Swimming Hope Laps for Serenity

When discouraged as a child I would play ball until my mood lifted. Now as an adult, as I face down demons and depression from a disease that threatens to defeat me and from alarming, discouraging world events, I swim in defiance. I swim hope laps for serenity. I can’t hurt myself in water. Without the pressure of gravity pulling on my knees, back, shoulders, I glide through the water weightlessly pain free. In my darkest moments, I swim. I would rather shoot hoops, climb mountains, run marathons, but illness and injury make those options impossible. Instead I swim. If I can still swim, I can hang onto hope for a better day.

I would much rather swim with sisters in open water than alone in public pools. It’s boring swimming from one end to the other, so instead of counting laps I say prayers. After a few times down and back, slapping the water in fury, fuming over my personal state and my trials, I shift my focus to others that I know are facing even greater challenges. Each length I think of someone else.

I backstroke down one lap focusing on my French sister-in-law and niece who are struggling, and my uncle who underwent emergency brain surgery after a fall. Then down a lap for my mom who is the caregiver and back one for my dad whose heart and legs grow weaker from neuropathy. Down a length for another uncle who lost his wife and back for my cousin who lost her mom.

I breaststroke for my brother-in-law who still suffers from a car accident that injured his neck. I breaststroke for my student whose mom battles cancer. I swim for my friend on dialysis, for my friend with leukemia, for my friend fighting depression.

Then my circle of thoughts widens to reflect on the world. I swim for the people caught in the crossfire of nature’s wrath. For the victims of wildfires in California, for the folks in Texas, Alabama, Florida, Puerto Rico, whose homes have been decimated by hurricanes, for the Mexicans suffering in the aftermath of earthquakes. And I freestyle harder and faster in frustration and despair for the innocent victims of man made violence, for the families whose lives were shattered instantly in the Las Vegas mass shooting and terrorist attacks in London, Paris, Brussels, Mogadishu and elsewhere around the globe.

I don’t have to look far to see someone far worse off facing even greater obstacles.

Swimming puts my problems in perspective.

I inhale serenity, exhale anger, inhale tranquility, exhale anxiety, inhale calm, exhale hostility.

Maybe we should all take to the water in prayer to sooth our troubled souls and focus on bringing serenity to mankind.

Breath in hope. Breath out hate.

May peace be with you today.

Posted in family, health, inspiration, sport.


  1. “Breath in hope. Breath out hate.” Great advice, Pat! I’m not a swimmer, but I know it’s supposed to be good for those suffering from pain. I’m a land-lubber and prefer doing my exercises — and prayers — while walking. Something about getting one’s heart rate up and moving helps the old back. Gee, just look how much GOOD you’re doing with all those prayers!!

    • I never considered myself a swimmer either Debbie. It was just something I did every time I was injured to help me get back in the game. That said, over the years I have come to appreciate the medicinal properties of movement in water. Like you, though, I find that nothing clears the mind better or inspires the muse more greatly than a long walk.

  2. Pat, What beautiful words and great advice for all of us. The more we think about and pray for others, the less we are consumed by our own struggles, whatever they may be.

    • Thanks for sharing Teri. It is not always easy to put thoughts of others’ well being first, but with practice one can learn to be less self absorbed and more empathetic to others.

  3. This is exquisite. And as always, you inspire me. May your prayers be answered, dear Pat.

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