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Journeying with The Quest

In December 2012, Gabriel participated in  The Quest Weekend Exploration Workshop. Here he reflects on his journey with The Quest.

Despite being a lot in my head, sometimes I take decisions without thinking too much; I just jump into the water. The Quest was such a case!

Late last year, a friend invited me to the book launch of ‘Love Me As I Am: gay men reflect on their lives‘, which appealed to me because it showed something I could easily relate to – my difficulties in growing up gay. That same evening, when I arrived home, I registered for the next available workshop with The Quest; no further questions asked.

After a couple of months, when I was away on holidays, emails with daily pre-workshop The Quest assignments started to arrive. I was not in the right mind-set to deal with them consciously, so I just copied the questions in a piece of paper for my flight back. In the end, one day before the workshop I took a day off, and tried to dig my brain for answers – I found some; most of them, I thought, quite irrelevant.

The Friday of the workshop arrived. I felt quite unprepared and out of place, also had no idea what the workshop was about. What really upset me was the thought that instead of enjoying the weekend, I was going to a workshop to try to fix my life in order to live it fuller.

On the Saturday, I was there with all the other participants, but not quite. I felt that I was going through the motions. I concentrated as I could, but nothing moved me. I observed many others touched by memories and feelings that I must confess, I was feeling a bit envious. I thought that I was wasting my time. I had jumped into the water, but was not swimming and justified it by thinking that I have been in therapy many years, been to groups and done many processes, thus many issues were resolved, or so I thought. That evening, I talked with a couple of friends on the phone and told them that the workshop was not working for me and I was not too excited about it.  I got home and started to go over the journey in my head, read my notes in the diary again and laid in bed trying to feel/think anything. Suddenly, while I was half asleep, it hit me; I felt the shame in a very clear way. I could see that it had been there all the time, just below my skin. I was very surprised that I had not identified this feeling before, since I experienced it many times; this uneasiness at pride events or an imperceptible blushing whenever something gay-related was shared in public. Like the greatest discoveries, the simplicity and obviousness were amazing. I felt that I was onto something true that I could work on and elaborate.

I arrived on Sunday full of expectations. I wanted to discover more and more. That did not happen, but instead I started to know more about all of the other guys in the workshop and empathise with their stories. My recollections of that Sunday are now of a day of extreme emotions.

As soon as I left the pub, where we went after the workshop, a big question mark started to grow in me. I wanted to understand what I should do next, what all this was for.

The answer to my question was the ’12-day challenge’, in which we were to write a daily email about our explorations of the insights gained during the workshop, in a very simple and concise way, which was, somehow, distorted and transformed to sincere catharsis. Through the emails, I could elaborate, live again my feelings and memories, react to the stories of the others, process them. I had a stage, and most importantly, my fellow Questers were listening and reflecting back. All these confiding emails gave me warmth and strength; they were massaging my heart, softening and opening it. My emails were sometimes a dialogue and sometimes a monologue containing my confused feelings, thoughts, memories, associations, revelations or whatever came to my mind. I felt comfortable and safe; writing, sharing and expressing myself.

Twelve days, twelve emails. Each of them was a discovery. From the fact that my shame was shared by my family members, since I was not only gay, but also a gay brother and a gay son; to the fact that the more I shared about my gayness the closer and more fulfilling my relationships were. All of my friends were quite surprised by my discovery of feeling shame, since I have always been open with them about my homosexuality; their gasped response was always a surprised ‘really’. Some others of my emails expressed my feelings towards the stories told my Quest friends, which included rage and sadness, since many were about humiliation, abandonment, rape and self-destruction.

The main result of the whole two weeks was a tingling chest, that I identify as a more open heart, a more vulnerable and naked being. I can still feel this sensation, and truly do not find it pleasant, as I am not used to it, although I am sure it is positive and will help me in living a more fulfilling life. I also feel grateful to all the other participants, who shared their stories and moved me so deeply. It was incredibly wonderful that everyone, in his unique way, affected me and created a place for growth, insight and inspiration.

My ‘let go’s’ and my ‘embraces’ are my new mantra. I wish not to fall back into old ways and to continue my quest.

Anecdotically, a few days after The Quest, I came out to everyone at work; the last environment in which I wasn’t.

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