A sated wind

Positive and negative space. Is it the pile of heavy blankets that comforts or the warm cave beneath? Both and.

The night of November 30, 2019, within such a cave, the door of sleep blew open no sooner had it closed. Startled awake, yet nothing was amiss. Just the wind, as they say.

I reentered sleep, the door to waking consciousness gently closed only to be immediately blown open, again with no apparent cause.

These gusts of wind came from my central nervous system. They tormented throughout the night, waking me just as I fell asleep over and over and over. It happened the next night too. And the next. And the next.

It’s a rare sleep condition, unknown and misunderstood by many neurologists, with almost no research literature, no discernible cause, and no definitive treatment. With medications, mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, changes to work and lifestyle, many months can be fine.

But, it is a life reshaped, a being remade. Some parts of me have been lost, some given, some taken.

Puncturing stretches of this new fine-ness, some nights the wind torments, tilts my world. I never know when or why.

This is, of course, the great truth. We never know. Life is uncertain, constant change, struggle, full of turmoil. Yet there is also joy, beauty, love. These are not incompatible with turmoil. I am only perhaps the 10 or 50 billionth person who has ever lived to feel or proclaim this.

The last few months, the diabolical wind has blown more strongly, more regularly. At times it’s beaten me down. But I have not been alone. My friends and family draw ever closer. Warmth in the wind.

Recently, after several challenging nights, I woke early. I was tired, frustrated, lost, done. It was not yet light, but I would not sleep — the early morning hours are particularly difficult. Awake, I waited. I schemed.

It was time to visit the wind on my terms. At the sign of approaching dawn I entered the woods with questions, demands.

Climbing a hill, far from houses, through tears and with a mix of vulnerability and an I-have-nothing-to-lose bravery, I yelled to it, “What more do you want from me? Just tell me and I will give it. I will give it all now. NOW!!!” I expected an answer.

(Yes, this sounds like a madman’s ravings. But I knew what I was doing. This was no hallucination but a one-man psychodrama of two characters who are also one. This is therapy.)

The wind answered, “I will take all of you.”

I yelled back, “Not good enough. Name the parts. Name what you are taking and each part will be yours.”

As if at a restaurant, the wind opened a menu and considered. Slowly, it hissed, “I will take: Focus. Concentration. Energy. Ambition. Attention. Drive. Willpower. Equilibrium. Comprehension. Memory. Reason. Mind. Identity.”

“Is that all?”

“That is all.”

That’s when I understood that the wind had already shifted in my favor.

Atop the hill at dawn, I delivered wind’s order upon platters — the most cherished parts of myself. I spread my arms wide in offering.

The wind rose. It started feasting.

What happened? Nothing and everything. The wind did what wind does. The condition takes what the condition takes. We all experience conditions, struggles, turmoil. The problem is not in the wind or the conditions we face, but in our resistance, our coveting, our hoarding, our yearning, our attachments. We’re so attached to ourselves. (Buddha’s been telling us this on social media for thousands of years.)

So, I let go. And the wind died without emptying a single platter. The pain of the wind’s fury was the tightness of my clutch to the bedsheets of my mind. The more I unclench and accept, the less power it has. What it is is bad enough. What I choose to make it out to be can be a horror, the second arrow.

Or it can be beautiful.

Departing the summit, I noticed the menu’s other side, as if a negative space hidden in plain sight. It listed the things the wind did not demand in its lust for what I once most coveted. It did not take: Vulnerability. Forgiveness. Love. Compassion. Connection. Curiosity. Joy. Hope. Creativity. Wonder. Awe. Insight. Acceptance. Renewal. Authenticity. Breath. Voice.

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