My trusted gal-pal and intrepid racing competitor, Annie, sent me a little book for my birthday.  It’s called: “Fake Swears: Filthy Expletives That Are 102% Clean.” What a nice present, right? I know you’re wondering why she thought I would need this particular book. So I’ll just come out and admit it: I occasionally say some bad words when I screw up on the race course. I refer to these words (always the same three) as my little “swear litany.” And so in this post, we’ll talk about the swear litany, what it is, and why I think it helps or hurts me.  I’m not proud.

Put simply, the swear litany is made up of those bad little words you spout when you are mad at yourself for doing something really stupid while racing your boat. Done correctly, the swear litany is directed only at yourself, preferably in little more than a painfully intense stage whisper.  It should never be used as anything else. It should never, ever, EVER be directed at anyone other than you, or some inanimate part of your boat (usually the part you were using when you screwed up). It exists only to help you brush off the overwhelmingly negative feelings associated with your #&$%@ mistake.

My swear litany is unique to me; I happen to prefer the staccato finality of several one-syllable expletives, fired off in rapid, bullet-like succession, but you can say whichever thing helps you shed the bad energy the fastest.  The people who sail with me know my swear litany by heart, though I can’t repeat  it here. Thank goodness they think it’s hilarious – imagine – right before their eyes, a lovely, polite lady morphs instantaneously into an ugly, ill-mannered, swearing sailor!  Honestly, I do try to be better, but in the heat of the moment, sometimes I forget and just let it rip. As Shakespeare warned us, “Mend your speech a little, lest you may mar your fortunes.”  Maybe this is especially good advice if you also happen to be the Fleet Captain?

My latest idea is to try to find a way to use that frustrated energy by quietly channeling it forward to focus more intensely on fixing whatever it is I’ve just messed up, and keeping my head in the game, instead of throwing it away with the fleetingly satisfying sibilants of an expletive, lost forever on the wind. That energy must be worth more to me if I can channel it, right? I mean it has to go somewhere, don’t you think? So the next time I feel the swear litany erupting, my plan is to focus that energy forward into the things that will make me succeed: my hand on the tiller, willing the boat to go faster – silent, stealthy, unshakeable.

In the meantime, as you can see, I’ve made a “DON’T SAY THAT!” jar, which will collect a hefty fine when I can’t control myself.

I’ll let you know how it goes. . .

Deborah Bennett Elfers
I was practically born on a boat, though on a working lobster boat rather than a sailboat. In my early days, I sailed quite a lot on a Sunfish, but not very elegantly, as in our little neighborhood “fleet,” the boat was primarily used as a weapon in a wildly popular game of “kill the other guy!” Who could have imagined way back then, that one day I’d become so passionate about all things sailing?
Deborah Bennett Elfers
Deborah Bennett Elfers

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