By Sharon Longo, Contributing Writer
COHASSET – Becoming an empty nester can be tough and for some, even depressing. When Laura DeSisto of Cohasset watched her daughter leave for college the same year the youngest of her three children headed off to boarding school, the active stay-at-home mom found the transition difficult. Instead of sinking into the depths emotionally, she learned to scuba dive, facing her lifelong fears. She also wrote a book about her life and experiences, and in the process, provided a legacy for her family.
An early love for the sea
DeSisto grew up with a love for the sea, swimming in the waters off Cape Cod, watching Jacques Cousteau as a child and wishing she could explore the beautiful depths. Then came the movie “Jaws.” “It ruined the ocean for me,” she said. However, once her children grew up and moved out, her lifelong dream of scuba diving once again came to the surface. “For years, I was trying to figure out who I really was and what I was meant to be doing,” she explained. “Once I revisited my inner child, there I was! I believe when we take a deep dive into our younger selves, we rediscover who we really are and have always been.”
Her close friend and neighbor who was like a sister to her was already an avid scuba diver. With her trusted friend by her side, she felt secure enough to try a daylong program called
Discover Scuba while in the Bahamas. “This is a great way to try the sport without committing to the full-blown training that it takes to become a certified diver,” she noted.
Facing her fears
Her fear of sharks had long kept her from setting foot in the ocean. Coming face-to-face with a shark on her first attempt at scuba diving should have sent her screaming from the water. Instead, she became fascinated with the creatures. “I became passionate about diving and ultimately decided to head back down to the Bahamas to become a fully-certified diver,” she said. She convinced her husband to become a diver along with her. “We began embarking on diving excursions around the world, often in pursuit of encounters with the world’s most dangerous creatures, like tiger sharks and bull sharks. Scuba diving helped me resurface into my own life. It was something I had achieved all on my own―separate from my role as a wife and mother.”
Pursuing other goals
DeSisto has loved to write her whole life. “I’ve been a writer for as far back as I can remember,” she recalled. “As a child, I would hide under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping late at night, and I would write poetry.” She was an English major in college and worked at an ad agency after graduating. Eventually she began writing magazine articles. “I continued to dream of one day writing a book, and after the experience of fulfilling my lifelong goal of scuba diving, I was led to revisit that childhood dream. I made several failed attempts. The sheer number of words was intimidating, and I didn’t know how to structure it,” she explained. “I also never felt like I had the right subject matter, but at mid-life when my life took such an interesting turn, I finally felt it was time.”
She went after online resources and hired a coach to help her stay on track with her goals. “I was told to write at the same time every day and in the same place,” said DeSisto. “This prepares our brains to be creative, and it really works.” Starting just before the pandemic, she wrote in her local public library and then eventually at home each day.
It took about a year to complete her book, the memoir “Resurfacing: Sisterhood, Sharks and Storms” but it quickly became a bestseller on Amazon. Described as “A true story of female friendship, adventure, heartbreak and finding purpose beyond motherhood,” it has gotten great reviews on Amazon. “Some people who have read it have said they can see it as a movie,” she noted. “Beyond the scuba diving experiences I detailed in the book, I wrote about how my close friends and I helped each other to weather the rough waters that we all sometimes face in life.”
But DeSisto made sure to counter the heavy material with some lightness. “There is definitely heartbreak in this book, but I tried to balance it with humor because that is how I personally get through tough times. Besides the metaphorical storms, my experience with a real storm, Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful hurricane in Bahamian history, is also detailed,” she said. “I don’t want to give too much away, but that is a big part of the heartbreak for me. However, there is also learning, redemption and a reconnection to faith that comes out of it.”
Embracing your older years
“We are all now living longer and healthier lives,” she said. “These days, life begins for many of us at 50. It can be a wonderful opportunity to finally take time for yourself and your personal development. For me,” she explained, “the two main keys to success were to rediscover my inner child and to seek out the resources and support I needed to achieve my goals.”
She said pursuing her dreams has been pivotal in forging the direction of her next stage of life. “Going after a lifelong dream of scuba diving totally re-energized me and allowed me to resurface into my own life,” she said. “This experience then led me to exhume and pursue another bucket list item of writing a book. The fact that those two dreams dove-tailed into this memoir still seems a bit surreal to me. It’s been life changing.”
DeSisto believes that we are never too old to dive into something new. We never know what dreams will resurface.
For more information: www.lauradesisto.com.