5. Your mother is tough, but not immortal.

My mother died 16 years later at the age of 82, from causes unrelated to cancer.

6. If you can't take it or leave it, you might have to leave it.

For me it was flour and sugar. I gave them up more than a decade ago. Sometimes I miss them. But not enough to take back all the bad stuff—the bewilderment and shame of trying, and failing, to be moderate; the 80 extra pounds—that went along with them.

7. Love doesn't always color inside the lines.

It is possible to be attracted to a man who is not your husband, even when you are happily married. Ugh. I don't even want to include this one. But I guess that's what makes it a hard truth. I have one married friend who admits, frankly and cheerfully, that she sometimes develops crushes. The rest of us don't admit it. We hide it and feel embarrassed and disloyal and guilty. You don't have to do anything about these feelings, but maybe it helps to know that other people have had them too. The bad girl knows it's okay to write about this honestly. The good girl knows not to act on it. And in this case, they are both right.

The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham Joan Wickersham is the author of The News from Spain (now out in paperback) and The Suicide Index.

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