Toward Center

Betsy Lam
Betsy Lam
Nov 3, 2015 · 3 min read
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“State of Calm,” ink on paper. One in an ongoing left-handed series.

I ran into a friend and his girlfriend at the grocery store tonight. Louie was kicking impatiently in the cart because we’d played just a little too long at the park — he was about to get HANGRY — so we chatted briefly and parted ways.

As Louie and I scuttled around the grocery store, hurriedly scooping food stuff into a carton, hurriedly paying for food stuff, hurriedly eating, hurriedly guzzling half a glass of a Half Acre porter, hurriedly scuttling around the store again to grab some essentials, hurriedly picking up Monkey after Louie deliberately chucked him into the bin of avocados, gently kissing Louie on the forehead because he’s a rascal, hurriedly picking up his milk cup after he deliberately chucked it into the bin of bananas, hurriedly checking out and breathing a sigh of relief as we angled into the elevator, I thought about something my friend said to me earlier this year which was: he and his girlfriend are not going to have kids.

One of the big sticking points, he confided, was that being a parent would afford them little to no time or energy to make art. They’re artists, so they need to make art. It’s in their bones. I get this, completely. Kids are time and energy sucks. We only have the one, but even he — and he’s mostly cute — is a tiny vortex.

I entered parenthood fearing the loss of creativity in my life. What if my hand doesn’t know how to follow a line anymore? What if my mind can’t see the shape of things? What if words don’t march in step on the page?

The thing is: I’ve been making more art and writing more meaningfully as a parent. Louie lit a fire under my ass. With him, came urgency. Every minute has a purpose — even the one in which I’m sprawled on the couch like a baby sloth staring into the ether (purpose: sanity maintenance). It didn’t feel this way before Louie. Time felt big. Elastic. Time has gone and gotten little now.

I’m in the business of little. Making little art, writing little tidbits. I steal little chunks of time throughout the day: 5 minutes in line at the grocery store, 45 minutes during lunch, 30 minutes in front of the TV, 10 minutes in bed. While it’s true that more practice makes better stuff, a little practice can still go a long way. Little art — for me, for now — is the way toward center. Weirdly enough, without Louie, I was steering slowly toward nowhere in particular.

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Me with my vortexy little muse

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