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Jodi Picoult's rules for life

By Jodi Picoult, Oprah.com
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu March 29, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A moment to snuggle up with your children can make for a simple, yet great connection
  • Forgiveness is not for the other person, but rather for yourself
  • In times of stress or rage, a really good way to calm down is just to pick up a dog

(Oprah.com) -- 1. There's always someone better than you.

My mom always used to say this, and I've always lived it, because I think it keeps me really humble. No matter how much success you've had, it makes you remember that you didn't always start there at the point of glory -- and you might not always end up there.

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2. Even teenagers love to snuggle.

Having that moment of connection with your children -- there's nothing like that. Last night, my daughter, who is 16, patted her bed and said, "Come sit down, Mom." And I said, "What do you want me to do? Tuck you in? Give you a kiss goodnight?"

And she said, "No, come here." Then she lifted the covers so I could get in and snuggle with her. And for a 16-year-old, that was great. We just kind of sat there and talked for a little while. I'll never forget. Next time, it'll be my idea!

3. The secret to fearlessness is...

Two things: Either having nothing to come home to or having everything to come home to. Either you've got absolutely nothing to lose or you've got everything to lose and you don't think about the scary events in your life because they've all got to get done to protect the people you love.

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4. Never eat caviar.

Does anyone really like it? It's really expensive. It's fish eggs. They pop in your mouth, and it's kind of gross.

5. Give somebody else a chance to do the dishes.

What I mean by this is: If I make dinner, my husband will say, "Oh, I'll do the dishes!" And then, he leaves the kitchen and goes online or watches Jon Stewart. Sure enough, I go into the kitchen a half hour later and dishes are piled in the sink. And I just think, "Forget it. I'm just going to do them." And I do the dishes. And then he says, "Well, I was going to do them."

And maybe he was, but he wasn't doing them fast enough for me. I have a tendency to assume if someone doesn't work as fast as I do, or as thoroughly as I do, I'll just take it over and do it myself. And I can't.

I don't have the time and I can't do everything, even though sometimes I want to. It's very hard for me to understand that people work on different time schedules or that they process things differently, and the end result may be just as wonderful, but the end result may just take a little longer, or arrive in a different fashion.

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6. Forgiveness and acceptance are not the same things.

For me, there really is a big difference between forgiveness and acceptance. If you forgive someone, you aren't necessarily saying that what the person did was right. What you're saying is, "I'm not giving you the power to make me a victim. I'm not going to let you invade my mind and make me hate you."

Forgiveness is not for the other person. It's for yourself. That's the way I see it. Whereas acceptance is really more of a caving in, as far as I'm concerned. It's saying, "What you did, I'm okay with."

My book in 2013 is going to be all about this. The novel is about this young woman at a grief group who befriends an old man in her small town who is everyone's favorite grandpa. He's the Little League coach and a teacher, and he's been a fixture in the community for years, but he confides in her that he used to be a Nazi, and he'd like her to forgive him and then help him die.

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8. When you see a bathroom, stop.

Because you never know when there is going to be another one.

9. In times of stress or rage, remember the Alvin effect.

A really good way to calm down is just to pick up a dog. We have three dogs and our littlest is a rescue puppy from Mississippi, and he's a very portable size. And you know, when everything is really, really crummy, and you've got Alvin on your lap, really, not much matters anymore.

10. The title of my (unwritten) memoir is:

No Pudding for Jodi. Because when I am in the U.K. on a book tour, I do a lot of luncheons. All these wonderful ladies come out and we all have a big meal, and I go up to the podium and give a talk. But the presenters always have me get up and talk when they're serving dessert. So I never get to have dessert, which they call pudding.

11. Go for the happy-looking melon.

This is my daughter's rule, actually, and she's so right. I don't know how to explain it, but when you're looking for a melon at the grocery store, pick the happiest one -- one that's really round, that's a good color, that's sort of warm to the touch. If it looks happy to you, it's going to taste really good.

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