December 22, 2016

Motherhood: We All Need "Operating Instructions"

Anne Lamott became my traveling companion early in the Palo Alto chapter of my life.  I arrived holding a passport stamped with solid Midwestern values, a strong middle class work ethic and educational visas allowing me to pursue a professional career. None of these prepared me for the challenges of motherhood.  Having burned the last in my library of early infancy manuals, “Operating Instructions (1993)” appeared in my hands like an act of grace.  It offered validation for the perfectionist turmoil and the  overwhelming awe that infused my bone tired months of early parenthood.  She made me laugh out loud, at her, at myself.

Anne speaks with authenticity and raw humility, floating in a lifeboat of humor as she navigates emotional storms of self doubt, perfectionism and paralysis.  Her poignant vignettes document her journey from motherhood to grand-motherhood.  She emerges as an “accidental prophet” in our time, place and culture, preaching that our messy, fractured, painfully human experiences offer opportunities for conversion, community and transcendency.  Motherhood is transformative. The heart work of child rearing can become a template for social matriarchy.  Having loved and nurtured a child, we are better equipped to love and nurture our world. The body of Anne’s work traces this arc of spiritual awakening through the experience of motherhood.

“Traveling Mercies (1999)” inaugurated  Anne’s  conversion into an unapologetic liberal Christian writer of highly irreverent style.  While clear about her own spiritual path, she encourages pan-denominational belief, what she calls any “cry from deep within to Life or Love.” The title refers to a traditional blessing offered for voyagers, that their journey will be safe guarded.  Anne has repeatedly blessed my passages with traveling mercies.  I invite you to experience her wit and wisdom as Mothers Symposium presents, “Motherhood through the Ages” on March 4, 2017.  The venue is Dinkelspeil Auditorium on the Stanford campus. Tickets are available through

Written by Nicki Chun
Co-Chair, Mothers Symposium 2017

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