me without judgment. And she said it as a matter of fact. I explained how despite him being sober he still behaves like an alcoholic. I learned the term dry drunk. It very much fits.
And that is exactly why I love to write about love. The conflict between how I am loved and what constitutes healthy love fascinates me. It’s convoluted. On one hand, I possess acceptance. On the other hand, I set strong boundaries and know what is normal for me is not normal for most.
According to my mother, I say too much in my writing. But for me, sharing my personal heartaches provides clarity.
I’m not writing my pain away — that’s what journals are for. I write because if I feel something so intensely, I’m compelled to write. Part of it is for me, but part of it is with the hope that I can help others.
For a while, I wrote about motherhood. But my daughter is coming of age, and it’s not my place to write her stories without permission anymore.
I shared the grief I carried inside me after suffering three miscarriages. The loss was so personal. I was convinced I bred death since during each pregnancy my small miracle died. The heartbeat stopped, my body absorbed the pregnancy, and one was expelled from my body. I believed I was a walking grave, only capable of breeding death. It was a dark place. But through that experience, I became an intuitive healer.
In my young adult fiction, I explore the family dynamics of becoming what you hate and not having the words to describe how you need to be loved. Through storytelling, I explore the fallacy of needing to sacrifice myself to love in order to receive it. My hope is to illuminate how misguided it is to try to be anything or anyone other than who you are in order to be loved.
Having faith in what you know and what you’re driven to do are gifts that artists of all kinds must possess in order to survive all the rejection, heartbreak, and funny looks people give us when we own who we are.
I love what I do. When I’m not writing, I’m incredibly cranky.
The beautiful thing is that I can help people dream of other places and forget their day-to-day life in my stories. But by writing about love and family, I can help heal their pain in real life, too. See, love is part of the formula to healing and happiness. It’s an important ingredient in life, and it’s fascinating.
Photo: Ana Tavares
Holly Raychelle Hughes (WNBA-Charlotte) is a freelance writer and intuitive healer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her essay “It Happened To Me: An Oscar Winner Bullied So Badly I Quit the Film Industry” went viral on XOJane.com, was picked up by Yahoo! Time.com and the Daily Mail. More of her stories appear on Kveller.com and CafeMom.com. She contributed highly reviewed and award-winning essays to the Image Comic Glitterbomb series. Barnes and Noble named Glitterbomb best comic/graphic novel of 2017 and again in March 2018. Her work appears in a variety on print, on-line publications, plays, and she is a featured speaker. When Holly isn’t writing essays, she writes young adult fiction and non-fiction. She is represented by Carlie Webber of Fuse Literary. A full list of writing credits, upcoming events, and more information about intuive healing can be found on Holly’s website.