The pace of my life took a toll over time. At the end of the last semester of my senior year of college, I collapsed from exhaustion. I was in Cowell Hospital at graduation time, close enough to the amphitheatre that I could hear the graduation ceremony. I graduated a semester late without a ceremony.
That was my first diagnosed bout of exhaustion.
In my thirties, I enrolled in graduate school at the George Washington University. I wanted to go on learning. The university admitted me provisionally because my undergraduate grades were poor. When I began taking classes, I found out I wasn’t so dumb after all. I outperformed all my fellow students, pulling down straight A’s all the way through to the dissertation and doctorate.
But I was working full time at the National Security Agency (NSA) and taking care of my family—eventually four children—and I overdid it. Doctors diagnosed me again with exhaustion.
The third case of exhaustion came during the fall of Saigon. I lost count of the days and nights my two communicators and I went without sleep and, toward the end, without food, before we were finally evacuated under fire. This time doctors told me I had amoebic dysentery, ear damage from the shelling, and pneumonia due to inadequate diet, insufficient sleep, and muscle fatigue.
So I learned to cherish sleep. I taught myself early to sleep every chance I got, even for fifteen minutes, even sitting up. As a friend gratuitously pointed out to me some time ago, I regularly fall asleep in the shower. Now that I am retired and a full-time author, I enjoy sleep more than I have at any other time of my life.