Breathing Good

Breathing Good

If you can’t say something nice to someone, talk bad about everyone. Nope, that’s not it. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.


Quick flashback to a time when I looked a heck of a lot better in a swimsuit.  I’m a competitive member of a relay swim team, we’re in the throes of a meet and our pool’s reputation is on the line.

I’m the second swimmer on our medley relay because, well, I can’t do the butterfly stroke, the anchor position is too much pressure for me and quite frankly, the breaststroke leg is reserved for the slowest swimmer. And slow swimming, that’s my jam.

Our starting swimmer is the region’s speed backstroker so we have a comfortable lead by the time I splash in for my leg. I maintain our team’s lead but second and third place are breathing down our necks … or splashing down our suits (I don’t know what the metaphor is).

By the time our anchor man (not to be confused with Ron Burgundy) gets in the pool, our lead is very very narrow. With each freestyle stroke, our margin of victory is decreasing. The swimmers seem to collectively decide to create a photo finish suitable for a made-for-TV documentary. They are neck and neck … or goggle and goggle (again, I’m unsure of the metaphor, but I feel like I’m drowning in my attempts … there, I know that metaphor will float).

When our team mate finally touches the wall, the cheers are deafening. 

But the cheers are not for us. 

The lead we had maintained for 3 legs was lost in the fourth.

Our anchor swimmer knows the lead was lost on her watch and she is devastated.

She starts bawling because of the responsibility she bears for this blemish on our record. 

I stand there with her as she sobs, while our two relay mates make their way to our side of the pool.

Swimming is typically an individual sport, but when it’s a relay race, all of a sudden it’s a team sport. When one individual on the team is the one who loses the lead, all of a sudden the team sport is once again an individual sport. So assigning blame is a tough call. 

Our team captain, however, is up to the challenge of making that tough decision. So when our team captain gets over to me and Anchor, she really leans into her — meaning, she reads her the riot act. 

I thought Anchor couldn’t cry any harder, but Captain makes that very impossible task possible. Yelling at Anchor for losing the lead. Screaming at her for being slow. Calling her freestyle stroke a crawl (which is technically what the stroke is called, so burn on Captain).

I feel helpless.  

It’s obvious that Anchor knows the lead was lost during her leg. But the argument could also be made that we all contributed to the loss. If we had ALL swam just a little bit faster, we would have reduced the pressure to gain back any of that loss during the last leg.

And I was pretty sure Anchor didn’t meticulously and maliciously calculate her stroke rate to purposely lose the race. 

So I decide to lean into her too. 

But, I wanted to accentuate the positive. 

I needed to give her something to cushion the blow that Captain was dealing. 

I wrapped my arm around Anchor, sucked in a voluminous intake of air, worthy of the compliment I was about to bestow upon her and said, “You breathed really well.”

It was the best I could come up with. 

It was actually all I could come up with.

I mean, I was only 8 years old and this was a community pool swim team. 

The memory of that day reminds me that every team event requires individual participation and everyone’s individual participation contributes to a larger team.

It’s easy to pick apart other people for their negative contributions. It takes some splashing around to find a positive.

Keep swimming for those positives and if all else fails, feel free to use, “You breathed really well.”