“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“You’ll do the right thing.”

My father pauses after saying these words and looks at me, pleadingly.

There are moments in life when things become just a little bit clearer. I blink and stare. What is the right thing?

My parents were never married; My dad was in the delivery room and did not reappear until I was ten. By that point, he had a wife and two kids. I began to spend five days per year visiting him in his life.

Where was the rulebook for that?

Even though visiting my father was awkward, I put his family on a pedestal. My dad’s grandfather was a minister, his father served on the school board, and his sister works for USAID. They share my love for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. They have been known to sit together at the table and talk in civil tones during dinner. My mother’s loud Italian family, by contrast, loves to scream, curse, and sulk. We spend a nontrivial amount of time at Bloomingdale’s. We’d rather gossip about Today Show anchors than talk facts. We are also among the most deeply generous people you’ll meet.

What is right and what is wrong?

All these years, I’ve been chasing a romanticized notion of family. This impulse to paint the world in black and white was futile. The best I can do is to love myself and the crazy, imperfect, beautiful, maddening people who love me. I’m going to stop looking for perfection and start appreciating what I have right here.

— Lisa Marrone