Operating Instructions

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year Anne Lamott, 1993.

Being more pregnant than I’m used to (i.e. at all), I’ve been taking a break from reading fiction to cram as much prenatal information into my brain as will fit. I’ve read Pregnancy for Dummies, Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Buff Moms-to-be, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, and a small portion of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. So, brain full of impersonal and occasionally conflicting health information, I wanted a non-medical professional writer’s perspective on the mental and emotional impact of having a newborn. I have a mental fetish that goes “acquiring information = everything will work out fine”. Anne Lamott kept a journal in her son’s first year, and I figured it would give me the insight into the brain-rewiring process that I hear new motherhood is.

The book turned out to be very entertaining, but not something I could really identify with. I’m having a baby, but I’m not a single, broke, churchgoing, recovering alcoholic. Fortunately. Unfortunately, I’m also neither an insanely hilarious writer nor living in a redwood grove in northern California. I didn’t feel like I had much in common with Lamott, but I was still mesmerized by the book and read it twice. The narrator’s very personal voice and her witty self-awareness were compelling.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was the mental tricks and habits Lamott uses to manage her emotions. Since giving up alcohol she had to learn how to deal with her feelings without artificially dulling them. I’m not an emotional person and haven’t felt much rage and confusion since my early 20’s, so it was interesting to follow along with the mental workings of an intelligent articulate woman trying to sort out her own emotional extremes. It didn’t sound at all like my internal monologue, but it was interesting reading and maybe when the hormones kick in I’ll feel just like she did.

My favorite phrase of Lamott’s is “I’m on a bullshit-free diet”. I’ve been thinking that to myself occasionally since I read the book – seems like a good way to approach life.

7 thoughts on “Operating Instructions

  1. Megan

    You’re preggers? Awesome! 🙂

    I also subscribe to the “acquiring information = everything will work out fine” philosophy. I once read a book about how to call off your wedding AFTER I’d called off my wedding, just to make sure I’d done it right.

  2. clare

    That’s hilarious, Megan. Books are definitely the best source of reassuring information because they’re so official, what with the fancy bindings and typefaces. Also, you can acquire knowledge from them quietly and in private, which is nice if you’re trying not to let everyone know what a rabid information junkie you are.


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