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A few years ago a friend of mine was holding down both a full-time day job and a half-time night one to get himself out of a financial hole.

"It's great," he said, "Not only am I making a lot more money, but since I'm working every minute, I don't have any time to spend it."

He didn't know the half of it. Those of us who routinely put in a minimum of 60-hour work weeks, have another great advantage. When we take a vacation we really get our money's worth because we enjoy it a lot more than the 35-40 hour-a-week breed.

There's nothing like that glorious moment when the plane takes off to a far-away somewhere, the drink cart is clinking down the aisle, and you settle back secure in the realization that nobody can get to you. You're free for three weeks or two weeks or even three days or two days. The effect is the same. The dross of exhaustion in your body alchemically begins its change to a deep, glorious, golden relaxation.

Ahhhhhhhhhh.

Once you get to your destination you physically and psychically wallow in the contrast between your stressed-out work life and the I-don't-have-to-do-anything holiday feeling. What's more, there's no guilt attached to your self-indulgence. You've been killing yourself You're totally wiped out. You earned this vacation and you deserve it more than anyone you know.

Beaches are ideal for experiencing the joys of exhaustion. I remember arriving in Bora Bora after a flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti. A three-hour wait and another flight to Bora Bora poured an additional layer of exhaustion on top of the basic exhaustion I started with.

After a light lunch of sashimi served in a coconut shell and a couple of glasses of wine I dragged my bones back to my pseudo grass shack via the beach.

On my way I stumbled across a creamy speckled auger shell the only memorable shell I found on the entire trip. When I reached my pseudo-grass shack, I pitched face down onto the bed and, with the ceiling fan making languid breezes, slept the sleep of the virtuously exhausted for 12 hours.

I can't praise too highly this double-whammy of the exhaustion from a transcontinental or transoceanic flight on top of your basic workaholic lifestyle.

I recall landing in Munich on a ski association charter and, after about 20 hours of portal-to-portal travel time, finally arriving at the Drei Lowen Hotel feeling terminally grubby and gritty (plus, as always, exhausted).

In the soap dish of the Brobdingnagian bath tub was a sample pack of Algemarin, an algae-based bath foam. I poured it in, filled the tub with water as hot and deep as they draw for you in a Japanese inn, and slid in.

Whenever I smell Algemarin I get an instant olfactory journey back to profound relaxation and I keep buying Algemarin although with the unfavorable exchange rate it costs like molten gold.

On another charter ski trip via Munich, I rented a Volkswagen at the airport and, occasionally slapping myself across the face to keep awake, drove all the way to Kitzbuhel, which I disovered to my sorrow had a very sparse snow cover.

Arriving at the Postkutche hotel, I could barely navigate the circular staircase and, without benefit of bath, I closed the drapes against the light and crashed on the bed.

When I awoke it was about 8 o'clock at night. I opened the drapes and lo, large flakes of snow were softly falling. I got dressed and shuffled through the fluffy stuff to a little stube where an accordianist was playing tirolean hits.

A walk back to the hotel through the now squeaky snow, eight hours more of sleep, and I was ready for the slopes.

But how do I know the exhaustion is what gives the vacation its savor? I know because once I had a control a non-exhaustion trip.

The corporation I was then working for was undergoing a merger. Heads were rolling, jobs were changing, and the projects I handled were all being held in abeyance until the dust settled.

I just puttered around the office and put in short, un-demanding days. The New Year's holiday came up and, as is my annual habit, I went to San Francisco with some friends for a three-day vacation.

As I wandered the streets of San Francisco and ate at my old favorite haunts like Square One and the Balboa Cafe and Stars and Kuletos, I felt uneasy. Something was missing. There were no ashes of exhaustion to rise from.

Now, if you've never known the ineffable joys of exhaustion, you'll say that this is all ridiculous. It's like one of the old (now politically incorrect) little moron jokes. "Why did the little moron beat his head against the wall?" Because it felt so good when he stopped."

And so, all you fellow workaholics out there, keep beating those figurative heads against the allegorical walls. It may feel rotten now, but eventually you'll get your dividend. Vacation time will come and fatigue will go and you'll joyfully open your mouth and say, "Ahhhhhhhh."

Barbara Toohey is co-founder and director of Prana Publications in Van Nuys, which publishes the Diabetic Reader.

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