The Musings of K.E. Bonner
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Preop is a hive of activity at 6:45am. Metal charts clink, heart monitors beep, and a mingled aroma of betadine, hand sanitizer, and rubbing alcohol wafts through the air. Nurses, aides, mid-levels, and doctors side-step one another as they check orders, see patients, and sign consents.
“Hi, I’m Karen, and I’ll be your anesthetist this morning,” I say as I enter the preop bay. An elderly man is lying on a stretcher. He answers my questions and I turn back to the chart to double check his paperwork.
“Young lady,” he rasps, and reaches out his liver-spotted hand out. I take it. Wrinkles crisscross his face like a cracked desert landscape. “I need to tell you something.”
After a long career in healthcare, I’ve learned to listen to my patients. Our eyes lock and he squeezes my hand.
“You will never be able to accomplish everything that you want to accomplish without a life of sobriety.” An impulse flickered between us, an undeniable shared action potential.
“Okay,” I nod, taken aback. Why would he say this to me? Did I look like a heavy drinker?
His matter-of-fact way of speaking stayed with me. There was no possible way that this man knew that I was struggling to accomplish my goals. At that point I’d been writing, editing, and re-writing my first novel, not to mention that I was working long shifts at the hospital, raising two young children, and struggling to keep my marriage and our finances together. I wasn’t a heavy drinker, a few glasses of wine over dinner to unwind after a long day. What did he see in me that compelled him to speak his truth? I chewed on his words but wasn’t ready to quit drinking, yet.
One Sunday morning I lay in bed with a large bottle of Gator-aide praying for the nausea and pounding headache to recede. It was my day to write, and I could barely lift my head from the pillow. This hangover is a waste of my time, I fumed. I thought about my adoptive mother, and how she steadily drank herself into dementia. I spent most of that day on the couch lamenting the loss of the most precious thing that I possessed: time. I couldn’t write while I was drinking, and my hangover rendered me completely useless. This was the beginning of me developing a distaste for alcohol.
Clarity followed sobriety. My energy skyrocketed, I was writing more consistently, and better. I reasoned that I’d unknowingly been in a constant state of dehydration. My scale started a downward trend as I began to exercise, which increased oxygenation to my brain, and increased my energy even more. I began to see how much time I had wasted by drinking, and to understand that I had been self-medicating with wine.
Most people are not ready to hear my patient’s words, and in truth, it took me ten years to process and act on them. These days I drink half a glass of wine on special occasions, but I write every day. Time is precious and limited, make every effort to use your to the fullest.
Kids ran loose from sunup to sundown in the San Antonio neighborhood where my dad grew up. When he was nine, he crossed Santa Ana Street to visit a neighbor who treated him to ice cold Coca-colas from the icebox. One day the neighbor had an old friend visit him. As my dad guzzled his Coke, the neighbor’s friend noticed the warts on my father’s arm.
“Would you like to be rid of those?” the man asked, pointing to the pustules.
“Sure,” my dad said.
“Hold your arm out.” The man counted and pressed his finger to each wart. “They’ll be gone soon enough,” he said.
Within a week all eleven warts had vanished.
My dad, a man of science, has told this story a hundred times. He remains confounded by the healer to this day but swears that the events are true.
Faith healers, holy rollers, and ghost stories were part of my childhood. I was reared in the south where Spanish moss drips from river oaks and the ceilings of front porches are painted “haint blue” to to confuse the ghosts, or haints, into thinking that the pale blue ceiling was part of the sky so they wouldn’t cross the threshold. I assumed this magical way of thinking was a southern quirk, but all cultures embrace folk lore, superstitions, and mystical creatures.
In Iceland roads are rerouted to protect Huldufolk, or hidden people, and their elvish communities hidden in the rocks and fields. In China the Pixiu, a winged lion statue, can be seen in many homes warding off evil spirits and attracting wealth.
Who hasn’t been in a crowd and heard their name called only to turn and recognize no one, or felt an icy chill run up their spine when they were all alone in a strange place. We all have eerie experiences that can’t be explained. A surgeon friend of mine told me of a patient who came to him and insisted that he biopsy her left breast. Her mammogram and ultrasounds were clear, there was nothing that warranted a biopsy and the surgeon couldn’t feel a lump, but the woman insisted that she knew a tumor was present in her breast. He told her insurance wouldn’t cover the procedure, but she didn’t care, she would pay cash. The surgeon biopsied the breast where the patient indicated was a foreign growth and sent to tissue for biopsy. The pathologist found a microscopic cancerous tumor in the breast tissue, too small to detect by mammogram.
Magic, superstition, and the surreal surrounds us. We simply need to keep out mind and hearts open to experience the mystic.
Ruby, my dog, has an internal clock that chimes at exactly four o’clock every afternoon alerting her that it’s time for a walk.
“Let’s see if we can get past Bob,” I say as I struggle to slip the leash over her head because she is dancing with pre-walk glee. Bob is my neighbor and has an international best seller brewing in his brain. He is forever pressing me for the secret to getting published or suggesting that I ghost-write his novel.
“You ready to get started on my book yet?” Bob calls out when he catches sight of Ruby tugging me past his yard. Dried leaves crunch as he walks towards the street.
“It’s hard enough getting my own words on paper, much less yours,” I retort. “You need to write that book yourself.”
Bob lobs his rake from hand to hand so that it passes before his face like a windshield wiper.
“Exactly how hard is it to find an agent?” he asks for the third time this month. I can’t decide if he is teasing me or not, so I ignore the question.
“Have you started writing yet?” I ask.
“No. It’s still in the idea stage, and work has been crazy.” He pushes the rim of his glasses up his nose.
“What’s the plot?” I ask. Ruby roots around, sniffing at the grass at the base of his mailbox.
“How do I know you won’t steal my idea?” He pulls the rake to his shoulder and steps back.
“It’s hard for me to write your book if I don’t know the characters or plot points.” I chuckle, then repeat the advice I’ve given him ten times prior. “Start working on an outline, then a first draft.” Ruby and I begin walking away.
“How long will that take?” He asks.
“A few months,” I shrug. “A year?” How many times do we need to rehash the same conversation?
“I don’t have that long,” he calls after me.
“See you later.” I wave.
“I don’t have time to write his book for him,” I mumble to Ruby, who pants back at me.
Reading taught me how to write. By the time I was forty I’d read approximately three books a month for thirty years. Through literary osmosis I learned story structure, pacing, and characterization. Once I discovered that I loved to write I took classes and attended conferences where I signed up for critiques and pitch sessions. I joined a critique group and bravely read my work aloud every week, only to have my fellow writers tell me to cut out unnecessary descriptions and dialogue. Quickly, I learned to edit and rewrite. Once I got my first draft complete, my critique partner congratulated me then told me to start the second draft from scratch. The discoveries I made about myself while working on my novel were innumerable. I became more observant. When it rained, I ran outside and held my face to the sky taking note of how the raindrops splattered against my cheeks and ran over my jaw in rivulets down my neck. I began to listen, rather than speak. The universe placed fascinating people and hurdles in my way, leading me in new directions. At some point, at a writer’s conference, an editor suggested to the audience that we focus on our craft, and publication would follow. That simple advice rang true for me. Once I released the idea of getting published and made the craft of writing my priority, my writing leveled up. The more I write, the better I get.