Zombies were chasing me, clawing at me, drooling over my delectable brains. I ran, climbed, rolled under things, even tried to fly in my efforts to escape, but the zombies were determined.
I considered giving in and just letting them have me. “How bad could it be?” I wondered, and even felt relieved as I thought it. Running was becoming so exhausting.
Then I woke up.
My eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter had climbed into bed with me during the night, as they often do. I rolled to one side and then to the other to hold each of them tight, letting their sleepy warmth soothe my zombie-rattled nerves. Then I grabbed my phone to Google “dream zombies chasing me.”
My Facebook newsfeed had been full of updates about “The Walking Dead” for days, so a zombie dream wasn’t all that unlikely. And it’s almost Halloween. Maybe the undead had wormed into my subconscious, I reasoned.
I don’t watch “The Walking Dead.” I don’t do zombie runs. I own exactly zero “Zombie Response Team” t-shirts and bumper stickers. I hate horror movies and haunted houses. I think people who enter corn mazes deserve to get lost. I don’t dicker with ghouls, fiends, demons or One Direction (but that’s another issue entirely.)
And, thanks to Google, I learned that mine weren’t horror movie zombies — they were end-of-a-deployment undead.
According to Examiner.com, chase dreams often mean that there’s an issue that needs to be dealt with; and zombie dreams “represent a certain deadening of spirit, the loss that comes from compromising our true potential.”
Knoji.com told me that “if a zombie is after the dreamer’s brain, this is a significant message to the dreamer that their ideas, opinions and decisions can be in jeopardy among a census or vote of others.”
I didn’t even need a cup of coffee to decipher that. This is the ninth deployment my husband and I have been through together. If I understood algebra as well as I understand deployment and reintegration, I wouldn’t have had to get a bachelor of arts degree. For Pete’s sake, I helped write some of the reintegration guides out there.
And reintegration is weighing heavily on me now, both in conscious and subconscious thought.
This deployment is coming to an end soon, so soon that there’s barely enough paper chain left to dangle. So soon that I’ve given up on losing those last 10 pounds in time. So soon I’ve already made the all-the-things-that-broke-while-you-were-gone-honey-do list. That’s how close we are to the end. And I’m VERY excited for him to be home.
But while my husband has been gone, I’ve been doing things my way, which is — obviously — the way I like to do things, and I’ve been getting a lot of writing done. When he’s home he has a tendency to insist on us doing things his way (the way he— obviously — likes to do them) and he has a tendency to interrupt me when I’m writing, traits I suppose my subconscious might view as him limiting me and my intellectual potential. Or, ahem, as eating my brains.
But my husband is not a zombie. He is definitely not a monster or a soulless, brain sucking, threat. He’s the love of my life. The father of my children. My soul mate. My best friend. My partner. The person who makes me laugh (and who makes my coffee). And he’s hot. (That’s not really important, but I’m just sayin’.)
Yet my subconscious views him — a man who has never physically, verbally or emotionally abused me — as a threat. And I don’t know what to do about that because, nine deployments into this lifestyle, I know exactly what to do about it: Wait it out.
I know that’s really all I can do. The good advice in all of those guides — get plenty of sleep, discuss how your roles have changed, be patient, call OneSource — it all seems inadequate when deep down a part of me views cohabitation as an existential threat. (Hello? I’m dreaming about zombies eating my brains…)
And I know that as ghastly as admitting these concerns may make me seem to the uninitiated — people who believe reintegration is all homecoming bands and reunion sex — those who’ve walked this lonely path before know better. You all will remind me, It’s just a dream. The zombies aren’t real. Go back to sleep. It will all look better in the morning light.
And it will. I know that’s true. But, in the meantime, I think I’ll block status updates from fans of “The Walking Dead” and, just for good measure, One Direction. Those guys creep me out.
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a writer who lives near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. She blogs about military family life at www.rebekahsanderlin.com.