If you have children, trust them completely, all the time, no matter what. If you don’t trust them, pretend that you do. Listen to everything they say and take their advice. They are always right, especially about fashion and tofu. They know about antibiotics in meat and what’s a foul on the basketball court and who is a bully and who isn’t. Believe them. Give them a loonie or a cellphone so they can call home if they get in trouble. Don’t get mad if they are in trouble. Stand up for them no matter what. Say you love them a hundred times a day. Say yes every chance you get. Don’t be afraid to say no.
Try to have children in your life, whether they’re related to you or not. Children are your responsibility. Those children will be changing your diaper in the old-age home decades hence and inventing the new drugs you’ll require for yet-to-be-discovered diseases. Teach them how to be kind while you have the chance. Just open your front door and your back door and they will run through. Round them up and bring them to the movies or take them to the swimming pool in Bannerman Park. Make sure they don’t drown.
Take lots of pictures. Write things down. Make home movies. Nearly a decade later you will find the home movie of your two-year-old son with his golden curls — sun-shot, vulnerable, full of awe — on the carousel at the amusement park calling out for his sister every time the ponies make a complete turn: Where’s Eva? There she is. Where’s Eva? There she is.
Trust everyone. Everyone behaves better when they feel they’re trusted. Nobody wins a fight; the trick is to behave decently no matter what. The trick is to make love a lot. And think of it as making love. Always be making love.
Learn to drive a stick shift. Ride horses, but there will be a moment in 1986 when you are galloping through the woods hunched over your horse’s neck and something will compel you to sit up straight. Don’t do it. Wait until you have passed under the low-hanging branch. Wait until you’re out of the woods. In fact, always wait until you’re out of the woods before doing something foolish. But be foolish a lot. Hitchhike through Nicaragua. Hitchhike across Newfoundland.
Read lots of books. Read books from foreign countries. Forget yourself. Get lost in it. Give yourself over. Look up from your book and see that it is dark now and everything has changed.
Be alone sometimes. Be in a hotel room with a dinky little coffee maker and its glowing orange light and burbling. Be jet-lagged and wake up at the wrong time and stare down at the quiet streets. You might see something magical, like a man in a hoodie on a unicycle riding through a snowstorm with his hands in his pockets. Or go to a cabin where you can’t hear any traffic. Listen to the rain. Watch the fog creeping over the hills and notice the blinking sparkles rushing toward you on the wind and water.
Go to the Polish play with a new friend even though the only review you can find raves about the lighting. Go even though it’s three hours long and there’s no intermission and it’s in Polish. Be impressed by the lighting. Be deeply moved when there is a scene with a little girl on a park bench and it starts to snow. The lighting will make it look like real snow and the little girl is in heaven. When it’s over you will know that art really can change your life and you will be grateful there was no intermission.
Always be grateful there is no intermission. Just be grateful.
Lisa Moore, 46, is the author of four novels; her most recent, February, has been nominated for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.