Friday, May 2, 2008 Weather on the Eights, Angst on the Nines: Will Experts Validate This Theory? reports:

By Stefanie Weiss
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, April 1, 2008; HE01

"Midlife is when you reach the top of the ladder and find that it was against the wrong wall." -- writer and mythology scholar Joseph Campbell

I was 39. My son, then 5, was thrilled to read his first words. My husband, a lifelong political hopeful, had just been elected to local office.

Me? I was holding down the fort, making the daily slog to a job I'd had for nearly 15 years. I was halfway to lifer, regularly squashing new ideas with the bored voice of bureaucracy. "We tried that 10 years ago. No, really, was it 12? Time flies," I'd say. "Anyway, it didn't work."

I tried to counter the same-old with something new: a personal campaign I dubbed "Sleeveless at 40." Every day I did exercises (at my desk) designed to fight the flightless flapping of my upper arms, that sag that often accompanies aging, the bat-wings that I felt were weighing me down.

It was a worthy challenge, don't get me wrong. No body part should continue to wave long after you've said goodbye. But after a few months, I conceded defeat. The exercises didn't tighten my triceps, and they didn't jolt me out of my sense that my career was on the road to nowhere, with no expensive new bridge in sight.

At eight minutes after the hour, the car radio was tuned to news. "Traffic and weather on the eights," the announcer said. And, it occurred to me, major life crises on the nines.

The nines -- 39, 49, 59 -- those anxious years on the offramp of a decade. Those years of inching toward big, fat, round-numbered birthdays that are friends to no one. Those vulture-like harbingers of death.

For me, 39 was a time of self-doubt, what's-it-all-about and get-me-out. Then I turned 40 and started a new job, and all was quiet for a while. For about 10 years, to be exact.

Now I'm on the nines again, and it's worse than being on the outs or on the hook or even on the rag. At 49, my nest is nearly empty, and my head is full once again of profound and whiny thoughts about the meaning of life.

I think I'm having a second midlife crisis, or maybe, just maybe, I'm hatching a 21st-century theory of adult development.

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