The Things that Matter and the Things that Don’t

My wife left me two weeks ago, on Independence Day. Actually that’s not factually correct, she made me leave her, the kids, and the home. She intends to file for divorce. I suppose I could have made her move out instead, or at least put up a fight, but it would have been a Pyrrhic victory. The bulk of the life I care about that doesn’t involve them can easily fit inside the trunk of my car, and the closet of the extended stay motel room in which I’m currently staying.

I suspect there’s at least one moment in most people’s relationships where each person is forced to make a choice about how vulnerable each wants to allow themselves to be. We have all done things we’re not proud of, we’ve all been aspects of ourselves we’re not proud of, we’ve all got secrets we keep because we’re afraid of what others would think of us if they knew. I wonder how many of us have truly been honest with our spouses, told them the things we knew they might not be able to accept, the things which might make them leave.

My wife and I had been doing a lot of counseling. I’d been going individually twice a week to try to get control of my emotions and anxieties and life, and we’d been going as a couple once a week in an effort to reconnect and undo the damage the wear and tear long relationships produce, as well as address some of the unique issues our circumstances have created.

At some point in the process I began to seriously weigh telling my wife the whole story about my leaving JPL, and the mind shift and fears which followed. The flirtation with the idea became an obsession with the idea. Telling the internet your secrets provides some relief, but the internet can’t give you a hug, it doesn’t know you, it hasn’t known you. The internet can never tell you everything’s going to be alright in a voice louder than a whisper. I wanted to tell her, I needed her to tell me.

A few years ago during a bout of insomnia I fell into watching true crime TV shows. Often enough they’d feature a story where an unsuspected killer spontaneously confesses to his prison cell mate or his pastor or his friend. And it’s not long before his perfect crime is undone by his own hand. As a viewer I couldn’t help but think, “How stupid are they?” While I accepted that guilt and conscience are very real psychological phenomenons, how could these people not have wrestled those urges into submission, just as easily as they had the morality which should have prevented their crimes? I suppose I better understand the mind of the confessor now. I knew what might be lost if I was honest. I knew it might cost me my marriage. I did it anyway. And now I’m paying the price.

While I may wish I’d never told her any of it, I now realize it was inevitable. Maybe I would have told her in a month, a week, or a year, but I would have told her, and she would have left me. The compulsion to share was too great, the need for acceptance too great.

I can’t blame her, I suppose, but I do. My anger at her is putting a functional life out of reach for the present. I’ve been delaying client after client, rescheduling meetings into next month, and using each project as an excuse to push back the deadlines of every other one. My days have looked like nights. Sleeping too much, drinking too much, embracing the idiocy of the idiot box, and reading lunatic ravings like my own on the web. Anything to avoid or justify the present.

My wife was always the practical one. She loved me for being a dreamer, able to take her to worlds she could only dimly imagine. And I loved her for grounding me, just enough to see my ideas and dreams get traction in the real world. I owe what I have to her, which is curiously said in both thanks and damnation. We were a highly functional match, and for many early years a passionate and loving one. But age changes us, life changes us, takes from us our capacity to tolerate differences. And soon we’re just left separated by a giant chasm of dissimilitude. Still, you cling to the perpetual hope that you can get it back, that the gap will close, or that perhaps some invisible bridge remains to let you meet in the middle when you most need to. Ultimately I felt constrained by her pragmatism, grew resentful of the me I may have been in some parallel universe unfettered by a wife who countered so many of the ideas I’d gleefully share with an argument beginning with the phrase, “Now be realistic…” And she would have been better off with a husband who didn’t aspire to more than he was, who was satisfied with being a loving husband and a good employee, who didn’t think his destiny was much bigger, a destiny borne on the back of some idea or invention he hope to nurture from dream to reality. We both meant well. I didn’t mean to be the bad husband, she didn’t mean to be the bad wife. But often enough the things which attract us to our spouse turn into the very things we come to hate about them.

Her religion doesn’t permit of much that is unusual, at least unusual for them. One could well argue that the story of Christ is highly unusual, and were it not for its embedding in two thousand years of social history, few would accept it as anything but a peculiarly implausible fairy story, as unbelievable as any UFO, bigfoot, ghost story. But her beliefs are backed by all that cultural embedding, and her religion responds as if threatened by claims of the unapproved paranormal. She doesn’t go so far as to say the paranormal is the providence of the Devil, but I suspect she believes it. Her dogma was the source of my fear of sharing, most of the reason for my silence, and why I knew this might not end well.

The end came unexpectedly, as they always do. I spent so much of my life anticipating fears, worrying about the unlikely worst-case scenarios of the obvious situations that surround me. I worry about the infinitesimal chance that my plane will crash on its way to Pittsburgh, but I head off on a camping trip with my boys without giving a moment’s thought to the pain of a pulled muscle which turns out to be a near fatal case of acute appendicitis. The worst of life comes without warnings. And even when we do accurately anticipate unavoidable horrors (the deaths of those we love, the course of our own diseases) we are spared nothing through the endless anticipating worry. We’d be better off living like moderate fools surprised at every reasonably unavoidable horror.

My wife caught me, saw “troubling” web pages open on my computer. I felt like a Caucasian husband with a Caucasian wife caught looking at a site devoted exclusively to Asian fetish porn; her reaction operated on multiple levels. She was troubled at the general subject matter, troubled at the very specific subject matter, and let her mind read deeply into just what this specific corruption of my interests and intellect said about me, about us. I limit almost all my research and absolutely all my personalized browsing and posting to one cheap, disposable, anonymous netbook. I ordinarily keep the computer in the bottom of my desk drawer when not in use, underneath two outdated and unusuable laptops. I ordinarily keep the computer locked down so rebooting, suspending, hibernating, or screen saver activation will lock the console and require a password. As with all such failures of security, it only takes one mistake and one wrong moment for that mistake to occur. I was installing a number of updates and some new software and had thought I’d be in the house alone until evening. After the third or fourth password prompt triggered by the screen saver activation my laziness got the better of me and I disabled its password prompt. I took a shower. My wife returned home early after errands, her sister no longer needed help setting up for the family barbecue. My wife went in to my office to tell me she was back, and finding me gone thought she’d take the opportunity to print out some directions she was going to need the next morning. I cycle through so many computers she didn’t think anything of getting on this unfamiliar netbook. She has no interest in gadgets, and she’s just as happy I don’t bother her as I once did introducing her to each new one I buy; besides she views their expense as profligate. Because the installations were going slowly I was reading quite a few fringe sites in Firefox as the disk slowly churned its new bits, periodically prompting me for approval.

I came around the corner to my office unsuspecting. I immediately had the dread of being caught, and the guilty look of being caught. My face doomed any chance I had to play off my browsing activities as the fruits of boredom. “What the hell is this?” set the tone for everything else she had to say.

Most of us flawed humans have irrational responses waiting for activation on particular subjects. Hers had been biding their time. I hadn’t brought up any of these fringe topics in years, they had introduced unpleasant discord a decade or so before, back when my only interest had been academic.

Without being aware of it, I had apparently been hinting at or cowardly suggesting that my troubles had their origins in the paranormal. I suppose it was my confessional toe dipping itself in the water while I was sleep walking through recent weeks. This was all the confirmation she needed, the whiff of perfume clinging to the collar of a suspected cheater. I had a choice, I could have probably gotten away with whitewashing it all, making up some elaborately confused but compelling lie. But her anger invited mine, gave me a voice. And so I told her. I’ll never forget her expression. I imagine it’s a face paranoid schizophrenics get used to seeing, frozen on the faces of those witnessing lost, loudly quasi-interactive rants. My voice was calm, though, but perhaps too calm, resigned. I don’t know how much she heard, I’m sure it became too much and she checked out early on. Regardless, she heard enough.

Instead of the comforting hug I had long hoped for, craved, I got what I had always known I would, something along the lines of, “John, you need serious, serious help. I can’t help you, the kids can’t help you, and the fact that you’ve kept all these… delusions to yourself for so long tells me you refuse to help yourself. What’s all this counseling been for? Why have you wasted my time? Their time? Your time? You’ve not been honest with the psychologists, and more importantly you’ve not been honest with me… I can’t do this any more, I don’t want to do this any more. I don’t deserve this, the kids don’t deserve this.”

The remainder of the conversation continued on that theme, with me too devastated to offer much protest. The evening ended with me getting no barbecue, seeing no family, and getting to see only a handful of safe and sane fireworks set off in the parking lot of the motel where I spent that first night. My accommodations would improve slightly in the days that followed, but not my life; a pool and jacuzzi in the building hardly makes up for the unending hours of devastating solitude, and the anticipation of an uncertain future.

I fear all this time alone isn’t helping my mental state. I spend my hours alternately numbing my faculties and consuming vast quantities of variable conspiracy/paranormal information. Conspiracy/paranormal writings make for deeply unhealthy reading. I have come to believe that if you read too much of someone’s insanity their mental contagion may spread to you, at least for a time. In the realm of the conspiracy/paranormal it’s almost impossible to tell who is insightfully sane and who is merely ravingly clever.


15 Responses to The Things that Matter and the Things that Don’t

  1. SaturnFX says:

    Its funny, isn’t it…
    Its perfectly acceptable for society to believe in a space ghost watching over you and a story of a zombie named jesus whom somehow died for you personally, yet, the concept of entertaining the thoughts of…lets say, a world somewhere else advanced enough to fly into space and perhaps even visit another planet (here) seems wacky.

    What is more wacky is when they judge your sanity by you either believing exactly like them, or if you vary away, your clearly insane…like they somehow cornered the market in sanity and grounding…yet they probably have never word for word translated the core foundation of their own bible. Its a demand that not only they remain asleep, but anyone closely associated with them also be in the same state of unquestioning unconsciousness..

    I, being someones ex-husband also, will only give you this encouragement….
    Initially it sucks, but you know, after awhile, you will find it would have sucked more to be with someone you simply do not connect with intellectually anymore. Remain friends, She does not respect your desire to explore life, but you know what…there is no rule whatsoever that says you have to respect her desire to not explore different perspectives of life.

    She divorced you as you said, so clearly her religion isn’t that important to her…its sort of against any biblical reading for a woman to divorce the man…which makes her a hypocrite…sorry mate, I know you love the woman for what she provided, but like any other resource, sometimes the use is up and they provide nothing more to grow on…it sounds to me that this is where it is at…she offers you nothing at this stage in your life and would only serve to hold you back from your desire, leaving you feeling empty and unhappy.

    You ended a part of your life now, the part that had you try to stay quiet and not think….you can now either completely destroy the overall point of it…drink yourself silly, explore nothing more, and allow someone else dictate what type of life your supposed to have, or you can smile for the time you had with her and the result of the merger, then start the next adventure of your life your now poised to chase full time…go to that UFO convention, or walk with a ghost hunters team for a few nights…

    The next person you become with will be the one that fully knows and accepts this part of you…even contribute a bit…and as far as the grounding source in your life…no, that is something you need to do yourself, else your going to always end up in a dependency relationship.

    Anyhow, sympathies..but dont get weak now…seems she was demanding all respect for her mind and gave you none in return…it is best its over, keep it friendly, and pity her for feeling soo trapped to where she cannot even question the nature of life.

    Best part will be starting for you once the initial shock gets past…meanwhile, get a shower, clean up, get back to work…you will need the cash for some interesting new parts of your life.

  2. SaturnFX says:

    Oh, I wanted to add one more thing

    Dont get overloaded on the conspiracys…find one or two areas that you actually are interested in that you feel even matter and try to focus on that area…but keep a rational mind. Remember, anyone can tell a story, but backing it up with some sort of proof or credentials makes things difficult.

    You should understand this much considering your short stint on ATS where people were demanding proof or something to verify your credibility and you basically walked away…not to say you were lying or anything, but its a coping mechinism so everyone doesn’t go into conspiracy overload.

    So…I recommend highly getting out of the hotel room and go to the local coffee house and start making friends…get out, chat with people. Brevard has the art fest, make sure to poke around there and explore life again…and hell, if you feel the need to chat about weird stuff face to face with someone, you can chat with my girl and I in melbourne over a latte at starbucks one day…but ya, keep sane…your stories are needed in a field bogged down with nonsense, lies, and “spiritualists” over scientists.

  3. Kalai says:

    It’s an almost impossible, lonely and insane road you think you’re on. But some of us handle it with help from a supernatural, paranormal entity called Christ. He helps you sort out the sane from the loonies.
    The deep underlying problems in a marriage sometimes pushes a person to subconciously wait for an opportunity to escape to their own accepted comfortable reality. That’s the way humans are.
    I pray that both of you work things out evemtually and get back together. Keep yourself healthy, John.
    With God all things are possible.

  4. woody says:


    I have never been a religious man and managed to break free from the brainwashing of main stream religion at a very young age. I guess the main reasoning has been science. Unfortunately these days wonderful new breakthroughs and theorys are beginning to emerge partially explaining the supernatural.Once Science can 100% explain the supernatural things will get easier for people to understand. Do try to seperate reality from fiction as if you can not i fear you will be lost forever.

  5. Tom says:

    Hey John,

    please take it easy – a good partnership consists of attraction and repulsion; its almost a physical law, mirrored in our human psyche.

    It seems you live in this cycle of rejection. Be clear about the fact, this is an universal law and after this the cycle of attraction will be established again.

    Please go ahead with your good research, but refrain from punishing yourself and your life.

    There will be a dawn after the dusk.

    Greetings from across the ocean.


  6. david says:

    Ok, so i’ll be the dissenter.

    Let God in. That’s all. No disrespect man, but you f**ked up pretty bad. *shrug* i have too, thats not the point.
    Point is, you’re still heading off into the WRONG direction. Either wake up now, and find that morality that PREVENTS the pain, or you will only ever feel more of that “guilt” morality, which creates pain.

    Your science is great hey, i’ve really enjoyed what you have shared, but science is NOTHING without family. It really isn’t. Just like life is nothing without God.

    peace and love

    • Richard W says:

      I have no relationship advice to offer, being an absolute disaster myself in that department – SaturnFX seemed to give some pretty damn good advice though.

      But I may have some insight into conspiracy theories, the innumerable sources of information that the Internet provides, and how it can affect your psychological state of mind. I became exposed to conspiracies at the age of 11. Once I read Whitley Strieber’s “Communion” I stumbled into the rabbit hole and have not returned since.

      You seem like an intensely curious person. You will probably come across the majority of the spectrum of alternative info out there. The majority of it will be contradictory. You’re not going to find solidarity in conspiracy circles. Your existential dilemmas will, if anything, deepen as you become aware of just how subjective the material becomes once it departs from traditional science.

      What’s the cure? You need to find a powerful grounding force. For me, it became philosophy. I strongly suggest Manly Palmer Hall. He has served as a torch in the dark for me, as I continue my struggle to find an existential platform from which to contemplate myself. He gave thousands of lectures on all manner of subjects until his death in the late 90s. Look him up on Youtube, I think you’ll find that he has something unique to offer people like us.

      • Richard W says:

        Not sure how that ended up being a reply to David – that is a mistake in my part I guess – I was drunk. (as I said, relationship problems)

  7. beebs says:

    I know I’m just another faceless source of text, but hugs all around.

    I myself came across all of this stuff at a very intense part of my life… namely the liminal stage right after high-school and entering college where the normal classes were mind-blowing enough. Add ATS on top of that… and, well… I’ve broke down more than once the past couple of years.

    My mom’s friend has a 13 year old that has a ‘learning disability’ in regular school, yet he is incredibly gifted when it comes to mechanics. He is researching politics and the messed up world at his age. Imagine discovering conspiracies and the depth of the internet at that age.

    Not to make light of your own situation, but to illustrate that you are not alone – none of us are.

    The information age is not without its drawbacks in society. A sort of shock can set in… after all, we have only had the internet for a few decades in the course of all history(that we know about haha).

    After a while, the acceptance stage comes around(accepting a new level of intellect and investigation – knowing you know not) and all you can do is smile about it and have fun.

    SaturnFX has some great advice.

    You are a great writer, perhaps without it you would not have been as calm about your situation. I know others wouldn’t be. Your writing is your release(as is mine, many times).

    I suggest writing down your thoughts, as this will prove to be that moment in your life where there is ‘before that moment’, and then there is ‘after that moment’.

    This is but a rock in the river of life.


  8. aros2k says:

    Sadly as a 23 year old I have no life experience and cannot offer any advice or anything remotely helpful but my thoughts are with you, and I really feel for what you are going through.

    I have been following this blog since you were on ATS and it is upsetting to see this happen to you, I hope you can find some solace from your problems and a bit of happiness soon, the advice given by others on this page seems good.

    Good luck with everything and I really wish I could offer something more. I would like to also offer great thanks for sharing your story. I truly hope things get better for you soon.

  9. Grant says:

    To be with somebody you have to make concessions, but not so much that you are no longer yourself. You can’t anyway, the real you will always surface.
    The whisper of the Internet… yeah, it certainly will never give you warmth when your alone. Perhaps it might provide an idea or inspiration, but you’ll not find comfort.
    I feel bad for you, but the most active thing I can do through the Internet that might be helpful is offer advice. That’s obviously not ideal, but it might be of assistance to you.

    So, my advice is wilfully define yourself.
    Think about who you want to be. The sort of “you” you would fantasise about being. Stringently decide which attributes are right and which are wrong based solely on what seems truly IDEAL to you. Make the lists in a text/document file, combine attributes and distil them down to several key (new and radically ideal) ‘always’ do’s and ‘never’ do’s and work hard to implement them into your life.
    As you’re successful, you will feel good about being better as a person by you’re own judgement than you were before. That in itself will lead you into a happier life (although possibly more challenging).

    I know, the Internet’s full of good advice, but that’s all I can do for you from here.
    Watch that drinking, it’s August now and you should already be past that. If you’re not, stop it now before it makes things exponentially worse.

    Feel free to email me if you like. I’m just an average IT geek, but I’ve lived in pain and happiness and I’m happy to give you as much support as the digital medium allows.

  10. JayMee Richens says:

    Oh my dear won’t she feel silly when she finds out you’ve been right all along!

    I’m JayMee Jean Jackson Richens on facebook from JPL kids myself.

    Take care did the right thing..she’s not controlling herself to be honest.

  11. JayMee Richens says:

    It sounds as if SHE was running you and the house..a mistake to begin with..not to mention you can NEVER allow the ignorant to lead..wife or not and especially when your children are concerned and by NOW you’ve GOT to see that there is a GREAT deal more going on around us than meets the eye…do NOT forget to with addressing father, thank him for your blessings, however small and tell him the desires of your heart and your questions..keep looking…the truth will set you free and anyone who tries to brainwash you is NOT your friend-hugs!

  12. John Martin says:

    Dear John,

    SaturnFX hit this spot on. I’m so glad a big-hitter from ATS came forward with some encouraging words of advice. When I first realized what was REALLY going on in the world and how we been lied to when it comes to the “official” history of things, I didn’t have someone to share this with. The shock of discovering things for what they are(on my own) made me travel to different countries. Just to get away and to give my mind time to re-formulate how things are in our reality, was very therapeutic. I would suggest going to a lush tropical location such as Hawaii or Puerto Rico and just enjoy the wonders of nature and realize that we are on a living planet. Go to the town plaza or square and get a beer or coffee and start a random conversation with someone.
    Most importantly, talk to your kids. Be straight with them. Do not fall prey to a vice such as drinking or drugs. If you don’t exercise, start now. Re-invent yourself. Your ex-wife is on another path now and you should make your own path. In the corporate purgatory level that I reside in we were forced to read a brief book titled “Who Moved My Cheese?” It’s basically about how to adapt in the face of change. That is what life is all about about. Adaptation. This sacrifice of yours has most likely helped hundreds of people connect the dots of what is really happening in our instance of reality. And for that I am thankful.

    John Martin

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