Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guest Post: Overcoming the "Scariness" of Deployment

All you need to know about me is that I have absolutely zero coordination and I have more stubborn pride than anyone on the face of the Earth. Talk about a winning combination. Just picture me as the person who is constantly tripping over her own feet and playing it off as if it was exactly what I was trying to do and it didn’t hurt a bit.

Now that we have introductions out of the way, let’s talk about what’s on everyone’s mind this time of year, haunted houses. OK, I know, no one really thinks about haunted houses outside the month of October, but in my life this story comes up…a lot.

 During my husband’s first deployment to Iraq, a few close friends and I built up the courage to attend a haunted house. This place gets a lot of hype. Every year there are billboards and radio ads. It even has its own spot in a mini-mall that is vacant for 11 months out of the year with the sole purpose of scaring the pants off of people who pay for it 31 days of the year.

For days leading up to this bad decision, I, of course, talked a big game about the one (that’s right, one) other haunted house I’d been to back in high school. I like scary movies, I was a veteran haunted house goer, and I was nominating myself to be the brave rock for our little group as we faced the terrors in this haunted house. I warned you I had a disgusting amount of pride.

We stood in line longer than I’d like to admit; yes, I paid and stood in line to have the living daylights scared out of me.

Anyone who’s ever set foot in a haunted house knows the feeling that rushes over you when you walk into the first scene and realize that you’ve made a huge mistake. It’s dark and crowded, and the only clear sounds are screams. It’s at this moment when we question just what in the world we’ve managed to get ourselves into that we realize there’s no turning back. We have to step into the darkness without fully knowing if there is floor underneath us, a step to fall down, a block to trip over, or a shady figure waiting to lunge at us.

Much later, after my pulse returned to that of a normal human, I realized that this haunted house was quite the parallel to the deployment that I was smack dab in the middle of. Like most military spouses facing their first deployments, I had no idea what to expect. I knew there was 99.9% chance that something was hiding behind the next corner waiting to catch me off guard, and there was an even better chance that my clumsy self would stumble over everything even remotely close to my path.

I think, though, that deployments and haunted houses are supposed to be scary. The horror reminds us of how good we have it in the real (aka non-deployed) world. If you’ve never faced a deployment, don’t worry, “horror” is a strong word. Deployments are what you make them, sort of like that haunted house; the more you build it up and feed into it, the worse it is. If you just remind yourself that it’s only temporary, then you’ll be fine.

So, since it’s now several years later and I’m writing this blog post, I’m sure you’ve put two and two together and predicted my survival from that scary situation (both the haunted house and the deployment). But, I will say that I didn’t make it out without a painful reminder that I should never again let my foolish pride talk me into a walking into another haunted house.

After 10 minutes of screaming my head off, sweating profusely, believing two or three times that I was actually in grave danger, my brave little gang and I entered a long hallway complete with a flashing black light. This made it incredibly hard to see, but what is the number one rule of haunted houses? You must, under no circumstances, stop moving. So, we ran. I mean we sprinted like there is a gold Olympic medal on the line.

We ran despite the creepy moaning and clanking chains from the sound machine, the synthetic fog, and the creeper chasing us. We were finally reaching the end of the hallway, and I started to let my guard down just a bit, but I maintained speed.

This is a direct quote, “AAAAAHHHH—Whap!”

I ran full force into the door jamb at the end of this horrifying hallway. It was perhaps the worst pain I’d felt in my life (this was before childbirth, mind you), but what did I say after we all successfully walked through the doorway and out of the haunted house?

“Oh, I’m fine. It’s not that bad.”

I lied.

After the 15 minute drive home my eye had nearly swollen shut and was already dark purple. It was going to take more than pride to mask this one. I was going to need some concealer, stat. Cancel that; I need sunglasses…big sunglasses.

This shiner lasted almost three weeks. It accompanied me all the way back home to Texas for a long weekend where I celebrated my first wedding anniversary without my husband, but with my family, and where I stood as a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding.

My black eye and my first year anniversary piece of wedding cake.

My eye hurt, but I couldn’t help but be a little proud of that clumsy stamp on my face. Sure I was taking a beating, literally, during this deployment, but I was still surviving and still laughing at myself. Not even my stubborn pride could keep me from admitting that this was quite possibly the funniest injury I’d ever had in my life. So, deployment, thank you for what continues to be a great story of the last haunted house I ever attended.

Kristi and her family.
Kristi's family is currently stationed in North Carolina, but she's still a Texan at heart. They're expecting orders soon, and then it's on to the next adventure! Kristi currently writes a weekly column about her experiences as a military spouse in their local paper, the Sun Journal and blogs for Military OneSource's Blog Brigade.   You can find more of her writings included in the blog section of Military OneSource HERE.