Super heroes. Super powers. The stuff children and many adults spend hours playing, creating, and fantasizing about. When I was a child, many an afternoon was spent talking with my sisters about the wonders of saving the world from evil villains. Our favorite question was always, “If you had a super power, what would it be?”
The answers to this open-ended question were endless. Sometimes we would wish for the much solicited x-ray vision, while other times, we were content to be invisible. Little did I know at the time that I was destined to indeed possess a super power. The super power of being able to go for days without getting any sleep.
I became aware of my ability, when as a single Mom I had to do a million things and very little time to get them done. As my children got older, my talent continued to evolve as I patrolled them round the clock whilst I worked both outside and inside the home.
Every morning I would proudly march into the kitchen–a wide-eyed crazy look on my face, hair dishevelled and still wearing the clothes from the previous day–and announce, “I only slept four hours last night”. The next morning the same announcement was made minus an hour. This process repeated itself until my countdown determined I was powering through the day on only one hour of sleep per night.
I justified my stance by informing others that doctors got a lot less sleep and still saved lives and dismissed any comments that enlightened me to the fact that a) I wasn’t a doctor and b) I wasn’t being paid a doctor’s salary to stay awake all those hours.
I was a super hero who could stay awake for days and days and days. Or so I thought.
As my days of not sleeping turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, I rapidly became one of the monsters super heroes battled. Sleep deprivation had transformed me into a worthy Stephen King character. I found laughing hysterically gave me the added spurt of energy I needed to get down the stairs and into the kitchen every morning. “I only slept 30 minutes last night. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…” My grown children’s looks of horror only served to augment my psychotic state.
“What’s wrong with you people?,”, I screamed. ”
“Forget it, you’re just jealous cause neither of you has a super power.”
I was one step away from being committed and I didn’t know it.
It took two sisters, two young adults and the dog to get me into a chair that afternoon. Through their accounts I discovered I was a super hero gone bad and that sleep deprivation was my kryptonite. I sadly watched as the cape I had purchased as a joke at a party shop was folded and stored in a box.
“It’s time to retire, Mom,” announced my son.
“Let someone else save the world,” said my daughter.
Scenes of all that I’d done in my time as a super hero flashed before my eyes; staying up all night baking cookies, proofreading papers, folding laundry, bathing the dog, making grocery lists, writing in my journal, scheduling appointments, replying to emails, the mental slides of my accomplishments wouldn’t stop. Who would do all of this now?
That’s when my sister said, “I have a super power.”
I quickly sat up and said, “Really? What is it?” It was like we were five years old again.
“My super power is called delegating, also known as ‘let everyone else take care of their own crap’. If you want, I’ll let you have it for a while.”
My other sister said, “I have the greatest super power. It’s the super power of doing nothing, absolutely nothing.”
“Not fair! I want that one!” I replied.
And then I fell asleep.