Latitude: scope for freedom of action or thought; synonyms –freedom, scope, leeway, space, breathing space, flexibility, liberty, independence, free rein, license, room to maneuver, elbow room, wiggle room, freedom of action, as in “she gave him a lot of latitude”
Out last night to a delicious dinner at a favorite bistro with a delightful lesbian couple I’ve known for the past year, the girls were asking how I ended up moving to the desert from the midwest. After I gave an abbreviated version of my marriage’s endpoint, S. looked at me with the kind of eyes that exist in those folks who rescue small dogs and people from harm’s way and asked, “How was your ex able to hide his secret life for so long?” Her question wasn’t meant to make me feel like an enabling idiot, but rather her effort to understand how one keeps the sordid underbelly of one’s life from prying eyes, especially the other set of eyes living in the same house.
I said something about us having two houses where at times, I’d be in one city and he in another, and that I wasn’t a snooper who regularly checked his cell phone and laptop for unknown names and numbers. And at that, my poached monkfish on a bed of heirloom vegetables arrived, and we changed subjects, swapping real estate and travel stories until we devoured the last morsels of our meals.
But once planted, S’s question about my marriage remained until the one-word answer came to me after a big bite of this morning’s orange cranberry scone–latitude. As in leeway, independence, wiggle room. And oh my, did mr. invisible ever use his to the fullest. The memory of receiving the phone call from the forensic computer specialist who inspected his laptops, a kind woman who had worked for our county sheriff’s department for many years prior, and her saying, “I need to see you right away,” is one I’ll never forget. I felt as if gravity had somehow failed and my body was suspended in time; I have no recollection of driving myself to her home. When I arrived, she asked me to sit down as she began to explain page after page of electronic codes and addresses, like a complicated spy novel, until she reached the climax (I do love me some irony): “You need to call a lawyer.”
Four years out, I can now think of that day without the rogue wave of nausea sucker-punching me in the gut. And I am so thankful for the gift of time and therapy that brought me to this point. But the disappointment would be to leave it at that without learning the universal takeaway, the gold nugget under all that shit, as I like to say. And that nugget is this–the same latitude that let him nearly take me down is the same latitude I used to get back up.
According to my trusted therapist P., the majority of women my age in the same sick marital circumstances choose to stay, shackled by the fear of being alone, loss of social status and financial security.
Thank god I’m a certified contrarian who never had much use for handcuffs.
When given the latitude of walking into a cavernous, unknown future over life with a man whom my therapist and family doctor said would never be well, I chose to take the road less traveled, alone…but with the outstretched hands of my friends and family as I took every step on that journey.
And the bonus nugget, dear readers? Latitude is also the distance between the North and South Poles and the equator, a space so vast it at first appears unfathomable, yet can be measured, one degree at a time.
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