Although, I’m suspicious that even just a couple glasses might contribute to this ongoing insomnia problem. Tonight (is it still “tonight” at 4:29 a.m.?) has brought the usual backache-prompted tossing-and-turning, which sent me to the living room so I could toss and turn without disrupting Bobby’s sleep. Stretching out on the futon sounded promising, but this north wind is blowing hard through the porch, making the cat door squeak. And squeak. And the clock’s ticking, once noticeable, cannot be ignored. So I’ve barricaded the cat door best I can, taken a couple ibuprofen and continued to ponder how my New Year’s resolution to do everything right is panning out.“Doing everything right” doesn’t translate into being perfect; the phrase is how I’m attempting to refine my actions based on how I want my life, long-term. Which would seem simple, boring, a no-brainer – except both human complexity and the whims of fate sometimes trigger actions that conflict with what I really, really want. (Suddenly I’m hearing the Spice Girls: “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want….”) Some of this is boring and basic: if I want to save money, I need to stay within my budget; if I want to lose this weight I’ve gained, I need to eat less and exercise more. Yawn.

But I am by nature, indulgent. Fun and passionate. Would having a down payment for a house at the end of the year be worth giving up all the dinner parties? All the nights out? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know. I want a lot. I’ve never lost weight by dieting, really – I’ve been in great shape because I’ve found something that feels good (aerobics, walking, hiking, swimming, surfing) and been motivated to do it regularly so that I default into health. For all my organizational ability and willingness to work hard (it’s on my resumé, so must be true), self-discipline is not my strongest point.

“May you live an interesting life.” That’s supposed to be some sort of curse. Chinese? Neither Google nor Wikipedia knows for sure. So sure, “interesting” in that sense translates to turbulent or frightening – Nick being diagnosed with diabetes was interesting, I suppose, but I’d’ve taken boring in that case. But “interesting” in the sense of growing, thinking, creating, loving, doing, testing, discovering, challenging? Would I have traded having something to write about for stability and security? No. Yes. At times. Depends. I don’t want bad things to happen – but routine makes me itchy, even when I’m the one trying desperately to impose it.

This has shaped up to be one of those posts about thinking and feeling, as opposed to doing. Let me try to fix that. See, when I think about doing everything right, I think in terms of what I care about most: family, friends, writing, surfing. That’s straightforward, right? But what does doing everything right by my kids mean? Providing food, clothing and shelter? So I have to work to afford those things. But doing right by my kids also means being physically and emotionally available for them, so I shouldn’t work so much that I’m always gone or grow distant from their daily experience. Finding this house at the beach resulted from serendipity; to keep them living in this place of love and light, a certain amount of rent is due, but also an investment of time caring for our home is necessary. I neither want to take full responsibility for that nor think letting the kids skate by without chores is good parenting, so I insist on the work being shared. Sensible – but if the kids aren’t pitching in enough, then I’m frustrated and the lecturing, yelling, nagging kicks in. Which hardly helps facilitate the sense of joy I’ve always imagined our home being filled with. And then the frustration turns to despair: is that what my life has come to? And that’s no fun.

So just the day-to-day of doing right by the kids brings a steady onslaught of challenges. Add in setting a good example. What does that mean? Finding ways to solve problems without yelling? Being an involved community member? Volunteering to help others? Teaching them how to cook and build? Reading? Going to work every day? Managing money properly? Following passions because that’s what makes life worthwhile? Eating my vegetables?

What happens when there’s simply too much? When even if I pick the right courses of action, they conflict with each other? When Chelsea was little, I volunteered in her school every year. But at some point, I stopped – and never got into the habit with Kaylee and Nick. That goes against everything I believe in! But I’ve become greedier about how I spend the hours of my days. Or maybe I’m not to blame; maybe my time has been more needed elsewhere. Hard to say. Some days are just about getting by; there are no choices.

Beyond the family needs, I want to write and to surf. Both of those demand, again, time, that ever scare resource.

I feel like my brain is a desk covered with papers. I’m sure the thought I need, the page with the instructions, is somewhere in all this clutter – this clutter, mind you, dropped here by other people – but despite all my sifting and sorting, I cannot find it.