Let me go ahead and thank you for listening. This is just me.
No lessons, no catchy turn of phrase, no bullet points.
I'm often asked how Urban Confessional began. Why Free Listening Day?
I have many versions of this story-- euphemisms mostly. Gentler versions of the same truth. It keeps me safe. Like a meaningless "How are you?"/ "I'm fine" greeting between strangers.
But not this time.
This is just me, and it's hard to write.
But I promise there's a point. There's a reason you need to read this.
It's just, sometimes the real story is hardest to tell.
Urban Confessional began on Jan 2nd, 2012.
That's the day I left my wife.
We'd spent the holidays away from each other; you know, to take some time, to think, to take space. She didn’t know (or maybe she did), but I had already decided.
I'd caused too much hurt to be repaired, and in spite of her insistence, I didn't believe it could be fixed.
I was my past, I was the things I'd done, the things I'd said, and it couldn't be fixed.
I wanted out.
My flight landed back in California that morning. I took a cab home because I didn’t want her to pick me up from the airport.
I walked into our small house. She was sitting on the couch looking at old photo books of us.
Reliving better times.
She was crying.
She looked up at me as I walked into the house.
I was only home to get my stuff. A few bags, some clothes, and a toothbrush. Then I was leaving again.
Her green eyes were swollen from crying.
No husband should make his wife cry like that.
She tried to show me pictures of better times. I closed my eyes.
She tried to touch me and wake me up. I pushed her away.
What she did next changed my life.
As I turned to leave the house forever, she ran between me and the front door.
For a moment we made eye contact. Her green eyes were so swollen.
Just then, like something pushed her down, she fell to her knees and literally begged me not to leave.
She said it could be different, she loved me, and we could work on it. She said God can work miracles, we were married, we made a promise, no one will love you like I do, please don’t leave me…
She grabbed my shirt and tried to pull me down, to make me stay, to make me listen.
But, I didn't know how.
I grabbed my keys and I left.
I never saw her again.
My wife. My fucking wife.
I never saw her again.
My favorite holiday is Easter. It means the most to me. You don’t have to be a Christian, or religious, or even believe in God to understand what it’s about.
Life’s triumph over death.
Beauty’s victory over tragedy.
I don’t know about you, but I get impatient for the victory. I prefer the beauty over the tragedy, the life over the death. I‘d rather the resurrection than the crucifixion.
Wouldn’t we all.
But, I guess we don’t get to “resurrect” unless we’ve been “crucified”. Or something like that...
Can beauty come from tragedy? Can life come from death? Can it really happen, or is it just a story?
It can really happen.
Easter is real.
A few months later and I found myself in a liquor store parking lot. The counseling I was going through was only slightly more expensive than the counseling I was drinking.
When I think of this time, it's raining outside. It's dark, and the windshield of my Jeep is fogged up from the inside, and the rain on the outside is making it difficult to see.
In California, it never rains.
So, I'm not sure if my memory is right. It was probably sunny, but sometimes we can only see the world through the lens of our interior.
So, it was raining outside as far as I could tell.
I do remember the neon sign: Coors Light.
For some reason, I didn't walk in the store that night. For some reason, I stayed in the car and finally broke down.
Years of walls began to crack. Muscles that had been working so hard to shield myself from the painful reality that I wasn't perfect, began to atrophy. Reservoirs of tears flooded the levies I built up and were rushing out of me.
My body was shaking and I could barely breathe.
Sometimes help is the hardest thing to ask for. But, I did it. I picked up the phone and called someone.
I told him everything-- my lows, my shame, my fears.
He just listened. He let the levies break, the muscles fail, and the reservoirs flood.
Then he asked me how I was, what was going on in my heart and in my mind, and to be honest with myself.
So, I told him. And, again, he listened.
Before we hung up, he told me one thing: Just listen, Benjamin. You'll hear what you need to know.
Then he said goodbye.
I'd been heard, but it felt like I'd been held. All he did was listen, and all I felt was loved.
But, I'm not sure I could tell the difference.
I'm not sure anyone can.
And, I'm not sure I ever thanked him.
I didn't walk into the liquor store that night. I went home to my new apartment. The doors to this place are on the outside.
It looks like some cheap hotel in some salted away high rise in Daytona Beach, but as you walk up a part of the stairs, you can see the lights of Los Angeles peeking over a palm tree.
… beauty in the darkness begging to be seen, begging to be heard.
Easter begging to be celebrated.
I wasn't healed. I wasn't magically repaired. But something shifted.
I was listening.
From the liquor store to street corners around the world, I've spent more than 5 years Free Listening. The Urban Confessional movement has reached over 50 countries and thousands of volunteers.
On April 11th, we celebrate Free Listening Day.
We celebrate life. We celebrate being together. We celebrate listening.
So, when life is on its knees begging you to stay, to fight, to not give up, and to keep trying, maybe you'll know what to do.
Maybe, you’ll stay.
Maybe, you’ll keep going.
Maybe, you’ll listen.
I know I am.