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And So This Is Fifty

Cliffmama under the table after posing with her 50th birthday cake.

Pay no attention to the 50 year old under the table.

The strangest thing happened to me a week ago. I turned 50 years old. I don’t know how it could be possible. There’s no way I could be 50. I don’t feel it. I don’t look it. I don’t act like it. I’m sillier than my teenage daughters! So where did the years go? How did I end up where I am, and where are I going?

I have to admit that I’ve been blessed. Blessed to have two great kids who share my passion for climbing. Blessed that I am still strong and healthy enough to climb without any injury bad enough to stop me from climbing. Sure there are aches and pains and some chronic issues I’m working through, but I know people younger than me with shoulder injuries that may prevent them from ever climbing again. I am blessed to have many friends and be part of this wonderful climbing community.

Cliffmama surrounded by her Gunks climbing friends at her 50th birthday party.

Fun times with friends at my 50th birthday party.

Last weekend I gave myself a birthday party and invited my old college outing club friends and my friends from the Gunks climbing community. What a joy to have 60 friends come over to celebrate my birthday with me! A handful of out of town guests arrived Friday night and didn’t leave until Sunday night. They helped me clean up and washed many dishes after the party. The main party was a pot luck dinner Saturday night. I counted a total of 62 people including myself and my daughter. The Gunks climbing community is a close knit one, where many people know each other. Unlike areas like Colorado with many cliffs to choose from that spreads the climbing population out, the Gunks are pretty much the only quality cliff for miles around. So the same climbers come back to the Gunks over and over again and you’re likely to see the same climbers over and over again. I spent 17 years living in suburban NJ and never felt like I really belonged there. Here at the Gunks I really treasure the love and support from my climbing friends and really feel like I’m a part of the Gunks climbing community.

My 50th year will be a difficult one in some respects. I will see my oldest daughter head off to college in the fall. My 25 year marriage to a man I’ve been with since I was 18 years old is coming to an end. I’m really not sure how I feel about dating again after all these years and if I’m ready yet to try. My future is uncertan. There are many challeges ahead.

Making belgian waffles for my friends the morning after my 50th birthday party.

Making belgian waffles for my friends the morning after my 50th birthday party.

Who would think a seemingly pointless sport would be the key to help me pull through this? Climbing will get me outside in the fresh air and will keep me motivated to exercise and stay in shape as I continue to age. Climbing will continue to be a powerful way to bond with my daughters as they grow older and more independent. Climbing has provided me with a community of wonderful and supportive friends where I finally feel I fit in and can be myself. Hopefully someday climbing will provide a way for me to meet a new life partner who I can share my love and my love of climbing with.

When you’re really passionate about something, it becomes a part of you and permeates every aspect of your life. Climbing will keep me fit and connected and it brings me joy and courage. Being 50 has already benefited me with an AARP discount at the Vegas hotel I’ve booked for my upcoming Red Rocks climbing trip. 🙂

So this is 50. As the saying goes, I’m too young to be this old. But I think my 50s will be allright… because I’m a climber.

I leave you with my favorite quote. “You don’t stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing.”

My birthday cake with edible image of me rock climbing on it.

Birthday cake!


Update in 2024: Six months after I became single again at 50, I met a wonderful man who is also a climber! Since then we have shared many exciting adventures in the outdoors and married each other. I’m living my happily ever after.


Permanent link to this article: https://cliffmama.com/blog/cliffmama-turns-50/

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