In exactly three weeks, I will disrupt my life, spend a bunch of money I can ill afford (and nine days I don't have to spare), and drag my nearly twelve-year-old daughter on a redeye to visit my two brothers, whom I haven’t seen since 2009. Whereas the first few years after our father died, I spoke to them fairly regularly (mostly getting sucked into the dramatic vortex constantly spinning out of control in their respective lives), these last few years I seem to have moved to a different place in my own life—one where I don’t have as much time or patience for steady doses of predictable negativity. In the intervening three years, my focus has intensified, what with trying to make a living in this persistent recession, writing three novels, and now trying to market them on a shoestring while simultaneously nurturing my (thankfully) thriving law practice.

And yet, off to New York I will go, to blistering humidity and the physical discomfort and psychic assault of people and circumstances I wisely fled 23 years ago—even though my husband is dead-set against me spending my scarce family vacation time and limited financial resources visiting folks he considers undeserving of me. That “vicious argument” we had where we didn’t speak for days (see “Natural Energy Enhancers – May 19)? It was over my taking this trip.

So why am I going? Because those lovable idiots are family. Because family matters—however crazy, dysfunctional or messed up they are. Does this mean we allow them to ruin our lives or steal our hard-won happiness? Hell no! What it means, to me anyway, is that we don’t cut them off completely unless they've crossed that clear line into abusive territory. And persistent lameness, self-victimization and constant calamity do not qualify as abuse in my book, even if I find such character flaws unnerving, and whether or not they warrant any degree of compassion.

What my husband doesn't seem to get is that these blood connections are inherently meaningful. They root us to a particular corner of this vastly indifferent ball we call earth. If we're lucky, we create more satisfying connections as adults. But those first people—in my case the two unruly boys who terrorized me in the dark donning scary Halloween masks, and pushed me around in a stroller as a three-year-old, then let that stroller roll down the steep driveway and out into the middle of a busy street, these are the people who, for better or worse, share my earliest miseries from a parallel—if markedly different—universe. Like tumors, if they were malignant or cancerous, I'd expunge them at all cost. But since they are merely benign, I choose to live with my lumps—and even massage them every once in awhile, just to know they’re still okay.

Shortly after my dad died, I had occasion to speak to an old boss who had been somewhat aware of the trauma and drama infecting my relationship with my father practically from day one. I bemoaned the fact that I had left so many conflicts unresolved at the time of his passing. My former boss’s response? “But at least you were dealing with him. That much is good.”

There is pure wisdom in those words. We can run—and even hide—from the parts of our life we don’t especially like. Or—chin up—we can take care of business and deal with them consciously and with integrity. That way, when our (or our family members') time inevitably comes, perhaps we won’t have quite so many regrets to whine about.