Dragons and Alligators Amongst Us

Leslie Beery

“A certain darkness is needed to see the stars”

I am a piece of energy that connects to other electric elements in life.  Just like you, I also have connections, attractions, and some definite disconnects.

Each connection represents a bright star, a bright light.  Each light forms that “ever cliché”,  illuminated path for my journey.

That journey seems confusing mostly, taking wide detours when my energy wants to stay on the road most traveled.  Disconnects from what I feel should be reality – unwelcomed pain, unpredicted crisis.

But that is life.  Correct?  Constant back-and-forth, in our existence, and in our connections.  Improvements, successes, failures, and tragedies.

It is what shapes up, molds our temperament and perceptions.  Alters our experiences, and sets the stage for our next story.

Experience.  Some call it wisdom, others call it common sense.  I call it enlightenment.  But, either way, it is this bag full of experience that casts our decisions, our views, our personalities, our thoughts.

They are personal.  They are priceless.

We guard the collection, like prized pieces of art.  Building walls, fortresses, towers, and silos.  Covering the pieces from the elements.

The elements.

Hate, injury, disrespect, pain, disappointment.

Hidden away but present and persistent in the mind, we form opinions.  Sometimes for ourselves, but for others, falling into pools of preconceived ideas.  Flailing around.  Looking for something to stick.

Someone else’s pain and experience becomes our own.  We make a new connection.  We add a light to our path.  We strengthen our shield.

Or, do we find ourselves on the wrong side of the armor.  Defenseless and alone.  What some call unique and different.  What others call the enemy.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a young woman who lost her mother to suicide.  Her story and complete resolve to live a good life stuck with me – it resonated.  Her mother was born in America of mixed ethnicity.  Her mother’s parents both came to America from war-torn countries at different times, but met, fell in love, and had a beautiful family.  This young woman remembers growing up with love in her home, but also knew at an early age that they were different, for some reason.  There was a tenseness around others and in life that only now she can attribute to racism, hate, and even fear.  Her mother did her best with what she had, her husband had passed away several years prior due to a medical condition, and she was left to raise the family as a single minority woman.  All this in a time, and place when such a situation was a double strike and immediate doom before she even tried.  But, she did it.  She raised her kids, had a beautiful heart, meager means, and taught those around her about appreciation, inclusiveness, and even about her culture that she was so proud of.

This continued to become increasingly difficult.

And harder yet when she watched her children struggle to make the connections that she could never make or give them.

It all became too much for her heart on July 10th, 2011 in a small room in the back of a home she had known for 38 years.  It was the only fortress she knew.  The only strength she could draw from but the hate towards her ethnicity, the hatred toward her religion, the hatred towards her skin, her gender, and towards her children had seeped through the locks.

The missed opportunities kept from her.  The fear.  The misunderstandings.

The disconnect.

This mother died of disappointment, and a broken heart.  She died from exposure to the elements, tossed outside of any protection and security.  She was shunned, outcast, feared.  She was lonely, loyal, the matriarch…..the bright light.

Each light that dims has a story.  Whether it be a life full of disappointment, or one disappointment that was unbearable.  When hope leaves the heart, and darkness takes the place, there is a reason.

My journey seems to be a never-ending circle at times, re-living some of the same sorts of experience and pain.  Maybe just as she did. Without the same circumstances, but with the same exposure.

Hearing her story, looking at pictures of her mother, it all made me want to know her Mom.  It made me ashamed and guilt ridden, it made me feel lonely for her and for her family.  There were so many factors through this interview that made my stomach twirl and my head wonder.  I could relate with the feelings of her mother’s disappointment, but also running parallel was the empathy of fear and grief.

Fear of lost connections.

Where did I disconnect, and from whom?  A lost light and lost piece of energy can be adjusted for in small doses.  But, what happens when connections are constantly lost, for one reason or another, or never made?

What happens when we find ourselves outside of the fortresses, no support, no fortress of our own, no hope.

Successes never valued.  Tragedies never recognized.  Experiences never realized.

Our stage is set every day.  New scenes and props.  Fresh paint.  Blank programs.  We dash in and step up with that bag of experience, mindful of what we believe.

And then the players file in and start to assemble.  The dialogue starts.  Decisions have to be made.  Emotions run high and passion takes a new form.

One by one, connections either made or lost.  A tug of war between thought, impression, programming, and some crap from the bag of experience.  The new narcissism of the current day contributing to lost connections.  Maybe, and maybe not.  I don’t know or claim to have any answers.  Instead I am a person full of questions.  I am drawn to purposeful existence and meaningful connections that work both ways.

I do know that hating a group of people is subject to bigotry or patriotism in my country.

The group can be as white as I am but have a different opinion.  The groups are usually categorized by other differences.

There are so many.

Within all of them are mothers, fathers, children.  All with collections.  All guarding theirs, as others guard theirs.  What makes one collection more important or superior?  What makes one more difficult to understand than the other?

Many things can be pushed through this cycle of thought with different outcomes, mostly depending on the scope and the threat.

But, for me, I appreciate that I can stand tall and appreciate difference.  Sometimes it takes me a couple of days or months to completely work through it.  But, in the end I am someone who does try to make connection, and feels deeply when it is never sparked or eventually lost.

I look beyond the pools of preconceived ideas.

I make up my own mind.

I place myself in other’s situations.

I hate silence but use it when I feel I do not belong.

I look in the mirror, just as you do, and I examine.  Forcing myself to look inside while stepping outside.  Making that moment last a little longer than comfortable, looking, determining, knowing, casting.

I am a self proclaimed “sucky keeper of connections”.  I turn when faced with disapproval.  My experiences have taught me this.

We are all critics.  Of ourselves, and of others.  We build moats, fill them with alligators, and put dragons in our towers.  Our defenses go up, and they go down.  Our lives go in and out.

I am still that piece of energy, that connects to other electrical elements in life.  Beyond political, cultural, gender, sexual, etc… I stand for humanity and struggle with understanding the “why’s” of the world.  My heart fills with fire and my heart also loses hope.  I am stuck in a middle place that feels like colors have tastes and vision has feeling but no one can hear me. Wrestling with a depth while closing the breadth of my life.  I have felt an incredible pain and will never go back to who I once was but I also have not lost that woman on my journey.

I have gained a new bag and a new connection.

A connection within myself and outside of any imaginable community or world I have experienced.

Not meta-physical.

Not spiritual.

Just real.



Written by:  Leslie Beery

The Surviving Project