“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
I love this quote by philosopher George Santayana. Have you ever had a friend that kept making the same romantic mistakes over and over? Have you ever wondered why she couldn’t just learn from her mistakes the first time around and move on? Why does your friend continue to seek out emotionally unavailable partners and then try desperately to make them love her? Why does she seem uninterested in the lovely man hanging around on the sidelines, waiting hopelessly to give her everything she needs?
Scratch the surface and most of us have some kind of issue in our lives that has caused us to remain “stuck” in some way or another. Whether it’s unhappiness in our job, career, relationship or family, some of us are better than others at knowing how to leave the past behind us. But it seems that knowing something on an intellectual level is the easy part (we all know that women who seek out emotionally unavailable men are trying to win some ancient oedipal battle, right?). I found through my own experience that recognising what’s keeping you stuck on an emotional level is something very different and much harder to resolve.
When I wrote my debut novel Swimming Upstream I had recently had a difficult relationship break-up. I became very conscious of wanting to learn a lesson from the mistakes I had made so that I could get it right next time around. But I found that I was unable to do this without unearthing some painful memories from my past.
Although I’ve drawn heavily on my own experiences in writing Swimming Upstream, it’s a story first and foremost. Lizzie Taylor, the central character, is a young woman in her late twenties, who, harbours a secret from her past that has held her back. She craves the freedom to move forward without fear and to find her true path in life. Swimming Upstream tells the story of what happens to Lizzie and the chain of unexpected events that begin to change her life forever.
The title for my novel came from a quote by feminist writer Marilyn French in her novel The Bleeding Heart published in 1980 and in which she described women as being like salmon, always having to swim upstream. Feminist issues aside, I was swimming a lot at the time and began to see parallels between the hard work that it takes to become a competent swimmer – and the ultimate satisfaction you can get from doing it well – with having been through a difficult time in life and coming out of it with a greater degree of happiness than I might ever have achieved had I not pushed myself through the “pain barrier”.