Back when my son was a wee, wee lad, my wife and I would sometimes compare how tired we were. She nearly almost won. The exception was the time I fell asleep in the pediatrician’s office. I sat upright in a chair with my head tilted back against the wall. I slept that way for nearly an hour while I waited for the doctor to see my infant son. The motion-activated lights turned off, and the door was only cracked. Everybody just forgot we were in there as we dozed. Eventually somebody found us, or we might have kept sleeping until they closed. Not long after that, I decided that I normally fell into one of these stages of tired.
At Stage One, everything was funny. I called it “Laughing Gas Tired”. I even became more ticklish. This was amusing to my wife, who liked to tickle me to near unconsciousness. Once I started laughing, it was extremely difficult for me to stop, and I would start to get a little dizzy from laughing without breathing. Sometimes this stage was fun, but other times it was a struggle to keep a straight face at appropriate times. I would try to cover it beneath fake coughs or excuse myself if I could leave the room. Meetings at work could be very awkward.
I called Stage Two “Zen Tired”. At that stage, I became super calm on the outside. On the inside, I was just too tired to care about much of anything. I didn’t want to make any decisions, so I would defer to someone else. I adopted the Thousand Yard Stare. Sometimes I would see other parents at this stage, and we would gently nod to each other in solidarity. I didn’t have the energy to get upset at anything. Even aggressive drivers didn’t bother me, so this was my favorite stage by far. If I could manage to regulate my sleep precisely enough to reach this stage, I would do it today just to deal with stress so well, but unfortunately it’s a thin line between “Zen Tired” and Stage Three.
Stage Three, “Hulk Tired”, was a sharp contrast to Stage Two. Like the Hulk, at Stage Three excessive force became my default solution to problems. When I typed my password incorrectly, perhaps I just wasn’t striking the keys hard enough. When I was all thumbs tying my shoelaces, pulling them tight enough to cut off circulation to my toes would teach those laces who was boss. Trouble getting my arms out of my jacket? Writhing and swinging my arms around until it was knotted around my head was obviously the way to go. Thankfully I seldom reached “Hulk Tired”. Since there were plenty of other ways for me to look like an idiot, I didn’t need to make things worse by getting this tired if I could help it.
Lastly, or at least as tired as I can ever remember getting, was Stage Four: “Zombie Tired”. This stage was typified by clumsiness and monosyllabic or unintelligible speech. “Go bed.” “Eat now.” “Err. Ugh. Plbt!” It was indeed possible to drive to work like this without remembering my commute. I could spend ten minutes trying to put on my pants, only to realized the zipper was in the back. Then I would wonder if I should just wear them that way. If other people were at Stage One, they would think it was hilarious. If they were “Zen Tired”, they wouldn’t say anything. If they were “Hulk Tired”, they might get mad at me for refusing to turn them around, and I might try to bite them if they got their fingers too close to my mouth.
For all of you parents out there, I’m sure you can remember being exhausted like this. It certainly made me more sympathetic toward people with babies in tow and definitely less likely to laugh at the mom, stumbling along behind the stroller, with spit-up all over her pants. For you new parents struggling through your exhaustion, sleep will come. You’ll look back and laugh. I never thought I would, but getting more sleep sure showed me the funny side of it all. Or maybe I’m just back at Stage One.