Why Wait? — Starting at 59 (or even later)


First, one of my favorite quotes:

“There is a sweetness in surrendering to something you will never be good at, and still finding pleasure in doing it.”  — Sue Bender, “Everyday Sacred

I love that one because it kind of sums me up. I love trying stuff — so I do a lot of things, and will probably never be an expert at any of them. But, oh, the sweetness! The pleasure! Thanks, Sue. 🙂

When I was 59, during the Christmas holidays, my son, a rock climber, was home with an injured arm. He couldn’t climb. That was my chance!

For months, I’d been seeing little articles in magazines and newspapers, small mentions of things he’d been doing ‘out there,’ wherever it was he went when he “went climbing.” I didn’t know what that meant. I wanted to find out.

So I asked him to take me to Pipeworks, the indoor rock-climbing gym where he trains when he’s home (Sacramento, CA). I figured I’d learn the vocabulary (highly specialized — I never knew what he was talking about!), find out how to tie some knots, maybe try climbing a half a wall and I’d go home happy, with some more understanding of what my son did all the time.

Not exactly how it played out.

We did go to the gym that afternoon, back in December of 2008, and he showed me how to tie in (complicated, at first), how to belay (terrifying!), and taught me some of the vocabulary (still learning). But then things changed.

My stomach has always insisted on tying itself into knots when I’m up high in some exposed place, looking over the edge. Knowing that, I knew that climbing wasn’t for me. Too afraid of heights, as most people say.

But that day, after he’d taught me some of ‘the ropes,’ I tied in, checked our knots, stepped up to the artificial climbing wall, grabbed a handhold, and started upwards.

Seven years later, I’m still climbing!


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Since then, I’ve had life-altering adventures on mountains, walls, ledges, crags, fjords…the kinds of adventures I never could have imagined, before. Rock climbing has changed my life in so many ways that I really envy those who start younger. I started when I was in what the French call my “third age.” Past middle age. I find that it’s hard to build the required muscle mass, at this age. I work pretty hard at it, but I still can’t do a push-up or a pull-up. But then, I’ve seen interviewed climbers say that you don’t ever have to do that, up on the rock wall. So there’s hope.

Ah, the “sweetness,”: the “pleasure”!. . .

But climbing is only part of my life. Stay tuned for more in our next visit.

5 thoughts on “Why Wait? — Starting at 59 (or even later)

  1. So true about the third life, a time to explore new avenues in life.

    What’s fun for my third life is that I feel much like a teenager about to launch into adult life but with some understanding and background to help give me confidence going forward. My history of running the gamut of pitfalls and failures in life but still managing to be successful is useful information now as I dive into new adventures. I can’t imagine rock climbing as part of my new life but can relate in other pursuits. Fear of failure is what holds us apart from a world of possibilities. Expectation that the challenge is real means that of course you will not immediately succeed but when you do succeed a new world reveals itself. So cool!

  2. Thanks D! Looking forward to the next adventure!
    If you want others to be automatically notified when you post anew, have them leave a post themselves and to check the box “Notify me of new posts by email.”
    Bonne continuation!

  3. Never stop exploring! I started climbing at 54 and it quickly became an addiction that I am happy to share with you Dierdre! Bravo!

  4. Yup, I’ve been climbing 35 years, started when I was 18 years old, and I’ve NEVER been able to do one even 1 pull up. But I’m not climbing at an elite level, nor do I need to. “Climb like a girl”, focus on technique rather than brute strength, and most of all, just enjoy yourself at whatever level. The stuff we did in the Gunks was easy, but still satisfying and so much fun!

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