Into Darkness – I Thought I Could Do It All

Athena and I I thought I could do it all and it wouldn’t affect me. I was sick when I returned from Fiji, but I kept pushing it. We flew to New Brunswick, Canada, for the holidays and I was burning the candle on both ends – staying up late with family and waking up early with Athena. Our flight back to North Carolina was at 6 am, which equaled a 3:30 am rise but I put on a smile and hopped on the plane. The next day we booked a week in Atlanta and I started packing our bags all over again. Then, Athena got sick and the weeks, or even months, of non-stop travel caught up with me, although I didn’t realize it just yet.

When I found out that Darren had to be in Atlanta for work during the second week of Whale Sharks Georgia AquariumJanuary, I had to book an adventure. It’s part of me. Finding something new and exciting is as natural as putting on my shoes. I found a company called Great American Days and they have over 6,000 experiences across the country, making them the perfect fit for my adventure addiction.  Within 10 minutes of searching their site, I knew I had to do the Journey with the Gentle Giants once again.  Although Great American Days offers a Wildlife Encounter and a Zookeeper for the Day experience at the North Georgia Zoo, helicopter flight lessons, and hot air balloon flights all in the Atlanta area, my first whale shark encounter was life-changing and I couldn’t resist a second dip in the aquarium waters. I didn’t realize I’d be going into darkness instead.

Hyatt Place AtlantaWe arrived at the hotel last night after 4 stressful hours of driving with a sick baby and teary eyes.  As a new mom, seeing Athena sick is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced in life. I think I’ve cried more in the last 24 hours than she did. None of us slept; none of us had rest; none of us relaxed, and I felt completely and utterly useless.

This morning we were like zombies. Athena’s heavy eyes and stuffy nose were a hotel room sentence. We didn’t want to take her out but it didn’t really matter because we were too tired to do anything anyway.

By 3 pm, I had a decision to make.  My aquarium adventure was already booked but I felt the sickness creeping up on me. I was sleep deprived, stressed, and I hadn’t eaten anything but I was too stubborn to stay at the hotel and rest.

Georgia Aquarium Whale SharkI arrived at the Georgia Aquarium optimistic that I would push through and forget all about it as I emerged into the waters with the beautiful marine life. I put on my wetsuit and felt a wave of heat rush over me. “It’s just the temperature here,” I thought. “I’ll be fine when I get in the water.”

I put on the fins, the gloves, the mask… the gear felt heavy. I pushed on.

I slid into the water and put the regulator in my mouth. I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I kept coming up but I was embarrassed. I thought everyone would assume I was scared so again… I pushed on.

A whale shark approached and it was mesmerizing. If I just moved my arm slightly, I couldWhale Sharks Georgia Aquarium touch it. I froze for a moment, thinking about it, and my vision blurred. The heat returned. My breathing changed. I knew that feeling; I was going to pass out.

I pulled my face away from the water and ripped off my mask. Waving, I caught the attention of the support diver. I blinked again and again but the blur remained.

I was on my back and she was pulling me. It happened. Without enough warning to do anything productive, I passed out. My journey with the gentle giants ended in darkness, cut short by my inability to accept that I’m not invincible.

I’ll never stop traveling, exploring the world and its far off reaches. I’ll never stop seeking new adventures, free-falling through life with the wind on my face. I want to teach Athena that we are not even limited by our own imagination because we can always dream bigger, but I learned something today. I can still do it all… just not all at once.

Think of something that you’ve always wanted to do. What is it? make sure it’s big! Now, imagine being given the opportunity to do that right now. Would you do it? Would a restless night stop you? Would you miss out because you were tired? If I was given the choice again, I wouldn’t change my decision.

208 thoughts on “Into Darkness – I Thought I Could Do It All

    • We’re both starting to feel better, thank you. Unfortunately, it was a lot to do with timing. I had already booked the experience and they have a no cancellation policy the day of so it just didn’t work out.


  1. A valuable lesson… although I think you pushed it further than I would have! I am currently recovering from pneumonia after weeks of pushing it too hard at marathon training…. so I feel your pain. I hope you and your family are healthy again soon! Take it easy and rest up for more adventures!


  2. Sweetheart, when my husband and I had our four kids, we did exactly what you and Darren did. Skiing with the babies in tow, biking, diving, travelling, and now, as college kids they have such wonderful stories to tell and great memories of departed Dad. But as children often are, they are reminders of our own mortality and great imitators. One of the best lessons you’ll give Athena is good self care. Don’t let that happen again, she’ll learn recklessness as well as a love of adventure.
    Much love,


    • Although I love to be on the go all of the time, rest is usually not an issue. It was more of a matter of timing. With her being sick and staying in a hotel, I didn’t have the chance to get away from it all… even for a couple hours of rest. Normally, Darren is a great help and we share the responsibility on the weekend, allowing for rest periods for both of us. It was more a combination of “the perfect storm”.


  3. My wife and I are actually looking forward to NOT having a big travel destination planned, because two years ago we moved across the country… and last year we had a long research trip in the Philippines. The ability to be someplace stable for the summer sounds like a blessing to us! I love reading about your adventures, but take care of yourself : )


  4. It’s so hard to admit that we need to slow down and rest every once in a while! I’m really impressed that you had the perseverance to try swimming with the sharks despite the sleep deprivation (and especially since I’m even more afraid of sharks than you!). Hang in there, get some rest, and I’m sure you’ll be back to feeling like yourself soon.


  5. Oh my; that must have been frightening. So glad to hear you’re doing better now but keep that realization in your mind always — especially when you’re tempted to go back to your old pace.


  6. Oh my gosh, that is terrifying! I’m glad you’re okay, but I think you learned an important lesson. You cannot constantly be on the go, go, go. Eventually your body will give out, whether your brain likes it or not. There is a time for adventuring and a time to take care yourself and your precious baby. Take some time to watch some horrible Hallmark movies and drink some tea! (My mom was very sick a few weeks ago and had to miss work, she lost her voice and woke up in the middle of the night coughing up phlegm in the bathroom. I was so scared because it was such violent hacking, I was ready to call 911! We ended up watching the entirety of the Hallmark channel’s Christmas movie programming. I put up with it because my mama obviously got deserved dibs!)


  7. I pray you’re both feeling better, and I know just what you mean about the heavy heart that comes when your baby is sick! But all is well, and like others have stated this is such a valuable lesson for you and her. Athena will be able to do everything she sets her mind too, but just like mommy, she’ll learn the importance of balance!!

    God Bless!



  8. I hope the worst is behind you–and you wrote this better rested, with a happy baby no longer sick. Swimming with gentle giants can surely happen again. Thank you for the recommendation of Great American Days. A good option to have in one’s back pocket!


  9. Sorry to hear it didn’t go as planned. You’ll just have to go back and have a “do over.” I’ve over done it many times and utimately, your body will get the rest it needs one way or another. Wishing you and Athena a speedy recovery! ~Sophia


  10. Reminds me of one of the quotes I have saved to refer to from time to time that isn’t always easy to remember let alone live by — “Life is a marathon. You can have and be all the things you want to be. Just do it over a lifetime. Don’t try to do them all at once, because you can’t. If you try to, everyone around you will suffer– most of all, you.” — Eunice Kennedy Shriver —- parenting is an adventure just of a different kind, and sometimes it requires revisiting the best laid plans 🙂 ~ Kat


  11. Hi Lesley. Ebb and flow. We travel a lot; usually three weeks working and ten days off. When friends come to visit in New Orleans, rather than try to take them everywhere, we try to get them in the New Orleans flow of things… it’s usually like the flow of molasses around here. 🙂 Feel better, Ray


  12. Dear Lesley – it’s called burn-out!
    Hope you’re getting lots of rest, and learn to pace yourself and be kind to yourself. Would you have pushed Athena to go on when she felt like you did? No, so be as kind to yourself as you are to Athena…!


  13. Yes, listen to your body. Sometimes we have to pause, and enjoy the flowers, even though all we want to do is squeeze the most out of what life has to offer. This has happened to me before when I insisted on going to the library to get ahead on research when I had a very sever sick 2 days out of school, and passed out in the library. Terrible experience, but taught me to listen to my body’s needs more and SLOW down once in a while!


  14. You have honored me by visiting to my blog,Lesley. I am always an admirer of your impossible daredevil feats. Still heroic people too have … Get well soon. Don’t forget our noble and good thoughts, inspiration and energy for your aspirations. Auspiciousness, peace and prosperity to you and your kith and kin, lady!


  15. Wow, you certainly have gotten plenty of advice. As a 68 year old mother of three daughters who always squeeze the most out of life, i am still learning to zip my lips in the advice department. ‘slow down’ is what I would tell them, but the lessons learned are learned by each individual’s experience, as you well know. By nature I am not the adventure seeker, i am the artist, the thinker, the loner, the nature lover, the sentimental fool. With 12 grandkids now I am filled up to the brim with love for them, and often wonder how their mommies and daddys can do all they do. Spend your down time hugging your loved ones. You will give each other energy.


  16. Holy Crap! What a story. I’m hoping your recovery went well. Dude you can most definitely do it all, but sleep needs to be included on that list 🙂 It’s tough being a mom, that’s a another adventure in and of itself. Hope you’re have a better day … a well rested one.


  17. Hope you & your darling babe feel better!
    I love her name by the way! Such a fantastic choice of name!

    Also I admire you for continuing to push yourself because you wanted to be apart of an amazing experience like this! I don’t know if I could ever even go near an adventure quite like this so I give you a lot of credit there! Sorry that it didn’t end the way you wanted too but maybe another time in the future again!

    Goodluck with everything 🙂


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