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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Swimming with Sharks a very Special Trip

Hi All,

I hope this blog finds you smiling and happy.  If that is not the case, I hope that by the end of this blog you will have smiled at least once, and experienced a few happy thoughts and feelings. 

When I was 5 or 6 years old (or around this age) I saw the movie "Jaws" for the first time.  It literally scared the shit out of me.

No joke, by the time the movie got to the point where Jaws eats the guy in the little jetty area in front of Chief Brody's kids, I was in the bathroom crapping uncontrollable with freight.  

Also around this time, the first season of "Baywatch"had made it to TV.  Towards the end of the season one of the lifeguards, Jill, was killed in a shark attack.  I vividly remember sitting on the toilet, crying, saying "Jill why did you have to die?"

After these two experiences I was terrified to get near the ocean, go into the river, or even get into a swimming pool.  I would still go into pools and the river, but not before nearly hyperventilating and psyching myself up telling myself "it is ok."  It took me moving to Santa Barbara to be able to finally get up the nerve to get into the Pacific Ocean.

At an early age I wanted to get past this fear.  My best friend growing up owned "Jaws," so every time I would have a sleepover at his house, I would watch the movie.  I can't begin to count how many times I stayed up late, while he slept, making myself sit through the movie, trying to get over my fear.  To date, by my best estimate, I have probably watched this movie well over 30 times. Haha

Several years ago I set out to start facing my physical fears.  I went skydiving, rode on some roller coasters... I faced all of them except for the sharks.

I actually had bought a ticket to go and do the shark dive in early 2010, but the earthquake in Haiti happened, and I decided going over there to help was a better and more important way to spend my time than going to the Bahamas to swim with the sharks.  The sharks would still be there.

Over the next four years I talked often about doing this trip, but the trip didn't happen because I didn't make it happen.  Instead life went on, time passed, and the trip remained in the back of my mind.

Beginning with the end of last year, the last several months of my personal life have been very challenging.  I lost the two people I was closest to: one killed in a tragic accident, the other to changing life needs. They were (and still very much are) the most prominent, important, and loved figures in my day to day life. 

A couple months ago I began talking with my good friend Steve about how I needed to change things up and do something to help me get back on track.

(Before I go any further let me be clear.  I am a happy person, and I have worked very hard to condition myself to experience daily happiness in my life.  With that being said when you experience losses in life that person's departure brings with it certain emotions, thoughts, etc... I am a firm believer in experiencing these thoughts and feelings as they are important in the grieving and healing process.  What is essential is that when we are experiencing them, we do not become them.  I think the worse thing a person can do for their own healing process it to lie to themselves and pretend like they are fine, etc... when at times they are not fine.)

Steve and I decided that the timing was right to plan on doing the scuba driving trip to Nassau, Bahamas, to dive with the sharks.  Steve's brother joined us.

The trip was an amazing experience for multiple reasons.  

The flight out there was one of the best.  I had two different flight attendants come up to me and tell me that Steve and I were the nicest people they had ever had on their flight.  I took this as quite a compliment considering how many people they must meet on a daily basis.  It just goes to show you, even when you may not be aware that it is being appreciated, kindness is always appreciated. :)

The diving was incredible.  The first dive I saw three or four sharks that were just hanging out following us around.  It was during this dive that I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of these creatures.  They did not care about me or any of the other divers down there.  They were just doing their thing, hanging out.  I had psyched myself up so much for this moment, the first encounter with the sharks and how scared I was going to be, that I surprised myself about how calm I was and appreciative of their beauty.

When it came time for the final dive of the trip I found myself humming the theme song to Jaws before jumping into the water... I try to keep things real hahaha. 

On the decent I could see several sharks nearby.  When the party got started there were no fewer then 20 -25 sharks swarming around us.  Never once was I scared, only once, (when a 6 + foot shark came within 8 inches of being nose to nose with me) was I nervous.  Instead I again found myself marveling at how amazingly majestic the sharks were and how they just could care less that myself, or anyone else, was down there.

The fear that had consumed most of my childhood and teenage years was non existent.  What was there instead were feelings of peace, tranquility, excitement, joy... HUH?  How do these emotions exist in a place where Fear is supposed to exist?  It doesn't make sense, or does it? ;)

Isn't it interesting that in life we spend so much time fearing something unknown, or something we think we are supposed to be afraid of.  Yet when the time comes to face it we find that what we once feared is really not that scary after all.  I had this same realization when skydiving. 

This trip was one filled with amazing experiences, heart to heart talks, lots of reflection, lots of remembering, lots of questions, lots of love, and a lot of self realizations, insights, and understandings.

When life challenges you, I encourage you to take some time to get away and clear your head and heart.  Treat yourself to an experience so unique and so new as it will help you to become more present to your own thoughts and feelings.  Presence leads to clarity, clarity leads to the emotions you need to feel, processing and feeling these emotions leads to them being freed, freeing these emotions leads to healing.

Thank you for experiencing my journey with me.  I am curious, how do you deal with loss both loss as the result of death and loss as the result of someone choosing a different path in life? If you feel comfortable, please share your thoughts in the comments below.  I would love to read your insights and ideas.

I hope you enjoy the pics

I promise I will get some video put together soon so you can see the sharks up close and personal. :)

Carpe Diem,


Something that made this trip extra special.  The place we dove at is called Stuarts Cove located in Nassau, Bahamas.  I knew about this place because Paul had told me about it.  He said he spent a lot of time here filming a movie and that the people at Stuarts Cove were some of the ones they worked with for the underwater shots.

Before I did the shark dive, I recognized Stuart and introduced myself, telling him we shared a mutual friend.  We chatted for five minutes or so and he shared with me some memories he had.

I had hoped in coming here that I would feel an added closeness to my friend at a time in my life where I wish more than anything I had him to talk to and get advice from about changes in my personal life.  Being down under the water, swimming with the sharks, I definitely felt that closeness.  It made the trip that much more special. :)


  1. Loss is always difficult. I remeber that maybe my loved one is not here physically, they are always in my heart and mind. Memories can make you laugh, cry, make you angry etc. but you holder closer and remember they will always be with you no matter what. :)

  2. Sometimes loss makes you feel as though the skin has been pealed from your body and you have been dipped in alcohol. You feel confusion and anger along with a sense of the situation being so unfair. And then you start to remember the love and the fun crazy times you shared. You start to live again but feel guilty for being happy, but you think of that person and how their love for you would want you to be happy and you smile. You slowly began to move forward not forgetting but remembering and celebrating that person's life.
    "You're life is a song that continually plays and with swimming with the sharks, you have new added a new verse."

  3. Wow! Jesse these are amazing pictures! Growing up I've always been afraid of the water the thought about being in deep waters always terrified me. As a young girl, I witness a drowning at a public pool. I believe that had to do a lot with my fears and then came Jaws!! Sharks are very scary creatures but at the same time, I find them very fascinating. I applaud you for taking that step to swim with those sharks. And the thought that it made you feel closer to Paul makes it even more special.

    A loss of a loved one is never an easy thing. I've experience quite a few in my life time. Having strong support to help you get through the period of mourning is always a good thing then having to get through it on your own. I've been very fortunate to have the support in my life.

  4. Wow Jesse, this by far has been the most impactful blog yet for myself that you have written! I have had people die in my life but they have all been either distant relatives or they died when I was too young to process it for me this has truly been a learning experience through the loss of your dear friend Paul and the other person you did not mention...but i know that I will some day have this experience become upclose and personal like what you are experiencing and sharing with us all and I hope to God that I will understand and embrace the process of grief like you have Jesse...I have had a relationship where the loss was pretty undeniable and hurt to the depths of my soul but I am still here to talk about it and I guess that is what it means to have loved someone so deeply and then to loose them...Like everything else, all suffering will go, until one day it comes again.

    The greatest thing about death or loss is that it helps us grow up. It matures us. It brings wisdom. It strengthens our bones. It teaches us to let go.

    We learn we can go through hard times, and with little effort the sun shines again. We can take off our shoes and touch toes to sand and run on the beach, knowing that we made it through. Our happiness never really went away—it still exists inside of us—yet, we are remembering it anew. Fresh, transformed, aliveness engages us again. Thanks so much for sharing this insight into loss and for sharing your amazing adventure of overcoming fear of sharks! Your pictures speak a thousand words...truly remarkable and to see that you swam where Paul did really can see the symbolism in how this would be significant for your healing process! (Sorry words got a hold of me on this one)

  5. You've said many poignant things (not just here but in general), but one that stuck out the most -

    (Before I go any further let me be clear. I am a happy person, and I have worked very hard to condition myself to experience daily happiness in my life. With that being said when you experience losses in life that person's departure brings with it certain emotions, thoughts, etc... I am a firm believer in experiencing these thoughts and feelings as they are important in the grieving and healing process. What is essential is that when we are experiencing them, we do not become them. I think the worse thing a person can do for their own healing process it to lie to themselves and pretend like they are fine, etc... when at times they are not fine.)

    Thank you so much for that. I was wondering what your thoughts were on balancing a positive focus in life and the grieving process. I am very happy and relived to hear your message and that you are of the same opinion.

    BTW, can we edit the article to add "Baywatch First Season Spoiler?" LOL. Some of us are still working our way there!

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It was a very personal one.I also think that's the reason so many people follow you!
    Losing someone because of changing life paths is severly painful for both sides. I was once going through that process and it felt like the wrongest thing to do over months. But I think at this point your soul experienced everything it had wanted to experience and wants to move to something else ( not something 'better'!). What helped me make the decision to go through that process was that I believe that every connection you have or had to a person is something 'real' and : Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God (A Course In Miracles).
    Isn't the pain that we feel about loss largely due to the feeling that we have lost the connection to that person? But we cannot feel the connection when we're in pain because there is to much pain-'mist' around us. And when we get to a point where we can put ourself together and open our heart again we can feel the connection again in which way ever! I know your friend was there with you!
    Regards from Germany!

  7. I love reading all your comments and insights. Thank you all who have taken the time to share and and extra big thanks to those of you who have shared something from your personal experience. I learn a lot and find tremendous value in reading your thoughts.

  8. Thank you Jesse. It is therapeutic to visit or revisit places where our loved ones were or have been. I know for me it helps to try and find answers and closure too. Losing someone close is one of the hardest lessons to go through and learn from. For me it's almost a curse, because it's haunting sometimes.
    Love your words of feeling and down to earth humanness!