Claire King


Drawing Breath

Posted on: August 3rd, 2015 by Claire - 8 Comments

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

I am learning to swim.

I did learn to swim as a child, and somehow I competed in swimming as part of Modern Pentathlon at university. But in fact I was rubbish at swimming and only managed to be on the team because I was pretty good at all the other stuff and managed to pull up my average that way, floundering my way to completion in the swim and hoping no one remembered that bit. It turned out I had never learned to swim really, despite having my badges from 10m (purple)…


…to 1500m (teal), I had only learned to get from one side of the pool to the other without drowning. 1500mBadge

Time moves on twenty years. Children have been born. Years have been spent teaching THEM to swim (bear with the story, the punchline is great). And now they can swim unaided and our nearby town has a summer pool (outdoor) where twice a week there is a swimming club, and adults can go and be taught to swim better. And I am doing that.

It’s good to learn a new thing. The learning process itself affects your brain. Remembering how little you know, accepting to be ignorant, trying to be better. And so every Monday and Thursday I get in the pool with lean, fit, twenty-somethings and strive to do a little better than last time. To be stronger. To be suppler. To be more co-ordinated. But the thing I am having to relearn most of all is how to breathe.

When to breathe.

What part of my body to breathe with.

And the teacher tells me ‘Souffle!‘ when she wants me to breathe out.

And the teacher tells me ‘Inspire!‘ when she wants me to breathe in.

When she wants me to breathe in, to gasp for air, she tells me, ‘Inspire!

No one has ever had to tell me how to breathe in French before (even when I was in labour all they cared about was the souffle).

And so perhaps that is why I never realised that in French, the verb to inspire is the same as the verb to breathe.

And inspiration is the same as taking a breath.*


*From wikipédia:

Le terme inspiration a principalement deux significations.


8 Responses

  1. Robyn says:

    Lovely post, Claire. I love that you’re learning to swim again — something that I need to do! And I love that it has fed into your writing. When I’m writing, and stuck, I’ll try to remember to breathe!

  2. tu says:

    And if you’re all breathed out, you’re a soufflé! Nom!

  3. Katie Willis says:

    I love this post, Claire. I love the idea that we’re always learning and re-learning skills. I’m taking from it a sense of adventure.
    Inspiration and taking a breath, I shall use that thought and mindset next week when I’m stuck inside a tube having more tests at a hospital I don’t much like. I’ve actually been actively looking for new coping strategies, so thank you.
    I shall also think of you swimming and also try to recall that feeling of pushing somewhat effortlessly through water. I don’t think I was ever a natural swimmer but I loved the freedom you had, just you and the water together, a self-contained unit.

    • Claire says:

      Thanks, Katie. I have a piano teacher who insists that she always learns something new every year, to help her remain empathetic with her students. It’s very calming to remember how little we know and to experience learning whenever we can, I think. Sorry to hear you’ve got some unpleasant tests coming up, I hope you find ways to get through them. I have now adopted a swimming hat and goggles (never wore them before) and the best thing is being underwater, looking around, how differently everything moves. Even just in a swimming pool it’s quite transfixing.

  4. Marisa says:

    Enjoyed reading this. Am not a swimmer – just paddle around enough not to drown. You’ve inspired me! Taking breaths and mulling ideas 🙂

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