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Is lethargy a luxury?

No matter how deeply into sleep debt I have plunged, it seems I’m an amateur.

I plod on, thinking unclear thoughts, speaking occasional gibberish and forgetting my children’s names. I have continued my daily routine with a temperature of 102. I have stumbled on after a week void of any noticeable REM snoozing. I may nod off at the stoplight, but somehow, I always manage to stay on my feet.

My heroes are those people (usually movie stars or politicians) you hear about on the newscasts who “collapse from exhaustion” or are admitted to the hospital with “exhaustion” as the diagnosis. Why can’t I manage that? Am I just made of such sturdy stock, that I keep walking after that wagon train, despite the blizzard? Perhaps it requires more serious drinking, smoking and a six-figure income. Still, I fantasize about that collapse. Mine is a solid swoon, utterly graceful and always onto something soft, but dramatic to a fault.

These collapsed, professionally exhausted people didn’t have to say to their spouse or children, “I’m really so run down that if I don’t have a night to myself, I’ll have to set my hair on fire to stay awake past 7:30 p.m.”

They don’t have to make excuses or ask permission. They have the good sense or good fortune to just keel over. All I have ever managed is a momentary light-headedness. The collapsing thing is so clear-cut. It demands sympathy. No one can fault you. No one would expect you to hop up and scour bathtubs. You were working so hard you fell down unconscious or had some other absolutely unquestionable symptom that requires bed rest and pampering.

“Poor woman,” they would cry. “Drop everything and take care of her.”

Am I not approaching award-winning tired when I see a hospital stay as a bonus? Just think. You are required to stay in bed, sleep and let skilled people take care of you. I’d even eat the Jell-O.

Meanwhile, I will keep my nose to the grindstone and my ear to the ground. I am waiting for details on how it’s all done. It may require far more discipline than I can muster. I fear, for instance, that it means I will have to give up naps, and hitting the snooze button three times. It probably means I’d have to party down every night till the wee hours. I fear it asks for a mania level I have not seen since college.

Shoot, being exhausted may be just too much work.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who has never met a morning she liked. Contact her at [email protected]