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Confronting Infirmities

Even though I live a few yards from the beach, I've been doing more ocean swimming this summer than I have in years. It's great exercise and I really enjoy the increased buoyancy that salt water provides. It is good therapy for my ailing back and is very meditative. Still I do miss running, tennis, backpacking and skiing, activities I haven't tackled at all in 2014.

I try to remain optimistic and hope that maybe next year I'll be able to do another triathlon. I have a consultation with a neurosurgeon in a couple of weeks to see if I'm a good candidate for minimally invasive surgery. There are days when my back pain is so intense that getting rid of it becomes the focus of my day. I don't like pain pills, because they simply mask the problem and I do worry about getting dependent on them.

When I heard about Robin Williams' suicide, I felt both sympathy and disappointment. Only 63, he still had years ahead of him, yet he did have his issues. He had been diagnosed as having the first stages of Parkinson's disease, a condition that turned my active, 79-year-old grandfather into a cripple in short order. Like Williams, people in my family and good friends have wrestled with severe substance abuse so I know how devastating it can be. Williams checked into rehab in July, but was all accounts sober when he determined that life wasn't worth living. The saddest part of the episode was that he left a widow, two sons and a daughter behind who will never be able to share their lives with him again. As a Catholic, I was raised with a strong aversion to suicide, seeing it as a coward's way out, yet I do understand why pain, both physical and mental, can drive people to ending it all.

I'm posting this on my father's 89th birthday. I wish I had gotten to know him as an adult. He fought hard to keep living, but his body gave out on him at 44.He never quit. Instead of emulating Williams, I prefer to be inspired by people like former president George H. W. Bush, who marked his 90th birthday in July by making a tandem sky dive. When he landed, he was helped into his wheelchair.

"Reverse Aging Now," our award winning documentary, examines the mental aspects of fighting the ravages of aging. As Carolisa Pomerantz, the Associate Producer of "Reverse Aging Now," put it in the DVD's bonus feature, "Aging in LA," "The mind is a very powerful thing." She went on to discuss how belief can create its own reality when it comes to confronting aging. Unfortunately Robin Williams saw nothing but darkness in front of him. The rest of us are facing our lives' inevitable sunset. We have more ability than we realize to savor the light we have left and make it beautiful.

photo of Paul Suchecki by Carolisa Pomerantz©2014 Checkmate Pictures