I began to regularly attend the First Tuesday Socials. Still shy and awkward though. This new peer group was so different from my “other” peer group. The one of “Grebs, Goths and Metal Rockers.” Oh and please don’t think I was not being gay when I was with the “Rockers.” I was. I still am the ultimate Uber-Gay there. How could I be anything else? Surrounded by a sea a heterosexuals, the only man in the room, with any sense of style when he danced. And with such a “predatory, sexual, menace.” How the girls love it. And yes, the straight guys there too! And both peer groups accepting of me, for who I am, what I am, whoever that maybe.
Love, unconditional love, anything less is not worth a damn.
Then The Quest did the “Going Beneath the Surface” performance. Gay men standing up on stage and telling true stories from their lives. Telling their uncensored truth. And yes sometimes, the painful, brutal truth of their history.
I remember arriving for the performance. I was nervous too. I think it was the first time I wore my gothic gear to a Quest event. The “Rockers” celebrated my gay side, so I thought therefore, it was now time to let the “Gays” see me. See my fun, gothic side.
I sat right at the back of the theatre. The stories began. My armour crashed to the floor around me. Extremis spoke to extremis. These men, so different to me, became men, no different from me. Forever grateful. Thank you guys.
The following weekend. I thought to myself, “I wonder, do I have what it takes to write my story.” So, being a perverse bastard, I sat down one Saturday morning and wrote my history. I sat down on the sofa. I opened up the laptop. And I wrote “I am 4. My first memory. I am scared, the light hurts, my head is burning, keeping eyes shut. . . ” The hands, they did the work, they literally took over the writing. It was so strange, I had talked about all this stuff ad infinitum, there was no new information there. Yet there I sat, reliving every blow. . . every fucking blow.
The writing was now a process of connection. I was being reconnected to all those other, earlier selves. It was highly traumatic. The fingers, just would not release their grip, on the story, that they had to tell. I just watched my life getting printed on the screen, my life, in all its, unremitting brutal truth. And I cried through the whole process, cried and cried. And I did it all on my own. Not good. No, not good at all. Please, avoid this last bit if you can guys, until you have people there to support you. No need for any of you, to go through your shit, on your own, any more.
So, I now had my history in my bag. So, what to do with it? My history, who I am in 10,000 words. I spent weeks clinging onto it. It was all there. My shame, my anger, my pain, my grief, my guilt. The thought of sharing my story with anyone terrified me, but I knew, that it had to be done. I sent my history to Darren, Ade and Paul (the drama guy behind the storytelling performance). They are still the only three people who have read the whole thing. Read the whole of me.
I carried on going to the Tuesday Socials. I got better there every time. Even though I still felt I was a “fraud” being there. What with me being, self-labelled, the first Questee Workshop “Failure.” Yes, it used to bug me a lot, that I did not finish that first weekend. It was decided that I would do a resit, retake the course.
This second attempt at the, Exploratory Weekend Workshop, happened in February 2013. It had been said, that I was now “ready.”
I came prepared, for a couple of days before the start of the course, I had written my letter. You know, “that” letter. The one you write to your 16 year old self. I was determined I was not going to fail that exercise again.
The Saturday morning of the workshop arrived. The letter writing exercise began. I sat and waited patiently. The writing part of the exercise came to an end. A call was issued for volunteers to read out their letters. This was the Rubicon I had to pass. It would be the first time that I would read out, to others, something that I had written. No one knew what was in my letter, except me. I began to shake. My voice cracked as I volunteered to read out my letter. I kind of zoned out whilst reading my letter. The room in which I sat, was no more. I was just me, the letter and the guys to witness.
I read out, aloud, for all to hear, my letter. A plea to that poor, scared kid, deep inside. For him to listen to me now. For I gave that sweet, innocent kid my compassion. I gave him my love. I began, at that point, to truly care for myself. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. So fucking painfully torturous and yet so. . . liberating.
I slaughtered so many demons in that telling, in that showing, in that sharing.
And it seemed that the other guys in the room got something out of it too. It seems our shared stories, they really do, make us. . . stronger.
I also returned for the Sunday session. Yes, I completed the course. Hell, I fucking Ace’d it!
I then began, tentatively, to share my story with others. A few selected stories from my history. It was still difficult for me though. I still clung onto this bizarre belief, that I was giving away part of me, part of my soul in the telling. And if I gave all of it away, would there be anything left of me? What If I gave it all away and my anger went with it? Then who would I be? Would I turn back into that “Dead Man Walking”?
I had nothing to fear though. For I found, that in the telling, that it wasn’t just about me and my story anymore. It was about the listener too. For in proclaiming my truth, I emboldened others to tell theirs. We thus build and strengthen our connections, our bridges to one another. And I have now, told my stories, to both sexes, all ages, the gays and the straights. Their reactions the same. We really are, all the same underneath. We just have to dump the crap and walk out of our prisons. Bloody hard I know, but look at the alternative, everyone carrying on in the same way, that has always gone before. Repeated, tired acts that have been prescribed and proscribed.
But, we can be so much more than our genes and our environment. More than our history. More than the “story” we tell ourselves. To be more than the sum of our parts. And the choice is ours to make. Tell me, are you going to make that choice?
This process of self-discovery is so illuminating. A process of reflection, refraction and revolution.
And I knew that after finishing my first The Quest Exploratory Workshop, there was more work to be done. I signed up to do The Quest Mastery Workshop in March 2013. You will be pleased to hear I conquered that one too and in the challenges that were set. Some of which though, are still being worked upon. . .
You see, I still find myself having trouble, in that blighted field, that is forgiveness. To forgive myself for certain events, both the real and the imagined. Was I to be forever plagued, with those ifs and those buts? My persona trapped in a fugue of self-torment and recrimination.
Then I realised, in the reflection after doing the Quest Mastery Weekend, that it wasn’t my head that was torturing my soul. It was my heart. It was my heart that was still replaying all those ifs and buts.
For my heart inherently knows, that we are supposed to do no harm to each other. And through my own action / inaction another human being, fell. My heart, it labours so, because of the poison, in its corrupted flesh. The flesh so stained, that no amount of scrubbing on the surface, will ever make it clean. My heart has got better over time I must admit, but when triggered I am still aware of the fact that it considers itself damaged, not worthy of flying free.
Forgiveness by the heart is so complicated though. It is not like the gut which communicates in the absolutes of yeah or nay, the black or the white. It is not like the head either, which with patience, can be untangled and then reasoned with logic. The heart sits between these two worlds. It has laws wholly unto itself. And it is here, where my heart sits. That fallen place between worlds, between the worlds of the living and the dead. Is this why I identify so much with the sensibilities of the gothic undead? And trust me, I know, this is hardly a new revelation for me.
I am still working on this forgiveness thing. I may update you sometime. If you are good? If you think you’re going to hang around for a bit? Tell me, can you hear the playfulness in those last sentences? Can you hear the humour? I do hope so.
So, please don’t think this The Quest thing is heavy, heavy, heavy. There is fun in there too.
As a matter of fact, my favourite exercise took place during The Quest Mastery Weekend. We were asked to bring in a song that was important to us. A song to introduce ourselves by. A song that personally resonates. A song that is an aspect of self or history. Oh, how I loved this “challenge”. Though it was hardly a “challenge” for me. I knew my song choice immediately. Music being so important to me. Music being the friend that I had, when I had no others. I clearly remember as a little kid, holding that album cover up and looking at that woman with the blonde hair, whilst I played that one song, over and over again. The song of my childhood? “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette. Yes, me thinks, the die was cast at a very early age.
All the guys on the course got to play their songs. Our opened windows, into the core of our inner being. It was such a brilliant way to connect. No place to hide. Ah, to lay oneself bare, in front of others. A mark of true courage. I was the last guy to have his song played. I had suspected my song would be of a different kilter than everyone else’s. I was proved right.
I introduced my song. A song that has been with me, for twenty years. A song, that when I first heard it, it dropped me to my knees. For I knew right then, that there were people out there, like me. Guys who had the same fire and rage. I was now, not so alone. Such a “Freak.”
Before the song, my song, came on, I got the guys in the room to back up, back away from me. It was the song that I played, when I walked out of that, my very first, The Quest weekend. The same song I played when I first had to “Show” instead of “Tell” in front of another guy. A song of rage and oblivion. A song in celebration of life. The song a blatant plea to be heard, to be seen, to be understood.
The song “Coma” by Guns N Roses.
Listen to it if you dare. The whole ten minutes, in all its glory.
So I wonder, what your song would be?
Tell me, do you want to be heard, to be seen and be understood?
Tell me, do you wish to start out on the most important journey you will ever make? A journey into and unto yourself. A journey to your true authentic self. To achieve the destiny of your inner child. A child that knew, still knows what his birth right was. And still could be.
So, tell me your song. Do not be afraid. I will be there to hold your hand. Come, share your song. Share your story. It’s good to share, trust me, I know. . . so painfully. . . I know.
Love and Light.
Love and Fun.